The temperatures that baked the Pacific Northwest in 2021 should happen roughly once in 10,000 years
Alison Hewitt | September 28, 2022
• 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.
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.
Professor earlier this year won the John Bates Clark Medal, one of the most prestigious honors in his field
Jonathan Riggs | October 13, 2022
Why do nearly 80 countries choose to fully or partially peg their exchange rates against the U.S. dollar, and how much independence of their monetary policy do they give up by doing so?
Answers to queries like these can be elusive, whether you’re someone who feels like conversations about macroeconomics on the nightly news go over their head, or even an academic economist.
“Without having an empirically relevant model of exchange rates, it is impossible to credibly answer questions that concern, for example, the costs and benefits of common currency areas, such as the Euro Zone, which eliminate exchange rate fluctuations between their country-members,” said Oleg Itskhoki, UCLA’s Venu and Ana Kotamraju Professor of Economics. “Similarly, questions about the optimal exchange rate policy and the costs and benefits of partially managed exchange rates require such a theoretical framework as well.”
In new research, Itskhoki has developed new frameworks that will drive considerable thought in the field going forward. For these ideas, the 39-year-old whose research focuses on macroeconomics and international economics won the John Bates Clark Medal from the American Economic Association. The award is given to an economist under age 40 who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.
“This is the first time a UCLA faculty member has won this prestigious award,” said Jinyong Hahn, chair of the economics department. “Oleg Itskhoki is a star in the field of international economics who solved important puzzles in exchange rates and made it possible to understand the relationship between foreign trade and income inequality.”
Although he hailed from a family of physicists and inherited the family interest in the field, Itskhoki was born in the Soviet Union and grew up during the turbulence of transition-era Russia, during which the legacy of government control over science cast a long shadow. Seeing his older sister’s success in the more stable field of economics, Itskhoki followed in her footsteps.
He appreciated the opportunity to delve into scientific work that left his professional options open, giving him the security of knowing his economics research qualified him for a broader scope of work outside of academia than high-level physics specialization might have. And the puzzles and problems inherent in international economics policies fascinated him more and more the deeper he got into exploring them — especially since the field granted him more independence to follow his curiosity than he might have as part of a lab with rigidly established priorities.
“I truly enjoyed the work and as I went through school, I found myself more and more absorbed by it,” said Itskhoki, who came from Princeton University to UCLA in 2019. “I still am today — I feel so lucky having made what feels like a hobby I love into my life.”
In the official award citation listing Itskhoki’s research highlights, the association emphasized his key insight that financial market noise, rather than economic fundamentals, may be the main driver of exchange rates. This idea offers a unifying theory that solves five of the field’s major exchange-rate puzzles and provides a framework that many believe will serve as the definitive lens through which economists examine these issues going forward.
“Through his masterful application of empirical and theoretical tools, Itskhoki has revisited classic questions in both international finance and international trade, resolving long-standing puzzles and offering new economic insights into important phenomena in international economics,” the committee concluded.
Although the Clark Medal does not include a monetary award, it reflects an enormous vote of confidence from the entire field of economics. The Clark Medal is considered second only to the Nobel Prize in terms of prestige and it has long served as a precursor to winning that honor as well. Earning such a visible sign of respect from his peers means a lot to Itskhoki.
“It’s completely crazy — these things don’t happen. Well, they happen to somebody, but you never expect it to be you,” Itskhoki said. “The biggest, most pleasant part of it all is hearing from so many people that they were teaching my papers — and enjoying teaching them! I am so grateful to hear my work is influential in some ways.”
Crediting his mentors, colleagues and predecessors in the field, Itskhoki chooses to view his victory as a communal rather than personal victory. (His family, including his sister who inspired his professional journey with her own, couldn’t be prouder, he said.) Itskhoki is especially delighted to see “UCLA” now appear among the home institutions of Clark Medal winners, a list which has long been dominated by schools like Harvard and MIT.
