News

December 15, 2015

World’s most sensitive dark matter detector gets even better

The world’s most sensitive experimental search for dark matter has gotten 20 times more sensitive thanks to new techniques that reduce the background interfering with efforts to catch these mysterious particles that comprise 85 percent of all matter in the universe.

December 14, 2015

Seeing Through the Big Data Fog

Joe Hellerstein and his students developed a new programming model for distributed computing which MIT Technology Review named one of the 10 technologies “most likely to change our world”.

December 10, 2015

CRISPR-Cas9 helps uncover genetics of exotic organisms

The simplicity of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing will soon make studying the genes of any organism, from the simplest slime mold to the octopus, as easy as it now is to study the genes controlling development in standard lab animals such as nematodes, fruit flies, frogs and mice.

November 30, 2015

The AMP Lab Stands Up to Big Data

The AMP Lab, launched in 2011 by Michael Franklin and colleagues in computer science, has already had an outsized impact on industry. 

November 23, 2015

Mars to lose its largest moon, but gain a ring

Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, is slowly falling toward the planet, but rather than smash into the surface, it likely will be shredded and the pieces strewn about the planet in a ring like the rings encircling Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.

November 17, 2015

Seeking Data Wisdom

Bin Yu’s statistical strategies work hand in hand with intense computation to penetrate storms of data.

November 13, 2015

Engineers give a girl a hand

Life-changing technology can often come at a price that keeps it out of reach for many people, but a project to develop a 3D-printed prosthetic hand for a child is providing engineers at UC Berkeley a chance to change that.

November 2, 2015

Scientists map source of Northwest’s next big quake

A large team of scientists has nearly completed the first map of the mantle under the tectonic plate that is colliding with the Pacific Northwest and putting Seattle, Portland and Vancouver at risk of the largest earthquakes and tsunamis in the world.

October 5, 2015

Urban Infrastructure - Making Cities Smarter

Alexei Pozdnoukhov, a Signatures Innovation Fellow, leads research to use cellular data to aid traffic planning and operations. Fully developed, the technology could aid both traffic control and planning to keep pace with changes in transportation habits.

October 1, 2015

Asteroid impact, volcanism were one-two punch for dinosaurs

UC Berkeley geologists have uncovered compelling evidence that an asteroid impact on Earth 66 million years ago accelerated the eruptions of volcanoes in India for hundreds of thousands of years, and that together these planet-wide catastrophes caused the extinction of many land and marine animals, including the dinosaurs.

September 24, 2015

Scientists win $6.4 million to crack the code of smell navigation

A team of scientists, including a UC Berkeley pioneer in odor mapping, has received a $6.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to dig deeper into how humans and animals navigate by using their sense of smell and converting odors into spatial information.

September 17, 2015

What the Inuit can tell us about omega-3 fats and ‘paleo’ diets

The traditional diet of Greenland natives – the Inuit – is held up as an example of how high levels of omega-3 fatty acids can counterbalance the bad health effects of a high-fat diet, but a new study hints that what’s true for the Inuit may not be true for everyone else.

September 2, 2015

CT scan of Earth links deep mantle plumes with volcanic hotspots

University of California, Berkeley, seismologists have produced for the first time a sharp, three-dimensional scan of Earth’s interior that conclusively connects plumes of hot rock rising through the mantle with surface hotspots that generate volcanic island chains like Hawaii, Samoa and Iceland.

August 28, 2015

Millet Project shows grain isn’t just for the birds

Amrita Hazra, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, is on a mission — to introduce people to the benefits of eating millet, which primarily is used in the United States in bird feed.

August 24, 2015

More gentrification, displacement in Bay Area forecast

The San Francisco Bay Area’s transformation into a sprawling, exclusive and high-income community with less and less room for its low-income residents is just beginning, according to UC Berkeley researchers who literally have it all mapped out.

August 20, 2015

Engineered hot fat implants reduce weight gain in mice

Scientists at UC Berkeley have developed a novel way to engineer the growth and expansion of energy-burning “good” fat, and then found that this fat helped reduce weight gain and lower blood glucose levels in mice.

August 6, 2015

Is drought killing California’s giant sequoias?

California’s giant sequoias are showing signs of stress — some have leaves that are drier and sparser than usual — and UC Berkeley tree biologist Anthony Ambrose thinks the drought is to blame.

July 30, 2015

Scientists urge ban on salamander imports to fend off new fungus

Five California amphibian experts warn that a recently discovered fungus already devastating salamanders in Europe could imperil American salamanders, and urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately halt salamander imports until there is a plan to detect and prevent the spread of the fungus.

