Kanon Mori, wearing a nametag, speaks into a microphone

Leading the Japan-America Innovators of Medicine

UCLA student Kanon Mori works to improve health care while bridging cultures and disciplines

Kanon Mori, wearing a nametag, speaks into a microphone

Fourth-year UCLA student Kanon Mori, an organizer of the Japan-America Innovators of Medicine, speaks during a presentation last November to medtech entrepreneurs, investors, physicians and pharmaceutical executives at Awaji Island in Japan.

Lucy Berbeo | January 12, 2023

Many students embark on their college journey with the goal of finding a true sense of purpose. Kanon Mori found hers during her first year at UCLA — and spent her time as an undergraduate bringing that purpose to fruition.

Born in Los Angeles to parents from Japan, Mori grew up bilingual and passionate about bridging Japanese and U.S. culture. Excelling in STEM and interested in medicine, she chose to major in computational and systems biology, an interdisciplinary program in the UCLA College that trains students to solve biological problems by combining the sciences, math and computing.

In classes on public health and health policy, Mori learned about inequities in the U.S. health care system and decided to help change things on a global scale. “I realized the potential technological innovations can have to shake up the entire industry,” says Mori, who is set to graduate this June. “And UCLA is the gateway into the U.S. from Japan’s perspective. With its world-class medical research and technological innovations, I knew I had to take advantage of being a student here to initiate a project.”

Mori teamed up with students from Stanford University and medical schools in Japan, including those at the University of Tokyo, Osaka University and Kyoto University. Together, with support from academic institutions, companies and individuals, they spearheaded Japan-America Innovators of Medicine, or JAIM — a student-driven, entrepreneurial effort to tackle the global health care challenge of dementia and to foster U.S.-Japan collaboration in advancing medicine.

Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is on the rise worldwide and especially in Japan, where more than a quarter of the population is 65 or older. JAIM leaders, including Mori and her counterparts at Stanford and Osaka, recruited nine students from Stanford and UCLA to participate in training bootcamps, then flew them to Japan to visit dementia care settings, observe the need firsthand and generate solutions. Returning to the U.S., the students spent the next four months working under JAIM supervision to develop prototype medical devices aimed at helping dementia patients and caregivers worldwide. By addressing the urgent need in Japan, JAIM aims to create solutions before the problem becomes severe in nations like the U.S.

REMBUDS, one of the prototype medical devices created by JAIM participants

REMBUDS, one of the prototype medical devices created by JAIM participants, were designed to electrically stimulate the transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve and reduce sleep-related injuries in Lewy Body dementia patients with REM sleep behavior disorder.

The rigorous program’s success, Mori says, owes much to the drive and dedication of everyone involved. “We all poured our passions into this project,” she says. “Each one of us brought our own respective strengths to the table, and we all had an unwavering confidence that what we were doing was valuable to the world.”

Since completing their prototypes in November, several participants have presented and garnered interest at national and international conferences. In February, Mori says, JAIM will attend the UCLA MedTech Partnering Conference hosted by the UCLA Technology Development Group in order to seek mentorship and resources to launch their prototypes into production.

Mori describes leading JAIM as “challenging to say the least” — she and her team spent a year developing the program, which she says felt like running a startup in addition to being a full-time student — but found it incredibly fulfilling.

“My life mission is to bridge Japan and the U.S. by connecting resources and people in the field of medicine,” she says. “And entrepreneurship is fascinating to me — through the many failures and the endless uphill battle, I feel most alive.”

The same spirit drives Mori’s winning efforts as part of UCLA’s triathlon team. “You can find us gasping for air while inching our way up the steep hills of Malibu with our road bikes on an early Saturday morning, or charging into the crashing waves of Santa Monica to practice open water swimming before heading back to campus for class,” she says. “It’s a group of fit, quirky and driven people who make the challenging sport of triathlon into an enjoyable one.”

Mori’s ultimate goal, she says, is to develop a product or service that will make health care more accessible, affordable and efficient through technological innovation in business. She envisions herself working as a product manager, international business development manager or possibly even the creator of her own startup. For now, as she finishes senior year, she’s enjoying the many opportunities UCLA has to offer.