“UCLA is a very special place, where public service, research and teaching are deeply valued,” Itskhoki said. “I find that so inspiring, and I couldn’t be prouder to see schools like us and UC Berkeley coming into their own as top national institutions for economics.”
Teaching remains a passion for Itskhoki — in addition to doctoral courses in macroeconomics at both the national and international level, Itskhoki also teaches an international finance course for third- and fourth-year undergraduates.
“Economics are in the news every day — for example, they were a big part of the COVID crisis conversation — and we discuss it all: the trade war with China, tax reform, inflation, food prices and the best way for governments to respond to it all,” he said. “The models we created cited by the American Economic Association has answers to some of these questions, and I try to keep everything grounded in real-world events. Whether or not we know it, economics affects us all so it’s important to see the state of thinking on these topics.”
As he looks to the future, Itskhoki doesn’t think in terms of awards or honors; he focuses on the next challenges he wants to tackle in his research.
“There is still a lot of work to be done on exchange rates; in particular we are now studying optimal exchange rate policies for the government using the insights from our earlier work,” Itskhoki said. “I am also fascinated by the topic of the new high-tech industries and AI technologies and the associated questions of productivity and welfare measurement in the world with proliferation of AI.”
Economists with UCLA ties have a history of top honors
Lloyd Shapley, professor emeritus of economics and mathematics, received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in October 2012. Shapley, who joined UCLA in 1981, was honored for his research on “matching theory,” which aims to improve the performance of markets by, for example, connecting prospective students with schools or aligning patients who need organ transplants with donors.
Guido Imbens, a Stanford University professor who was a UCLA faculty member from 1997 to 2001, won the 2021 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Two alumni have won the Nobel in economics: William Sharpe in 1990 and Elinor Ostrom in 2009.
Jonathan Riggs | October 11, 2022
Alexandra Minna Stern will become UCLA’s dean of humanities on Nov. 1, succeeding David Schaberg, who has helmed the division since 2011 and will return to teaching and research full time after a sabbatical.
For Stern, who was most recently the associate dean for the humanities and the Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, the move is a homecoming — she grew up in California, earned her master’s degree in Latin American studies from UC San Diego and was an assistant professor at UC Santa Cruz.
In her two decades at Michigan, Stern held academic appointments in history, women’s and gender studies, and obstetrics and gynecology. She is widely recognized as an expert on the history of eugenics, genetics, society and justice in the United States and Latin America.
As she prepares to begin her tenure, Stern spoke with us about this new chapter for her and for the division.
What does it mean to you to lead the UCLA Division of Humanities?
It is a great honor to follow in the footsteps of David Schaberg, who has managed this division with a steady hand and inspiring vision of the humanities. I’m excited to join my counterpart deans in the UCLA College and the leadership team at the university.
For me, this is both a return home to California, where lived many years before my two decades in the Midwest, and a new adventure in Los Angeles, a city where I’ve never resided but am eager to explore. I’m deeply committed to public higher education, and I can’t imagine a better place to pursue transformational work than UCLA.
I look forward to getting to know the university community as I represent and advocate for the humanities on campus and beyond. Coming from Michigan, it will be quite an experience to morph from Wolverine to Bruin!
What qualities of the division do you feel make it unique and impactful?
UCLA Humanities is an extraordinary division with a talented, diverse faculty whose research encompasses a wide range of topics, chronologies, regions and approaches. The division is very interdisciplinary, which has allowed it to lead in many areas, including urban humanities and digital humanities. By virtue of being located in a vibrant and polyphonic city, humanities at UCLA has been public-facing, contributing to and benefiting from an amazing artistic, cultural and creative milieu. The full breadth of UCLA’s humanities appeals greatly to me and resonates with my vision of engaged humanities in the 21st century.
What are your top priorities as dean?
