Maureen Kinyua: Waste Not

By Aditi Risbud Bartl

As an undergraduate physics major, Maureen Kinyua discovered her passion for science—combined with a sincere interest in helping others—could lead to a fruitful career in engineering.

Maureen Kinyua is taking new approaches to recycling animal waste. (UC Davis College of Engineering)

“I liked how you could combine physics, chemistry and biology into something more applied,” she said. “Engineering also gave me a way to mix my interest in science while actually doing good for the environment.”

Karen Moxon: Decoding the Brain

Engineering professor in lab

Karen Moxon, professor of biomedical engineering, in her lab at UC Davis. Photo by Reeta Asmai/UC Davis.

By Aditi Risbud Bartl 

In the last decade, researchers in academia and the technology sector have been racing to unlock the potential of artificial intelligence. In parallel with federally-funded efforts from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, heavy-hitters such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google are deeply invested in artificial intelligence.

As part of the BRAIN Initiative, many UC Davis investigators are studying the nervous system and developing new technologies to investigate brain function.

Geoscientists Take Part in Frontera Supercomputer

UC Davis scientists are taking part in a project to build the new “Frontera” supercomputer at the University of Texas at Austin. Funded by a $60 million grant from the National Science Foundation announced last week, Frontera will be the fastest computer at any U.S. university and among the most powerful in the world.

Global simulation of Earth’s mantle convection by the NSF-funded Stampede supercomputer at UT Austin. Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics, headquartered at UC Davis, is developing software for Earth sciences that will run on the new Frontera system. [Courtesy of ICES, UT Austin]

New Insights into Semiconductors for Spintronic Applications from Hard X-Ray Photoemission

“Spintronics” holds promise for new types of devices for information processing and data storage, with ones and zeros being stored in the spin state of electrons as well as their electric charge. Such devices could be faster and more energy efficient than current electronics.

Dilute magnetic semiconductors such as manganese-doped gallium arsenide are a promising material for spintronics, said Slavomir Nemsak, staff researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and former postdoc in the UC Davis Department of Physics, working with Professor Charles Fadley and Adjunct Professor Claus Schneider. They have ferromagnetic properties but are not themselves metals. They are called “dilute” because the dopant makes up a small amount (a few percent) of the semiconductor material.

“Grit in the Gears” Costs Energy in Modular Information Systems

Digital information may appear to exist as abstract ones and zeroes, flipping effortlessly from one to another. But in fact there is a minimum amount of energy required to run any computation system, regardless of how “energy efficient” are its component parts. A recent paper from Jim Crutchfield and Alex Boyd at the UC Davis Complexity Sciences Center with Dibyendu Mandal at UC Berkeley shows that there is some inescapable friction, or “grit in the gears” between the levels of organization in an information system.

DNA-ROM: New Grant Aims for Memory Chips Based on DNA

Josh Hihath is trying to fuse biology and electrical engineering and to build new types of electronic memory based on DNA. Hihath, professor in the UC Davis Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is principal investigator of a grant just funded by the Semiconductor Synthetic Biology for Information Processing and Storage Technologies (SemiSynBio) program. SemiSynBio is a partnership between the National Science Foundation and the Semiconductor Research Corporation.

Schematic of DNA memory

Researchers at UC Davis, University of Washington and Emory University hope to use self-assembling DNA molecules to build a “DNA-ROM” that can store digital information. (Josh Hihath/Yonggang Ke)

Lab-grown Cartilage Transplant Eases Temporomandibular Joint Disease in Animal Model

A first-ever tissue implant to safely treat a common jaw defect, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, has been successfully tested in animals by researchers from UC Irvine and UC Davis.

“We were able to show that we could achieve exceptional healing of the TMJ area after eight weeks of treatment,” said UCI Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering Kyriacos Athanasiou, senior author on the study, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine. Athanasiou, who joined UC Irvine last year after several years at UC Davis’ Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been working on the condition for nearly two decades.

Podcast: New Insight on Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries are life-changing, and it used to be thought that recovery of limb movement below the injury was impossible. But new research is showing that with the right therapies, the body can find ways to work around spinal injuries. Professor Karen Moxon of the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering talks about her work with rats and how they can recover from injury.

Listen: Three Minute Egghead: New Insight on Spinal Injuries (Soundcloud)

More information

Working Around Spinal Injuries (News release)

Cortex-dependent recovery of unassisted hindlimb locomotion after complete spinal cord injury in adult rats (eLife)

 

Graphene Layered with Magnetic Materials Could Drive Ultrathin Spintronics

Scientists with instrument

UC Davis project scientist Gong Chen (right) and coauthor Andres Schmid of Lawrence Berkeley Lab with the SPLEEM instrument used for imaging magnetic fields inside materials. Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt/LBL.

Tiny swirling textures in the magnetic fields within layered materials could be a key to replacing disk drives and flash memory in computing devices. Physicists at UC Davis and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are exploring how these patterns form in materials layered with graphene, an ultrathin form of carbon. A paper on the work was published online May 28 in Nature Materials.

Bio-Inspired Natural Hazards Design-a-Thon is April 28

Teams of undergraduate engineers from UC Davis and nearby colleges and universities will be pulling an all-nighter this weekend, working on using the inspiration or processes of nature to prevent or mitigate natural hazards.

The Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics Design-a-thon runs from 11 a.m. Saturday, April 28 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 29 in room 1065, Kemper Hall.

Registration is still open: click here

Student teams will select a natural hazard such as fire, flood, earthquake, tsunami or hurricane, and come up with an engineering solution that is affordable, sustainable, has minimal environmental impact and is equitable for all. There will be cash prizes for first, second and third places.