Plants by the Numbers: Math, Computation and the Future of Plant Biology

by Greg Watry

What does the future of plant biology education and research look like? That’s the question on the mind of Siobhan Brady, associate professor of plant biology at UC Davis.

Big data approaches will be key to advances in plant biology, so students need to be trained in these areas. Unknown author/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.5)

In a Plant Physiology commentary paper, Brady, along with 37 other plant biologists from around the world, call for universities to integrate more quantitative and computational techniques into biology-oriented academic curricula. Introducing these skills early, the group advises, will help prepare tomorrow’s plant biologists for the next era of genomics research.

One Place Like Home: Space Station Has Same Microbes as Your House

By Carole Gan

UC Davis microbiologists have analyzed swabs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station – and found pretty much the same types of microbes as in a home on Earth, according to an analysis published today (Dec. 5) in the journal PeerJ.

The International Space Station is interesting to scientists studying the microbial ecology of buildings because it is a “building” with very few ways to bring microbes in or out.

Citizen science and Project MERCURRI

The work was part of Project MERCCURI, a collaboration between UC Davis and other organizations including Science Cheerleader, a group of current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing careers in science and math.

Plant Sciences’ Stable Isotope Facility Marks 20 Years of Service

From improving crop production to tracking mosquitoes, the Stable Isotope Facility in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences supports a wide range of research on campus and throughout the world. December 1, 2017 marks the facility’s 20th anniversary and they are holding an open house today to celebrate.

Julian Herszage (left) and Lyndi Low carrying out analysis at the Stable Isotope Facility in the Department of Plant Sciences. The lab carries out analysis of isotopes of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur for biological and environmental studies. Photo by Chris Yarnes/UC Davis.

Video: Why Study Bird Brains?

Why study the brains of birds? Do birds even have brains worth talking about? In fact, birds can show complex behavior and mental function. We can learn a lot from studying the neuroscience of birds — knowledge that we can relate to how human brains function in health and disease. In this video, Rebecca Calisi Rodriguez, assistant professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, introduces her own work on bird brains and talks to some prominent neuroscientists about their work.

More information

Rebecca Calisi’s lab website 

Diet and the Brain: Exploring the Food-Brain Axis

by Greg Watry

Nearly 47 million people worldwide live with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That number is expected to rise to 76 million by 2030. While there is no cure for dementia, scientists are investigating various drugs to help mitigate cognition loss associated with the condition.

UC Davis researchers propose that foods provide signals that influence the brain and other body systems.

When it comes to understanding and preventing age-related cognitive dysfunction, Professor Raymond Rodriguez, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the College of Biological Sciences at UC Davis, looks to food for answers.

Podcast: Knots, Math and Reconnection in DNA

If you’ve ever tried to untangle a pair of earbuds, you’ll understand how loops and cords can get twisted up. DNA can get tangled in the same way. In this episode of Three Minute Egghead, UC Davis biomathematician Mariel Vazquez talks about her work on the math of how DNA can be cut and reconnected. The math involved turns out to be involved in other fields as well — from fluid dynamics to solar flares.

For more podcast episodes, subscribe to Three Minute Egghead on iTunes or follow us on Soundcloud.

Humans Gathered Grapes Long Before They Cultivated Them

By Diane Nelson

About 22,000 years ago, as the ice sheets that consumed much of North America and Europe began retreating, humans started to eat a fruit that today brings joy to millions of wine drinkers around the world: grapes.

People have been making wine from grapes for at least 8,000 years, but genetic evidence shows that humans influenced grape vines long before that (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis).

Protein Synthesis Machinery from Bacterial Consortia in One Shot

By Holly Ober

A new technique developed at UC Davis may have broken the barrier to rapid assembly of pure protein synthesis machinery outside of living cells.

Colored bacteria

E. coli bacteria tagged with different colors produced different mixtures of proteins. Together, the bacterial consortium makes all the proteins needed for mRNA translation/protein synthesis (Fernando Villarreal, UC Davis)

In order to reconstitute cellular reactions outside of biological systems, scientists need to produce the proteins involved. Rapid yet high purity reconstitution of the cellular reactions is critical for the high-throughput study of cellular pathways and cell-free diagnostic tests for various diseases. Reconstituting cellular reactions outside cells, however, requires the separate expression and purification of each protein required to execute the reactions. This process is expensive and time consuming, making the production of more than several proteins at once extremely challenging.

UC Davis Genome Researchers Facilitating NIH Data Commons Pilot

Researchers at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Genome Center are taking part in an ambitious NIH initiative to make it easier for scientists to share research data and scientific tools online.

C. Titus Brown is associate professor in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Genome Center.

“Harvesting the wealth of information in biomedical data will advance our understanding of human health and disease,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins in a news release. “However, poor data accessibility is a major barrier to translating data into understanding. The NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase is an important effort to remove that barrier.”

See-through Zebrafish May Hold Clues to Ovarian Cancer

by Greg Watry

For thousands of years, animals have helped humans advance biomedical research. Early Greeks, such as Aristotle and Galen, studied animals to gain insights into anatomy, physiology and pathology. Today, model organisms, like mice, help researchers understand human diseases, opening the door to potential defenses and new therapies.

Postdoc Dena Leerberg, and Bruce Draper, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, study reproductive development in zebrafish. David Slipher/UC Davis