February 2021
Dean's Message: A Bright Future

Last month, we celebrated the inauguration of a new administration, one that reflects the diversity of Americans and recognizes the benefits of science to our country and our world. This recognition is manifest in President Biden’s elevation of the Science Advisor to a Cabinet-level post, which is an encouraging step in the re-prioritization of science to help guide our country into a brighter future.

And that brighter future seems closer now, especially here in the Sacramento region, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 testing efforts of the UC Davis Genome Center, which recently ran its 100,000th saliva sample. The center has been a keystone part of the collaborative effort between UC Davis and surrounding communities to fight the spread of COVID-19 with rapid testing and contact tracing. In a story for the The New York Times that ran over the weekend, this initiative was lauded as "the most ambitious program of its type in the country." Read the story here.

I am also pleased to share that the College’s “Mass Testing for COVID-19” course, which launched in fall quarter and approaches the pandemic as a learning and service opportunity for students, is now in its second quarter. In fact, as of early winter quarter, the testing kiosk in the Activities and Recreation Center on campus was serving about 3,000 UC Davis faculty, staff and students per day.

This innovative course—which offers students the chance for experiential learning with substantial real-world impact—is the College’s featured project in the 2021 Crowdfund UC Davis campaign. Your gift of any size to this project will enable continued hands-on learning for our students and support our ongoing commitment to undergraduate research. Please consider giving with the link below.

Here’s wishing you all continued health and safety this winter.


Mark Winey, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Biological Sciences
Distinguished Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology 
P.S. Please join us in supporting hands-on learning in the College of Biological Sciences with a gift to our Crowdfund UC Davis project TODAY!
News Highlights
"A California University Tries to Shield an Entire City From Coronavirus"
Coverage in The New York Times about campus efforts to provide free testing, masks and quarantine housing to tens of thousands of people in our community.
Exactly How Does an mRNA Vaccine Work?
UC Davis Virologist Sam Díaz-Muñoz, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, spoke with KCRA 3 in an interview late last year about the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines being hailed “as game-changers” by the medical community.

Says Díaz-Muñoz, they “trick your cells to make the tiny part of the virus that your immune system recognizes, and then you can mount an immune response and fight the actual thing if you get it.”
The UC Davis Genome Center Runs 100,000th COVID Saliva Test
The university’s saliva testing program started Sept. 14, 2020 when students began moving into campus housing for fall quarter, and subsequently expanded to serve the community through Healthy Davis Together.

Earlier this month, the UC Davis Genome Center, which has played a central role in the university’s testing efforts, tested the 100,000th saliva sample. Take a look at what’s behind the test, and how it came together.
Plants Can See Blue Light
New research from the laboratory of Nitzan Shabek, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Biology, shows how plants respond to blue light in particular.

Though plants don’t have dedicated light-detecting organs—like eyes—they do have a variety of dedicated receptors that can sense almost every single wavelength. Says Shabek, “Plants can see much better than we can.”
Questions about COVID testing?
Walter Leal, a distinguished professor in the College of Biological Sciences, organized a symposium last month to address questions about COVID-19 testing answered by a panel of campus experts.
Coming Up
Fighting Climate Change with Plants
Friday, Feb. 25 @ 12:10pm (PST)
Joanne Chory, director of the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies will deliver a lecture entitled “Fighting Climate Change with Plants: It Takes a Global Village to Fight a Global Problem.”

This event is open to the public and free to attend.