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Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Linda Katehi is UC Davis’ sixth chancellor and first woman to hold the post. (Karin Higgins / UC Davis)

About Higher Ed Matters

With this blog, I hope that we can engage in a vibrant conversation about our thoughts, ideas and news about how our university is helping to shape the future of higher education. As you share your comments, please embrace the UC Davis Principles of Community and abide by our Comments policy.

- Linda Katehi



Higher Ed Matters

Supporting the next generation of women leaders

December 6th, 2013 @ 5:11 pm by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

UC Davis students are changing the world. Earlier this week, I received yet another reminder of just how true that is. On Monday, I joined five other women in a panel discussion on campus where we discussed our experiences as women in leadership and examined how we can break down the barriers that create such wide disparities at the higher levels of business, politics and academe. In addition to myself, the panel included a state legislator, three CEOs and my friend and colleague Maureen Stanton. It was a lively and interesting discussion. Hearing the thoughts and experiences of my fellow panelists was both informative and inspiring.

But perhaps most inspiring for me was that the event was made possible by two of our graduate students. Nicole Chaffee, a doctoral student in Chemistry, and Jeni Lee, who is pursuing a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, are both passionate about promoting opportunities for women and created the Women in Leadership Series and Panel as a means to build dialogue on this vital issue and pursue solutions that empower women and ensure opportunity for all. The response has been outstanding and their events have brought together undergraduate and graduate students, high school students, UC Davis faculty and community members in building an ever wider coalition in support of increasing opportunities for women. It is easy to imagine the wide-reaching positive effect that Nicole and Jeni’s efforts will have as not only will those who attended and engaged with the series and panel event be instructed, inspired and mentored, but they will also have the tools and motivation to mentor others and continue the immensely positive results of Jeni and Nicole’s efforts. The fact that Nicole and Jeni are both women working in the STEM fields, a cause so dear to my heart, only adds to why I think so highly of what they have accomplished.

The reality is that our entire student body is made up of people like Jeni and Nicole. They are dedicated to making the world a better place, and when they see a problem, they do not wait around for someone else to come along and solve it. They roll their sleeves up and get to work. I look forward to what Jeni and Nicole will accomplish next.

In the news

A world class leader for a world class institution

October 31st, 2013 @ 12:54 pm by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Our newest Aggie is known all over the world for protecting the food we eat from viruses. His next challenge . . . feeding 9 billion people.

But first, a  little history . . .

A little over two years ago, I looked closely at our university’s unique depth of scholarship and research in agriculture, health, food science and sustainability. With more than 50 centers, institutes, labs and programs across the campus and Health System regarding food, nutrition and health, UC Davis was already a global leader in these fields. I concluded that we could do even more.

With the help of faculty and experts inside and outside the university, this vision was realized earlier this year with the formal founding of the UC Davis World Food Center. The goal of the Center is to harness the full resources of the world’s leading agricultural institution to solve one of the planet’s most pressing problems, namely how to safely and effectively feed and nourish a planet that is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. Through cutting edge interdisciplinary work, the Center will not only work toward making the world a healthier place, but also attract vital research dollars to the university, create jobs and economic development and enhance the most dynamic agricultural region on earth.

Today, this vision took a giant step towards achieving its goal. At a press conference this morning, I introduced world-renowned food scientist and innovator Roger Beachy as the Center’s founding director. The former chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and first director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Roger is the ideal person to lead the Center. He is a groundbreaking researcher and visionary with the experience and expertise to make the World Food Center the leading institution of its kind in the world.

UC Davis is the one university to take on this challenge and I look forward to the monumental accomplishments that will come from this vital work.

Aggie stars

A learning opportunity not to be missed: Big Bang!

October 9th, 2013 @ 10:26 am by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Akshay Sethi has worked in the lab in the Department of Pharmacology.

Akshay Sethi has participated in various activities on campus, including working in a lab in the Department of Pharmacology. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo)

Akshay Sethi, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, has always had an interest in sustainability of life, which is what led him to want to pursue a career in medicine. Since arriving at UC Davis, he has realized that there are multiple avenues for improving the quality of life for society as a whole.

Last spring, Akshay was part of the AmberCycle team that made the finals of the Graduate School of Management’s Big Bang! Business Competition, designed to promote entrepreneurship at UC Davis and in the region. All five teams in the finals included second-year undergrads, including Ashkay, the first time that’s happened.

Team AmberCycle developed a system to degrade plastics so that they are cheaper and easier to recycle. It’s a meaningful pursuit to help reduce waste and clean up the environment, Ashkay says.

