CCBER Receives Grant to Preserve Herbarium,
The Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) will soon have a new compact storage system to replace the herbarium’s World War II-era cabinets thanks to a $272,162 grant from the National Science Foundation, as well as the generosity of the family of former UCSB Chancellor Vernon Cheadle. In addition to preserving the massive collection of oak, conifer, and other plant specimens, the new storage system will be used to protect the center’s algae collection, one of the most significant collections of algal material from the central California coast.
Geologist Analyzes Earliest Shell-Covered Fossil Animals
The fossil remains of some of the first animals with shells, ocean-dwelling creatures that measure a few centimeters in length and date to about 520 million years ago, provide a window on evolution at this time, according to scientists. John Moore, a Ph.D. student in the earth sciences department, and his collaborators analyzed fossils from the epoch called the Early Cambrian. During this time in the history of the earth, there was a tremendous diversification of animal life in the oceans.
Scientists Make Major Advance in Solar Cell Technology
Guillermo Bazan, professor of chemistry and of materials, and a team of postgraduate researchers at the Center for Polymers and Organic Solids has announced a major advance in the synthesis of photovoltaic organic polymers, the key component that converts sunlight to electricity in plastic solar cells.
Bazan’s team reduced the chemical reaction time to create the polymers by 99 percent, and more than tripled the average molecular weight of the polymers.
The methododogy “will greatly accelerate research in this area,” Bazan said.
Studies of Human Life Span and Evolution of Physiology
A remote Amazonian tribe in central Bolivia may offer proof that heart attack and stroke — the leading causes of death in the United States and other developed countries — were rare occurrences throughout most of human history. The tribe, known as the Tsimane, may also prove that chronic inflammation, a condition currently associated with cardiovascular disease, may not play as great a role as medical research has suggested.
“What we discovered is that inflammation doesn’t always hold as one of the leading causes of heart disease,” said Michael Gurven, professor of anthropology. “Chronic inflammation in the absence of other factors doesn’t seem to increase heart disease.”
Gurven is studying the evolution of physiological systems that have contributed to humans’ ever-increasing life span, but have also made them susceptible to a host of chronic diseases. He believes that his continuing work with the Tsimane may call into question a variety of other commonly held medical beliefs.
Cancer Study Receives
$2.8 Million Grant
Errki Ruoslahti, professor at UCSB’s Burnham Institute for Medical Research, has received a $2.8 million award from the Department of Defense for research into detection and therapies for breast cancer using nanotechnology.
Ruoslahti’s team is developing new diagnostic tools that will improve early detection while reducing unnecessary procedures.
The use of targeted nanoparticles as a contrast agent can improve sensitivity and provide molecular information on suspect lesions that cannot be obtained by MRIs alone. The novel in-vivo tests will provide information not only on the presence of a tumor, but also on the stage of tumor development.