“There really is no place like it,” she says. “It’s so exciting to be here, just imagining what can start up in such an environment. I’m grateful for every professor, expert and fellow student who has changed my life in a profound way.”

For more of Our Stories at the College, click here.

UCLA collaboration fosters mathematical brilliance of Latino and Black middle school students

Undergraduates work in L.A. schools to bolster math learning through innovative research electives

Middle school students presenting about STEM research in their South L.A. communities

Middle school students presented their research poster about whether there should be a vaccine mandate for teenagers. | Don Liebig/UCLA

Holly Ober | January 4, 2023

A program that brings together UCLA students, the Los Angeles Unified School District and professional engineers and technologists to enhance mathematics learning in select South Los Angeles middle schools has made its public debut.

Forget boring demonstrations of solving equations on a whiteboard or listening to long lectures about math. As part of the Applied Mathematics Mentorship Program, on Dec. 14 the middle school students presented the results of research projects that were connected to their communities. The projects included studying the impacts of heat islands and COVID-19 on their neighborhoods, and on aerospace efforts in South Los Angeles. The research investigations were created so students could apply the mathematics they learn in the classroom to investigate and analyze mathematical issues and opportunities in their neighborhoods.

“We’re trying to embed mirrors and windows into the student experience so they see mathematics as a field in which they belong,” said Heather Dallas, executive director of the Curtis Center for Mathematics and Teaching at UCLA.

Supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Applied Mathematics Mentorship Program is a collaborative effort of the Curtis Center, three LAUSD middle schools, SpaceX engineers, FieldKit environmental technologists and the UCLA Myco-fluidics Lab.

The program places UCLA undergraduates as mentors at Barack Obama Global Preparatory Academy, William Jefferson Clinton Middle School, and Western Avenue T.E.C.H. Magnet School to support student research.

“It is important to show students mathematicians from their community doing mathematics for their community to inspire them to believe: I can do mathematics, I AM a mathematician,” Dallas said.

The program innovates mathematics learning by tapping into students’ innate desire to explore and understand the world around them. The effort highlights the relevance of mathematics and shows students how their community uses math to make a difference in the world.

The investigations are the brainchild of Dallas and Travis Holden, principal of Barack Obama Global Preparatory Academy and a UCLA alumnus who earned his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics. Holden originally reached out to the Curtis Center to provide training for his mathematics department to implement a new textbook during the height of the pandemic.

The collaboration developed further when Dallas and Holden discussed a suggestion by an outside observer to involve the UCLA’s mathematics department in tutoring his middle school students.

“I told Heather I was big on not doing something remedial because I know that doesn’t work and it doesn’t excite kids,” Holden said. “I wanted to build on strengths our students already had. There’s a lot of research that says if you maintain high cognitive challenges during learning you see higher levels of learning.”

If research experiences during his time at UCLA excited him about mathematics, research could inspire his middle school students, too, he reasoned.

Dallas understood immediately, and pursued funding for a two-pronged effort: collaborate with mathematicians and scientists to develop relevant applied mathematics research investigations aligned to the school’s mathematics textbook and provide professional development for teachers and UCLA undergraduate mentors to facilitate the investigations. The Gates Foundation funded the effort and a research study of its effectiveness, which precipitated expansion to nearby Clinton Middle School and Western Avenue T.E.C.H.

Seventh-grade students collected data using devices from Los Angeles startup company, FieldKit to analyze heat islands in their communities. Heat islands occur in urban areas that experience higher temperatures compared to surrounding areas with more vegetation because buildings and roads reflect heat.

Eighth graders researched the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on their community. In the Grade 9 investigation, student learned about aerospace endeavors in South Los Angeles, highlighting the experiences of local astronauts and SpaceX engineers of color.

“The 7th grade investigation places students in the driver seat to solve challenges in their own community.  Students learn how to look at a problem, explore solutions and most importantly use their voice to bring upon change,” said Johnny Rivera, principal of Western T.E.C.H.