This idea came about after Akshay was involved in a research project dealing with biologically based technology that enables specific plastics to be degraded. With the success he achieved in the lab, he then sought out resources to make this technology applicable in the real world. And that’s how he eventually got involved in the Big Bang!

Now in his third year, Akshay, who is from Folsom,  continues to be in awe of the opportunities that have been made available to him on campus.

At UC Davis, we take pride in being able to offer our undergraduates valuable hands-on experience in the area of research. Because we live in an era of a constant change, we need more young innovators like Akshay to continue finding ways to improve ideas and concepts.

Big Bang! is an experiential learning opportunity for students, faculty, staff and alumni to learn how to develop a business. Experiences such as Big Bang! allow bright students to take what they’ve learned in the lab and apply it to the real world, and, in turn, improve quality of life.

The next Big Bang! competition kicks off this week and I encourage any of our students who have an interest or an idea to get involved.

The 2013-14 Big Bang! Kickoff is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. today (Oct. 9) in the AGR Room at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. More information is available here.

Aggie stars

Pre-med student jumps in early to help her community

September 3rd, 2013 @ 10:46 am by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Axana Rodriguez-Torres addresses a group of community members at the first diabetes awareness class.

Axana Rodriguez-Torres addresses a group of community members at the first Diabetes Awareness class.

Advocate and educate: That’s what senior Axana Rodriguez-Torres is determined to do for her community. A double major in NPB (neurobiology, physiology and behavior) and psychology, she wants to be a doctor of internal medicine and plans to make prevention an important part of her practice in the Latino community.

Axana, from Elk Grove, came to UC Davis as a transfer student last year. In May, she was one of 15 California students to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Donald A. Strauss Foundation. These scholarships fund public service projects that the students have proposed and will carry out during their senior years.

Axana, who volunteers at Clinica Tepati, one of the UC Davis School of Medicine’s student-run free clinics, started the Diabetes Awareness Project this summer. Her inspiration stemmed from her passion to educate people about healthy living. There are billions of dollars spent on diabetes-related issues every year, and Axana believes that if people are given the knowledge and tools to make different choices, this disease can be prevented.

The project is expected to reach hundreds of community memberspeople who otherwise may not have access to relevant and important information about obesity and diabetes. Axana has spent the last few months leading a class at All Hallows Parish in Sacramento, in addition to volunteering at Clinica Tepati and studying for the MCAT.

She will be taking the test this week and plans to apply for medical school this year.

Axana’s journey to achieving her dream has been a long one. She completed three years of medical school in her native Colombia, but for reasons beyond her control, she had to come to the United States. Her medical school credits did not transfer, so she had to start all over again.

Despite the adversities she has faced, Axana is more determined than ever to get back into medical school and continue her path to making a difference. I wish her the best of luck on the MCAT.

Our future depends on innovation

August 2nd, 2013 @ 4:00 pm by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Professor Andy Frank riding in style.

Professor Andy Frank riding in style.

New discoveries are made on our campus every day. Thanks to partnerships between government and public research universities like UC Davis, much of this innovation has driven the American economy and led to technological advances that have improved the lives of millions.

Innovations by people like mechanical and aeronautical engineering professor Andy Frank, who has come to be known as the “father of the plug-in hybrid,” could not have been possible without support from the U.S. Department of Energy as well as leading companies in the auto industry.

Andy has been working on developing fuel-efficient vehicles for more than 30 years. He was in high school, building hot rods, when he began exploring ways to get better performance and better fuel economy. He spent a 10-years working in aerospace engineering, but returned to his automotive roots in 1972 when he developed what may have been the first plug-in hybrid car.

During his tenure at UC Davis, Andy has worked with teams of students who have designed and built a series of award-winning vehicles for the Futurecar, Futuretruck and ChallengeX competitions.

In 2006, he established a company, Efficient Drivetrains Inc. (EDI), to refine his inventions for market. In 2007, the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis established a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Research Center to conduct the first consumer studies of plug-ins.

And in 2010, Andy became one of the very first people to take delivery of a mass-produced plug-in hybrid: the Chevrolet Volt. Some of his former students had worked on the Volt’s design.

Investing in innovation is vital for America’s future. This week, I joined my higher education colleagues across the country to send an open letter to our leaders in Washington urging them to close the innovation deficit. Such investments, especially in tough times, are essential to drive the innovation, economic growth and job creation needed to keep America strong.