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From sub-atomic to astronomical scales, we are working on the frontiers of science. Founded by Nobel laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences, our departments have all played a central role in UC San Diego’s rapid rise to national and international prominence.

A tradition of bridging boundaries long before interdisciplinary research became fashionable has allowed us to probe fundamental questions at the intersections different branches of science and mathematics and to create new fields of study. Because mathematics and the physical sciences are fundamental to many pursuits, including engineering, medicine and biology, we contribute to the education of most undergraduate students at UC San Diego.

News from the Physical Sciences

tagged proteins anchored to a vesicle membraneActive matter

Jérémie Palacci and colleagues have created microbe-sized beads that utilize energy in their environment to self-propel to upstream by purely physical means. Their creation is a step toward the realization of biomimetic microsystems with the ability to actively respond to environmental changes.

"Living systems change their behavior according to their environment," said Palacci, a professor of physics who joined the faculty this year. "So the question was, can we design a particle that can sense its environment with no neural system or biological parts. This is a basic feature of living systems, and the idea was to implement that in a synthetic one." More

Brandon Bonilla producing polyols from algal oilPolyols from algae to ply ocean waves

Brandon Bonilla, an undergraduate student who is part of the Biofuels Awareness and Action Network, works the chemistry to create polyols, from oils produced by algae.

Mixed with a catalyst and silicates in the right proportions, the polyols expand to form polyurethane foam. 

Bonilla and fellow students Nick Hartel and Josh Ramos, working with Michael Burkart and Skip Pomeroy, helped to make the first algae-based foam cores for surfboards.

One of the boards will travel to premieres of the National Geographic program World's Smart Cities: San Diego.


tagged proteins anchored to a vesicle membraneOrganizing synthetic cells

With a tag, an anchor and a cage that can be unlocked with light, chemists have devised a simple, modular system that can locate proteins at the membrane of a cell.

“If you’re trying to emulate the way nature does this, you need a lot of complex machinery,” said Andrew Rudd, a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry.

Rudd sought something simpler. He works with Neal Devaraj, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry whose group has been working toward the creation of artificial cells from scratch in part by finding minimal ways to create biological structures. More.

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