My priorities will evolve over time as I familiarize myself with the humanities community and the university as a whole. Generally speaking, I’ll seek to maintain strength in longstanding areas and energize new initiatives. For example, I want to ensure the viability of global languages, including less commonly taught languages, and build capacity for experimental programs such as health humanities and disability studies.
As a fierce advocate for the humanities, I welcome the opportunity to demonstrate their relevance to the pressing questions of humanity, society, democracy and culture today. I’m keen to support the entire humanities community — students, staff, faculty and alumni — and to work together toward shared goals, retaining my signature optimism without overlooking the serious challenges faced by the humanities in academia in our current moment.
What keeps you inspired and passionate about your work and field?
Much of my research has focused on the history and legacy of eugenics, especially in California, and I’m actively involved in projects related to reproductive justice and injustice, reparations and memory today. The lab I founded, the Sterilization and Social Justice Lab — which will now most likely be based at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics — works with California state agencies to help verify sterilization survivors who are eligible for monetary compensation through a recently approved program, and it collaborates with activists and scholars on anti-eugenics projects that are community-based and guided by the tenets and goals of social justice. I remain passionate about my research; it is rewarding when it contributes to addressing past historical harms and contemporary social inequities.
Is there a little-known fact about yourself we could share?
I spent much of my early 20s living in San Francisco and reading poetry at the Cafe Babar at 22nd and Guerrero, and that kind of creative energy sustains me to this day. Unfortunately, I have lost most of the poems I wrote during that raucous and heady period of my life. I frequently turn to poetry, in English and Spanish, for intellectual and emotional nourishment because of my love of language, metaphor, cadence and its irresistible sublimity.
What’s your favorite advice to share with students and others?
I believe active listening and humility can go a long way. Wherever or however we step into academia, we should strive to be lifelong learners. For me, leadership is less about giving advice and more about modeling and enacting empathy and advocacy within an interdependent and generative community.
Lynn Vavreck and Chris Tausanovitch discuss their new book, ‘The Bitter End’
Jonathan Riggs |
With the nation’s social, racial and political divisions already laid bare by the emergence of COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd and other events, the 2020 presidential campaign became one of the most contentious in U.S. history.
In “The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy,” UCLA political scientists Lynn Vavreck and Chris Tausanovitch, and John Sides of Vanderbilt University, assess why the campaign’s aftershocks will reverberate for decades to come. The book was published Sept. 20 by Princeton University Press.
“[H]ow leaders responded to the events of 2020 — and especially how Trump and his allies responded to the election and its aftermath — only exacerbated divisions that had been years in the making,” the authors write. “Understanding those divisions helps explain why the election came to such a bitter end, and why this bitter end may only signal the beginning of a new democratic crisis in American politics.”
The book draws observations and insights from data collected as part of Nationscape, a national political survey that the authors developed.
Now, with midterm elections upon us and a new presidential campaign on the horizon, Vavreck, UCLA’s Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics and Public Policy, and Tausanovitch, an associate professor of political science, discussed why the nation’s politics seem firmly stuck in place yet highly explosive.
What do you hope readers will take away from ‘The Bitter End’?
Chris Tausanovitch: One thing I hope they’ll take away is that “polarization” — a blanket term that gets thrown around a lot in the media — doesn’t really do much to explain the situation we’re in. Yes, we’re polarized. But talk to three different people, even three different political scientists, and you will get three different definitions of what polarization means. In the book, we use the term “calcification” because it better captures the features of American politics today.
Can you explain why calcification has become such an intractable problem?
Lynn Vavreck: The calcification we’re seeing today is born of four factors: The parties are farther apart than ever ideologically, voters within each party are more like their fellow partisans than ever, so many of our political conflicts are based on identity-inflected issues, and there is near balance between people who call themselves Democrats and Republicans right now.
That’s why politics feels both stuck and explosive: The stakes of election outcomes are very high because the other side is farther away than ever, and because of the balance between the parties, victory is always within reach for each side. That balance also means that when one party loses an election, instead of going back to the drawing board to rethink how they campaigned or what they offered, they don’t revamp their packages or strategies — they almost won! — they instead try to change the rules of the game to advantage their side. Preventing parties from changing the rules to erode democratic principles is the ultimate challenge to democracy.
