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An image of the Earth's magnetosphere.

The full moon may not be protected by Earth’s magnetic field after all

An image of the Earth's magnetosphere.

Rendering showing how the flapping tail of Earth’s magnetosphere (dark region) can leave the full moon exposed to solar wind radiation (yellow-orange). (Photo Credit: Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA)

A study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics shows that the magnetosphere can flap across the moon much like a windsock, exposing it to hazardous solar wind particles. Previous simulations suggested that lunar satellites and astronauts on the surface could be considered safe during a full moon while it resides within the magnetosphere.

The paper’s authors included two UCLA researchers, Jiang Liu and Xiaoyan Zhou, and the study used findings from the UCLA-led Themis and Artemis lunar probes.

One side of the moon always faces Earth due to synchronization with ocean tides, so understanding the effects of the solar wind at the full moon’s surface is critical for manned activity.

“Before we send astronauts back for longer periods, it is crucial that we understand the dynamics of space weather around our moon,” said Vassilis Angelopoulos, a professor of space physics who oversees the Themis and Artemis missions at UCLA. “There are still many science and safety questions to address.”

Potential hazards to lunar missions include increased static charging of surface dust, which can cling to space suits and damage equipment, and the degradation of solar panels over time. Solar wind exposure might also influence the placement of long-term lunar bases and mining operations. Because water is spontaneously formed when solar wind protons impact the lunar soil, the phenomenon could influence where water, which could be used for fuel and human consumption, is deposited on the moon’s surface.

Read the full news release on the Physical Sciences website.

A photo of a panorama of Los Angeles at dusk.

Clean energy revolution may leave disadvantaged communities behind

A photo of a panorama of Los Angeles at dusk.

Historically disadvantaged communities in Los Angeles County are at risk of getting left behind in the transition to lower-carbon energy sources and energy-efficient technologies, according to a UCLA study. (Photo Credit: haykatomts/Pixabay)

Historically disadvantaged communities in Los Angeles County are at risk of getting left behind in the transition to lower-carbon energy sources and energy-efficient technologies, according to a new study by the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA.

The research, published in the journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, looks particularly at how public incentive programs aimed at reducing emissions and promoting energy efficiencies disproportionately benefit wealthier individuals — people who use more energy than their less-affluent peers. In essence, the researchers say, such policies help to subsidize and encourage this excess consumption.

On average, residents of L.A. County’s most affluent communities consume twice the amount of energy each year as their counterparts in lower-income areas, according to Eric Fournier, the study’s lead author and research director of the center.

“When we look at the distribution of per capita energy consumption across Los Angeles County, at the low end, people are often not using enough energy to satisfy their basic needs, like maintaining a comfortable temperature inside their home,” Fournier said. “On the high end of this range, we see that people are consuming energy at levels that go well beyond what is required to satisfy their basic needs.”

In general, it is these high-consumption communities that are increasingly transforming their relationship to grid-supplied energy by taking advantage of technologies that improve household energy efficiency and that generate and store renewable energy. Some are even becoming electricity generators themselves. Meanwhile, the degree to which disadvantaged communities have been able to participate in this transition and benefit from these technologies remains unequal.

The team analyzed historical county data that measured building energy use and the adoption of renewable energy technology. In addition to finding that per capita use of electricity and natural gas is higher — in some cases as much as 100 times higher — among the wealthiest residents, they found that rates of adoption of rooftop solar systems and electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were dramatically lower among disadvantaged communities. Furthermore, these disparities are expected to persist based on recent trends in the historical data, the researchers say.

The study also shows that public programs intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy — including rebates for energy-efficient appliances and vehicles, solar installations, and building retrofit programs — are primarily being taken advantage of by affluent residents. This is due in part to the fact that many programs require participants to make up-front payments for energy-efficiency upgrades, as well as to own the property on which they live.

When it comes to government incentive programs, providing equal access doesn’t always result in equal participation, notes study co-author and UCLA energy researcher Robert Cudd.

“Incentive programs designed to be equally accessible to all consumers are easy to implement and politically inoffensive, but they also do almost nothing to encourage the adoption of renewable energy technology in disadvantaged communities,” Cudd said. “If these programs were re-designed based on the preferences and needs of people in these communities, participation would likely increase. Current programs’ eligibility requirements are simplistic and reflect old notions of equity.”

The energy system, as it exists today, places a larger burden of cost on those who can least afford it, says co-author Stephanie Pincetl, a professor-in-residence at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. Ironically, it also rewards those who consume the most energy by giving them access to a host of programs, incentives and other benefits.

“Policy aims need to get beyond efficiency to address absolute levels of consumption and to reflect reasonable need rather than excessive use,” Pincetl said. “If not, efficiencies will continue to chase increased demand with limited effect, and the disadvantaged communities will be left out of improving their well-being, though they use the least energy of all.”

Going forward, the researchers will continue to explore the unequal distribution of energy use across incomes and demographics to understand the consequences and needs for a just energy transition.

“We must ask ourselves how much energy is enough to live a decent and modern life,” Pincetl said.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

A photo of three UCLA students studying physics and engaging in their lab work.

Instructors’ foresight leads to remote learning success for physics labs

A photo of three UCLA students studying physics and engaging in their lab work.

Thanks to off-the-shelf kits, UCLA students studying physics could do their lab work in their homes and design their own experiments. (Photo Courtesy of Katsushi Arisaka)

When UCLA announced on March 10 that the final weeks of winter quarter — and later the entire spring quarter — would be taught remotely because of COVID-19, it immediately tested everyone on campus, but in particular students and faculty who had to figure out on the fly new ways to learn and teach.