Cassandra Robbins, vice principal of Clinton Middle School, said that she sees students giving up on mathematics before they even start because it seems irrelevant to their goals. She said that the math interventions they have tried have not moved the students forward much, but the Curtis Center was not offering just another intervention.

“The Curtis Center came up with this idea that, similar to a physics class, you tie theory together with laboratory experience. It’s an addition to, not a replacement for regular math class,” Robbins said.

To study heat islands, for example, the students must learn about how materials absorb or reflect light, take accurate temperature readings, and apply mathematics to calculate averages. To study COVID, the students track and compare the spread of the illness in their own and surrounding communities. They do experiments and then graph, analyze and discuss the resulting data. In addition to applying grade-level mathematics, the students learn valuable lessons about teamwork and mathematical practice.

“It’s really great coaching them — they see me as a coach. They’re fully engaged,” said Jose Medel, who teaches a seventh grade elective on heat islands at Clinton Middle School.

The event, held at the Barack Obama Global Preparatory Academy, included a panel of STEM professionals of color, student research team poster presentations and a reception honoring their accomplishments.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit

Prineha Narang, physical sciences professor in the UCLA College of Letters and Science

Quantum matter pioneer Prineha Narang appointed 2023 US Science Envoy

Narang is the first appointed in the field of quantum science and technology

Prineha Narang, physical sciences professor in the UCLA College of Letters and Science

Prineha Narang, professor of physical sciences in the UCLA College

UCLA quantum matter pioneer Prineha Narang has been appointed a 2023 US Science Envoy by the State Department.

Narang, on the faculty in Physical Sciences, will help initiate new partnerships with countries that are building their own quantum programs. Narang is the first science envoy to be appointed in the field of quantum science and technology. Narang joins the first cohort of Science Envoys since the covid-19 pandemic began in 2020.

“Quantum science and technology is an area not only of critical importance nationally but requires international partnerships,” Narang said. “Part of my role will be to connect scientists in these countries what we’re doing here at UCLA, what our National Quantum Initiative centers are doing, and how to get started. This is an incredible opportunity to initiate new partnerships with countries that are building their own quantum programs, and strengthen collaborations with existing partners.”

Through the Science Envoy Program, eminent U.S. scientists and engineers apply their expertise and networks to forge connections and identify opportunities for sustained international cooperation. Science Envoys focus on issues of common interest in science, technology, and engineering fields and usually serve for one year. They travel as private citizens and help inform the Department of State, other U.S. government agencies, and the scientific community about opportunities for science and technology cooperation.

“We are honored that the State Department has recognized UCLA’s strengths in the field of quantum materials with the appointment of Professor Narang as US Science Envoy. She is a perfect choice to forge the international relationships necessary to realize the potential of this new field of science,” Chancellor Gene Block said.

Narang’s groundbreaking research is at the intersection of computational science, quantum matter, and quantum information science. Her work has been recognized with international awards from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Max Planck Society, American Physical Society, among others. In 2017, she was named by Forbes Magazine on their “30 under 30” list for her work in atom-by-atom quantum engineering.

Narang designs materials at the smallest scale, using single atoms, to enable the leap to quantum technologies. Quantum materials are used in emerging computing and communications technologies with capabilities that far surpass conventional technologies but still face many scientific and practical challenges.

“International collaborations are crucial in driving the field forward. I am delighted to see Professor Narang taking on this prestigious role building on her leadership across science, workforce development, and industry relations in the quantum domain,” Miguel García-Garibay, dean of physical sciences and senior dean of the College, said.

One of the personal goals Narang has set is to get students interested in quantum science at early stages in their education, including through exchange programs. She will give public lectures for early career scientists, budding engineers, and people interested in STEM about how to get involved in quantum science and engineering.

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope.

Webb Space Telescope reveals birth of galaxies, how universe became transparent

UCLA astrophysicists shed light on how hydrogen fog burned away after the Big Bang

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope. A pair of UCLA-led studies demonstrate some of the scientific advances that the telescope is making possible. | NASA

Holly Ober | November 17, 2022

Key takeaways:
• UCLA astrophysicists are among the first scientists to use the James Webb Space Telescope to get a glimpse of the earliest galaxies in the universe.
• The studies reveal unprecedented detail about events that took place within the first billion years after the Big Bang.
• The UCLA projects were among a small number selected by NASA to test the capabilities of the Webb telescope.

