College News: 2016-17

Opening the Way Back to University for Syrian Refugees

Keith Watenpaugh

June 2017  — Since 2013, an international team of university professionals, and human rights professionals led by UC Davis Professor and Director of Human Rights Studies, Keith David Watenpaugh  have been seeking ways to address the impact of the war in Syria on higher education and in particular how to help young refugees return to university.

New Imagining America Director Talk About What's Next

Kohl-Arenas new IA director


June 2017 - Erica Kohl-Arenas, who holds a master's degree from UC Davis, will lead the Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life consortium when it officically lands at UC Davis July 1. IA is dedicated to fostering community partnerships, public scholarship and social equity in higher education through the arts, humanities and design.
Kohl-Arenas was most recently a faculty member of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School in New York City.

Religion Professor Wins Book Award

Eva Mroczek, an assistant professor of religion, has won the DeLong Book History Book Prize for The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity. UC Davis

June 16, 2017 - Eva Mroczek, an assistant professor of religion, has won the DeLong Book History Book Prize for The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity. An announcement of the award states “stripping away scholarly assumptions about early Jewish literary culture, this study tackles the scraps, fragments and scrolls that have, over the centuries, been imaginatively ordered – often, as Mroczek shows, erroneously – into a coherent canon.”

Volcanic Crystals Give a New View of Magma

Mount Tarawera

June 15, 2017 — Volcanologists are gaining a new understanding of what’s going on inside the magma reservoir that lies below an active volcano, and they’re finding a colder, more solid place than previously thought, according to new research. This new view of how volcanoes work could eventually help volcanologists get a better idea of when a volcano poses the most risk.

'The Other Slavery' Wins California Book Award

Historian Andrés Reséndez speaking

June 15, 2017 — UC Davis professor of history Andrés Reséndez accepted a California Book Award on Monday, June 12, for The Other Slavery, the latest in a series of honors for his history of Native American enslavement.

Rewriting the History of Our Species

Journal cover showing human skull fossil

June 7, 2017 — New fossil finds from the Jebel Irhoud archaeological site in Morocco do more than push back the origins of our species by 100,000 years. They also reveal what was on the menu for our oldest-known Homo sapiens ancestors 300,000 years ago. Read about the findings of Teresa Steele, a UC Davis paleoanthropologist who analyzed animal fossils at Jebel Irhoud.

MFA Faith Sponsler Wins First Keister & Allen Award

faith sponsler MFA UC davis

June 2, 2017 - Faith Sponsler, a graduating studio art MFA student, is the first recipient of the Keister & Allen Art Purchase Prize. The award is a purchase of a student’s artwork for the collection of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. 

English Graduate Wins Pen America Award

Angela Morales

June 1, 2017Angela Morales (English, ’91) has won a Pen America Literary Award for her book of essays The Girls in My Town. The autobiographical essays are about growing up in Los Angeles.

First Student Show at UC Davis Manetti Shrem Museum Embraces Art, Design, Creative Writing, Music and More


May 2017 - UC Davis will break down the walls of the exhibition box with the graduate student exhibition “from this point forward” May 27 - June 30. The first student show at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, it will include art and design work, a sound installation, and performances and presentations by 28 graduate students from six departments. 

Tiny Shells Indicate Big Changes to Global Carbon Cycle

Bodega Marine Lab fieldwork

May 25, 2017 — Experiments with tiny, shelled organisms in the ocean suggest big changes to the global carbon cycle are underway, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. 

New Technique Provides Earthquake Risk for Major Cities Worldwide

Tokyo nowcast

May 22, 2017 — Scientists have developed snapshots of the likelihood of major earthquakes occurring in megacities around the world using a new statistical approach for estimating earthquake risk.

Synestia, a New Type of Planetary Object


May 21, 2017 — There’s something new to look for in the heavens, and it’s called a “synestia,” according to planetary scientists Simon Lock at Harvard University and Sarah Stewart at the University of California, Davis. A synestia, they propose, would be a huge, spinning, donut-shaped mass of hot, vaporized rock, formed as planet-sized objects smash into each other.

Chemists Recognized For Inclusion And Diversity

Dean Tantillo

May 16, 2017 — The Royal Society of Chemistry recently awarded its 2017 Inclusion and Diversity Prize to chemistry professor Dean Tantillo and alumnus Hoby “Henry” Wedler for their work to make chemistry accessible to blind students.