Adapting was understandably easier for some classes, like introductory courses which could more simply turn a live lecture in a big hall into a video lecture delivered through Zoom. But what about classes built around in-person group work, or the performing arts, or science and engineering labs that require the use of equipment and materials for hands-on learning?

Fortunately for the students taking the Physics 5AL/5BL/5CL series (physics for life sciences majors) or the Physics 4AL/4BL series (physics for scientists and engineers), their professors and teaching assistants in the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy were uniquely prepared for this forced period of remote instruction.

For the past few years, the department has explored ways to improve engagement for the 3,000-plus students who take these classes each year by making the labs for these courses more student-oriented. The transition to remote learning made figuring out the best ways to do that more urgent than ever, and the department’s head start on adapting the class to better fit students’ needs helped make the transition much easier.

“The key to giving a satisfying experience to students working remotely is to offer real-time solutions as quick as possible,” said Katsushi Arisaka, professor of physics and astronomy in the UCLA College and also of electrical and computer engineering in the Samueli School of Engineering, who emphasized how much of a team effort this has been. “That’s why we need such a good group of TAs behind the scenes.”

For Arisaka, restructuring these classes has always been about finding new ways to prepare students for future success. He has worked with teaching assistants Javier Carmona, Shashank Gowda, Erik Kramer, Grant Mitts, Pauline Arriaga and many others, to find ways to give students more control over the labs, while introducing them to concepts and skills, such as writing computer code.

To make these lab classes work from home, students needed access to the right tools, which also meant affordable equipment, such as the Arduino UNO Starter kit for Physics 4AL and 4BL and the Snap Circuit Kit for Physics 5CL, which Arisaka and his teaching assistants have been using for a couple of years.

Arduino and Snap Circuit kits provide dozens of basic hardware components that allow those without backgrounds in electronics and programming to create low-cost scientific instruments, to prove chemistry and physics principles, or to get started with programming and robotics. Students have been able purchase these kits online or the UCLA Store and their wide availability has also made the transition easier.

Students were grouped to work together remotely via Zoom breakout rooms from day one. The highlight of the course was to conduct their group final projects during the last three weeks and present the results by Zoom video-recording. It seems the only limit to students’ projects was their imagination.

Projects included: comparing human versus automated coin flips; measuring the effect of music on human reaction time; observing the energy lost by a bouncing ball; predicting the trajectory of basketball shots; comparing use of force across five sports; studying how the shape of a rolling object affects its acceleration as it rolls down an inclined surface and comparing the observations with physics theory.

“Students seem to be enjoying it, and as TAs we enjoy their creativity,” said Gowda, graduate student researcher in UCLA’s Smart Grid Energy Research Center, who noted that these types of ideas will improve student learning even once in-person instruction resumes. “They develop experiments and projects that we wouldn’t even think of.”

While previous versions of the class covered the necessary material, said Kramer, their structure seemed antiquated. “The move to this more modern hardware platform, using the coding language Python, and Arduino, has really inspired students to do amazing final projects,” he said.

According to Carmona, the way these labs were previously run just didn’t capture the imagination of students as much as they should. Speaking on the transition, he says it was a difficult task, but one that was well worth the effort.

Teaching assistant Javier Carmona, left, leads a Zoom class on how to use the Arduino kits.

Teaching assistant Javier Carmona, left, leads a Zoom class on how to use the Arduino kits. (Photo Courtesy of Katsushi Arisaka)

“It required a lot of work to get to where it’s at, but I’m glad we put in the work because now we have hundreds of students who didn’t miss out on a hands-on laboratory they could do at home,” Carmona said.

To make the hands-on, labs-at-home work the instructors “flipped” the class, encouraging students to design and test their own experiments rather than making them follow strict guidelines from teaching assistants and professors. Abandoning the old ways for physics labs proved positive according to student responses.

Among the comments from students provided as part of the course feedback: “You all are doing great, by far the most fun class I have this quarter, thank you for all the effort you guys have been putting into this, I figure it’s got to be really hard putting together a remote lab, but you guys are doing a pretty dang good job :)”

“We are learning marketable skills with Arduino and Python and the course development team is very receptive to feedback and constantly tries to make the class better. Thank you!”

Another change that the group is proud of is asynchronous operation — which allows students to learn at their own pace. This switch has given students flexibility to work at a rate they feel comfortable with, a change that can be beneficial for students who may be struggling with the material.

“The videos demonstrating how to use python and how to set up experiments have been extremely helpful, especially to someone like myself who has no experience with this as I’ve not taken 4AL,” wrote another student.

At the same time, Arisaka said, letting students work at the own pace also allows students who really understand the material to finish their work faster, and he encourages them to go back and help their peers.

Arisaka, who has been teaching physics for more than 30 years, also said it’s time to move away from the notion that students should be competing with one another for grades.

“They can boost their grade if they do better, it has nothing to do with the student next to them, and this message is very important so they can learn something useful,” said Arisaka, who noted that students’ mastery of skills was better than ever this quarter, even though labs were conducted at home.

These changes to the lab structure were possible thanks, in part, to funding and support provided from the UCLA Center for the Advancement of Teaching. “That transition to students having ownership of the experiment is the kind of high-level learning experience that we seek for UCLA students, so we were happy to support that work,” said Adrienne Lavine, associate vice provost for the UCLA Center for the Advancement of Teaching and a professor of mechanical engineering.