The earliest galaxies were cosmic fireballs converting gas into stars at breathtaking speeds across their full extent, reports a UCLA-led study published in a special issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

The research, based on data from the James Webb Space Telescope, is the first study of the shape and structure of those galaxies. It shows that they were nothing like present-day galaxies in which star formation is confined to small regions, such as the constellation of Orion in our own Milky Way galaxy.

“We’re seeing galaxies form new stars at an electrifying pace,” said Tommaso Treu, the study’s lead author, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy. “Webb’s incredible resolution allows us to study these galaxies in unprecedented detail, and we see all of this star formation occurring within the regions of these galaxies.”

Treu directs the GLASS–JWST Early Release Science Program, whose first results are the subject of the special journal issue. Another UCLA-led study in the issue found that galaxies that formed soon enough after the Big Bang — within less than a billion years — might have begun burning off leftover photon-absorbing hydrogen, bringing light to a dark universe.

“Even our very best telescopes really struggled to confirm the distances to such far away galaxies, so we didn’t know whether they rendered the universe transparent or not,” said Guido Roberts-Borsani, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher who led the study. “Webb is showing us that not only can it do the job, but it can do it with astonishing ease. It’s a game changer.”

Those findings are two of many breathtaking discoveries by UCLA astrophysicists who are among the first to peer through a window to the past newly opened by Webb.

Webb is the largest near-infrared telescope in space, and its remarkable resolution offers an unparalleled view of objects so distant that their light takes billions of years to reach Earth. Although those objects have aged by now, light from only their earliest moments has had enough time to travel through the universe to end up on Webb’s detectors. As a result, not only has the Webb functioned as a sort of time machine — taking scientists back to the period shortly after the Big Bang — but the images it’s producing have become a family album, with snapshots of infant galaxies and stars.

GLASS–JWST was one of 13 Early Release Science projects selected by NASA in 2017 to quickly produce publicly accessible datasets and to demonstrate and test the capabilities of instruments on the Webb.

The project seeks to understand how and when light from the first galaxies burned through the hydrogen fog left over from the Big Bang — a phenomenon and time period called the Epoch of Reionization — and how gas and heavy elements are distributed within and around galaxies over cosmic time. Treu and Roberts-Borsani use three of the Webb’s innovative near-infrared instruments to take detailed measurements of distant galaxies in the early universe.

The Epoch of Reionization is a period that remains poorly understood by scientists. Until now, researchers have not had the extremely sensitive infrared instruments needed to observe galaxies that existed then. Prior to cosmic reionization, the early universe remained devoid of light because ultraviolet photons from early stars were absorbed by the hydrogen atoms that saturated space.

Scientists think that sometime within the universe’s first billion years radiation emitted by the first galaxies and possibly by the first black holes caused the hydrogen atoms to lose electrons, or ionize, preventing photons from “sticking” to them and clearing a pathway for the photons to travel across space. As galaxies began to ionize larger and larger bubbles, the universe became transparent and light traveled freely, as it does today, allowing us to view a brilliant canopy of stars and galaxies each night.

Roberts-Borsani’s finding that galaxies formed faster and earlier than previously thought could confirm that they were the culprits of cosmic reionization. The study also confirms the distances to two of the farthest galaxies known using a new technique that allows astronomers to probe the beginning of cosmic reionization.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit


Dysmus Kisilu wins UCLA’s Pritzker Award for environmental innovators

Kenyan entrepreneur and his company, Solar Freeze, receive $100,000 prize for reducing food waste

Dysmus Kisilu speaking with Tony Pritzker in background

Dysmus Kisilu was honored for finding an environmentally friendly way to help small Kenyan farms preserve their produce in order to sell it during periods of peak demand. Tony Pritzker looked on while Kisilu spoke at the Nov. 10 award ceremony. | Damon Cirulli

David Colgan | November 11, 2022

Kenyan entrepreneur Dysmus Kisilu and his business, Solar Freeze, received the 2022 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Kisilu’s company rents solar-powered coolers to reduce waste, curb carbon emissions and improve the marketability of crops on small, rural farms in Kenya. He was honored during a ceremony at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center on Nov. 10.

