News in Brief

UCI Science and Math Students Teach Schoolchildren at Science Center

Since Feb. 18, 2010, 18 UCI science and math students have been serving about 500,000 schoolchildren at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana.

The program is funded by a Chemistry at the Space-Time Limit outreach grant from the National Science Foundation. Schoolchildren take these monthly field trips to the center, which are coordinated by grade, and the UCI students who teach them are paid $12 per hour, moving between demonstration tables in the main hall and the Planetary Research Station room.

Inside the Planetary Research Station room, a giant globe hangs from the ceiling where more than 500 computer-generated images can be projected — everything from the spread of the Gulf Oil Spill to Jupiter’s highest mountain.

The children bubble with enthusiasm during the science demonstrations as the student teaches them about chemical reactions. Acids and bases react with an indicator solution, the acids turning red, the bases turning blue. Magnets attract iron fillings, the tiny pieces of shaved metal sticking — a wonderful mystery in the eyes of the children.

Medical Center Recognized Once More by American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) recognized UCI Healthcare’s efforts to care for heart failure patients. The Get With The Guidelines — Heart Failure Silver Plus Award acknowledges that UCI Medical Center has achieved at least 85 percent compliance for one year with AHA standards of care. UCI Medical Center’s compliance rate was 95 percent.

According to the AHA, about 5.7 million people in the United States suffer from heart failure, or the inability of the heart to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the body’s needs, killing more than 292,200 people every year.

The Get With The Guidelines initiative is aimed at reducing disability, future hospitalizations, health care costs and deaths. It includes care maps, discharge protocols, standing orders and measurement tools. According to AHA guidelines, heart failure patients should be treated with aggressive risk-reduction therapies such as cholesterol-lowering drugs, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, aspirin, diuretics and anticoagulants. A 2009 study published in the “American Heart Journal” concluded that hospitals meeting these AHA guidelines had lower mortality rates.

UCI Scientists Find Small Brain Protein, Big Effects On Memory

UCI researchers have found a novel mechanism in the brain that aids memory. Working in collaboration with scientists at the University of Munster in Germany, the UCI team found a small protein called neuropeptide S (NPS), which can strengthen and prolong memories of everything from negative events to simple objects.

According to Rainer Reinscheid, UCI associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences who headed the project, the discovery could provide important clues about how the brain stores memories and also lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive impairments.

The researchers performed tests on mice and found that if NPS receptors in the brain were activated immediately after learning new information, it could be recalled for much longer with more intensity. The memory enhancement lasted for up to a week, but when NPS receptor activation was disrupted, memory was adversely affected.

The study results that appeared in a Dec. 8 advance online article for the journal “Neuropsychopharmacology” agree with Reinscheid’s previous findings that NPS causes wakefulness and has a calming effect.

Naoe Okamura, Celia Garau, Dee Duangdao and Stewart Clark of UCI as well as Kay Jungling and Hans-Christian Pape of the University of Munster contributed to the study, which was partly funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

OC Law Enforcement Nets More Than 500 Holiday DUI Arrests

In the two weeks before the New Year, Orange County made 504 DUI arrests, as part of a citywide effort to crackdown on impaired driving during the holidays.

The effort included 38 special deployments in addition to routine patrols.

The 504 arrests were accumulated from Friday, Dec. 17 to Friday, Dec. 31.

“Bloom Boxes” Promise New, Clean, Cheap Energy for Homes, Businesses

At an office park in Alhambra, fuel cells have been put to good use. Five large boxes known as “Bloom boxes” are currently powering a quarter of a complex in the park. The fuel cells provide low emission energy, saving the property owner approximately $500,000 in electricity bills per year.

Wayne Ratkovich, CEO of the Ratkovich Company, owns the complex, among others. Ratkovich is impressed with the machines and is contemplating the introduction of five more on site and introducing the technology to other complexes his company owns, such as the Playa Vista Complex. He’d like to frontline the technology if he adds more to the complex and establish tours to open his company to the public.

The Bloom boxes used in San Gabriel Valley were developed by Bloom Energy, a start up located in Sunnyvale, CA. The boxes use solid oxide fuel energy technology.

The units developed by the Bloom Energy Company cost $800,000 and the set costs about $4 million. Each box also comes with a 10-year warranty. The units have spread to many companies in California. A Wal-mart located in Lancaster has a 400-kilowatt system, and a Staples located in Ontario has a 300-kilowatt system. Up in northern California, fuel cell technology has entered the big leagues. In Mountain View, the Google Inc. headquarters utilizes a 400-kilowatt system and in San Jose, EBay has a 500-kilowatt system.

Scott Samuelsen, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at UC Irvine, believes that cells have become more durable and affordable.

In San Diego, a partnership with BioFuels Energy has led to the purchasing of three fuel-cell powered plants from a company called FuelCell Energy Inc. The powered plants have been used in a water facility in San Diego as well as UC San Diego.

Now, companies are beginning to work with commercial and residential buyers.