For Lavine, the move to remote instruction has created an opportunity for faculty to reflect on their teaching and how that affects student learning. “I think there’s a lot of faculty out there who are doing an incredible job of being thoughtful in how to handle this, and they will learn lessons that can be taken back into in-person instruction,” she said.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

A photo montage of 2020 Virtual Celebration speakers. Top: George Takei, featured speaker during the UCLA College’s 2020 virtual celebration. Lower left: UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. Lower right: student speaker Kristie-Valerie Phung Hoang.

Graduates encouraged to envision and build a better future

A photo montage of 2020 Virtual Celebration speakers. Top: George Takei, featured speaker during the UCLA College’s 2020 virtual celebration. Lower left: UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. Lower right: student speaker Kristie-Valerie Phung Hoang.

Top: George Takei, featured speaker during the UCLA College’s 2020 virtual celebration. Lower left: UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. Lower right: student speaker Kristie-Valerie Phung Hoang. (Photo Credit: UCLA)

UCLA’s class of 2020 celebrated their graduation today while scattered across the globe. For the first time, the university’s largest graduation celebration took place remotely, honoring the roughly 8,800 students of the UCLA College.

“Today we gather virtually to celebrate the conferral of your degrees in a uniquely 21st century high-tech way – but, rest assured, your hard-earned degrees will be real. You guys are so futuristic!” the graduates were told by actor, activist, alumnus and social media icon George Takei. The man who helped others imagine a brighter future through his role on “Star Trek” called on graduates to build a better world. “With the experience of the pandemic, challenge yourselves to imagine the unimagined. You have technology that dazzles the mind. Soar with it. Aspire as no others have.”

Though the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus means most students haven’t set foot at UCLA since March 13, classes continued remotely. While in-person ceremonies are planned once group gatherings are safe again, graduating students more than earned a celebration on what would have been their commencement day. Among the Centennial class, graduating at the close of UCLA’s first 100 years, nearly a third are first-generation college students, and more than 35 percent come from low-income households.

The ceremony opened with a moment of silence to recognize and honor victims of COVID-19 and also racial oppression. This was followed by a pledge by the six College deans to continue to fight social injustice.

“While we have all been affected by recent events, we have not all been affected equally,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of the division of social sciences. “We will continue to shine a light on inequality.”

Speakers borrowed from an array of real and fictional inspirational figures, quoting the words of activist author James Baldwin, historian Rebecca Solnit, wizard Albus Dumbledore, and Vulcan Starfleet officer Mr. Spock. The virtual celebration featured views of familiar buildings, fountains and hilltop vistas to soothe homesick Bruins, and senior Margaret Miller sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Students viewed the livestream or the later recording from couches with their parents, in apartments with roommates, or on laptops in empty rooms. Some added homemade pomp and circumstance by crafting their own mortarboards or using free graduation profile frames and yard signs from the Alumni Association they would soon join.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block praised the graduates’ resilience at completing their studies and acknowledged those who also found ways to get involved, whether by treating COVID-19 patients, making face masks to slow the spread of the virus, or joining the nationwide wave of protests against the murder of Black men and women by police.

“A global pandemic has upended our lives and prevented us from being together,” Block said. “We’re all reeling, once again, from the pain of racial injustice … The horrible killings of unarmed African Americans have reminded us of our society’s inequities, but strengthened our resolve to address them.”

History shows that catastrophic events can expose “the failings of the status quo” and lead to reforms, Block added, referencing Solnit before calling on the graduates to build a more resilient, compassionate and just society. Though in almost any year, graduates are asked to make the world a better place, current events added extra resonance to that plea.

“The imagination to envision better times, especially in hard times, is vital,” Block said. “James Baldwin wrote that ‘not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ … Now is your time to envision the role you’ll play in changing our world and creating a new one.”

UCLA Broadcast Studio

 

Filmed in an empty Royce Hall, student speaker Kristie-Valerie Phung Hoang grieved the loss of the students’ final months on campus, but reminded her fellow graduates that they have already begun to improve the world.

“It is at UCLA where we’ve felt compassion for each other, and drove our support toward undocumented students, first-generation students and immigrants working to make a better life of their own,” she said. “We poured our minds towards driving research in hopes of finding life-saving cures … We created paths towards a greener, healthier planet … We lived and breathed the spirit of equality.”

Though the campus’ graduation season shrank from the usual 60 or so ceremonies and celebrations to a little more than 30 virtual events because of the pandemic, UCLA awarded degrees to nearly 14,000 students from its undergraduate and graduate programs. Other speakers include guitarist Carlos Santana for the Herb Alpert School of Music, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for the UCLA School of Law, and California’s first surgeon general, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris for the David Geffen School of Medicine.

In introducing Takei, Block praised his activism in speaking up for Muslims, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community, and tied Takei’s activism to his days as an actor playing Mr. Sulu beginning in 1966.

“George made history on a multi-ethnic new TV show called ‘Star Trek,’” Block said. “The show premiered at the same time that the Vietnam War was fueling decades of anti-Asian bigotry. As a Japanese-American child during World War II, George had endured that bigotry first hand in America’s shameful internment camps. George’s presence as one of the heroes of the show was a rebuke to the prejudice of the time. Star Trek imagined a future in which all of Earth’s races lived together in peace.”

Sixty years after his own graduation from UCLA, Takei observed the highs and lows of the pandemic, from tireless medical and frontline workers, to unemployment and economic havoc.