July 27, 2015

It don’t mean a thing if the brain ain’t got that swing

Like Duke Ellington’s 1931 jazz standard, the human brain improvises while its rhythm section keeps up a steady beat. But when it comes to taking on intellectually challenging tasks, groups of neurons tune in to one another for a fraction of a second and harmonize, then go back to improvising, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

July 21, 2015

Genome analysis pinpoints arrival and spread of first Americans

The original Americans came from Siberia in a single wave no more than 23,000 years ago, at the height of the last Ice Age, and apparently hung out in the north – perhaps for thousands of years – before spreading in two distinct populations throughout North and South America, according to a new genomic analysis.

July 20, 2015

3D-printed ‘smart cap’ uses electronics to sense spoiled food

It might not be long before consumers can just hit “print” to create an electronic circuit or wireless sensor in the comfort of their homes. UC Berkeley engineers are expanding their portfolio of 3D printing technology to include electrical components, such as resistors, inductors, capacitors and integrated wireless electrical sensing systems.

July 14, 2015

The sleep-deprived brain can mistake friends for foes

A new UC Berkeley study shows that sleep deprivation dulls our ability to accurately read facial expressions. This deficit can have serious consequences, such as not noticing that a child is sick or in pain, or that a potential mugger or violent predator is approaching.

July 14, 2015

Researchers create model of early human heart development from stem cells

UC Berkeley researchers, in collaboration with scientists at the Gladstone Institutes, have developed a template for growing beating cardiac tissue from stem cells, creating a system that could serve as a model for early heart development and as a drug-screening tool to make pregnancies safer.

July 13, 2015

Intellectual pursuits may buffer the brain against addiction

Challenging the idea that addiction is hardwired in the brain, a new UC Berkeley study of mice suggests that even a short time spent in a stimulating learning environment can rewire the brain’s reward system and buffer it against drug dependence.

July 7, 2015

Small Salmon, Big Threat

Drought and the growing water demands of agriculture and a changing climate are creating a “knife edge” of survival for young salmon and steelhead, says UC Berkeley fish ecologist Stephanie Carlson. She is working to determine minimum water levels needed to sustain the fish.

July 7, 2015

Psychologists talk about the science of emotions in ‘Inside Out’

When Pixar set about making Inside Out, animating the emotions an 11-year-old girl feels after her family moves across the country, the film’s director called psychologists Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley and Paul Ekman of UCSF to consult on the film. The scientists wrote about their experience in the New York Times.

July 6, 2015

Bats do it, dolphins do it. Now humans can do it too.

UC Berkeley physicists have used graphene to build lightweight ultrasonic loudspeakers and microphones, enabling people to mimic bats or dolphins’ ability to use sound to communicate and gauge the distance and speed of objects around them.

June 30, 2015

How To Grow Back The Back - Engineered Cartilage Surfaces

Researcher Grace O’Connell, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, is advancing ways to grow human disc tissue — the spongy, protective material between vertebrae — and other engineered cartilage surfaces in a lab.

June 26, 2015

Opening a New Route to Photonics

A new route to ultrahigh density, ultracompact integrated photonic circuitry has been discovered by researchers with the  Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley. The team has developed a technique for effectively controlling pulses of light in closely packed nanoscale waveguides, an essential requirement for high-performance optical communications and chip-scale quantum computing.

June 24, 2015

Putting Energy Savings Programs to the Test

Philomathia Innovation Seed Fund recipients Catherine Wolfram and Meredith Fowlie carried out a rigorous study that found surprisingly low savings relative to costs in part of a nationwide effort to improve home energy-efficiency.

June 24, 2015

Streamlined cockroaches inspire highly maneuverable robots

Chen Li, a Miller Postdoctoral Fellow, studied the maneuvering ability of cockroaches with rounded shells and saw that their simple streamlined shape allowed them to easily roll and slip through gaps in a clutter of objects, such as grass and leaves on a forest floor.

June 24, 2015

Environment takes big hit from water-intensive marijuana cultivation

The debate over the legalization of marijuana has focused primarily on questions of law, policy and health. But a new paper co-authored by UC Berkeley researchers shines a spotlight on the environmental damage caused by illegal marijuana plantations in sensitive watersheds.

June 17, 2015

Humans’ built-in GPS is our 3-D sense of smell

Like homing pigeons, humans have a nose for navigation because our brains are wired to convert smells into spatial information, new research shows. Similar investigations have been conducted on birds and rodents, but this is the first time smell-based navigation has been field-tested on humans. The results evoke a GPS-like superpower one could call an “olfactory positioning system.”