“To the smallholder farmers that I work with, this is for you,” Kisilu said.

The Pritzker Award, which is presented annually, carries a prize of $100,000 that is funded through a portion of a $20 million gift to UCLA from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. It is the field’s first major honor specifically for innovators under the age of 40 — those whose work stands to benefit most from the prize money and the prestige it conveys.

Kisilu co-founded Solar Freeze in 2018, bringing solar-powered cold storage to small Kenyan farms — enabling them to reduce food waste without increasing carbon emissions. The storage units, which are made using old shipping containers, allow farmers to preserve perishable produce inexpensively, giving them leverage to sell harvests after times of peak production when they command higher prices, which can help maximize their profits.

The company aims to further its mission with a new mobile app and by expanding to other parts of Africa.

Kisilu was nominated by Jaime Carlson, a senior advisor in strategy and investment at Softbank Energy, a business that promotes the spread of renewable energy. Carlson said she was struck by how Kisilu “thinks deeply and thoughtfully” to create solutions that fit local communities and market conditions.

The Pritzker Award was launched in 2017, and for the first time since 2019, the presentation was held in person — the 2020 and 2021 events were streamed online due to the pandemic. The 2022 award celebration was kicked off earlier in the day by a series of discussions among UCLA experts and international environmental leaders.

Marilyn Raphael, director of UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, saluted Kisilu, the other nominees, and the other innovators and scholars who attended the award ceremony.

“You have already touched many lives, and what you do every day will touch lives and inspire environmental heroes for generations to come,” she said.

The other two finalists for the award were Resson Kantai Duff, a conservationist who fosters understanding and stewardship of nature in communities that live among lions; and Tiana Williams-Clausen, director of the Wildlife Department of the Yurok Tribe, who is helping to restore wildlife to Yurok lands around the Klamath River.

From left, Dysmus Kisilu with Marilyn Raphael of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Pritzker Award finalist Tiana Williams-Clausen and Tony Pritzker at the 2022 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award ceremony.

From left, Dysmus Kisilu with Marilyn Raphael of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Pritzker Award finalist Tiana Williams-Clausen and Tony Pritzker at the 2022 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award ceremony. | Damon Cirulli

The distinguished panel of judges who chose Kisilu as this year’s winner was made up of Kara Hurst, head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon; Chanell Fletcher, deputy executive officer of environmental justice at the California Air Resources Board; Lori Garver, CEO of the Earthrise Media; and Ida Levine, lead expert on policy and regulation for the board of Impact Investing Institute.

Kisilu’s honor was presented by Tony Pritzker, who founded the award and is a member of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability’s advisory board.

“The objective of all this is to honor you at such a great point in your lives — giving you the opportunity to take it to the next level,” Pritzker said.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit

Miguel García-Garibay in the Royce Hall portico

Miguel García-Garibay appointed senior dean of UCLA College

The longtime faculty member will continue to lead the division of physical sciences

Miguel García-Garibay

UCLA Newsroom | November 1, 2022

Miguel García-Garibay, dean of physical sciences, has been appointed senior dean of the UCLA College, UCLA Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt announced. García-Garibay’s two-year term begins today, as current senior dean David Schaberg steps down.

The five deans of the UCLA College lead their respective divisions — physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences, humanities and undergraduate education — and share responsibility for college-wide issues and functions. García-Garibay will continue in his role as physical sciences dean, and as senior dean will be responsible for coordinating planning, budgeting, activities and decisions related to staffing, policies and development across the college. He will also represent the college at meetings and events on campus, systemwide and externally.

García-Garibay joined the UCLA chemistry and biochemistry faculty in 1992 and became dean of physical sciences in 2016. As dean, he has provided thoughtful and strategic leadership and developed a culture of cooperation and inclusion. Over the past six years, he has expanded the division’s academic offerings, led multiple collaborations in research and inclusive teaching, invested in the student experience, and had great success in recruiting and retaining exceptional faculty.

