From sub-atomic to astronomical scales, we are working on the frontiers of science. A tradition of bridging boundaries has allowed us to probe fundamental questions at the intersections of 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.
This coupling between electrons and phonons determines how efficiently solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. It also plays key roles in superconductors that transfer electricity without losses, topological insulators that conduct electricity only on their surfaces, materials that drastically change their electrical resistance when exposed to a magnetic field, and more.
At the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists can study these coupled motions in unprecedented detail with the world’s most powerful X-ray laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). LCLS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.
Using a unique computational approach to rapidly sample, in millisecond time intervals, proteins in their natural state of gyrating, bobbing, and weaving, a research team from UC San Diego and Monash University in Australia has identified promising drug leads that may selectively combat heart disease, from arrhythmias to cardiac failure.
Reported in the September 5, 2016 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Early Edition, the researchers used the computing power of Gordon andComet, based at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego; and Stampede, at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin, to perform an unprecedented survey of protein structures using accelerated molecular dynamics or aMD – a method that performs a more complete sampling of the myriad shapes and conformations that a target protein molecule may go through.
Biochemists at the University of California San Diego have uncovered patterns in the outer protein coat of group AStreptococcus that could finally lead to a vaccine against this highly infectious bacteria—responsible for more than 500,000 deaths a year, including toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis or “flesh-eating disease.”
In a paper published in this week’s issue of Nature Microbiology, the researchers report that they had uncovered “hidden sequence patterns in the major surface protein and virulence factor” of group A Strep, called the M protein, that limit the body’s immune response against these bacteria.
J. Andrew McCammon, a distinguished professor of chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacology at the University of California San Diego, has won this year’s most prestigious university-based prize in theoretical chemistry.
McCammon, who holds the Joseph E. Mayer Chair of Theoretical Chemistry at UC San Diego, was today named the winner of the 2016-17 Joseph O. Hirschfelder Prize in Theoretical Chemistry, awarded by the Theoretical Chemistry Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
A chemistry professor at the University of California San Diego has won two prestigious national prizes awarded by the American Chemical Society.
Neal Devaraj, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is the recipient of the 2017 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry, which recognizes outstanding fundamental research in pure chemistry carried out in North America by chemists early in their careers, and the 2016 National Fresenius Award, which annually recognizes “an outstanding young scientist who has attained national recognition in the areas of research, teaching and/or administration.”
Mark Thiemens, a former dean and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego, has won the most prestigious prize awarded in the field of meteoritics —the scientific discipline concerned with the study of solar system origin, evolution and history.
Migratory birds often use warm, rising atmospheric currents to gain height with little energy expenditure when flying over long distances.
It’s a behavior known as thermal soaring that requires complex decision-making within the turbulent environment of a rising column of warm air from the sun baked surface of the earth. But exactly how birds navigate within this ever-changing environment to optimize their thermal soaring was unknown until a team of physicists and biologists at the University of California San Diego took an exacting computational look at the problem.
Biochemists at the University of California San Diego have developed artificial cell membranes that grow and remodel themselves in a manner similar to that of living mammalian cells.
The achievement, detailed in a paper published in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, follows the successful design last year in the same laboratory of artificial, or synthetic, cell membranes capable of sustaining continual growth. The two developments now bring the researchers closer to mimicking all of the properties of living mammalian cell membranes with synthetic components.
Mathematics Professor James McKernan has been named by the Simons Foundation as a Simons Investigator, an honor that will provide him with an award of $100,000 per year in research support over the next five years.
In announcing his selection as a 2016 Simons Investigator, the foundation said that “McKernan, in collaboration with Caucher Birkar, Paolo Cascini, and Christopher D. Hacon, has established one of the cornerstones of the Minimal Model Program: the finite generation of canonical rings in all dimensions.”
McKernan, who received his doctorate in mathematics from Harvard University in 1991, was a professor at UC Santa Barbara and MIT before coming to UC San Diego and currently holds the Charles Lee Powell Endowed Chair in Mathematics.
His research is focused on birational geometry and his work has been recognized by professional organizations with numerous awards: the Clay Research Award in 2007 and the Cole Prize in Algebra in 2009. In 2011, he was elected to the Royal Society in the UK. He was also honored by being invited to and delivering a lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Hyderabad in 2010.
A team of physicists that visualized the internal nanostructure of an intact butterfly wing has discovered two physical attributes that make those structures so bright and colorful.
“Over millions of years, butterflies have evolved sophisticated cellular mechanisms to grow brightly colored structures, normally for the purpose of camouflage as well as mating,” says Oleg Shpyrko, an associate professor of physics at UC San Diego, who headed the research effort. “It’s been known for a century that the wings of these beautiful creatures contain what are called photonic crystals, which can reflect light of only a particular color.”
Scientists at UC San Diego, MIT and Harvard University have engineered “topological plexcitons,” energy-carrying particles that could help make possible the design of new kinds of solar cells and miniaturized optical circuitry.
The researchers report their advance in an article published in the current issue of Nature Communications.
Within the Lilliputian world of solid state physics, light and matter interact in strange ways, exchanging energy back and forth between them.
“When light and matter interact, they exchange energy,” explained Joel Yuen-Zhou, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego and the first author of the paper. “Energy can flow back and forth between light in a metal (so called plasmon) and light in a molecule (so called exciton). When this exchange is much faster than their respective decay rates, their individual identities are lost, and it is more accurate to think about them as hybrid particles; excitons and plasmons marry to form plexcitons.”