Refining the Ocean’s Thermometer

May 16, 2017 — One of the best records of past ocean temperatures can be found in the shells of marine creatures called foraminifera. Recent experiments led by UC Davis scientists show magnesium levels vary in foram shells due to different growth rates during daily light/dark cycles.

Undergraduates to Showcase Research in Chemistry and Religious Studies

Larock research conference

May 2017 — The outstanding research of undergraduates in the College of Letters and Science will be featured at two upcoming conferences beginning on May 20.

Scholar Will Give Talk on Sikh Sacred Music

May 2017 - Inderjit Kaur, a research associate in the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at UC Davis, will give a talk on Sikh sacred music May 16 at 6 p.m. 

Japanese Prisoners Held by Soviet Union Topic of Talk at UC Davis


May 2017 -  Growing up in Japan, Haruko Sakakibara spent time around her uncle, but never knew much about him. Sakakibara, a lecturer in the UC Davis Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, later learned that her uncle was one of about 600,000 Japanese people imprisoned by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II in 1945. She will give talks about this little-known period of history May 11 and 18.

Final Human Rights Talk Focuses on Attacks on Syrian Health Care


May 5, 2017 -  Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), outlined the horrendous impact of attacks on health care workers and facilities in Syria during the final Human Rights Studies lecture series talk at UC Davis. PHR is an independent, non-governmental agency founded in 1986.

Andy Albrecht Named Director Of QMAP

Andy Albrecht

May 2, 2017 — Distinguished Professor Andy Albrecht has been named director of the Center for Quantum Mathematics and Physics, or QMAP.

Clues to Life on Mars in a Polluted California Mine

Iron Mountain

April 28, 2017 — To find evidence of life on Mars, scientists from UC Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey are chasing clues in Mars-like environments on Earth.

Study to Model Human Memory and Learning for Machines

illustration of human brain with areas involved in memory marked by various initials

April 27, 2017 — A multi-university study led by a psychology Professor Charan Ranganath aims to develop a computer model of how the brain forms, stores and retrieves complex memories. The project — recently awarded a $7.5 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Defense — could lead to an evolutionary leap in the development of artificial intelligence. It could also open new avenues for understanding Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other memory disorders.

Attacks on Health Care in Syria Topic of Final Human Rights Talk


April 2017 -  For the final talk in the Human Rights Studies lecture series at UC Davis this year, Susannah Sirkin,  director of international policy and partnerships at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), will present "Killing Doctors in the War on Syria." The talk, free and open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. May 4 at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Museum of Art.

Learn About Cuban Music at Talk

April 2017- Raúl Fernández, emeritus professor, UC Irvine, will give a talk titled “Cuban Music: Notes and Notables Since 1959” at 4 p.m. May 11 at UC Davis’ Olson Hall, Room 53A. Fernández illustrates the ways in which these music genres have remained a living and transformative tradition in Cuba since the 1959 Revolution.

‘Cleopatra’ author to give Lunn Lecture

Portrait photo of author Stacy Schiff

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff will take listeners “In the Archives” on Wednesday, May 3, when she gives the annual Lunn Memorial Lecture.

Human Rights Talk: Indigenous Children Forced Into Boarding School Was ‘Cultural Genocide’

portrait photo

April 21, 2017 — Margaret Jacobs, a UC Davis graduate and award-winning scholar, is an expert on the forced removal of indigenous children from their families in Australia, Canada and the U.S., and efforts at reconciliation for these past wrongs. Jacobs, a professor in history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, gave the talk “Indigenous Children’s Rights and Settler Colonial Wrongs,” as part of the Human Rights Studies Program lecture series April 20.

Letters & Science Faculty Receive Academic Senate Awards

April 2017 - Recognized for excellence by their peers, three faculty in the College of Letters and Science have received service and teaching awards.

Retrospective by Founding Art Faculty Roy De Forest

Roy De Forest, UC Davis faculty member, funk, Oakland Museum

April 2017 - The first comprehensive retrospective by Roy De Forest, a founding faculty member of the UC Davis art department, opens at the Oakland Museum of California April 29 and runs through Aug. 20.