You explore how the COVID-19 pandemic and other events in 2020 revealed divisions within the electorate …
Vavreck: No, those factors didn’t reveal divisions — they were subsumed by people’s existing adherence to their parties. That’s an important difference. Those factors should have reshaped politics, but they didn’t — people just doubled down on their party loyalty.
So do you see any hope for fixing the party-above-all mindset that has become the norm?
Tausanovitch: Politics doesn’t offer easy answers to big questions like how to address racism, regulate immigration or address a global pandemic. Our only prescription in the book is that we need to get past this period in which one major party is undermining one of the foundations of our democracy: our trust in the honesty and accuracy of our elections.
We have a lot of problems in this country, but accurately counting ballots is not one of them, so far. That could change if Republicans use election conspiracy theories as a pretext to meddle with the electoral process, and some candidates are currently running on a promise to do exactly that. But if we can get past this conspiracy-mongering, we can get back to the hard work of trying to resolve differences that are hard to reconcile.
What surprised you about the data you collected during the 2020 campaign?
Tausanovitch: Nationscape was designed in part to see how the public reacts to major events. We couldn’t have been handed a more dramatic year to study than 2020. Yet it turns out that Americans are very slow to change their political views and their priorities.
Lynn, you and John Sides have now written three books recapping presidential campaigns, but this was the first time Chris joined the collaboration. What did he add to the mix?
Vavreck: Chris brings a wonderful new dimension to our work. The Nationscape project was largely his idea, and the way we framed the survey questions that yielded some of the most interesting results was solely his idea.
Tausanovitch: Lynn and John are incredible political scientists, and I really admire their willingness to get things right, even if it means throwing away analyses we spent a lot of time on — or giving up on points we really wanted to make — because the evidence wasn’t quite good enough.
Now that the book is complete, how else are you planning to use the Nationscape data?
Tausanovitch: I’m currently using the data to expand on my work on understanding political priorities — the way they interact with primaries is really important. The more hard-line voters in each party have an outsized influence because they care more and are more likely to vote on the issues.
Vavreck: We completed 500,000 interviews for Nationscape, and a dream I have is to use the data to characterize the political landscape across the whole country: How are we different and how are we the same? I think people will be surprised by how many things people agree on.
UCLA researchers create video playlist for YouTube Kids’ anti-bullying programming
Holly Ober | September 29, 2022
• UCLA researchers created a video playlist that aims to get kids to spread kindness.
• The videos are based on Bedari Kindness Institute research that shows kindness is contagious.
Some UCLA researchers think a simple, two-word message can help kids knock bullying off its feet: Be kind. The Center for Scholars & Storytellers, the Bedari Kindness Institute and the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television are partnering with YouTube Kids on a series of videos that promote kind, caring behavior in everyday situations. The series is part of YouTube Kids anti-bullying programming scheduled for October, which is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.
“We think kindness is the best antidote to bullying, and we believe that kindness is contagious,” said Daniel Fessler, director of the Bedari Kindness Institute and associate professor of anthropology. “The collection, which is hosted by actress Tabitha Brown, is anchored by two short animated films showing people doing good things, such as helping a stranger. These are followed by selfie videos from kids who describe witnessing someone engaging in an act of kindness, or acting kindly themselves. We hope to motivate viewers to also behave kindly.”
The videos are based on Bedari Kindness Institute research that shows people often feel motivated to help others after watching a video of someone else behaving altruistically. The uplifting feeling people experience when witnessing the morally praiseworthy actions of others, which scientists call “elevation,” is known to increase an inclination toward performing positive actions. The researchers have shown in experiments that elevation can be reliably induced through exposure to prosocial behaviors.