“Chancellor Block and I look forward to working with Dean García-Garibay in this additional role for the benefit of the college and UCLA as a whole,” Hunt said.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit

Person wiping sweat off brow

Are extreme heat waves happening more than expected? UCLA research says not yet.

The temperatures that baked the Pacific Northwest in 2021 should happen roughly once in 10,000 years

Person wiping sweat off brow

“The 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave appears to be the result of climate change and extraordinarily bad luck with natural variability,” says UCLA’s Karen McKinnon. | Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

Alison Hewitt | September 28, 2022

Key takeaways:
• A freak heat wave. Climate modeling suggests the extreme 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave was roughly a once-in-10,000-years event.
• Climate change link. The heat wave was warmer, and more likely to happen, because of climate change.
• Bad luck. This was an unfortunate combination of nature and climate change, not a sign that extreme heat waves are happening more than predicted.

When the 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave peaked at 121 degrees Fahrenheit, it buckled roads, melted power lines, killed hundreds and led to a devastating wildfire. Climate scientists were shocked to see heat so severe.

New research by climate scientist and statistician Karen McKinnon shows the scientific community was right to be stunned. The 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave was roughly a once-in-10,000-years­­ kind of event, the UCLA study found.

“It was outrageous how extreme and severe that heat wave was,” said McKinnon, an assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, who is also part of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Climate models struggle to capture events this extreme, and most early research puts the chances of it occurring at zero.”

The study appears in the Sept. 28 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters. McKinnon, who is also an assistant professor of statistics in the UCLA College, set out to determine two things:

  • whether climate models could establish the probability of such an extraordinary heat wave;
  • whether the extreme heat was a sign that the probability of extreme heat waves is increasing faster than expected.

To find the answers, the researchers analyzed historical trends at weather stations in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia and reviewed climate model simulations. By grouping together international locations that are climatologically similar to the Pacific Northwest, the study found that climate models could simulate heat waves comparable to the 2021 event with a probability of them occurring roughly once every 10,000 years. In cities that experienced the most extreme temperatures during the heat wave, the probability plunged to once every 100,000 years.

Washington state high temperatures map June 28, 21

Temperatures from June 28, 2021, were extremely unusual for the area around Seattle, Washington. | United States National Weather Service

They also found that climate change is increasing heat waves and average summer temperatures at the same pace – so far.

“We don’t see historical evidence of hot temperatures increasing faster than average temperatures during the early summertime when the heatwave occurred,” said McKinnon said. “The 2021 Pacific Northwest heat wave appears to be the result of climate change and extraordinarily bad luck with natural variability.”

The researchers used similar regions to expand their data set, including places like coastal Alaska, all of British Columbia, Canada, and Nordic countries. The regions are in the same northern latitude, generally on the western coasts of continents. They also form heat waves in response to stagnant high-pressure systems, and have similar local climate profiles of positive “skewness” — a lopsided temperature distribution curve with generally mild weather but a history of rare but higher-temperature heat waves.

The researchers analyzed 50 climate model simulations from 1850 through 2100 using a climate model known as Community Earth System Model 2, or CESM2, maintained by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The simulations assume greenhouse gasses double from current levels by 2100, a plausible emissions future developed by the United Nations’ climate committee and known as SSP3-7.0.

In the simulations, events on par with the Pacific Northwest heat wave were the largest event in 10,000 years of data.

“The good news is that we don’t find evidence that events this extreme should start happening regularly,” McKinnon said. “The bad news is the summer of 2022 brought record-breaking heat waves everywhere from the United Kingdom to China to California. We need to continue evaluating whether these very extreme events are telling us something new about how the climate is changing, and whether they confirm or refute our latest findings.”

McKinnon said that she doesn’t anticipate finding that extreme events are warming faster than average temperatures, but noted that “if 10,000-year events keep happening, that suggests there may be something missing in the climate model we used.” But even if the probability of extreme events keeps perfect pace with average climate change, that’s not good news, McKinnon said.