Two Aggies on Staff of Pulitzer-Prize Winning Paper

Portrait photo of UC Davis alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Matthias Gafni

April 2017 — Investigative reporter Matthias Gafni (B.A, English/rhetoric and communication, ’98), who got his journalism start at The California Aggie, was a lead writer in a series of articles that won the East Bay Times the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. Gafni is one of two UC Davis alumni on the East Bay Times staff.

Pattern Discovery over Pattern Recognition: A New Way for Computers to See

climate model

April 17, 2017 — Physics professor Jim Crutchfield, along with physics graduate student Adam Rupe and postdoc Ryan James, is designing new machine learning systems to allow supercomputers to spot large-scale atmospheric structures, such as hurricanes and atmospheric rivers, in climate data. 

Anthropologist Receives Two Fellowships to Write Book on Ecuador Oil Pollution Case

portrait photo

April 2017 — Suzana Sawyer, who is writing a book on a long-running lawsuit against Chevron, is named an American Council of Learned Societies and UC Faculty Research fellow.

Bancroft Prize-Winning Alum Joins Human Rights Lecture Series

Portrait photo of historian and UC Davis alumna Margaret Jacobs

April 2017 — Margaret Jacobs, an award-winning historian at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a UC Davis alumna, returns to campus Thursday, April 20, to give a talk about her research on the forced removal of indigenous children in North America and Australia.

7 Cool Facts About Math and Statistics at UC Davis

math graduate student

April 11, 2017 — Math and statistics play a vital role in helping us understand the natural world and in technological innovation.

Long Ago and Far Away, an Average Galaxy

Keck telescope image

April 10, 2017 — Astronomers led by a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, have discovered one of the most distant galaxies in the universe, and it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

NSF Grant Funds Math For National Security

April 10, 2017 — Applying mathematics to detect chemical weapons, hidden explosives or other threats is the goal of an ongoing project at the UC Davis Department of Mathematics, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

Tiny Black Holes Enable a New Type of Photodetector for High-Speed Data

tiny black holes

April 3, 2017 — Tiny “black holes” on a silicon wafer make for a new type of photodetectorthat could move more data at lower cost around the world or across a data center.

Native American Studies Professor Wins Mellon Fellowship

Liza Grandia Native American Studies professor

April 2017 — Liza Grandia, associate professor of Native American studies at the University of California, Davis, has received a $270,000 Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship. The fellowship will allow her to study toxicology and environmental epidemiology to become “a more productive interlocutor” between indigenous communities and the environmental health sciences.

Picnic Day 2017 Activities With College of Letters and Science

chemistry student with experiment in flames

April 2017 — Join the UC Davis College of Letters and Science on Picnic Day 2017! Check out our specially curated pick of events with an L&S flavor, including the wildly popular Chemistry Show, the annual Fashion Show, free performances by the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble, and hands-on activities in geology, physics, math and stats.

Two Letters and Science Graduate Programs Jump Into Top 20 of US News & World Report Rankings

April 2017 — UC Davis College of Letters and Science graduate programs in political science and English have jumped to the top 20 in the 2018 U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) graduate program rankings, released on March 14, 2017.

New Twist on Sofa Problem That Stumped Mathematicians and Furniture Movers

Ambidextrous moving sofa

March 20, 2017 — Most of us have struggled with the mathematical puzzle known as the “moving sofa problem.” It poses a deceptively simple question: What is the largest sofa that can pivot around an L-shaped hallway corner? Inspired by his passion for 3-D printing, math professor Dan Romik recently tackled a twist on the sofa problem called the ambidextrous moving sofa.

Historian Wins Bancroft Prize for 'The Other Slavery'

book cover showing southwestern scenery

March 14, 2017 — A landmark history by Professor Andrés Reséndez, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, is the winner of a 2017 Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy.

UC Davis Scientists Boost Production in Green Cell Factories

Shota Atsumi and Austin Carroll

March 13, 2017 — Cyanobacteria, one of Earth’s oldest life forms, offer a promising new source of petroleum-free fuels and chemicals. However, economies of scale currently make it challenging for these tiny creatures to compete with fossil fuels. Now, scientists at UC Davis are closer to meeting these challenges with a new advance that improves the production and growth rate of cyanobacteria.

EconoFact Site Features Analyses by UC Davis Faculty

March 10, 2017 — Four UC Davis economists have joined forced with colleagues across the country on a new online publication, EconoFact, to bring fact-based analysis to the national debate on economic and social policy issues.

