2014 Innovators


Stephanie Carlson

Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Title: Balancing Salmon Populations, Aquatic Biodiversity, and Water Resource Needs During Drought

Abstract: One of the most pressing challenges in the 21st century will be to balance societal needs for freshwater with the maintenance of aquatic biodiversity in the face of climate change. Water withdrawals and climate change pose especially grave threats to stream biodiversity in arid regions, like the western US. Although many species have adaptations for withstanding drought, these limits will be tested with increased demands for scarce freshwater. How much water is needed to sustain biodiversity is an open question. Such knowledge gaps hamper our ability to design and evaluate the ecological benefits of innovative water conservation projects that strive to balance competing demands for freshwater. These seed funds will be used to develop a research program to identify flow thresholds for sustaining biodiversity during drought, which will be a major step towards providing managers and policy makers with flow targets to support aquatic biodiversity, including Pacific salmon, during drought.

Profile: Stephanie Carlson joined the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management as an Assistant Professor in 2008. Her research focuses on the evolutionary ecology and conservation of freshwater fishes, and strives to illuminate how evolution and ecology interact to shape wild populations and influence their persistence, particularly those exposed to anthropogenic influences.  Stephanie received her Ph.D. in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle in 2006. She then - as a Marie Curie Early Stage Training Fellow - spent five months at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, University of Oslo, before returning to as a NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Biological Informatics at the University of California, Santa Cruz (Applied Mathematics and Statistics). Learn More.


Hartmut Haeffner


Title: A Quantum Mixer for Hybrid Quantum Computing

Abstract: Modern quantum technology allows experimental control of the state of atoms and  superconducting devices at the level of individual quanta. Our goal in this project will be to implement a quantum interface between single particles and  superconducting circuits, thus bridging the gap between these disparate technologies. Such a hybrid interface would allow us to create "Schrödinger cat" states between a single atom and a superconducting quantum circuit, where the state of the atom is fundamentally linked to the macroscopic state of the circuit. Besides the fundamental interest in such an experiment, our  approach will combine the exceptional coherence of atomic systems with the speed and flexibility of superconducting electronics. Thus, we expect to lay the foundations for a scalable quantum information architecture composed of atomic systems and electrical circuits. The key step towards these goals will be developing the quantum analog  of a frequency mixer." 

Profile: Hartmut Häffner is an Assistant Professor for Physics at UC Berkeley. He is well-known for his contributions to ion trap quantum computing, and in particular his seminal work on teleportation and entanglement. 

Häffner received his PhD from the University of Mainz/Germany  for  testing quantum electrodynamics in strong electric fields with single ions. After a  side trip studying quantum chaos at NIST/Gaithersburg with William Phillips, he rediscovered his passion for trapped ions and joined Rainer Blatt's group in Innsbruck to built a quantum computer with trapped ions.  Hallmarks of his work at Innsbruck were the a universal set of quantum gates, teleportation of quantum states between two atoms and tomography of an eight-particle entangled state. 

From 2009 on at UC Berkeley, he leads an internationally-recognized group on trapped ions aimed at developing novel quantum computing technologies. For this, Häffner's group works on interfacing single ions to solid state devices. One of their key innovations was the development an ion trap set-up with innovative analytical and surface cleaning tools to reduce surface noise. Häffner's group also studies many-body physics with ultra-cold ion strings. In particular, the group experimentally investigated the limits of the density-matrix formalism and pioneered a novel method to detect quantum correlations locally. Learn More.



Nicholas Ingolia

Molecular and Cell Biology

Title: Mechanistic Basis of Post-Transcriptional Control of Gene Expression

Abstract: Important biological processes depend on the regulation of genes after they are copied into mRNA, but we lack a general understanding of the cellular machinery that controls the fate of mRNAs in the cytoplasm. Recent work has revealed hundreds of mRNA-binding proteins in human cells, and it is likely that many of these influence which mRNAs are translated into proteins and which are degraded. However, existing approaches to catalogue these RNA-protein interactions do not reveal their effects. Here, I propose to develop and apply an innovative strategy to survey globally the proteins that affect the expression of mRNAs. I will survey comprehensively the regulatory activity of proteins in the cell, revealing the broad outlines of how gene expression is controlled at the level of the mRNA and setting the stage for more detailed future understanding.