“If everything’s moving with mean climate change, that can sound like it’s not so bad,” she said, “but look at the severe impacts of the climate change we’re already experiencing.”

That’s part of what drives McKinnon to continue studying large-scale climate variability and climate extremes, as she seeks to understand what’s in store.

The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Packard Foundation.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom. For more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit

First underground radar images from Mars Perseverance Rover reveal some surprises

Unexpectedly tilted rock layers in the Jezero crater hint at a complex geological history

Image of Jezero crater delta

Aerial photo of the remains of a delta where a water source once fed an ancient lake at the Jezero crater. NASA’s Perseverance Rover is currently exploring the area. | NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Holly Ober | August 25, 2022

Key takeaways:

• Roving the Red Planet. NASA’s Perseverance landed on Mars in February 2021 and has been gathering data on the planet’s geology and climate and searching for signs of ancient life.
• What lies beneath. The rover’s subsurface radar experiment, co-led by UCLA’s David Paige, has returned images showing unexpected variations in rock layers beneath the Jezero crater.
• Probing the past. The variations could indicate past lava flows or possibly a river delta even older than the one currently being explored on the crater floor.

After a tantalizing year-and-a-half wait since the Mars Perseverance Rover touched down on our nearest planetary neighbor, new data is arriving — and bringing with it a few surprises.

The rover, which is about the size of car and carries seven scientific instruments, has been probing Mars’ 30-mile-wide Jezero crater, once the site of a lake and an ideal spot to search for evidence of ancient life and information about the planet’s geological and climatic past.

In a paper published today in the journal Science Advances, a research team led by UCLA and the University of Oslo reveals that rock layers beneath the crater’s floor, observed by the rover’s ground-penetrating radar instrument, are unexpectedly inclined. The slopes, thicknesses and shapes of the inclined sections suggest they were either formed by slowly cooling lava or deposited as sediments in the former lake.

Image of RIMFAX subsurface readings

Top: Path of the Perseverance Rover through the Jezero crater. Middle: Subsurface radar image obtained by RIMFAX. Bottom: Diagram indicating where unexpectedly inclined rock layers were located. | Hamran et. al., 2022

Perseverance is currently exploring a delta on the western edge of the crater, where a river once fed the lake, leaving behind a large deposit of dirt and rocks it picked up along its course. As the rover gathers more data, the researchers hope to clear up the complex history of this part of the Red Planet.

“We were quite surprised to find rocks stacked up at an inclined angle,” said David Paige, a UCLA professor of Earth, planetary and space sciences and one of the lead researchers on the Radar Imager for Mars Subsurface Experiment, or RIMFAX. “We were expecting to see horizontal rocks on the crater floor. The fact that they are tilted like this requires a more complex geologic history. They could have been formed when molten rock rose up towards the surface, or, alternatively, they could represent an older delta deposit buried in the crater floor.”

Image of David Paige

David Paige, deputy principal investigator for Perseverance’s RIMFAX instrument. | Courtesy of David Paige

Paige said that most of the evidence gathered by the rover so far points to an igneous, or molten, origin, but based on the RIMFAX data, he and the team can’t yet say for certain how the inclined layers formed. RIMFAX obtains a picture of underground features by sending bursts of radar waves below the surface, which are reflected by rock layers and other obstacles. The shapes, densities, thicknesses, angles and compositions of underground objects affect how the radar waves bounce back, creating a visual image of what lies beneath.

During Perseverance’s initial 3-kilometer traverse, the instrument has obtained a continuous radar image that reveals the electromagnetic properties and bedrock stratigraphy — the arrangement of rock layers — of Jezero’s floor to depths of 15 meters, or about 49 feet. The image reveals the presence of ubiquitous layered rock strata, including those that are inclined at up to 15 degrees. Compounding the mystery, within those inclined areas are some perplexing highly reflective rock layers that in fact tilt in multiple directions.

“RIMFAX is giving us a view of Mars stratigraphy similar to what you can see on Earth in highway road cuts, where tall stacks of rock layers are sometimes visible in a mountainside as you drive by,” Paige explained. “Before Perseverance landed, there were many hypotheses about the exact nature and origin of the crater floor materials. We’ve now been able to narrow down the range of possibilities, but the data we’ve acquired so far suggest that the history of the crater floor may be quite a bit more complicated than we had anticipated.”