“We live in a time of heroes and menaces,” Takei said. “And where we expect leadership, we find shocking dysfunction. It is a virtual dystopian state.”

But amidst this “dark moment,” he added, the air has cleared from the decreased use of fossil fuels for vehicles and factories, giving the world a glimpse of a cleaner planet. He urged the graduates to learn from it and find ways to improve the human condition.

“We look to you, the high-tech generation, to seize this moment,” Takei said. “Revitalize our civilization. Discover new challenges. Stretch as far as you can. Boldly go where no one has gone before. May the UCLA Centennial 2020 class live long and prosper.”

The virtual celebration closed with a bittersweet view of the Inverted Fountain, where graduating seniors traditionally take a dip to celebrate their years of hard work.

“Our 2020 graduates will be the class that persevered,” said Patricia Turner, vice provost and dean of undergraduate dducation. “Let this moment of adversity forge in you a strength to overcome, to persevere, to know that the world is inherently beautiful, and that your future has only just begun.”

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

Join UCLA College for the Virtual Celebration

Q&A: George Takei on activism, humor and social media

George Takei, once best known for his role as Mr. Sulu on the original Star Trek, has since become known to the next generation of fans as a social justice activist, author and social media star. The UCLA alumnus will speak at the virtual celebration of the UCLA College’s class of 2020 on June 12, publicly viewable online. In advance of the big day, Takei talked with UCLA Newsroom about some of the forces that shaped his activism, his advice for the class of 2020, and a couple of his guidelines for harnessing humor and social media in support of human rights.

George Takei, pioneering actor, social justice activist, author and social media star

George Takei majored in theater at UCLA. (Photo Courtesy of George Takei)

As a child during World War II, you were among thousands of Japanese Americans imprisoned in internment camps by the U.S. government, based solely on your heritage. How did that early experience inform your understanding of authority and your commitment to social justice today?

I was 5 years old when my family and I were imprisoned in a barbed wire camp in the swamps of southeastern Arkansas — too young to understand the experience. But, as a teenager, I became intensely curious about my internment. I couldn’t find anything in the history books of the time about the camps. So, my father and I had many after-dinner discussions about our imprisonment — some became quite heated.

He explained to me that ours was a “peoples’ democracy” in which the people have the capacity to do great things, and, at the same time, people are fallible human beings. Presidents are human with the fallibility of all humans. They make mistakes. However, our democracy is a participatory democracy. It is existentially dependent on people who cherish the ideals of our democracy to actively participate. In the early 1950s, my father took me to downtown Los Angeles to the Adlai Stevenson for President campaign headquarters and we volunteered. Actually, he volunteered me and I understood what he meant by participatory democracy. Since then, I have been active in electoral politics and social justice campaigns.

You are an activist known for speaking up for human rights, and you also have a big social media presence with a very specific brand of humor. How do you think about using humor to shine a light on injustice?

Politicians, like all of us, sometimes say ridiculous things. They become ripe for lampooning. When their proposals reflect their silly statements, they become wide open to mockery. It’s fun to kill those bills by laughing them to death.

On social media, you publicly call out prominent people when you think they are wrong. What guides your decisions on how to engage with people who disagree with you?

I put the statement of the person with whom I disagree in a larger context that that might underscore the inappropriateness or the unjustness of their point. If humor can do it, I avoid using ridicule or parody.

The class of 2020 is graduating into a global pandemic, a depressed economy, a climate crisis and what some are calling the biggest civil rights demonstrations since the late 1960s. What advice do you have to help these graduates tackle the problems they face?

It certainly is a dauntingly challenging world into which the 2020 class enters. As I wrote in my speech, they face a tough new world where they will be severely tested. They have to rise to the challenge — be as tough, even tougher, than the challenge. Be innovative as we have never been. We are counting on them to invent a new society we have never known before. Boldly go …

You became a theater major at UCLA despite warnings from friends that an Asian American would have limited acting prospects, and you went on to become an icon as Mr. Sulu on Star Trek in the late 1960s and beyond. You lived through a time when you couldn’t be openly gay, and now you and your husband are gay-rights activists. For others who need similar perseverance, what is your advice?

Same advice I gave above. When my father warned me about the Hollywood scene and its history of stereotypes, I, more out of audacity than thought, said, “Daddy, I’m going to change it!” And perhaps I ultimately nudged it a bit.

But that same teenager, as a man, was “closeted” most of my adult life because I desperately wanted my acting career. It was torturous for me as an activist on myriad social issues to be silent while other bold and determined people sacrificed their jobs, careers, everything, fighting for LGBTQ equality, an issue so personal to me. It wasn’t until I was in my 60s when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the Marriage Equality bill in 2005 that I was angry enough to make the decision to “come out.” And I came out roaring! But I am not that heroic man I urge the 2020 generation to become. I, too, am a fallible man.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

A photo of the UCLA Court of Sciences.

More than 300 UCLA scientists condemn acts of racist violence

A photo of the UCLA Court of Sciences.

UCLA Court of Sciences (Photo Credit: UCLA Newsroom)

UCLA Newsroom is committed to promoting UCLA news, including faculty members’ research and their appearances in outside media. We typically do not post letters from faculty about current issues or serve as an open forum of ideas. However, given the gravity of this moment, and out of a desire to illustrate how our community is united in showing support on these important issues, we have decided in this rare case to share the following letter from our faculty.