Profile: Nicholas Ingolia joined the Molecular and Cell Biology department at the University of California, Berkeley as an Assistant Professor in January 2014. He was previously a Staff Member at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Embryology, in Baltimore, MD. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Harvard University, in Cambridge, MA, under the supervision of Andrew Murray, where he worked on synthetic and systems biology analysis of gene regulatory networks. He went on to post-doctoral work with Jonathan Weissman at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), CA, where he developed ribosome profiling. His own laboratory (http://www.ingolia-lab.org/) seeks to better understand the molecular basis and cellular roles of translational regulation. He was selected as a Searle Scholar in 2011. Learn More.



Grace O'Connell

Mechanical Engineering

Title: Personalized Healthcare: Developing Large-Scale Engineered Cartilage Surfaces

Abstract: Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in Americans, accounting for approximately 20% of all disabilities and over $100 billion in medical care costs. In the last decade, regenerative medicine has advanced towards personalized biological treatment strategies for musculoskeletal diseases, including osteoarthritis. My laboratory employs tissue-engineering techniques to cultivate cartilaginous tissues by encapsulating cells within a three-dimensional biocompatible scaffold. With this technique we are able to cultivate engineered cartilage plugs with structural and functional properties of healthy native tissues. However, scaling this technology towards producing larger constructs and surfaces has been a significant challenge in the field, due to limited nutrient diffusion. I propose a novel method of using fractal fabrication to develop large-scale patient-specific engineered cartilage surfaces. Successful completion of this proposal will have a significant impact on the ability to use regenerative medicine strategies in treating painful osteoarthritis. 

Profile: Professor Grace D. O’Connell is the director of the Soft Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory (STBL) in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dr. O’Connell joined the faculty at Berkeley in 2013. Her research is focused on mechanobiological relationship of soft tissues in the musculoskeletal system, including articular cartilage and intervertebral discs. The lab uses tissue culture and engineering techniques to understand the multi-scale effects of disease and injury. Damage and injury to articular cartilage and intervertebral discs are the top two causes for disabilities in Americans, leading to medical care costs over $130 billion a year.

Current work at STBL is focused on developing large-scale engineered tissues as a potential biological repair strategy for damaged tissues. Current cartilage tissue engineering strategies have been successful in developing small repair plugs. However, large anatomical tissues will need to be cultivated for this technology to become a clinically viable repair option. Limited nutrient diffusion has been a significant challenge in growing large tissues. As part of the Rose Hills Innovator Program, STBL will use a honeycomb manufacturing method to cultivate large-scale anatomical engineered cartilage surfaces. Learn More.



Lauren Williams


Title: Applications of Combinatorics to Statistical Mechanics, Integrable Systems, and Physics

Abstract:  Lauren Williams' research program aims to apply combinatorial and algebraic tools to a variety of interrelated questions in statistical mechanics, integrable systems, and physics. More specifically, there are three main directions in her current research: the asymmetric exclusion process, which involves particles hopping on a one-dimensional lattice, and has been cited as a model for traffic flow and protein synthesis; soliton solutions to the KP equation, which provide a good model for the behavior of shallow water waves; the mathematics behind scattering amplitudes in quantum field theory, which predict the interaction of massless particles.

Profile: Lauren Williams grew up in southern California, the oldest of four sisters. After high school she went to Harvard where she graduated in 2000 with a BA in Mathematics. She studied for a year at Cambridge, completing "Part III of the Mathematical Tripos," and then attended MIT, where she received her Ph.D. in Mathematics in 2005. Following her PhD, Lauren spent a year at Berkeley as an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow and then three years at Harvard as a Benjamin Peirce Assistant Professor.  She returned to Berkeley as an assistant professor in 2009, and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2013.

Lauren's research focuses on algebraic, enumerative, and topological combinatorics, and their connections with algebraic geometry, representation theory and physics, with total positivity and cluster algebra among her specialties. During her career, she has won various awards including the National Science Foundation CAREER award, the Sloan Research Fellowship, the Hellman Family Faculty Fund, and the Prytanean Faculty Award; she is also a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society. Learn More.