Rendering of Perseverance, whose RIMFAX technology is exploring what lies beneath the Martian surface.

Rendering of Perseverance, whose RIMFAX technology is exploring what lies beneath the Martian surface. | NASA/JPL/Caltech/FFI

The data collected by RIMFAX will provide valuable context to rock samples Perseverance is collecting, which will eventually be brought back to Earth.

“RIMFAX is giving us the backstory of the samples we’re going to analyze. It’s exciting that the rover’s instruments are producing data and we’re starting to learn, but there’s a lot more to come,” Paige said. “We landed on the crater floor, but now we’re driving up on the actual delta, which is the main target of the mission. This is just the beginning of what we’ll hopefully soon know about Mars.”

The paper, “Ground penetrating radar observations of subsurface structures in the floor of Jezero crater, Mars,” is one of three simultaneously published papers discussing some of the first data from Perseverance.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA NewsroomFor more news and updates from the UCLA College, visit

Picture of Anastassia Alexandrova

Chemist Anastassia Alexandrova receives Max Planck-Humboldt Medal

Picture of Anastassia Alexandrova

Anastassia Alexandrova. Credit: Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

Anastassia Alexandrova, UCLA professor and vice chair of chemistry and biochemistry, has been selected to receive the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal, which honors extraordinary scientists outside Germany with outstanding future potential.

The medal, awarded jointly by Germany’s Max Planck Gesellschaft and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, will be presented to Alexandrova in a ceremony in Berlin in November 2022 (delayed one year because of COVID).

Alexandrova and her research team design new materials and develop new algorithms, guided by insights into electronic structure and chemical bonding, using a wide range of methods, including artificial intelligence and machine learning. She and her research team design new catalysts, building up from detailed understanding of their electronic structure, to the shapes, stability and catalytic properties.

She is being honored for her research in theoretical chemistry, in particular her studies on the catalysis of chemical reactions and materials science. Alexandrova has developed methods that simulate how a catalyst behaves during a chemical reaction, which structures mediate between the reaction partners in detail and how the reaction conditions — such as temperature, pressure and concentration of the starting materials — influence the states of the catalyst and this interaction states the press release announcing the medal.

“I am deeply honored to receive the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal,” said Alexandrova, a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute. “My laboratory is a warm home for students of many different backgrounds, from chemistry and biochemistry to physics, material science and engineering, computer science and applied mathematics.”

Alexandrova is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the American Chemical Society’s 2016 Rising Star Award, which recognizes exceptional women chemists on a national level; a J. William Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant; a 2020 Early Career Award in theoretical chemistry by the physical chemistry division of the American Chemical Society; a 2019 UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award and 2018 UCLA Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor Award.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

Picture of Richard Kaner

Richard Kaner wins award from American Chemical Society


Picture of Richard Kaner

Richard Kaner, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering at UCLA.

Richard Kaner, the Dr. Myung Ki Hong Professor of Materials Innovation at UCLA, was selected to receive the 2022 American Chemical Society’s Award in Applied Polymer Science. The award, sponsored by Eastman Chemical Company, recognizes “outstanding achievements in the science or technology of plastics, coatings, polymer composites, adhesives and related fields.” He will be presented the award at the society’s national meeting in San Diego, California, in March.

Kaner, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and of materials science and engineering, is among the world’s most influential and highly cited scientific researchers. Among his many awards and honors, he was elected a 2020 fellow of the American Physical Society and selected as the recipient of the American Institute of Chemists 2019 Chemical Pioneer Award, which honors chemists and chemical engineers who have made outstanding contributions that advance the science of chemistry or greatly impact the chemical profession. He is a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.

Kaner and his research team have designed a series of materials. These include creating a membrane that separates oil from water and cleans up the debris left by oil fracking and scaling up a single layer of carbon known as graphene for use in energy storage devices. His research spans a wide range of topics within materials science and inorganic chemistry.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.