The full letter and a partial list of signers follows; the full list of signers, which has continued to grow, is posted here

Dear Students and Colleagues,

We are enraged and horrified at the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. We are enraged and horrified at the murder of Breonna Taylor, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the murder of Nina Pop, murders that have occurred amidst a pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black Americans. We are enraged at the extreme acts of racist violence on display and we are enraged at the everyday operations of a white supremacist society that precipitates and seeks to normalize pervasive suffering and harm targeting Black people.

As scholars dedicated to the study of the sciences, we know that there are intergenerational effects of trauma, and that the longstanding racism and injustice perpetrated against some of our citizens by police and by others in positions of power has worked to hobble the very nation we love. However, just as efforts to reverse the effect of trauma in individuals can reverse even epigenetic impacts, so we see hope for the possibility that dismantling the systems of oppression in our country – our counties, our neighborhoods, and our homes — will bring healing to “we the people” of all races, religions, and creeds.

We also know that complicity with these systems of oppression is deeply rooted in the origins of this country, from the expulsion and murder of Native Americans, the kidnapping and enslavement of Black peoples for almost 250 years, to generations of Black and Brown communities disregarded and destroyed by settler colonialism and the idea of white supremacy. We seek an immediate end to the perpetration of this injustice and a healing of our land.

In the face of recent acts of racist violence, we recommit ourselves to understanding that the wellbeing of all people is interdependent, and that science and our society are made better by a diversity of minds, viewpoints, and approaches participating as a team in a non-threatening, healthy, and welcoming environment. In the words of Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important — it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide-reaching and transformative for society as a whole.”

We want you to know that we share your pain, your grief, and your outrage. We will work to ensure that our classrooms and endeavors and workplaces engage and support struggles for racial justice on and off campus, and that our science and teachings will embrace the strength of our diversity.

For those who are looking for resources, we include several below this list of initial signatories.

Signed,

Gina R. Poe, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Alan D. Grinnell, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Barney A. Schlinger, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Ronald M. Harper, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Kelsey C. Martin, M.D., Ph.D., Dean and Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine

Stephanie Correa, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Stephanie White, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Liz Koslov, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Urban Planning

Aradhna Tripati, Ph.D., Associate Professor,  Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Departments of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences & Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, American Indian Studies Center, Center for Diverse Leadership in Science

Priyanga Amarasekare, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Jesse Rissman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Deanna Needell, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics

Michael Hill, Ph.D., Professor, Mathematics

Scott H. Chandler, Ph.D, Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Felix E. Schweizer, Ph.D., Professor Neurobiology, Chair Graduate Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program

David Glanzman, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology, and Neurobiology

Mark Frye, Ph.D., Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology. Department of Neurobiology.

Shanna Shaked, Ph.D., M.A.T., Senior Associate Director, Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences

Robert Eagle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Stephanie Pincetl, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Roy Wollman, Associate Professor, Departments of Integrative Biology and Physiology and Chemistry and Biochemistry

Caroline Beghein, Associate Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Rebecca Shipe, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Deepak Rajagopal, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Urban Planning

Thomas B. Smith, Ph.D., Professor,Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Ecology and Evolution

Alan Barreca, Associate Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Karen McKinnon, Assistant Professor, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and Department of Statistics

Jacob Bortnik, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Avital Harari, M.D., M.Sc., Associate Professor, Department of Surgery

Larone Ellison, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Justin Wagner, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Brian E. Kadera, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Kevin Y. Njabo, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Tonya Kane, Ph.D., Lecturer, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Marco Iacoboni, M.D. Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Chao Peng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology

Dean Buonomano, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurobiology and Psychology

Jack L. Feldman, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Weizhe Hong, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Biological Chemistry and Neurobiology

Zili Liu, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Dr. Hasan Yersiz, David Geffen School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Liver and Pancreas Transplant

Rachel Kennison, Ph.D., Interim Director, Center for Education, Innovation and Learning in the Sciences

Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Professor in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Morgan W. Tingley, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Lawren Sack, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

William Boyd, J.D., Ph.D, Professor, UCLA School of Law, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Guido Eibl, M.D., Professor, Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine

Pablo Saide, Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Jasper Kok, Associate Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Marco Velli, Professor of Space Physics Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences

Elaine Y. Hsiao, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Patricia E. Phelps, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

Pavak K Shah, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

Hakwan Lau, D.Phil, Professor, Department of Psychology

Andrew Wikenheiser, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Psychology

X. William Yang, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science

Yi-Rong Peng, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Stein Eye Institute

Michael S Fanselow, Distinguished Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry.

Gal Bitan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurology.

Catia Sternini, M.D., Professor, Division of Digestive Diseases, Departments of Medicine and Neurobiology

Vickie M. Mays, Ph.D., MSPH, Distinguished Professor, Departments of Psychology and Health Policy & Management and Director, UCLA BRITE Center for Science, Research & Policy

Nicholas Brecha, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Departments of Neurobiology, Ophthalmology and Medicine.

Kate Wassum, Ph.D., Psychology

Riccardo Olcese, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology and Physiology

Pamela Kennedy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Dept of Psychology

Nanthia Suthana, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychiatry, Neurosurgery, Psychology, and Bioengineering

M. Belinda Tucker, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Department of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Mark S. Cohen, Ph.D., Professor, Staglin Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Departments of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences, Neurology, Radiology, Biomedical Physics, Psychology and Bioengineering.

