Posts byDat Mai

Staff listing, Fall 2018

Editor in Chief Dat Mai Editors Katie Deets Emily Hartman Kyle Hemes Tim Jeffers Nanticha Lutt Hayley McCausland George Otto Copy Editors Zeke Barger Kristen Hwang Molly Lapoint Managing Editor Hayley McCausland Art Director Nicole Repina Designers Amanda Bischoff Jing Dai Emily Gonthier Dana Goodacre Mackenzie Kirchner-Smith Liz Lawler Kazuomori Lewis Nicole Repina Kurtresha Worden
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Faux photosynthesis

Through photosynthesis, plants have been turning solar energy and carbon dioxide (CO22 faster than today’s plants can absorb it, leading to climate change and a dwindling fossil fuel supply. Plants themselves are not that efficient. Most convert less than 1 percent of the available solar energy to chemical form. To re-capture CO2 emissions and ensure
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Faculty profile

The first thing I noticed walking into Professor Jennifer Listgarten’s office—before seeing large computer screens and a whiteboard full of colorful equations—was her expression of excitement. “This is the cutting site,” she exclaims, holding up a 3D model of Cas9, the enzyme behind the famous gene editing technology CRISPR. Listgarten received her PhD in computer
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Fake news?

Ash Bhat and Rohan Phadte first became aware of the issue of fake news after attending a protest at UC Berkeley against right-wing provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, in September 2017. They found that their experience of the protest was not at all what they saw represented on social media the next day. “The thing that was
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Making meat mindfully

Kimberlie Le watches, fascinated, as mechanical jaws chew down over and over again on a juicy salmon burger. She jots down notes about how the meat crumbles and mashes together. Later, she will use data from high-precision instrumentation to see which flavors make up the unique taste of the salmon. All of this work is
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Old fight, new tools

On April 24, 1980, San Francisco resident Ken Horne was diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma. He died the next year and would later be recognized as having the first case of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the United States. In 1981, five previously healthy men in Los Angeles were diagnosed with a rare form of pneumonia
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A breath of fresh air

The Tinkertoy Construction Set was created in 1914 by Charles H. Pajeau, and over the past century, the iconic collection of wheels, sticks, and various other pieces have entertained generations of children. While the materials have changed over time from wood to plastic, and new pieces have been introduced, the Tinkertoy Construction Set remains at
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Down a dusty interstellar road

Pieces of charcoal at the heart of a bonfire can reach temperatures over 1,000 degrees Celsius. That sounds like a lot of heat, but it’s quite cool compared to the Sun, where core temperatures hit 15 million degrees Celsius. If anyone who has struggled to light a campfire is wondering how much heat was needed
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Get on the brain train

Calamitous accidents leading to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), sudden strokes, and neurological diseases like major depressive disorder or Parkinson’s disease can all lead to cognitive impairment. Brains are inherently fragile and complex, and no two patients are identical, so options for medical intervention in these cases have historically been limited. However, researchers at UC
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Machine learning: Chapter 3

On July 4, 2012, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle collider in Geneva, Switzerland, announced that they had discovered the Higgs boson—a fundamental particle that is believed to play a key role in giving mass to the matter in our universe. Scientists had been chasing this particle for over 40 years, and observing
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Machine learning: Chapter 2

You leave your phone unlocked on the table and someone nearby plays a stream of white noise, causing your phone to open a website with malware. A malicious person has tricked the phone by strategically embedding a hidden message in the white noise. It is possible to manipulate machines by figuring out how they make
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OK Google, what is “machine learning”?