Tehseen Lazzouni, Recharge Analyst in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Business Office, has been selected as a recipient of the 2016 Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year Award. This annual campus award recognizes professional and support staff from across all Vice Chancellor and Health System areas, who have demonstrated exemplary service and made other significant contributions to the UC San Diego and San Diego communities.
Since joining the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 2015, Tehseen has been committed to excellence through her attention to detail, unsurpassed customer service skills, keen problem solving, collaborative spirit, integrity and creativity. She has gained a mastery of the recharge facility operations despite often dealing with ambiguous information and conflicting priorities. Her optimistic attitude is infectious and often serves as a catalyst for improved relationships with many stakeholders, both internal and external.
In addition to her work in Chem/Biochem Tehseen is being honored for her previous work with the NASA California Space Grant Consortium. There she worked creatively and tirelessly to improve the consortium by reaching out to groups to promote diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Some examples of her work included working with MESA directors at over a dozen state-wide community colleges to improve their STEM programs. In an effort to promote gender diversity in STEM at UCSD, Tehseen presented California Space Grant projects and opportunities to the UCSD chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and developed two scholarship programs for them. Together these programs have provided 23 scholarships.
We are extremely fortunate and honored to have Tehseen as a member of our team in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Division of Physical Sciences!
Kimberly Prather, distinguished chair in atmospheric chemistry at the University of California San Diego, will receive the Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award from the California Air Resources Board May 18. The awards have since their inception in 2001 recognized individuals for career accomplishments in improving air quality in a number of categories.
Board officials said they bestowed the award upon Prather in its Atmospheric Chemistry Research category to acknowledge her “pioneering work that has transformed our understanding of atmospheric aerosols and their impacts on atmospheric chemistry, climate, and the hydrologic cycle.”
In an effort to probe the first few moments of time after the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago, a consortium of researchers, including astrophysicists from the University of California San Diego, is planning a new observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert to measure the cosmic microwave background, or CMB.
The $40 million initiative, known as the Simons Observatory, was announced on Thursday and is being funded by grants from the Simons Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.
An international group of mathematicians at UC San Diego and other institutions has produced a new kind of online resource to help discover uncharted mathematical worlds.
The “L-functions and Modular Forms Database,” or LMFDB, is an intricate catalog of mathematical objects and the connections between them. Both beautiful and functional like an atlas, the LMFDB reveals deep relationships in the abstract universe of mathematics. This coordinated effort is part of a massive collaboration of researchers around the globe, and includes developing new algorithms and performing large calculations on an extensive network of computers.
Neal Devaraj named Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar
Neal Devaraj, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has been named a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, one of 13 faculty members nationwide to receive the honor.
Criteria for selection include an independent body of scholarship attained in the early years of a faculty member’s appointment, and a demonstrated commitment to education, signaling the promise of continuing outstanding contributions to both research and teaching.
The award provides an unrestricted research grant of $75,000. Devaraj will receive his award for his research project “Site-Specific Covalent Tagging of RNA for Live Cell Imaging and Affinity Purification.” He is the sixth faculty member at UC San Diego to receive the prestigious award.
The foundation said the 13 faculty members receiving awards this year “are within the first five years of their academic careers, have each created an outstanding independent body of scholarship, and are deeply committed to education.”
“The Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award is the Dreyfus Foundation’s flagship program,” said Mark Cardillo, executive director of The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. “The award supports exceptional young academic researchers at an early and crucial stage of their careers. They are selected based on their independent contributions to both research in the chemical sciences and education.”
Since its inception in 1970, the Teacher-Scholar program has awarded over $45 million to support emerging young leaders in the chemical sciences.
The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation is a leading non-profit organization devoted to the advancement of the chemical sciences. It was established in 1946 by chemist, inventor and businessman Camille Dreyfus in honor of his brother Henry. The Foundation's purpose is “to advance the science of chemistry, chemical engineering and related sciences as a means of improving human relations and circumstances around the world.” More information on the foundation and award is at: http://www.dreyfus.org
Guy Bertrand, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego, has been named this year’s winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson Award.
Bertrand received the award for “for his discovery of stable carbenes and their applications in organometallic synthesis and catalysis.”
Bertrand studied chemistry at the National School of Chemistry in Montpellier and received his PhD from the University Paul Sabatier in Toulouse. After being a CNRS group leader (French National Center for Scientific Research) at the University of Toulouse, and then at the Laboratoire de Chimie de Coordination du CNRS, he served as director of the Laboratoire d'Hétérochimie Fondamentale et Appliquée at the University Paul Sabatier from 1998 to 2005.
From 2001 to 2012 he also was director of the UCR/CNRS Joint Research Chemistry Laboratory that he created and since arriving on the La Jolla campus in 2012, he has been the director of UCSD/CNRS Joint Research Chemistry Laboratory.
Bertrand is a member of the French Academy of Technology (2000), the Academia Europaea (2002), the European Academy of Sciences (2003), the French Academy of Sciences (2004) and is a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Sciences (2006). He has recently received the Sir Ronald Nyholm Medal of the RSC (2009), the Grand Prix Le Bel of the French Chemical Society (2010) and the American Chemical Society Award in Inorganic Chemistry (2014).
He is one of the associate editors of Chemical Reviews and serves as a member of the editorial board of several professional journals, including the Royal Society’s Chemical Science and Organic Chemistry Frontiers.