Catherine M Cahill, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Daniel H Geschwind M.D., Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Senior Associate Dean and Associate Vice Chancellor, Precision Health

Christopher C. Giza, M.D., Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Neurosurgery, Interdepartmental Programs for Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering

Onyebuchi A. Arah, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Epidemiology

Tracy Johnson, Ph.D., Professor, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology

Brenda Larison, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Allen Gehret, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michael J. Andrews, Ph.D., PIC, Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Albert J. Courey, Professor, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

Michelle Basso, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Jerome Engel Jr. M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Neurology, Neurobiology, and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Robert M. Bilder, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology; Co-Lead, MindWell pod, Semel UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative

Larry Zipursky, Ph.D., Department of Biological Chemistry

Igor Spigelman, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Section of Oral Biology, School of Dentistry

Emeran A. Mayer, M.D., Distinguished Professor, Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Psychiatry

Gaston M. U. Pfluegl, Ph.D., Director Life Sciences Core Education Laboratory

Peyman Golshani, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior,

Ye Zhang, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral sciences.

Abby Kavner, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Nader Pouratian, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurosurgery

Melissa Sharpe, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Lara Ray, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry

Pamela Yeh, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Michael Alfaro, PhD, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Mikhail Hlushchanka, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michael Gandal, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Ron Brookmeyer, Ph.D., Dean and Professor, Fielding School of Public Health

Van Savage, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Computational Medicine and of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Marilyn Raphael, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Geography

Ladan Shams, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychology and BioEngineering

Laura DeNardo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology

Diane M. Papazian, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Physiology

Rolando de Santiago, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Instructor and UC Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Mathematics

Alison Lipman, Ph.D., Lecturer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Greg Grether, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Elissa Hallem, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Palina Salanevich, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Marcelo Chamecki, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Jeffrey Donlea, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neurobiology

William I. Newman, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences; Physics and Astronomy; and Mathematics

Howard C. Jen, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Diana G. Rickard, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Thomas J. O’Dell, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Physiology

Gregory A. Miller, Distinguished Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Xian-Jie Yang, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ophthalmology

Diana Azurdia, Ph.D., Director for Inclusion, Graduate Programs in Bioscience

Bogdan Pasaniuc, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Human Genetics, Computational Medicine.

Kirk E. Lohmueller, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Sylvester Eriksson-Bique, Ph.D., NSF Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Asgar Jamneshan, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics

Artem Chernikov, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Ricardo Salazar, Ph. D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics.

Nicholas Ramsey, Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Alan Garfinkel, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and Integrative Biology and Physiology

Jorge Torres, Ph.D., Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Hangjie Ji, Ph.D., PIC Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Susan D. Cochran, Ph.D., M.S., Professor, Epidemiology and Statistics

Stefano Filipazzi, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Daniel Hoff, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Allison Carruth, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of English, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability

Nina Otter, PhD, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Benjamin Harrop-Griffiths, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Peter Petersen, Professor, Department of Mathematics.

Gregory S. Payne, Ph.D., Professor, Biological Chemistry

Clover May, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Jochen Stutz, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Terence Tao, James and Carol Collins Chair, Department of Mathematics

Paul Micevych, Plumb Professor and Chair, Department of Neurobiology

Wilfrid Gangbo, Professor, Department of Mathematics

Heather Zinn Brooks, Ph.D., CAM Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Daniele Bianchi, Assistant Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

James Bisley, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Daniel McKenzie, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Leif Zinn-Brooks, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Joshua Trachtenberg, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Matt Jacobs, Ph. D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics.

TIm Austin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mathematics

Anna Lau, Professor, Department of Psychology

Ziva Cooper  Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Melissa Paquette-Smith, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Psychology

Jennifer Sumner, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Alicia Izquierdo, Professor, Department of Psychology

Jennifer Silvers, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

James Cameron, Ph.D., Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Craig Enders, Professor, Department of Psychology

Bridget Callaghan, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Jonathan C King, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Adriana Galvan, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Sorin Popa, Professor, Mathematics

Noah White, Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Michelle G. Craske, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology & Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences

Theodore F. Robles, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Samy Wu Fung, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Douglas Black, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics

Noa Pinter-Wollman, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Roger Woods, M.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Paul Mathews, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in Residence, Department of Neurology and The Lundquist Institute

Matthias Wink, DPhil, Hedrick Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Samantha Butler, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Bennett Novitch, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Jonathan Mitchell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences

Lauren Ng, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Stan Schein, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Carolyn Houser, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Neurobiology

Katherine Karlsgodt, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Yiannis N. Moschovakis, Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Mathematics

Carrie E Bearden Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology

Steve S. Lee, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Istvan Mody, Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Neurology and Physiology

Tina Treude, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Science, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

Carole H. Browner, Distinguished Research Professor, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Departments of Anthropology and Gender Studies

Karen H. Gylys, Ph.D., R.N., Professor, School of Nursing

Christina Palmer, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Department of Human Genetics, Institute for Society and Genetics

Jessica Gregg, M.Ed., Associate Director for Educational Development, Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS)

Katherine Narr, Professor, Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Alex Hall, Professor, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Baljit S. Khakh, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology

Sandra K. Loo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Mackenzie Day, Assistant Professor, Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences

Ursula K. Heise, Professor and Chair, Department of English

Carolyn Parkinson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology

Marcia Meldrum, Ph.D., Adjunct Associate Professor, Center for Social Medicine and the Humanities, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Joel Braslow, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and History, Center for Social Medicine and Humanities

Laura Cladek, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Mathematics

Joseph DiNorcia, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Minna K. Lee, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

Michael Willis, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Yuen Huo, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Thomas Bradbury, Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology

Marco Marengon, Ph.D., Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Mathematics

Wotao Yin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Mathematics

Nathan Kraft, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Ippolytos Kalofonos, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Center for Social Medicine and Humanities, International Institute, West LA VAMC

Please see this webpage for the full, current list of signers. The page also includes links to books, websites and articles chosen by the authors about racism. It also lists resources for members of the UCLA campus community:

●      UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (310-825-0768)

●      For mental health related concerns, consider signing up for STAND. An online questionnaire is followed by professional care if necessary.