New San Francisco Young Alumni Program

Lauren Levin and Jacqueline Wells

Lauren Levin '11 and Jacqueline Wells '06

March 2017 — When Lauren Levin (B.A., communications, ‘11) and Jacqueline Wells (B.A., English, ‘06) wanted to connect with a group of College of Letters and Science young alumni in the Bay Area and found no such group existed, they did what Aggies do: they made it happen themselves. Now the newly-formed San Francisco Young Alumni Program of the College of Letters and Science is off and running.

Design Collection Named for Professor Emerita

woman's dress UC Davis design collecton

March 7, 2017 - The UC Davis Design collection has been named after Jo Ann Stabb, the person who started it. Professor emerita Stabb taught at UC Davis from 1968 to 2002 and remains active as a scholar. The naming was announced at an event March 5 attended by nearly 70 of Stabb’s colleagues and former students. 

New Types of Structures for Cage-Like Clathrates

Kovnir journal cover

March 6, 2017 — Cage-like compounds called clathrates could be used for harvesting waste heat and turning it into electricity. UC Davis chemists just discovered a whole new class of clathrates, potentially opening new ways to make and apply these materials.

Four UC Davis Art Professors Have Solo Shows in New York

Gina Werfel, UC Davis art professor painting

March 2, 2017 - UC Davis art faculty Annabeth Rosen, Shiva Ahmadi, Robin Hill and Gina Werfel all have exhibitions in New York this month.

Watch Jain Studies Chair Keynote Video

Laurie Patton gave keynote at announcement of Jain Chair at UC Davis


February 2017 — The UC Davis Department of Religious Studies held an event Feb. 21 announcing creation of the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair in Jain Studies. Professor Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College and a leading scholar of South Asian literature, religion and culture, gave the keynote address. Video of talk. 

Scholars Talk Indian Performance and Research


March 2017 — For “Indian Music Between Past and Present: Conversations on Ethics, Archives, and Mortality,” two visiting scholars will explore the rich history of Indian music and dance and the ethical issues of studying and writing about it. Their talk is part of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speaker Series March 7.

Annaliese Franz Joins Undergraduate Research Center

Annaliese Franz

Feb. 23, 2017 — Annaliese Franz, associate professor of chemistry, has been named the new faculty director of the Undergraduate Research Center.

Sonic Arts Event Will Fill Entire Building With Sound


Feb, 24, 2017 - The entire Ann E. Pitzer Center at UC Davis will be filled with sound for a “Sonic Arts” event March 3. It will include an installation based on the memories and emotions that sounds evoke, a concert by pioneering musician Bob Ostertag, and demonstration of a vintage synthesizer. 

Digital Shakespeare and the Problem of Accessibility


Feb. 23, 2017 – Digital Shakespeare and the Problem of Accessibility Feb. 28 features two scholar-makers developing ways to make the works of Shakespeare available in new and fresh ways.

Thiebaud Lecture a Two-Fer With Critic and Artist


Feb. 23, 2017 - The third annual Betty Jean and Wayne Thiebaud Endowed Lecture at UC Davis will bring together critic and curator Karen Wilkin and painter Catherine Murphy. The presentation will take place March 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. The talk and the museum are free and open to the public.

National Book Award Finalist Reading


Feb. 21, 2017 - Two poets who were on 2016 National Book Award lists will read at UC Davis March 6.  Solmaz Sharif’s first poetry collection LOOK was a finalist for a National Book Award; Donika's Kelly's debut collection Bestiary was long-listed for the award. 

Symposium Offer New Views In to Black Radical Thought

Feb. 20, 2017 - New Directions in Black Radical Black Thought, a day long symposium Feb. 17 , explored literature, American imperialism, motherhood, black women and Buddhism among other topics. 

Museum Directors Talk Accessibility, Role of Museum, Their Time at UC Davis


Feb. 19, 2017 - Neal Benezra and Jock Reynolds have been leading major museums for years, but in the 1970s both were graduate students at UC Davis. Reynolds has headed the oldest art museum in the nation, the Yale University Art Gallery, for 20 years. Since 2002 Benezra has been director of one of the newest, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. They recently returned to UC Davis to talk about museums.

Colloquium Explored Impact of Ancient Rome


Feb. 19, 2017 - “The Life and Afterlife of Ancient Roman Architecture,” the fifth installment of the Templeton Colloquium in Art History, took place at UC Davis Feb. 10. Diane Favro, associate dean, School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA, and Nina Dubin, associate professor of art history, University of Illinois, Chicago, gave presentations at the well-attended event to about 160 people.