June 15, 2015

Leaving on a Biofueled Jet Plane

The problem is simple to understand. Molecules of carbon and other greenhouse gases absorb heat. The more greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, the warmer the atmosphere becomes, exacerbating global climate change. Solving the problem is not so simple, especially with regards to aviation – the source of two-percent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.

June 15, 2015

Newfound groups of bacteria are mixing up the tree of life

Jill Banfield, professor of EPS and ESPM, and grad student Christopher Brown discovered a large number of new groups or phyla of bacteria, suggesting that the branches on the tree of life need some rearranging. The more than 35 new phyla equal in number all the plant and animal phyla combined.

June 11, 2015

Three campus researchers named 2015 Pew scholars

Three early-career researchers at UC Berkeley have been selected as this year’s Pew scholars, a program for investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.

June 4, 2015

Exiled stars explode far from home

Sharp images obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that three supernovae discovered several years ago exploded in the dark emptiness of intergalactic space, having been flung from their home galaxies millions or billions of years earlier.

May 29, 2015

Power to the People

Philomathia Innovation Seed Fund recipient Eric Brewer works with tech savvy students in electrical engineering and computer science, urban planning, business, and economics to help developing countries gain access to affordable energy.

May 20, 2015

Supernova Hunting with Supercomputers

Using a “roadmap” of theoretical calculations and supercomputer simulations performed at NERSC by Berkeley Lab’s Daniel Kasen, astronomers confirm one of two competing theories about the birth of Type Ia supernovae.

May 19, 2015

Cold-blooded animals find it hard to adjust to global warming

Cold-blooded and other animals that are unable to regulate their internal temperature may have a hard time tolerating global warming, according to an analysis by biologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University.

May 15, 2015

The Economics of Change

Philomathia Innovation Seed Fund recipient Edward Miguel applies the tools of economics to such social issues as access to affordable energy and the possible links between climate and conflict.

May 13, 2015

Drug perks up old muscles and aging brains

UC Berkeley researchers have discovered that a small-molecule drug simultaneously perks up old stem cells in the brains and muscles of mice, a finding that could lead to drug interventions for humans that would make aging tissues throughout the body act young again.

May 11, 2015

Psychotic hallucinations, delusions rarely precede violence

Mass shootings at the hands of unhinged loners perpetuate a commonly held belief that mental illness triggers violent crimes. But a new study from UC Berkeley shows that hallucinations and delusions associated with psychiatric disorders seldom foreshadow acts of aggression.

May 8, 2015

The Adolescent Brain Grows Up

Neuroscientist Linda Wilbrecht can observe “rewiring” in the living brain using an imaging instrument called a twophoton laser scanning microscope, which has a resolution better than 1/10,000 of an inch.

May 8, 2015

New awards fund work between U.S., Chinese women scientists

In 2009, cell biologist Lin He changed the direction of her research after a surprisingly fruitful collaboration with a woman scientist in Beijing. The same program that funded that successful project, the Chau Hoi Shuen Foundation Women in Science Program, is now supporting He and two other women faculty for similar collaborations with Chinese women scientists.

May 8, 2015

Forecasting Change, Welcome or Not

Plant ecologist David Ackerly has calculated that some animals and plants would need to migrate as much as four miles a year to track their preferred temperature in a rapidly warming climate. 

May 7, 2015

UC Berkeley begin monitoring tremors on San Andreas Fault

UC Berkeley seismologists were surprised last August to see a dramatic increase in faint tremors occurring under the San Andreas Fault near Parkfield, in Central California, about 10 hours after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Napa

May 7, 2015

Human security at risk as depletion of soil accelerates, scientists warn

Steadily and alarmingly, humans have been depleting Earth’s soil resources faster than the nutrients can be replenished. If this trajectory does not change, soil erosion, combined with the effects of climate change, will present a huge risk to global food security over the next century.

May 6, 2015

Smartphone video microscope automates detection of parasites in blood

A UC Berkeley-led research team has developed a new mobile phone microscope that uses video to automatically detect and quantify infection by parasitic worms in a drop of blood. This technology could help revive efforts to eradicate debilitating diseases in Africa by providing critical information for health providers in the field.

May 1, 2015

NEI awards $3.2 million for visionary retina research

The National Eye Institute (NEI) has awarded a five-year, $3.2 million grant for a UC Berkeley-led project to map the interaction of retinal cells in an effort to better understand how visual data is processed before it is sent to the brain.