●      Wellness resources for UCLA graduate students

●      Behavioral Wellness Center for confidential counseling for biosciences graduate students (310-825-9605)

The faculty members also provide links for donating to the NAACPACLU, and SPLC.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.

A photo of Assistant Professor Wesley Campbell, UCLA Physics & Astronomy

UCLA physicists develop world’s best quantum bits

A photo of Assistant Professor Wesley Campbell, UCLA Physics & Astronomy

Assistant Professor Wesley Campbell, UCLA Physics & Astronomy (Photo Credit: UCLA)

A team of researchers at UCLA has set a new record for preparing and measuring the quantum bits, or qubits, inside of a quantum computer without error. The techniques they have developed make it easier to build quantum computers that outperform classical computers for important tasks, including the design of new materials and pharmaceuticals. The research is published in the peer-reviewed, online open-access journal, npj Quantum Information, published by Nature and including the exceptional research on quantum information and quantum computing.

Currently, the most powerful quantum computers are “noisy intermediate-scale quantum” (NISQ) devices and are very sensitive to errors. Error in preparation and measurement of qubits is particularly onerous: for 100 qubits, a 1% measurement error means a NISQ device will produce an incorrect answer about 63% of the time, said senior author Eric Hudson, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy.

To address this major challenge, Hudson and UCLA colleagues recently developed a new qubit hosted in a laser-cooled, radioactive barium ion. This “goldilocks ion” has nearly ideal properties for realizing ultra-low error rate quantum devices, allowing the UCLA group to achieve a preparation and measurement error rate of about 0.03%, lower than any other quantum technology to date, said co-senior author Wesley Campbell, also a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy.

The development of this exciting new qubit at UCLA should impact almost every area of quantum information science, Hudson said. This radioactive ion has been identified as a promising system in quantum networking, sensing, timing, simulation and computation, and the researchers’ paper paves the way for large-scale NISQ devices.

Co-authors are lead author Justin Christensen, a postdoctoral scholar in Hudson’s laboratory, and David Hucul, a former postdoctoral scholar in Hudson and Campbell’s laboratories, who is now a physicist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

The research is funded by the U.S. Army Research Office.

Campbell and Hudson are primary investigators of a major $2.7 million U.S. Department of Energy Quantum Information Science Research project to lay the foundation for the next generation of computing and information processing, as well as many other innovative technologies.

This article originally appeared on the UCLA Physical Sciences website.

A photo of Sasha Gill-Ljunghammer and Hieu Nguyen.

UCLA’s 2020-2021 Beckman Scholars Announced

A photo of Sasha Gill-Ljunghammer and Hieu Nguyen.

From left: Sasha Gill-Ljunghammer and Hieu Nguyen (Photo Courtesy of UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry)

Undergraduate researchers Sasha Gill-Ljunghammer (Tolbert Group) and Hieu Nguyen (Torres group) have been selected as 2020-2021 Beckman Scholars.

The 2020-2021 Beckman Research Scholarship at UCLA is directed through the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and administered by the Undergraduate Research Center (URC)-Sciences. The scholarship is awarded to outstanding undergraduate researchers who are majoring in Chemistry, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics; or Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, and who are committed to completing an honors thesis or a comprehensive 199 project under the supervision of a UCLA Beckman Faculty.

The $21,000 award will be distributed over one academic year and two summers, plus $2,800 for travel and research supplies.

Sasha Gill-Ljunghammer is a third-year chemistry major conducting research in Professor Sarah Tolbert’s laboratory where her research focuses on tuning superparamagnetic nanocrystals for use in multiferroic composite materials where magnetism can be fully switched on and off using an applied electric bias. Sasha is a transfer student from Schoolcraft Community College. While at Schoolcraft, she gained experience researching metal-organic frameworks at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. “I immediately fell in love with the challenging, yet rewarding, work that research demands,” Sasha said. “I have always had a deep appreciation for the sciences and I strive to share this passion by pursuing a career in academia. I hope to expand the boundaries of human knowledge and lead research that will contribute to the global environment.”

“Beckman Scholars is an outstanding program for undergraduate researchers, and Sasha is the kind of capable, passionate student who will make the most of this opportunity,” said her research advisor Professor Sarah Tolbert.

Hieu Nguyen is a third-year Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology (MCDB) major conducting research in Professor Jorge Torres’ laboratory where his research focuses on identifying novel drugs that will guide senescent cells away from their current state. “The discovery of these compounds will increase the efficacy of DNA-damaging drugs by preventing the formation of tumor-promoting environments induced by cell senescence,” Hieu explained. Outside of his laboratory work, Hieu also competes for UCLA’s archery team, works as a CPR instructor, and volunteers both for UCLA’s Mattel Childrens’ Hospital and at a student shelter. He intends to pursue a career in pediatric oncology which is rooted both in research and clinical practice.