The collection takes a different tack than many other campaigns promoting kindness, which typically prescribe behaviors thought to promote kindness.
“Many efforts to promote kindness tell kids they should be nice, or remind them how bad it feels when someone does something unkind, but we’re skeptical those efforts have an immediate impact on behavior,” Fessler said. “In my lab, we’ve worked on contagious kindness and have found that when adults witness someone engaging in prosocial behavior, many of them are inspired to be prosocial themselves. We think this applies to children, too.”
The Center for Scholars & Storytellers
The videos follow up on a 2020 collaboration between the Center for Scholars & Storytellers and YouTube Kids, in collaboration with the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Allies for Every Child and the Pritzker Center for Strengthening Families, that curated a playlist of selfie videos from former foster youth talking about their various identities. That playlist currently has around 40 million views.
Psychologist Yalda Uhls, who founded and directs the Center for Scholars & Storytellers, led the previous effort and identified the opportunity for another collaboration.
“When YouTube told us that in October they usually program content around bullying for younger children, we knew the Bedari Kindness Institute would be the perfect partner to create the messaging for this project,” said Uhls, who is an assistant adjunct professor of psychology.
Screenwriter and director George Huang, a professor of film, theater and television, helped produce the videos.
“Professor Fessler and the Bedari Kindness Institute’s work is phenomenal, and it’s a privilege to be creating content with the Center for Scholars and Storytellers that shares their work with a young audience,” Huang said. “With the help of Stacey Freeman and psychology doctoral student Ellyn Pueschel, we’ve created a playlist that will inspire, entertain and spread the word about kindness.”
In one of the animated shorts, strangers who are the recipients of kind acts “pay it forward” to other strangers. In the other animated short, an altruistic individual is eventually rewarded with kindness by two children who watched as she selflessly helped others.
Giving parents the tools
To accompany the videos, Stacey Freeman, executive director of the Bedari Kindness Institute, is developing a parent resource guide. She also recruited kids ages 6-12 to create selfie-style videos as a relatable way for kids to see other kids talking about the importance of kindness. Both the parent resource guide and the selfie videos help to amplify the kindness messages in the playlist while also helping parents guide their children toward kindness in their everyday interactions.
“At the Bedari Kindness Institute, we’re a scholarly organization that seeks to translate research and knowledge into real world applications,” Freeman said. “So we were excited when Yalda approached us with this opportunity because we think that research on kindness can inform the use of video content to help kids become a positive force in the world.”
Fessler and Uhls said the playlist is intended to be a safe place to which parents can direct their kids and watch with them. Parents will also have access to a resource guide to help them guide their children toward kindness in everyday interactions with others.
“The content will be inspiring and uplifting so parents don’t have to worry what kids are consuming,” Uhls said. “We’re trying to be a positive force.”
Less than 5% want to see aspirational content in TV or movies
Holly Ober | September 20, 2022
• Changing aspirations. Few Gen Zers want to watch shows about glamorized lifestyles.
• Real-world issues matter. Teens prefer content that deals with family dynamics or social justice.
• Positive storytelling, please. They want to see more hopeful, uplifting stories about people.
Not that long ago, teens binged on aspirational content, where the kinds of lives portrayed in “Gossip Girl” were what they wanted on their screens. But according to a recent study conducted by UCLA’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers, teens today resoundingly reject those kinds of stories. Only 4.4% in a survey of 662 diverse teens said they wanted to see this kind of content, which the researchers labeled “aspirational.” Generation Z, born from about 1997 to 2012, wants to watch content that grapples with real-world issues (21%), such as family dynamics or social justice. When asked to cast their own characters, a majority of teens lean toward wanting a black male hero (23.6%) and a white male villain (34.9%). But they also want fun, escapist content (37.8%), and one of the most popular topics they would like to see is hopeful, uplifting stories.