May 1, 2015

California’s low-wage workers now earn less than in 1979

Over the past 35 years, California’s high-wage workers have seen steady increases in their paychecks. But low-wage workers, 4.8 million strong and about one-third of the state’s workforce, earned less in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2014 than they did in 1979, according to a new analysis from UC Berkeley.

May 1, 2015

Seeing Through Alzheimer’s Disease

If early intervention is key, then so is the ability to detect even the slightest sign of neurological damage. The William Jagust Lab is using statistical and computational approaches to refine PET scan sensitivity to identify a possible Alzheimer precursor. 

May 1, 2015

Citizen science helps predict spread of sudden oak death

Efforts to predict the emergence and spread of sudden oak death, an infectious tree-killing disease, have gotten a big boost from the work of grassroots volunteers. A joint study led by researchers at UC Berkeley and NC State reveals that years of data from SOD Blitz, a survey project in which volunteers are trained to identify symptoms of sudden oak death, led to better predictive models of the disease’s spread.

April 30, 2015

Did dinosaur-killing asteroid trigger largest lava flows on Earth?

The asteroid that slammed into the ocean off Mexico 66 million years ago and killed off the dinosaurs probably rang the Earth like a bell, triggering volcanic eruptions around the globe, according to a team of UC Berkeley geophysicists. The impact may have re-ignited the eruptions at the Deccan Traps, initiating the largest lava flows on Earth.

April 30, 2015

Fossils help identify marine life that may be at high risk of extinction today

Seth Finnegan, assistant professor of integrative biology, led an international study of marine extinctions over the past 23 million years to better understand the “natural” extinction risk in groups ranging from mammals to corals. Their findings can help guide conservation efforts in today’s oceans.

April 24, 2015

“Intelligent Design” Can It Deliver?

Rather than trying to quiet the body’s defenses against viruses, David Schaffer has favored a kind of intelligent design approach to modify the virus. Known as directed evolution, the strategy uses genetic engineering to find variations in the virus that will allow it to effectively deliver drugs to target cells.

April 21, 2015

UC Berkeley launches the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program

In an effort to support UC Berkeley faculty interested in commercial applications of their research, UC Berkeley is launching a new program in the data science and software areas. The new Signatures Innovation Fellows program was recently established with the generous support of UC Berkeley alumnus Bobby Yazdani.

April 16, 2015

Major Advance in Artificial Photosynthesis Poses Win/Win for the Environment

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products.

April 13, 2015

Poverty-level wages cost U.S. taxpayers $153 billion every year

While the U.S. economy rebounds, persistent low wages are costing taxpayers approximately $153 billion every year in public support to working families, including $25 billion at the state level, according to a new report from the Center for Labor Research and Education. The report details for the first time the state-by-state cost to taxpayers of low wages in the United States.

April 6, 2015

New target for anticancer drugs: RNA

Most of today’s anticancer drugs target the DNA or proteins in tumor cells, but a new discovery by University of California, Berkeley, scientists unveils a whole new set of potential targets: the RNA intermediaries between DNA and proteins.

March 25, 2015

UC Berkeley first university to house a center for Bangladesh studies

The first university-housed center for Bangladesh studies officially opens at UC Berkeley on March 30 with Chancellor Nicholas Dirks presiding over an invitation-only ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by a talk by Sir Fazle Abed, founder and CEO of BRAC, one of the world’s largest NGOs.

March 19, 2015

Altering brain chemistry makes us more sensitive to inequality

What if there were a pill that made you more compassionate? A new study finds that giving a drug that changes the neurochemical balance in the brain causes a greater willingness to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as ensuring that resources are divided more equally.

March 11, 2015

New material captures carbon at half the energy cost

Capturing carbon from power plants is likely in the future to avoid the worst effects of climate change, but current technologies are very expensive. A new material, a diamine-appended metal-organic framework, captures and releases CO2 with much reduced energy costs compared to today’s technologies, potentially lowering the cost of capturing this greenhouse gas.

March 2, 2015

Anxious people more apt to make bad decisions amid uncertainty

Highly anxious people have more trouble deciding how best to handle life’s uncertainties. Investigating this dynamic, scientists have found evidence of a glitch in the brain’s higher-order decision-making circuitry that could eventually be targeted in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

February 27, 2015

Unlocking the Key to Immunological Memory in Bacteria

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system.

February 16, 2015

Brain’s iconic seat of speech goes silent when we actually talk

The brain’s speech area, named after 19th century French physician Pierre Paul Broca, shuts down when we talk out loud, according to a new study that challenges the long-held belief that “Broca’s area” governs all aspects of speech production.