“I am extremely proud of Hieu,”said his research advisor Professor Jorge Torres. “Hieu represents the best that UCLA undergraduate researchers have to offer. He has a contagious curiosity and a keen interest in understanding complex biological systems at the molecular level. Hieu’s outstanding intellectual, critical thinking and research abilities have prepared him to carry out his independent studies successfully and I look forward to seeing the great things that he can accomplish.”

This article originally appeared on UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry’s website

 

A photo of Dr. Steven Jonas, Jason Belling and Paul Weiss of UCLA .

A step toward a more efficient way to make gene therapies to attack cancer, genetic disorders

A photo of Dr. Steven Jonas, Jason Belling and Paul Weiss of UCLA .

(From left) Dr. Steven Jonas, Jason Belling and Paul Weiss of UCLA (Photo Credit: Reed Hutchinson)

A UCLA-led research team today reports that it has developed a new method for delivering DNA into stem cells and immune cells safely, rapidly and economically. The method, described in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could give scientists a new tool for manufacturing gene therapies for people with cancer, genetic disorders and blood diseases.

The study’s co-senior author is Paul Weiss, a UCLA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, of bioengineering and of materials science and engineering. “We are figuring out how to get gene-editing tools into cells efficiently, safely and economically,” he said. “We want to get them into enormous numbers of cells without using viruses, electroshock treatments or chemicals that will rip open the membrane and kill many of the cells, and our results so far are promising.”

In current practice, cells used for genetic therapies are sent to specialized labs, which can take up to two months to produce an individualized treatment. And those treatments are expensive: A single regimen for one patient can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We hope our method could be used in the future to prepare treatments that can be performed at the patient’s bedside,” Weiss said.

The method could be used with CRISPR, the genetic engineering technique that enables DNA to be edited with remarkable precision. However, using CRISPR efficiently, safely and economically in medical therapies has proven to be a challenge — one this new method may be able to solve.

The technique uses high-frequency acoustic waves coupled with millions of cells that flow through an “acoustofluidic device” in a cell culture liquid. The device was invented by the research team as part of the study; inside of it are tiny speakers that convert electrical signals to mechanical vibrations that are used to manipulate the cells.

That procedure opens up pores along the cells’ membranes that allow DNA and other biological cargo to enter the cells, and it enables the researchers to insert the cargo without the risk of damaging the cells by contacting them directly.

Dr. Steven Jonas, the study’s co-senior author and a UCLA clinical instructor in pediatrics, likened the soundwaves’ ability to move cells to the experience when audience members actually feel the sound at a concert.

“At a concert hall, you can feel the bass — and if you can feel the sound, the cell can feel the acoustic wave,” said Jonas, a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA. “We can engineer the acoustic waves to direct the cells as needed.”

The researchers delivered short strands of DNA called plasmids into human blood cells and blood-forming stem cells that were intended specifically for laboratory research, and pumped millions of such cells through the acoustofluidic device. Once inside a cell, a plasmid can be made into a protein that may be missing or damaged, or it can give the cell new capabilities.

“When combined with new gene-editing approaches, the method enables us to correct a DNA sequence that is miscoded in a disease,” said Weiss, who also is a member of CNSI.

Plasmids used as templates for gene editing can make the correction because they have the right coded sequence for the desired protein, he explained.

Lead author Jason Belling, a UCLA graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry, was able to insert plasmids into the model cells used for testing about 60% of the time, without using any chemical and physical treatments.

“The viability is very high compared with other techniques,” Weiss said, “but we still want higher efficiencies and are working toward that.”

Jonas — whose expertise is in treating childhood cancer and blood disorders — said the research has the potential to benefit adults and children with cancer, immune system disorders and genetic diseases.

“If the delivery works, and it seems to, this research is an important step toward bringing new therapies more broadly to the patients who need them,” Jonas said. “Traditionally, we have treated cancers with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and bone marrow transplantations. Now, we’re at an amazing era of medicine, where we can use different types of gene therapies that can train the immune system to fight cancer.”

A photo of a prototype of the acoustofluidic device developed by UCLA researchers.

A prototype of the acoustofluidic device developed by UCLA researchers. (Photo Credit: Reed Hutchinson)

Jonas said some existing treatments can take a patient’s T cells and adapt them with a gene that encodes for a receptor that allows it to target the cancer.

“We want to be the delivery service that gets these therapeutic packages to the cells,” he said. “I want to treat my patients with cells that are engineered in this way.”

For the technique to lead to viable treatments for disease, it would need to allow doctors  to process at least a couple hundred million cells — and in some cases, billions of cells — safely, rapidly and cost-effectively for each patient.

The new approach is still the subject of research and is not available to treat human patients.

The study’s other co-authors include Duke University professor Tony Huang, a pioneer of acoustofluidics and a UCLA alumnus; Dr. Stephen Young, distinguished professor of medicine and human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; and Dr. Satiro De Oliveira, a UCLA assistant professor of pediatrics.

The study was funded in part through a National Institutes of Health Director’s Early Independence Award for Jonas; the University of California Center for Accelerated Innovation; and Belling’s predoctoral fellowship through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Jonas also has received young investigator awards from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research, Hyundai Hope on Wheels Foundation for Pediatric Cancer Research, and the Tower Cancer Research Foundation. UCLA’s Technology Development Group Innovation Fund also provided funding.

Weiss’ research group has applied for patents on the acoustofluidic device and related devices, working with the Technology Development Group.

This article originally appeared in the UCLA Newsroom.