UC Davis scientist to head NSF Directorate of Biological Sciences

Professor John Wingfield of the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences has been selected to  head the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Biological Sciences.  Wingfield, an environmental endocrinologist, has been division director of Integrative Organismal Systems at NSF since September 2010.

The Directorate for Biological Sciences provides support for research to advance understanding the underlying principles and mechanisms governing life.

“Dr. Wingfield is a distinguished scientist whose research has covered a wide spectrum of topics and fields in biology,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh.  “He has already proven his commitment to the goals of the biological sciences here at NSF, and we look forward to great strides in the directorate under his strong leadership.”

Symposia: Soap, health and the environment; and bugs, babies and breastmilk

The potential downsides of fragrances in personal care products, and microbes, milk and the infant gut, and will be the topics of two student-run symposia at UC Davis in September. Both events, including nationally-recognized experts, are the outcomes of year-long collaborative research projects by student teams.

On Monday, Sept. 12, undergraduates in the CLIMB program will hold a workshop on “The infant gut microbiome: prebiotics, probiotics and establishment” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in room 1022, Life Sciences Addition on the UC Davis campus.

Higher wages for farm workers would cost you next to nothing

It’s been argued that American farms need cheap imported labor to keep food prices low. But in an online debate at the New York Times, UC Davis agricultural economist Philip Martin makes the case that increasing farmworkers’ wages by 40 percent would have an almost negligible effect on your grocery bill.

If farm wages rose 40 percent, and this wage increase were passed on to consumers, average spending on fresh fruits and vegetables would rise about $15 a year, the cost of two movie tickets. However, for a typical seasonal farm worker, a 40 percent wage increase could raise earnings from $10,000 for 1,000 hours of work to $14,000 — lifting the wage above the federal poverty line.

All about tomatoes

Sorry for the long break from posts, dear readers; there was vacation, and then catching up from vacation. Let’s dip back in with a post on tomatoes.

I learned something from reading this article: the age-old argument as to whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable has been adjudicated by no less than the Supreme Court of the United States: In the nineteenth century case Nix vs Hedden, the Court held that a tomatoes were vegetables because they were served with the main course and not dessert.

Further down, UC Davis extension specialist Tim Hartz shakes his head over the criticism of store-bought tomatoes.