The 'Lasers' of Star Wars

Scinema promo

Feb. 17, 2017 — The first Scinema event at UC Davis will be Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. The event feature a showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a talk by UC Davis chemistry professor and laser expert Kyle Crabtree. Come learn why blasters and lightsabers aren’t lasers, how a real laser works and the cool ways scientists use lasers in their research.

Second Ko Lecture Highlights Sustainable Energy for Everyone

Dan Nocera

Feb. 16, 2017Daniel Nocera, a Harvard professor who helped pioneer artificial photosynthesis, recently told an audience at UC Davis that achieving a truly sustainable Earth will only happen by helping people living in poverty. 

$1.5 Million Gift for Presidential Chair for Jain Studies

mohini jain

Feb. 14, 2017 - Mohini Jain, philanthropist, retired teacher and longtime resident of Davis, has made a $1.5 million gift to the University of California, Davis, to advance the study of Jainism, one of the world’s most revered and ancient philosophies. The gift will establish the Mohini Jain Presidential Chair for Jain Studies in the Department of Religious Studies as part of a larger effort to position UC Davis as a leader in the study of Indian religions and the interdisciplinary field of South Asia studies broadly.

Exhibition Looks at Indigenous People’s Protests Past and Present


Feb. 14, 2017 - An exhibition at the C.N. Gorman Museum examines the history and current state of native peoples' protests with recent dispatches from Standing Rock.

Sperm Donor Identity: Who Wants To Know?

Feb. 10, 2017 — When it comes to seeking out a sperm donor’s identity, more than a third of adult offspring at a well-established California sperm bank want that information — if only to know more about him and his characteristics — or to “get a complete picture,” a newly published study has found. UC Davis' Egghead blog reports on the findings by Joanna Scheib, associate adjunct professor of psychology.

UC Davis Grads, Museum Directors Back to Speak On University Museums


February 2017 — They lead major museums, but the directors of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Yale University Art Gallery have another thing in common – both attended UC Davis. Yale University Art Gallery Director Jock Reynolds (M.F.A. ‘72) became director of the Yale Gallery in 1998. Neal Benezra (M.A, art history, ‘78) has headed the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco (SFMOMA) since 2002. The two joined Rachel Teagle, founding director of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, in a roundtable discussion Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. at the museum. The event was free and open to the public.

New Location, Bigger Lineup for Art Lecture Series


The long-running Art Studio Visiting Artist Lecture Series at UC Davis has a bigger lineup than usual along with a new, more public location for the new year. The series, featuring a wide range of artists and art scholars, will be held in the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art that opened in November. All the talks are free and open to the public.

MPS Day: Connect With Mathematical and Physical Sciences


February 2017 — MPS Day provided an overview of the five departments of the Division of Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS): Chemistry, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics. The Feb. 11 event also provided an introduction to graduate studies at UC Davis, information about applying from campus advisors, and an overview of the necessary steps to apply. 

Colloquium Highlights Sensory Aspects of Tea

ancient tea bowl from 9th century shipwreck

Feb. 6, 2017 — Fully experiencing tea involves not just five senses but six, says tea master Wingchi Ip: “The sixth sense is the mind.” A tea tasting led by Ip kicked off the second annual colloquium of the UC Davis Global Tea Initiative for the Study of Tea Culture and Science.

Humanities Institute Head on UN Panel (video)

Feb. 1, 2017 - Jaimey Fisher, recently named director of the UC Davis Humanities Institute and professor in the departments of German and in Cinema and Digital Media, was one of the featured speakers at the United Nations event “Holocaust Remembrance: Educating against Extremism, Building a Better Future.” He was on a panel examining the powerful propaganda that enabled the Nazis to successfully spread their racist ideology and gain influence. He spoke about education and its role in de-Nazification in Germany after World War II. Fisher is author of Disciplining Germany: Youth, Reeducation, and Reconstruction after the Second World War.
A video of the event can be seen here.

Day-long Symposium Explores New Research in Radical Black Thought


Feb. 1, 2017 - In this time of Black Lives Matter, the recent election, proposed reparations for slavery and a coming together of several strands of research, UC Davis is holding a day-long symposium “New Directions in Black Radical Thought.”