February 16, 2015

The Invisible Comes to Light

Laura Waller is working on computational imaging methods for quantitative phase microscopy, which enables one to map the shape and/or density of invisible samples in a non-invasive way.  Her group is developing simple experimental architectures and efficient post-processing algorithms for phase recovery, applied in a variety of scientific and industrial settings.

February 9, 2015

Cancer’s Disposal System: Target for a Cure?

Andreas Martin has developed novel systems and strategies to screen for compounds that selectively inhibit protein turnover in the cell and may lead to new drugs against cancer.  

February 2, 2015

Greener Blue Jeans

John Dueber is working to employ metabolite protecting groups for a sustainable indigo dyeing process.  The new technology has the potential to transform the Jeans (and related textile) dyeing industry into a "green business" using dye processes that would comply with modern regulations ensuring environmental safeguards.

January 28, 2015

Quantum computer as detector shows space is not squeezed

UC Berkeley physicists used partially entangled atoms identical to the qubits in a quantum computer to demonstrate more precisely than ever before – to one part in a billion billion – that space is uniform in all directions and not squeezed.

January 27, 2015

Long dry spell doomed Mexican city 1,000 years ago

The former city and now archaeological site called Cantona in the highlands east of Mexico City appears to have been abandoned nearly 1,000 years ago as a result of a prolonged dry spell that lasted about 650 years, according to a new study.

January 22, 2015

Scientists set quantum speed limit

The flip side of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the energy time uncertainty principle, establishes a speed limit for transitions between two states. UC Berkeley physical chemists have now proved this principle for transitions between states that are not entirely distinct, allowing the calculation of speed limits for processes such as quantum computing and tunneling.

January 21, 2015

Childcare workers’ pay remains stagnant, study shows

Costs of early-childhood services may have climbed nearly twofold for parents over the last 17 years, but most of these workers have overall seen no change in real earnings in the same period, according to research led by UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

January 20, 2015

Researcher Seeks to Starve Cancer of Nutrients

Roberto Zoncu investigates cellular energy flux.  In researching how cells sense their own nutrients, Zoncu has found that a particular enzyme plays a vital role in making sure that a cell has the proper balance of nutrients and energy.

January 20, 2015

Breaking the sound barrier in deaf communication

Thibault Duchemin grew up as the only hearing person in a family of four.   He has always understood the communication challenges that were a daily part of their lives. Now, he’s developed Transcense – a mobile app that aims to end some of the professional and social isolation caused by hearing loss. 

January 20, 2015

Warmer, drier climate altering forests statewide

Historical California vegetation data that more than once dodged the dumpster have now proved their true value, documenting that a changing forest structure seen in the Sierra Nevada has actually happened statewide over the past 90 years.

January 16, 2015

Solving an Organic Semiconductor Mystery

Organic semiconductors are prized for light emitting diodes (LEDs), field effect transistors (FETs) and photovoltaic cells. As they can be printed from solution, they provide a highly scalable, cost-effective alternative to silicon-based devices. Uneven performances, however, have been a persistent problem. That’s now changed.

January 14, 2015

Tropical paradise inspires virtual ecology lab

An international collaboration including Neil Davies, Director of UC Berkeley's Gump Station, is preparing to create a digital representation of of the Pacific island of Moorea to create a virtual lab to test and hypothesize the impact of human activities. 

January 13, 2015

Tracking Cancer’s Advance in 3D

Sanjay Kumar adapts bioengineering strategies for studies in 3D cell environments to reveal how and why cancer cells invade the way they do.

January 12, 2015

From the Bottom Up: Manipulating Nanoribbons at the Molecular Level

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new precision approach for synthesizing graphene nanoribbons from pre-designed molecular building blocks. Using this process the researchers have built nanoribbons that have enhanced properties—such as position-dependent, tunable bandgaps—that are potentially very useful for next-generation electronic circuitry.

January 8, 2015

To trigger body’s energy-burning brown fat, just chill

UC Berkeley researchers found that exposure to cold temperatures increases levels of a newly discovered protein, Zfp516, that is critical for the formation of brown fat, the type of fat in our bodies that generates heat. 

January 6, 2015

Fishing For A Cure

Scott Baraban is collaborating with Berkeley researchers to find cures for childhood epilepsies. 

January 6, 2015

How songbirds may help build a better hearing aid

UC Berkeley psychologist Fred Theunissen's work on songbirds could help improve hearing aids to allow people to home in on specific sounds in noisy environments, a particular problem for the hard of hearing.