October 2019
A Message from the Dean: Building with Biology

A new academic year is here and we’re so excited to welcome hundreds of new students as they explore UC Davis for the first time. In total, they join the College of Biological Sciences ranks of nearly 6,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate students.

As the air gets cooler and the fall colors arrive, we’re grateful for the beautiful and exceptional campus we call home. We also take pride in all of the unique and exceptional Aggies that make UC Davis a top research institution.

The summer was productive for marine and coastal sciences student Tessa Filipczyk, who journeyed to the Bodega Marine Laboratory to take classes and conduct original research on the effects of clamming.

We also caught up with Assistant Professor Chang-il Hwang to see first-hand how his organoid models are transforming how we understand and treat pancreatic cancer .

I invite you to view their videos and the other stories below to see how we’re using biology to build a better world.

Go Ags!

Mark Winey, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Biological Sciences
Distinguished Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology 
P.S. Support our outstanding students and programs in the College of Biological Sciences by making a charitable gift TODAY!
Grains in the Rain: Science Study Opens the Door to Flood-Resistant Crops
Associate Professor Siobhan Brady and Professor Neelima Sinha, both of the Department of Plant Biology, co-authored the study with colleagues from their labs, UC Riverside and Emory University. David Slipher/UC Davis
Of the major food crops, only rice is currently able to survive flooding. Thanks to new research, published in Science, that could soon change—good news for a world in which rains are increasing in both frequency and intensity. The rice genes identified in flooding adaptation are found in other plants, potentially opening the door to other flood-resistant crops.

“This is the first time that a flooding response has been looked at in a way that was this comprehensive, across evolutionarily different species.”

Siobhan Brady , associate professor of plant biology

“In the face of an unpredictable climate, we’re really focused on drought, but flooding is just as bad and has devastating effects when it happens.”
Neelima Sinha , professor of plant biology
News Highlights
ALUMNI PROFILE Revolutionizing Breast Cancer Treatment with Lasker Award Winner H. Michael Shepard
College of Biological Sciences alumnus H. Michael Shepard, ’73 B.S. in Zoology, and his colleagues received the 2019 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for the groundbreaking foundational research that led to the creation of the drug Herceptin. Herceptin treats HER2-positive breast cancer, an aggressive cancer that more than 50,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with each year.
VIDEO Getting to the Core of Clamming with Marine and Coastal Sciences Undergrad Tessa Filipczyk
Every summer, the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory offers summer classes to undergraduate students interested in coastal and marine sciences. Tessa Filipczyk spent her summer taking classes and conducting her original research on the effects of clamming.
VIDEO Building Mini-Organs to Fight Pancreatic Cancer
Chang-il Hwang, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, studies pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers. While it only accounts for 3 percent of cancers nationwide, 91 percent of patients succumb to the illness within five years of diagnosis.

Hwang is using organoid models to help develop better cancer detection and therapies.
Mitochondrial Chitter-Chatter: Unveiling the Molecular Structures of Cellular Respiration
In order to generate energy, our bodies transfer electrons from food—sugars, fats and proteins—to molecular oxygen, which allows our cells to respire and function. This process creates ATP, the “molecular currency” of energy in the cell. In a Molecular Cell study, James Letts, assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology, reveals the molecular structure of some of these complexes.
Gatekeeper of the Cellular Highway: Study Reveals Novel Behaviors of the Alzheimer’s Disease Protein Tau
In a new study appearing in Nature Cell Biology, Kassandra Ori-McKenney and Richard McKenney, assistant professors of molecular and cellular biology, found that tau molecules can congregate together in a novel, reversible way, which appears to be distinct from the irreversible tangle formations observed in neurodegenerative diseases.
Discovering Curiosity
Explore how a passion for science propelled our faculty on the path to research
Sometimes after school, Richard Grosberg would ride his bike to the Santa Monica Pier from his home in West Los Angeles. He’d play at the penny arcade until his pockets were coinless and then would descend beneath the pier, where he’d spy on crabs, barnacles, mussels and sea stars. He’d swim in the surf and then return home.

For Grosberg, the director of the UC Davis Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute, the ocean is a continual source of fascination. 

“We’re trying to improve the lot of humanity. And that often, for people like me, is through bringing together diverse groups of colleagues to advance our understanding of natural and human systems, and sharing that information with our students, the public and policymakers.”

– Richard Grosberg ,
distinguished professor of evolution and ecology

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