UC Davis physicist praises 2015 Nobel prize for neutrinos

The sun, as seen in neutrinos captured by the Super-K experiment in Japan (R. Svoboda and K. Gordan).

The sun, as seen in neutrinos captured by the Super-K experiment in Japan (R. Svoboda and K. Gordan).

Robert Svoboda contributed to Nobel-winning neutrino experiments

By Becky Oskin

Billions of mysterious particles called neutrinos bombard your body every day. But catching even one neutrino is a huge effort. Nearly all neutrinos pass through people — and even our planet Earth — without a trace.

“There are 65 million neutrinos going through your thumbnail every second,” said Robert Svoboda, a UC Davis physics professor who has studied neutrinos for more than 25 years. “Only one will stop in your body during your lifetime.”

UC Davis experts praise Nobel Chemistry prize for DNA repair

“Terrific,” “Amazing news,” “Excellent choice,” were some of the terms two UC Davis experts in DNA repair used to describe the award of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry to three pioneers of the field this morning. The recipients are:  Tomas Lindal, Francis Crick Institute, London; Paul Modrich, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University; and Aziz Sancar of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“They discovered that DNA in your body, which suffers from millions of DNA damaging events from every day due to normal chemical processes, is repaired efficiently by remarkably complex and disparate sets of repair machineries and mechanisms,” said Stephen Kowalczykowski, distinguished professor of microbiology and molecular genetics in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences.

UC Davis graduate student to attend Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting

By Derrick Bang

Christopher Chapman, a Ph.D. student in the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been selected to attend the 65th annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, taking place June 28-July 3 in Lindau, Germany. Chapman will join a U.S. delegation of roughly 55 “young researchers,” as they’re designated by the Lindau committee.

Christopher Chapman, a PhD student in the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering

The U.S. delegation will be among the Lindau Meeting’s approximately 650 global student and postdoctoral researchers from all three natural science Nobel Prize disciplines: medicine and physiology, physics, and chemistry. They’ll meet and confer with the 65 Nobel Laureates who will gather to interact with this next generation of leading scientists and researchers.

Medicine Nobel: How the brain makes sense of place

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to three neuroscientists, John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser, for their discoveries of brain cells that allow us to make sense of place and location and navigate our environment.

In 1971, O’Keefe, then working at University College London, identified “place cells” in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. In rats, specific place cells activated when a rat was in a specific location, making up a map of the room inside the rat’s brain.

More than 30 years later, the Mosers discovered “grid cells,” that allow our brains to create coordinates and navigate between points.

New natural mosquito repellent discovered

A southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, after lunch.

A southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, after lunch.

Two recent papers by Professor Walter Leal, Dept. of Molecular and Cell Biology could have far-reaching consequences for both mosquito and moth control. But perhaps the most exciting outcome of the work is his serendipitous discovery of a naturally occurring chemical that repels mosquitoes and could lead to effective, non-toxic protection from their disease-carrying bites.

The first paper, published Oct. 28 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on the southern house mosquito’s sense of smell. Leal’s team identifies a large repertoire of olfactory genes through next-generation genetic sequencing.

Chemistry Nobel for molecular dynamics

Completing this year’s science Nobels, the prize for chemistry goes to Martin Karplus, University of Strasbourg and Harvard University; Michael Levitt, Stanford University; and Arieh Warshel, University of Southern California, “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

The three scientists pioneered a method called molecular dynamics, where Newton’s Laws of motion are solved in time steps for an ensemble of many atoms, said William Casey, professor of chemistry at UC Davis.

“This method is now very wide spread and geochemists employ it a lot,” he said.

Physics Nobel for Higgs boson: How UC Davis contributed

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to theorists Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, U.K. and Francois Englert of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium, for developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass.

UC Davis scientists are among the many others who have played a significant role in advancing the theory and in discovering the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field, the Higgs boson.

Cellular traffic system wins 2013 Medicine Nobel

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to James Rothman, Yale University; Randy Schekman, UC Berkeley; and Thomas Suedhof, Stanford University, for their independent work uncovering the system of vesicles, or tiny bubbles, used to move proteins or other molecules around inside cells. It’s a fundamental discovery with far-reaching consequences for understanding disease.

“Through their discoveries, Rothman, Schekman and Südhof have revealed the exquisitely precise control system for the transport and delivery of cellular cargo. Disturbances in this system have deleterious effects and contribute to conditions such as neurological diseases, diabetes, and immunological disorders,” wrote the Nobel committee, in a news release.

IgNobel for showing chimps can recognize each other, front and back

Researcher Jennifer Pokorny is now the second UC Davis affiliate to win a prestigious Ig Nobel Prize. Pokorny collected the prize, which she shared with Frans de Waal of The Netherlands, at the annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony at Harvard University on Sept. 20.

Pokorny and de Waal were awarded the 2012 Ig Nobel Prize for Anatomy “for discovering that chimpanzees can identify other chimpanzees individually from seeing photographs of their rear ends.”

UC Davis’ other Ig Nobel laureate is Professor Ivan Schwab of the Department of Ophthalmology, who won the Ornithology Prize in 2006 for his studies on why woodpeckers do not get headaches.

Of mice, flies, rice and men

Wednesday’s symposium on innate immunity was a big success with a capacity crowd of over 400 attendees at the UC Davis Conference Center.

The audience heard Nobel Prize winners Bruce Beutler of the University of Texas and Jules Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg, France, talk about their work on the ‘triggers’ of immune responses in mice and insects, while UC Davis plant pathologist Pamela Ronald discussed similar mechanisms in rice plants and Luke O’Neill of Trinity College Dublin wrapped it up with a discussion of the implications for human medicine.

Slides and video from all the presentations are now available online.