A daily selection of stories about UC Berkeley and higher education that have appeared in the local and national media.
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
1. Ten Breakthrough Technologies 2014: Genome Editing
MIT Technology Review
A revolutionary genome-editing technique co-developed by molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna is highlighted as a breakthrough technology of 2014. The technique, called CRISPR, is being used to study complex, genetic diseases, including brain disorders.
2. New Research Finds Gap in Diarrhea Care of African Children
Voice of America Online
The findings of a new study of medical practices in sub-Saharan Africa, co-authored by doctoral public health student Zachary Wagner, could help save the lives of 20,000 children under 5 years of age who die each year from diarrheal diseases. The researchers found that an effective and inexpensive treatment, called ORT, was less likely to be offered at private clinics. “This treatment is just widely under-used," Wagner says. "That’s why so many children continue to die. It’s been around since the 60s, yet it is still widely under-used.”
3. In animals, bigger brain means more self-control
A team of researchers, including associate psychology professor Lucia Jacobs and doctoral student Mikel Delgado, tested a variety of animals and found brain size linked to self control. The essential question the researchers tested was whether or not the animal had the self-control required to allow its intelligence to override its impulses in changing situations. Animals with larger brains, such as apes, performed better in the tests than animals with smaller brains, such as rodents. “The study levels the playing field on the question of animal intelligence,” Professor Jacobs says. Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources, including International Science Times, Science World Report, National Geographic Online, and NewsTrack India.
4. George Smoot: We mapped the embryonic universe
The Observer (UK)
Physics professor and Nobel Laureate George Smoot is profiled and interviewed about his pioneering cosmology research.
5. Measuring California's impact from affirmative action ban
Law professor Jesse Choper comments on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold a Michigan law banning affirmative action in public programs, such as university admissions. "This court, the five-justice majority is very wary of upholding any racial preferences," he says. Link to video. Professor Choper was also interviewed by KPFA—link unavailable online. Law professor Christopher Edley was quoted on this topic in a story that aired on KQED Radio. Other stories about the decision and its implications for other colleges, including Berkeley, appeared in the Washington Post and San Jose Mercury News. An editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
6. Forum with Michael Krasny: Efforts Ramp Up to Combat Sexual Assaults on College Campuses
Claire Holmes, associate vice chancellor of communications and public affairs, joins a discussion of national efforts to protect students from sexual assault on college campuses. Link to audio.
7. Right to Gender-Neutral Spaces
Inside Higher Ed
Graduate student workers in the UC system report they have reached a tentative contract agreement that will effectively provide access to gender-neutral restrooms and lactation stations not just for themselves, but for other students, faculty members and employees. Doctoral rhetoric student Amanda Armstrong was involved in the negotiations, and she called the development an “important victory in the larger effort” of increasing access to higher education for gay and transgender students, as well as students who are lactating mothers."
8. Why Tens Of Thousands Of People Are Signing Up For This Online Happiness Course
A publicly available online course on happiness, taught by psychology professor Dacher Keltner, has been gaining in popularity. Recently, a record 400 people were on the wait list for the 200-person class. To reach a wider audience this fall, he and neuroscientist Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, will introduce a new MOOC (a massive online open course) on positive psychology research.
9. Study Finds Less Green in the Congo Rain Forest
International New York Times (*requires registration)
Associate geography professor Jeffrey Chambers wrote a commentary about a new study of the effects of dry conditions in the Congo River basin, and it accompanied the report in the journal Nature. The study had found, from data collected by remote-sensing satellites, that the capacity of trees to photosynthesize had declined, suggesting that the long-term result could be changes in the structure and composition of the region’s forests. “This is the type of signal you’d expect if a region is experiencing a directed shift in climate,” Professor Chambers says. “What needs to happen now is continued observation to better understand whether in fact this is a climate-related trend. ... Satellite data can only tell you so much. ... You really need to get into the field and see what’s happening.”
10. NewsHour: Potential to revive extinct animals raises ethical questions
Integrative Biology Professor Emeritus Jim Patton weighs in on the efforts of some researchers to bring back extinct animals like the woolly mammoth and passenger pigeon, with the intention of possibly restoring vanishing habitats. "We’re lost, unless we realize that we’re just a part of this intricate web," he says. "And we ought to bring species back if they can help maintain that web, but not because it makes us feel better and sleep better at night." Link to video.
11. Scientist Blasts Report Linking Casual Pot Smoking With Brain Abnormalities
Computational biology professor Lior Pachter weighs in on a new, widely-publicized study claiming that marijuana has negative effects on the brains of casual users. "The paper is terrible on a number of levels," he says. "It reeks of dishonesty." After studying the report, he concluded that not only was the methodology flawed, but the researchers also misrepresented their findings to the media. "The repeated use of words like 'recreational' and 'casual' suggest they are talking about people occasionally using some pot. ... In reality, their average user was doing more than 11 joints a week. I don't know that much about pot but that seems to be a lot. Again, it seems dishonest."
12. Heart Condition Cause of Cal Football Player Ted Agu’s Death
The Alameda County Coroner’s Office has determined the cause of death for 21-year old football player and pre-med student, Ted Agu, who died unexpectedly in February following a team training run. His heart condition, called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, is a rare, abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, which can make it harder for blood to leave the heart. The condition leads to cardiac arrest in less than 3 percent of people with the condition.