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News in Brief 5/16/17

Royal Society of Chemistry Recognizes UCI Professors

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) announced the winners of their 2017 prizes and awards last Tuesday, May 9. Out of the 62 recipients, three are UC Irvine professors.

The Britain-based RSC was formed in 1980 and focuses on advancing chemical sciences, and acknowledging scientists based on their originality and collaboration in research. It currently has over 50,000 members around the world.

UCI professor of chemistry and physics & astronomy Kieron Burke was awarded the Bourke Award for “his fundamental development and extensions of density functional theory in chemistry and material science,” according to the RSC website. Burke holds a B.A. degree from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and a Ph.D. from UC Santa Barbara. Before coming to UCI in 2006, Burke was a postdoctoral fellow at Rutgers University, Indiana University and Tulane University and was also a professor at Rutgers. His work deals in developing new drugs by refining computational calculations. As a result of his award, Burke has been invited to U.K. universities to give chemical physics lectures. The Bourke Award includes a medal, certificate and $2,600 prize money.

Chemistry professor William Evans received the Centenary Prize for “the synthesis of new molecular compositions that can reveal new oxidation states, diatomic ions, electron configurations and magnetic properties.” Evans has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. from UCLA. He taught at the University of Chicago until 1983 when he joined the UCI staff and has won numerous awards for his research, which focuses on the chemistry of rare-earth. The Centenary Prize includes a medal, certificate and $6,500.

Chemistry professor Douglas Tobias was awarded the Soft Matter & Biophysical Chemistry Award, which recognizes scientists for research in soft condensed matter and applying physicochemical techniques to biological issues, for “transformative molecular dynamics simulation studies that have advanced our fundamental understanding of protein dynamics.” Tobias has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemistry from UC Riverside and a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Biophysics from Carnegie Mellon University. He is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society and the American Physical Society. He came to UCI in 1997. Tobias studies protein dynamics using atomistic simulation techniques. His award also includes a medal, certificate and $2,600.


UCI Professor Wins Fulbright Grant

Associate Film & Media studies professor Felicidad Cua Lim was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in the Philippines.

Lim is working on a book about the dire state of the Philippines’ film archive. In a UCI News press release, Lim said, “In an alarming context in which only five prewar Filipino movies survive, I will analyze the conditions that gave rise to the country’s profound archive crisis, explicate its ongoing consequences and advocate for preservation amidst a history of government indifference and corporate privatization of the nation’s film heritage.”


UC President Napolitano Speaks at Renewable Energy Conference

UC President Janet Napolitano spoke at the Pathways to 100% Renewable Energy Conference at Irvine’s Beckman Center on May 12 to discuss the UC’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2025.

The conference, themed “Toward Electrification In All Sectors,” was hosted by the Renewables 100 Policy Institute and sought to examine the difficulties faced in fully transitioning to renewable energy.

The UC has already taken steps toward its goal. It purchased 80 megawatts of solar energy from two Fresno County solar farms in August 2016, making it the largest solar purchase by a university in the US. A quarter of the solar power is being allocated to UC Davis and the rest will be shared by other UC campuses and institutions. UC Irvine also made news earlier this year for becoming the first college campus to convert its fleet of shuttle buses to all-electric.

“Investment in new clean energy technologies creates jobs and benefits local communities,” said Napolitano. “I am excited about the leadership role that the University of California is playing in accelerating the transition to renewable energy.”


UCI Professor Wins Alzheimer’s Association Award

Matthew Inlay, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine, won a research  grant from the Orange County Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The research grant will award Inlay $150,000 over three years.

Inlay’s research involves creation of an all-human model of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) using induced pluripotent stem cells. The BBB is a collection of blood vessels throughout the central nervous system that regulate the flow of nutrients to the brain and toxins out of the brain.

Inlay’s research intends to determine whether the BBB of those with certain Alzheimer’s risk genes showed impaired ability to remove beta-amyloid proteins, which build up as “plaques” in the brain.

If successful, this study will be the first to develop an all-human model of the blood-brain barrier using iPSCs from people with Alzheimer’s disease. It could also lead insight into how specific genes affect the functioning of the BBB and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease.


Gates Foundation Donates to UCI  Malaria Initiative

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $2 million to UC Irvine last Tuesday to fund the genetic modification of a species of African mosquitos so that it can no longer carry and spread malaria.

Malaria continues to spread around the world and kills close to 400,000 people every year, primarily children in sub-saharan Africa.

Professor Anthony James’s lab engineered a species of mosquito native to India in 2011 with genes that made it resistant to malaria. The UCI Malaria Initiative hopes to genetically modify a species of African mosquito to quell the spread of the disease there.