Thermal Transistor Handles Heat at the Nanoscale

By Andrew Myers

You’ve felt the heat before — the smartphone that warms while running a navigation app or the laptop that gets too hot for your lap.

The heat produced by electronic devices does more than annoy users. Heat-induced voids and cracking can cause chips and circuits to fail.


Schematic of the experimental thermal transistor. A slice of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) sits on a piece of silicon dioxide, bathed in a solution of lithium ions. (Sood et al, Nature Communications)

Diagnosing and Treating Personality Disorders Needs a Dynamic Approach

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Someone who is “neurotic” does not necessarily show anger or anxiety in a given situation, even though those are generally accepted traits of a person with that personality style.

New UC Davis research suggests that lumping those with personality disorders into a package of traits should be left behind for more dynamic analysis instead. Those who study and treat people with personality disorders need to more deeply look at personality dynamics and variation over time, not just box people into specific categories or traits.

UC Davis psychologist Chris Hopwood wants to take a more dynamic view of personality traits and disorders.

Grants for Quantum Information Science

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced $218 million in new grants for “Quantum Information Science” and researchers with the Center for Quantum Mathematics and Physics (QMAP) at UC Davis are among the recipients.

The QMAP initiative at UC Davis is aimed at fundamental research in theoretical and mathematical physics.

Professors Veronika Hubeny and Mukund Rangamani were awarded $348,000 over two years for work on “Entanglement in String Theory and the Emergence of Geometry.” They will explore connections between the nature of spacetime, quantum entanglement and string theory. Entanglement, famously described by Einstein as “spooky action at a distance,” is a phenomenon in quantum physics where the properties of pairs of particles are correlated even when they are widely separated.

Physics Nobel for Optical Tweezers, Enabled Single Molecule DNA Work

The 2018 Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to Arthur Ashkin of Bell Labs, Gérard Mourou, École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France
and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Donna Strickland, University of Waterloo, Canada for work on laser pulses that led to the development of “optical tweezers” that use lasers to manipulate small objects. 

The invention of optical tweezers made it possible for UC Davis biologists led by Professor Stephen Kowalczykowski and the late Professor Ron Baskin to design experiments where they could manipulate and observe single DNA molecules being copied in real time. In 2001, they used optical tweezers to move a tiny bead with a piece of DNA attached under a microscope, where they could watch a helicase enzyme unwind the DNA — the first step to copying or repairing it.

Podcast: Intensive Training for Parents Referred to CPS Improves Child Physiology

Traumatic experiences, such as maltreatment as children, can influence how our mind and body react to stressful situations. UC Davis psychologist Paul Hastings and colleagues at the University of Washington have shown that intensive training for parents referred to Child Protective Services can improve physiological reactions to stress in their young children.

Listen: Three Minute Egghead: Parenting and Child Physiology (Soundcloud)

More information

Training for Parents Referred to CPS Improves Toddler’s Physiological Regulation (UC Davis News)

Listen to more episodes of Three Minute Egghead on Soundcloud or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Gene Discovery Pushes Back Origins of Insect Sense of Smell

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

Doctoral candidate Philipp Brand and his colleagues at the University of California, Davis, had just finished compiling the genome, or complete set of genetic material of the firebrat — a tiny wingless, nocturnal insect found throughout much of the world — when something surprised him.

Adult firebrat (left) and developmental stages. Firebrats are among the most ancient types of insects and can be pests attacking paper and fabrics. Photo by Dong-Hwan Choe, UC IPM.

There they were–odorant receptor genes, the scent-detecting genes thought to have evolved with winged insects more than 400 million years ago. But this groundbreaking discovery indicates they evolved millions of years earlier.

New Insight Into Why Pierce’s Disease Is So Deadly to Grapevines

photo of grapeleaf

Symptoms of Pierce’s Disease on a grapevine.(Jack Kelly Clark / UCANR)

By Amy Quinton

Scientists are gaining a better understanding of Pierce’s disease and how it affects grapevines. The disease, which annually costs California more than $100 million, comes from a bacterium called Xylella fastidiosa. While the bacterium has been present in the state for more than 100 years, Pierce’s disease became a more serious threat to agriculture with the arrival of the glassy-winged sharpshooter insect, which can carry the bacterium from plant to plant.

Could Prison Studies End the Salt Wars?

Medical research studies involving prison inmates have a bad reputation, but now a group of nutrition researchers proposes to use prisoners to answer a long running question in nutrition: what is the connection between salt intake and health? They recently published their proposal in the journal Hypertension, reported by Gina Kolata in the New York Times.

Arguments over the role of dietary salt in heart health — the “Salt Wars” — have been raging for years. David McCarron, a nephrologist and former research affiliate with UC Davis’s Department of Nutrition is a prominent “Salt Skeptic,” arguing that Americans eat about the same amount of salt now as 40 years ago, and that salt intake in humans is regulated by the brain, not by how much is added to food.

Making an Impact in Research: Advice from Experience, Pitch Slams from Grad Students

Sometimes there’s just too much going on at UC Davis. Today, you could hear from two groups of researchers at very different points in their careers, looking to make an impact and talking about how to have an impact with research.

Today’s UC Davis Research Expo was put on by the Office of Research with the theme “Pathways to Impact”. This afternoon, the Office of Graduate Studies hosted the final UC Davis round of the Grad Slam competition.

Panel discussion

A panel of accomplished UC Davis scientists (and one classicist) discuss how to make an impact with your research at the UC Davis Research Expo, April 5, 2018.

Looking for New Pollutants in the Ashes of Sonoma

In this month’s episode of Three Minute Egghead, UC Davis graduate student Gabrielle Black talks about collecting samples of ash from neighborhoods burned by last year’s northern California wildfires. The intense heat on a wide range of household items from insulation to electronics may have created new chemical pollutants. Thanks to modern analytic technology, Black plans to search for both known pollutants and new compounds, and compare them to the ashes of burned wild land.

Listen to the podcast here.

More information

Testing Sonoma Ash and Air for Fire-Formed Pollutants

WHAT-NOW Survey (UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center)