You may find yourself Googling “machine learning” as you dive into the following articles. What you will quickly find is that the search engine you use to learn about machine learning uses the exact method you are hoping to understand. Machine learning has become highly pervasive in our society over the last several years—from product
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Machine learning: Chapter 1

Zak Costello believes that one day, many common chemicals will be made simply from sugars. Instead of using petroleum-based, non-renewable sources, engineered bacteria and fungi will consume sugars and convert them to biochemical products such as fuel, materials, and even flavors and fragrances. And computers will help us get there. In fact, a version of
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From the field

With a Starbucks coffee in hand, I enter the Valley Life Sciences Building and shuffle past the looming resident T-Rex skeleton. I make a right at a prehistoric, fishlike fossil and take the seldom-used freight elevator to the lab—office, really. I walk past some headphone-clad lab members as they tap away at their keyboards. When
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Understanding autism

The underlying causes of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are challenging to understand. Even when researchers can identify a genetic mutation that causes ASD, the precise way in which the mutation affects the brain is often mysterious. Researchers in the lab of Dr. Helen Bateup have made strides in understanding
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Out of the frying pan, into the lungs

For those with asthma, quality of life is directly linked with the quality of the air around them. When we think about air pollution, we often imagine poisonous smoke emanating from industrial chimneys or gas-guzzling vehicles churning out exhaust. However, a recent study by UC Berkeley researchers suggests that asthma sufferers might be put at
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Riding on her coattails

Sometimes finding the right angle to control disease-spreading pests can come from looking a bit more closely at tiny Drosophila fruit fly testes. Emily Landeen, a UC Berkeley postdoc in the Bachtrog lab, pairs distant populations of Drosophila miranda flies together, one from Canada and one from California, and peeks into the vials to examine
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Thirsty for microbes

In recent decades, biologists have discovered that the trillions of microbes that inhabit our skin and digestive tract profoundly influence our health. An unhealthy imbalance in these so-called “microbial communities” are now linked to malnourishment, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. Expanding from this research in humans, plant scientists are now seeing that specific bacteria can help
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From the Editor

Dear Readers, Any tour of UC Berkeley’s campus includes some of its key landmarks. Strawberry Creek cutting through the center of campus from east to west. The iconic Campanile clock tower ringing every hour. Sather Gate welcomes students to campus. Recently, though, visitors and newcomers have been enamored with a new UC Berkeley feature—small, autonomous,
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From the Editor

Dear Readers,   Another year has come and another spring has arrived. A stroll around the campus shows a bustling student body even larger than the year before. Undoubtedly, amongst the crowd are scientists who are trying to solve a problem related to this population increase. As there becomes more of us, how can we
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Staff Listing, Spring 2018

Editor in Chief Dat Mai Editors Zeke Barger Katie Deets Kyle Hemes Tim Jeffers Nanticha Lutt Hayley McCausland George Otto Copy Editors Dana Goodacre Molly Lapoint Ana Lyons Managing Editor Katie Deets Art Director Ashley Truxal Designers Cameron Baker Amanda Bischoff Jing Dai Thai Dao Nicole Repina Emily Hartman Mackenzie Kirchner-Smith Elija Mehlferber Alexandra Ramsey
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Toolbox—Perovskites

Perovskite, made of eight repeating octahedral units, has a high solar power conversion efficiency which may make solar cells more economical. Due to its high efficiency and unique crystal structure, it has been the topic of various research endeavors with the potential to advance solar technology. The term ”perovskite” is used to describe a crystal
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Jose M. Carmena

The brain—or as Dr. Jose Carmena calls it, “the ultimate frontier”—has immense capabilities. It regulates our biological processes, initiates our actions, harbors our conscience, and stores the knowledge we use to understand the world. To expand our understanding of this ultimate frontier, UC Berkeley professor and co-director of the Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses
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3D printing the future

As 3D printing has become a more common option for designers and builders, researchers are exploring replacing the plastic printing material they use, with natural alternatives. Using biological materials such as plant fibers and bio-derived resins helps reduce the environmental impact of 3D printing, and can also help inspire us about new ways to construct
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Road to longevity

Jeanne Calment died at the astounding age of 122 years, 3 months, and 6 days—the oldest recorded living person. Jeanne was reputed to still be smoking, drinking, and indulging in her native rich French cuisine well into her triple digits. Given the rarity of such longevity, why did Jeanne live as long as she did?
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A decentralized future

Almost every aspect of our life is routed through a central clearinghouse before it reaches us. Our money is dispensed through banks, our electricity is controlled by power companies, and the webpages we access are filtered by Google. However, massive security breaches, transparency concerns, and a desire for tighter control of personal information are pushing
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Powered by life

