Areas of Expertise

Here, we feature just some of the research expertise that resides in the College of Letters and Science.

Carbon Storage

Calcium Carbonate's Potential

Alexandra Navrotsky, the Edward Roessler Chair in Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Distinguished Professor of Ceramic, Earth and Environmental Materials at UC Davis, says in the future we might extract carbon dioxide from power plant flues and the atmosphere and store it underground, initially as a dense gas in old mines and depleted oil reservoirs that would eventually turn into solid, stable calcium carbonate through chemical reactions.

Climate History

Several UC Davis professors study climate in the past (paleoclimate):

California droughts: Isabel Montañez, professor of geology, says California experienced centuries-long droughts in the past 20,000 years that coincided with the thawing of ice caps in the Arctic.

Ocean carbon: Howard Spero, professor of geology, has new information on the mechanism of carbon flow from the Earth's oceans at the end of the last ice age.

Ocean methane: Tessa Hill, assistant professor of geology, found that periods of warming temperatures during the last ice age triggered the release of methane from beneath the ocean.

Warmer Arctic: Geerat Vermeij, distinguished professor of geology, predicts that as the Arctic Ocean warms this century, shellfish, snails and other animals from the Pacific Ocean will resume an invasion of the northern Atlantic that was interrupted by cooling conditions 3 million years ago.

Earthquakes and Their Aftermath

Earthquakes, Faults, Geology

John Rundle, distinguished professor of physics, can discuss the causes of earthquakes, why they occur where they do, and how we can forecast where earthquakes are most likely to occur in the future. With colleagues at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Rundle developed the "Virtual California" earthquake forecast. He also co-founded a startup company, the Open Hazards Group, that produces earthquake forecasts including a mobile app. Contact: (530) 400-4970 (cell),

Michael Oskin, professor of earth and planetary sciences, studies earthquakes and seismicity. He has carried out studies of the faults involved in the earthquakes that struck Haiti and Mexicali, just south of the U.S. border, in 2010. Contact: (530) 400-8595,

Energy Efficiency

Saving on Lighting

Michael Siminovitch, director of the UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center and a professor of design, can discuss the campus’ Smart Lighting Initiative; adaptive, networked lighting and how more efficient lighting systems can lead to energy savings throughout the nation. The CLTC conducts both cooperative and independent activities with lighting manufacturers, electric utilities and the design/engineering professional community.

Daylighting in Buildings

Architect and daylighting specialist Konstantinos Papamichael, associate director of the UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center and a professor of design, can talk about improving the use of daylight in building design. 

Immigation and Migration

Immigration Policy and the Economy

Giovanni Peri, professor of economics, studies immigration’s effect on the economy. He is also the director of the “Interdisciplinary Migration Cluster” at UC Davis, a network of faculty in various disciplines researching immigration. He is co-author of “Overhauling the Temporary Work Visa System,” a publication of The Hamilton Project, an initiative of the Brookings Institution. He wrote an opinion piece forThe Wall Street Journal in February detailing how comprehensive immigration reform could greatly improve the economy, partly by keeping foreign scientists and engineers in the country to conduct important research and create jobs. His research is further detailed on his faculty profile

Immigration Policy and Public Opinion

Brad Jones, professor of political science, focuses on racial and ethnic politics including Latino voting behavior and Latino public opinion as well as voting behavior more generally. He is also an expert on immigration policy and public opinion regarding immigration. Finally, he speaks to issues regarding polling and survey methodology.

Immigration, Families and Health

Assistant professor of sociology Erin Hamilton studies the causes and consequences of migration, focusing on families, child wellbeing, and health, and migration between Central America and Mexico and the United States. Her recent studies examine re-migration intentions among deported fathers in El Salvador, the infant health in migrant-sending communities in Mexico, patterns of health disparities across generations of children in the United States, and family migration decisions from Mexico to the United States.

Immigration Detention, Undocumented Youth

Caitlin Patler, assistant professor of sociology, can discuss immigration detention policy, executive action on deferred action programs (DACA and DAPA), and the situation of undocumented youth and families. She will be testifying at the California Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 14 as the body considers a series of state legislative actions to protect immigrants’ due-process rights. Patler’s research is informed by more than 15 years of work in immigrants’ rights organizations focused on immigration detention, access to education for undocumented youth, and low-wage labor markets.

Migration and Border Struggles

Maurice Stierl is a Mellon visiting assistant professor for comparative border studies at UC Davis. His research and teaching focus on migration and border struggles in contemporary Europe and North Africa in discourse and practice. Stierl is an active member of the activist project WatchTheMed Alarm Phone, which created a “hotline” for migrants in distress at sea when traveling toward Europe. The Alarm Phone network, consisting of more than 100 human rights and freedom of movement activists located in Africa, Europe and the United States, has been able to connect with thousands of travelers in acute emergency situations since October 2014 and has thereby directly intervened into the most deadly border zone of the world. He can speak about the dramatic socio-political transformations currently occurring within and beyond Europe, sparked by migration movements. He is the author of “No One Is Illegal! – Resistance and the Politics of Discomfort” (2012), published in Globalizations.