“Hollywood has built its young adult content on the belief that teens want to see glamorous lifestyles and rich and famous characters, but our research suggests the opposite is true,” said psychologist Yalda Uhls, director of the Center for Scholars and Storytellers. “The majority of respondents in our study feel isolated and upset when media lack accurate identity representations. This is an important change that Hollywood needs to take note of.”
“American adolescents value media that reflects what they know about the real world, even while they prefer to see people that are different from themselves,” Yalda said. “Teens want their media to show a world characterized by genuine diversity and heartwarming experiences.”
What kinds of storylines does Gen Z want?
Hopeful, uplifting stories about people beating the odds and stories about people with lives unlike their own topped the list of topics they’d like to see portrayed in the TV shows and movies they watch, according to the study.
Other findings include:
• Friends and social groups, superheroes and parents all made the top five topic list.
• Mental health continues to register for teens, ranking No. 4 on the list. For LGBTQIA+ teens, this was one of the top two preferred topics.
• Both older and younger teens want to see more stories about family life, including relationships with parents.
• Partying and/or drugs and drinking came in second to last.
• Content about climate change came in last.
The study concludes that teens want to see authentic, inclusive and positive storytelling, and emphasizes a need for the entertainment industry to shift away from aspirational content that does not prioritize diversity. Teens’ rejection of traditionally aspirational content that valorizes higher social status and material gains may also signal a substantial shift in contemporary teens’ evolving definition of success that is different from previous generations. It also suggests that hopeful messaging could be used to engage teens with various subjects in the future, such as climate change.
“While we do not know why teens rejected climate change storylines, we believe that the portrayal of this issue is often negative and may feel overwhelming,” said Stephanie Rivas-Lara, research coordinator at the Center for Scholars and Storytellers.
The survey also asked respondents which media space does the best job at making them feel “seen.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority (55%) said social media was the space where they felt most authentic, with TikTok being the most popular social media platform.
“These findings raise the question about what factors from social media have successfully catered to teens’ need for authenticity, and how the definition of authenticity for social media versus TV shows and movies may have changed over time,” Rivas-Lara said.
The teens came from different social backgrounds and reflected a diverse mix of ethnicities, genders and sexualities. Respondents were almost evenly split between male and female, and about 6% identified as a different or no gender. Gender identity made a significant difference in who was cast as the hero with 83% of male teens choosing a male and 50% of female teens choosing a female. Teens who identified as white males were the only demographic to choose to cast white males as the hero.
Psychology professor Lauren Ng and doctoral student Yesenia Aguilar Silvan help each other make a difference for others
Jonathan Riggs | September 28, 2022
According to the American Psychiatric Association, people from racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. may be more likely to experience long-lasting consequences from mental health issues — and less likely to seek and receive treatment.
Identifying and addressing barriers to care for underserved populations is key to the work of both Lauren Ng, assistant professor of clinical psychology and director of the Treatment and Research for the Underserved with Stress and Trauma (TRUST) Lab, and her mentee, doctoral student Yesenia Aguilar Silvan.
“We actually know little about how to provide the best care for minoritized populations, who are typically also more likely to have experienced traumatic events,” says Ng, who was honored with awards in 2021 and 2022 for her contributions to the field. “My research focuses on how we make sure that people who need care but have been systematically excluded from mental health treatment, receive it. Yesenia’s research interests fit nicely with my own, although she’s taking a very novel approach.”
Part of a newer field of study known as implementation science, Aguilar’s approach focuses on getting people interested in mental health care interventions in the first place. Right now, she’s studying how best to optimize therapist websites to increase the rate of people navigating them successfully to engage in therapy.
“I conducted a survey that found that people who were interested in mental health services needed to know who the therapist was, and not a lot of the clinic websites I studied included information like that,” Aguilar says. “I’m hoping in the next year or so we can gather even more data based on these changes to the clinic websites see if they make a difference.”
Currently, it takes about 17 years for research evidence to reach clinical practice; implementation science like Aguilar’s research seeks to reduce that length of time. In part due to her own experience growing up undocumented, Aguilar is personally very motivated to make a difference like this in the real world, in real time.