You are feeling sick. Your doctor wants to monitor you for a few weeks, so you are given a miniaturized implant—a sensor that measures various metabolite levels in your system and sends them to your doctor to assess. If the monitor senses an imbalance in your system, it can inform the doctor immediately. But this
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Plant protectors

Tucked away behind the UC Berkeley football stadium lies a phantasmagoria of towering cacti and flowers. The UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (UCBG) is both a destination for an easy afternoon with visiting parents and an homage to the sheer variety of forms plant life can take. It is particularly stunning in the spring when many
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Biofabrication

The tags on our clothes, the soles of our shoes, even the backs of our phones may one day read: “Made by Biology.” Over millennia cells have evolved to construct materials as diverse as wood, glass, and even glue. Rather than use toxic chemicals and high pressure or heat, this architectural power comes from instructions
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Pushing the envelope

Most of us have been there: delicately balancing an overflowing cup of coffee while rushing to work. Some of us have even risked a light jog with our precious cargo. This careful balancing act may be impressive for a human, but it hardly matches the stunts regularly performed by hummingbirds. Professor Robert Dudley, the principal
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Guardians of the brain galaxy

As we develop in the womb, billions of neurons come together to build the complex network that will become our brain. But what organizes and protects these neurons as they shape our future self? Neuron formation and maintenance results in a lot of cellular waste that requires rapid clearance from the brain to avoid tissue
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Sizing up awe

Imagine standing on the beach, looking out at the vast ocean. There is no land in sight on the horizon. The depth of the water seems immeasurable. When confronted with a scene like this, many people feel a powerful emotion: awe. Berkeley psychologists have found that the causes of awe depend on culture, but its
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From the Field

On August 17th, 2017, lightning and thunder from a cosmic storm 130 million light years away reached the Earth. Two neutron stars, each heavier than our Sun but small enough to fit in the Bay Area, orbited one another in a nearby galaxy. In their movement, they emitted gravitational waves (GWs), ripples in space-time that
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Plantation peril

Replacing rainforests with farms has many obvious consequences, but a recent paper from Nature Communications suggests that the ecological effect of deforestation is even greater than previously imagined. In this study, researchers, including several from UC Berkeley, showed that species that thrive in farmlands can negatively affect ecosystems of rainforests nearby—even if those rainforests are
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Pumping iron: ferrosomes

Bacteria are not as simple as most of us think. While the widespread definition of a bacterium is simply a single-celled organism without any specialized sub-cellular compartments called organelles, such a blanket statement fails to take into account the discoveries of many types of bacterial organelles. Examples include the anammoxsome, a large compartment that allows
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Ant speak

An army of ants charge quickly into the kitchen, waging war on a nearby pantry. As unwelcome houseguests, they take food, shelter, and whatever resources that come their way. For millions of homeowners, Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) can be a nightmare of a pest. Adept at living in large metropolitan areas, these invasive ants have
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Whatever floats your stone

Pumice can be seen bobbing towards the ocean surface and clustering together to form massive pumice rafts after underwater volcanoes erupt. These rafts will travel across oceans, carrying coral, barnacles, algae, and other sea life, increasing biodiversity. At the same time, pumice are ocean hazards threatening to damage and stall ship engines. The pumice’s dual
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From the Editor

Dear Readers, Autumn has arrived, with its crisp air and bustling streets. Sidewalks and coffee shops teem with students and researchers, chatting, exchanging ideas, and discussing science. In many ways, science is forged through these connections—between people, concepts, techniques—as ideas become woven together into true progress. In this issue of the Berkeley Science Review, several
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Life on the edge

Did life evolve somewhere else? Of course,” says Richard Mathies, chemistry professor at UC Berkeley. Mathies is developing the technology to explore extraterrestrial life in our solar system and beyond. “What does it look like? I’m not sure.” Recent advances in space exploration technology have led to an explosion of newly discovered exoplanets in our
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BSR and Beyond

If you’ve read any Berkeley Science Review (BSR) article, you know one of our goals—to tell engaging stories about UC Berkeley research. But hidden within the glossy pages of the magazine is our second, less obvious mission. In producing the BSR, we work together and teach each other how to write, design, edit, and publicize
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