Human Smuggling

David Kyle, professor of sociology, is an expert on human smuggling and trafficking of people globally. His volume on the topic, Global Smuggling: Comparative Perspectives, is now in its second edition, and a third edition is in the works. A documentary on the book that aired on PBS and other outlets was called Dying to Leave. 

Immigration and the U.S.-Mexico Border

Rachel St. John, professor of history, is an expert on the history of the U.S.-Mexico border and can speak about the history of the southern border, border control, border walls and fences, immigration and transborder movement, and border issues in general. Her first book, Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border, was published in 2011. She has spoken about border issues on NPR, and her work has been published in a variety of historical journals. 

Andrés Reséndez, professor of history, has published books on the history of the border between Mexico and the United States, the early colonization of the Americas, and Mexico’s history more broadly. His latest book, The Other Slavery, was a finalist for the National Book Award and was long-listed for the PEN Literary Award in nonfiction. 

Romance and Relationships

Romance, Sex and Pleasure in Film

Pamela Demory, a lecturer in the UC Davis University Writing Program, studies themes of romance, sex and pleasure in such films as Jane Austen adaptations, the “Twilight” series, and those with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes. Demory teaches popular film in her "Writing in Film Studies" courses, and film adaptations in her "Film as Narrative" course. She is co-editor of “Queer Love in Film and Television,” a collection of essays to be published by Palgrave Macmillan later in 2013. She can comment on current releases such as "Warm Bodies," a film that is “apparently a mash-up of one of the most important ‘serious’ literary romances of all time (Romeo and Juliet) with the latest lowbrow cult craze: the zombie flick.” 

Marriage and Romance

Emilio Ferrer, a professor of psychology, has done extensive research on people’s romantic relationships, including analyzing how couples communicate over time (and whether they stay together), how well they are in sync emotionally and even how their heart rates and breathing rates compare. His research with human subjects has been publicized nationally in popular media as well as a number of scholarly journals. His latest studies are covered in a recent news release.

On Relationships

Frances Dolan, distinguished professor of English, has examined marriage through a historical lens in her book “Marriage and Violence: The Early Modern Legacy.” Her work concludes that we have inherited a flawed model of marriage that is revealed when a marriage explodes into violence. This understanding provides an opportunity to re-envision the erotic and emotional possibilities of equality in marriage.

Solid State Science

We are building one of the world’s strongest research programs in solid state science in departments across several colleges. This exciting field forms the basis for development and applications of new materials technologies and includes a broad range of study from quantum mechanics, metals, ceramics and polymers to electronic, magnetic and optical materials and nanostructures. In 2016 UC Davis hired nine young solid state scientists who show exceptional promise of significant future achievement. Our new hires join more than 30 faculty who are recognized leaders in solid state theory and experimentation.


Racial Profiling, Counterterrorism

Sunaina Maira is a professor of Asian American studies. She can speak about racial profiling, counterterrorism, and “radicalization” of Muslim youth and “homegrown terrorists.” She is the author of “Desis in the House: Indian American Youth Culture in New York City” and “Missing: Youth, Citizenship, and Empire After 9/11.” She co-edited “Contours of the Heart: South Asians Map North America,” which won the American Book Award in 1997, and “Youthscapes: The Popular, the National, and the Global.” Maira’s recent publications include a monograph based on ethnographic research, “Jil [Generation] Oslo: Palestinian Hip Hop, Youth Culture, and the Youth Movement” (Tadween), and a volume co-edited with Piya Chatterjee, “The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent” (University of Minnesota Press). Her new book project is a study of South Asian, Arab, and Afghan American youth and political movements focused on civil and human rights and issues of sovereignty and surveillance in the War on Terror.

Middle East Terrorism, Osama bin Laden

UC Davis religious studies professor Flagg Miller is a terrorism expert. He has examined how Western intelligence and terrorism experts, together with global media networks, helped fuel Osama bin Laden’s growing reputation in ways that were exploited by bin Laden and those who supported his militant vision. Miller’s recent book “The Audacious Ascetic” examined bin Laden’s role in terrorism. Miller’s work examines the contents of bin Laden’s personal audiotape library, a collection of more than 1,500 tapes acquired from his residence in Qandahar, Afghanistan, by CNN in 2001. Miller has been the sole researcher to study and publish findings on the tapes. He has worked as a linguistic anthropologist in Yemen, bin Laden’s ancestral homeland, and is the author of the book, “The Moral Resonance of Arab Media: Audiocassette Poetry and Culture in Yemen” (2007).

Water Resource

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Geology professor emeritus Jeffrey Mount is an expert on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the hub of California's water supply system, providing water to more than 25 million Californians and over 3 million acres of irrigated agriculture. He can discuss the conservation and restoration of large river systems; natural function of rainfall and snowfall in watersheds and floodplains; levee safety and floodplain management. He holds the Roy Shlemon Chair in Applied Geosciences and is the director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. At the Governors’ Global Climate Summit 3 at UC Davis, he is moderated the panel on adaptation and water.