“I remember asking a professor once, ‘What’s the point of research?’ And he said that for him, research was just finding something that made you mad or upset and then trying to solve it with science,” Aguilar says. “I knew from my upbringing that a lot of people are not getting mental health services when they really should, and so I asked myself: ‘How do I solve that problem using science?’”
It’s a lifelong commitment that Ng shares.
“I’m a biracial person — my dad is Chinese American, my mom is Black — and I grew up in D.C., where I sometimes felt like an outside observer, trying to understand situations from different perspectives,” says Ng. “Psychology just seemed natural to me, especially when I realized I could do more than just understand, but also create treatments and interventions to help people.”
Getting the chance to work with and learn from Ng was a huge draw for Aguilar, who graduated from UCLA in 2017, to return for her doctorate. She’s flourished here, earning multiple honors, including the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship as well as awards from the Irving and Jean Stone Fund, the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, and the Monica Salinas Graduate Student Endowed Fund. And in Ng’s lab, Aguilar has the opportunity to serve as a mentor herself to undergraduate students.
“It has been amazing to have the support system and resources here that have made it possible for me to pursue my dream. I feel as if I can ask Lauren anything, from specific research questions to advice on how to be a more effective mentor,” Aguilar says. “She also encourages me to be an independent researcher and to think about my own future, in and out of the lab. I continually learn so much from her.”
“UCLA’s department of psychology is so strong in large part due to the quality of our graduate students like Yesenia,” says Ng. “Yesenia started in community college and was able to transfer to UCLA and to receive the support and opportunities a student of her caliber deserves. That can only happen at a very unique place, one that feels like more than a university.”
Jonathan Riggs | September 28, 2022
• Updating the minimal irrigation system in the garden has been one of the top priorities.
• Improvements made possible by the gift will include a new hydrology system using reclaimed water, a wetland garden and safer bridge crossings.
UCLA has received a $1.5 million gift from Charlie and Peggy Norris to further the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden’s waterworks project.
“We are grateful to Charlie and Peggy Norris for their vision and support, which benefits the entire UCLA community and the public,” said Tracy Johnson, dean of life sciences and holder of the Keith and Cecilia Terasaki Presidential Endowed Chair in the Division of Life Sciences. “Like the garden, the true impact of their gift will flourish and have impact for generations to come.”
Renewing the recirculating stream that was created in the 1970s and its minimal irrigation system, which was built in the 1950s, have long been the garden’s most urgent priorities. Improvements made possible because of this gift will include a new hydrology system that uses reclaimed water, a wetland garden, safer bridge crossings, replacements for broken pipelines and individualized water delivery to separate gardens.
“The generosity of Charlie and Peggy Norris allows us the unique opportunity to bring sustainable practices to the garden and greater UCLA campus,” said Victoria Sork, director of the garden and herbarium and a distinguished professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “We couldn’t be prouder of this next chapter in the garden’s story.”
Since 1929, the 7.5-acre garden has been a treasured resource for scientists, students and community members who appreciate both its remarkable botanical specimens as well as its tranquil beauty. Named after the pioneering botanist and former director who shaped its vision as an outdoor laboratory, the garden is home to around 3,000 species of plants, one of the largest Torrey Pines in the world and more than 60 species of palms — not to mention numerous turtles, birds and other animals.
Longtime friends of UCLA — in 2014, they made the 70-seat Charles and Peggy Norris Global Conference Room a reality in the Edie & Lew Wasserman Building — the couple were glad to leave another lasting mark on campus.
“The garden is a rare green space in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles that means so much to so many,” said Charlie and Peggy Norris. “That includes us. We are delighted to help this beloved jewel shine even brighter.”
Unexpectedly tilted rock layers in the Jezero crater hint at a complex geological history
Holly Ober | August 25, 2022
• 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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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