Research Café Brews Up Buzz at Admit Day

The Research Café booth on Library Walk during Admit Day attracted stars to both sides of the tables. Organized by Paul Yu and Courtney Giordano, with the help of many others in the Office of Research Affairs, the Research Café proved a stand-out aspect of Admit Day activities and resources, and should be a popular feature at next year's event. The photos at right show a sample of the action around the café.

UC San Diego administrators at the Research Cafe shown meeting students who have been admitted to the class of 2014 UC San Diego administrators at the Research Cafe shown meeting students who have been admitted to the class of 2014 UC San Diego administrators at the Research Cafe shown meeting students who have been admitted to the class of 2014 UC San Diego administrators at the Research Cafe shown meeting students who have been admitted to the class of 2014 UC San Diego administrators at the Research Cafe shown meeting students who have been admitted to the class of 2014 UC San Diego administrators at the Research Cafe shown meeting students who have been admitted to the class of 2014 UC San Diego administrators at the Research Cafe shown meeting students who have been admitted to the class of 2014

Research News

$14 Million NIH Grant Boosts Biomedical Sanitation, Research Space on Campus 

The National Center for Research Resources, part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded UC San Diego a $14,287,680 grant to build a centralized sanitation facility for biomedical equipment on campus – a more modern, energy-efficient facility expected to save millions of gallons of water and more than half-a-million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.

The award, made through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), lifts the university past the $157-million mark for federal research stimulus funding since the program’s inception.

The 12,000-square-foot centralized facility will take the place of 17 equipment-cleaning facilities currently in laboratories across campus, a duplication of effort and resources that is both expensive and inefficient.

“Combining cleaning processes for biomedical equipment into one central facility,” says Art Ellis, “offers benefits that will be realized across UCSD’s research enterprise.”

The new central facility will enable roughly 18,000 square feet of space to be re-purposed for research uses, Ellis said, and result in annual savings estimated at nearly 20 million gallons of water, 24 million pounds of steam, and 560,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

“This NIH-funded facility will have a major impact on how UCSD cleans and sanitizes equipment we use in research programs,” says Nick Webster, associate vice chancellor for research facilities. “The facility will boost the university’s sustainability initiative, too, by letting us retire outdated washing equipment and autoclaves, and it will minimize water and power consumption. Robotic systems will help minimize repetitive-motion injuries, and improved sanitation helps ensure accurate and timely research results.”  

Prospects in Proposals

PIs Call on RPDS for Help with Large Proposals

By Sharon Franks

UC San Diego faculty members and researchers who take the lead on large, interdisciplinary proposals can now ask for help. Since its launch in December 2009, Research Affairs’ Research Proposal Development Service (RPDS, pronounced “rapids”) has assisted with the preparation of a dozen proposals to NSF, NIH, DOE and other agencies. The proposal budgets total nearly $150 million. The first question most PIs ask is: “What kind of help can I get from RPDS?” The starting point for our response is almost always to ask: “What kind of help do you need?” Because each call-for-proposals presents a particular set of challenges, and each team of investigators has its own dynamic, RPDS’ operating principles emphasize nimbleness and a can-do attitude. Examples of the kinds of basic assistance we provide are listed on our website, For any given proposal, however, our services are highly customized to meet the needs of the applicant-team.

rapids logo

For one recent submission, over a 6-week-period we worked closely with the PI to identify and recruit collaborators, then draft and collect 35 letters from individuals and organizations expressing specific commitments to the proposed $5-million project: creation of an online research ethics center for science, engineering and mathematics. In addition to detailed editing for accuracy, clarity and responsiveness to the solicitation, we assisted in the successful search for an independent project evaluator, the development of a required project management plan, and generation of text to address the sponsor’s review criteria. RPDS also took the lead in coordinating budget preparation. This involved integration of six sub-award budgets and collecting biographical and current and pending support information for more than a dozen senior personnel. Here’s what the PI had to say the day following proposal submission: “I want to particularly note that the strength, accuracy, and timeliness of completion of this proposal would not have been possible without the assistance of UCSD's Research Proposal Development Service.”

While RPDS’ assistance primarily supports proposal preparation, our relationships with PIs often continue after successful proposal submission. We are now working with a PI in Computer Science and Engineering whose $10-million collaborative proposal involving co-investigators from six institutions has made it into the final round of a multi-stage review process. RPDS is assisting with the team’s preparation for a reverse site visit in Washington D.C. later this month. For a PI in Biology, we are now assisting with a budget revision for a $9 million award. This post-submission support reflects our deep commitment to the success of the proposals we help with. We believe it also reflects the high regard PIs develop for RPDS during the intensive, multifaceted proposal-preparation process.

News from the ORUs

CCIS Sponsors Three Major Conferences

In the past three months, the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (CCIS) has sponsored three major conferences on comparative, cross-national and cross-regional research on international migratory movements, immigration policy, and citizenship policy.

CCIS is the only academic center in the United States specializing in international migration from a broad geographical as well as interdisciplinary perspective, devoting substantial attention to migrant-sending and -receiving countries in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region.  CCIS-affiliated researchers encompass the social sciences, history, arts and humanities, and legal studies.

On February 26, CCIS joined forces with Princeton University's Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) to co-sponsor a conference "Race, Immigration and the Law of the Workplace: 21st Century Challenges."  The goal of the conference was to bring together two different sets of scholars that rarely interact but  work on similar issues relating to the ways that the mass immigration of the past twenty years has rapidly changed America's racial demographics. The result of this mass immigration has been to add tens of millions of mostly non-white citizens, aliens and undocumented immigrants, with significant changes to the dynamics in the nation's places of employment.

On March 12, CCIS hosted a conference that brought together scholars of migration from throughout the University of California system. This year’s conference was the renewal of similar efforts in the 1990s to gather migration scholars from throughout the UC system, and is the first of an ongoing annual series of similar events. The conference, which was co-sponsored by the Gifford Center for Population Studies at UC Davis, the Center for Research on Immigration, Population and Public Policy at UC Irvine, and the UCLA Migration Study Group, brought together researchers from the Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Diego campuses.

On March 29 and 30, CCIS joined forces with the German Marshall Fund and the UC-Berkeley European Union Center of Excellence for a conference in San Diego on “Population, Integration and Law: Implications for Immigration Policy.”  Leading experts representing such diverse fields as economics, demography, law and sociology assembled from the US, Germany, Russia, Switzerland and the UK..  Participants also represented diverse institutions, including universities, research institutes, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the International Labor Organization.  Among UC campuses,  Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles and San Diego were represented.

BioCircuits Institute Validates Complex Biological Models

By Erika Hall

The BioCircuits Institute (BCI) is one of UC San Diego’s newest interdisciplinary Organized Research Units (ORUs). BCI arose from the need to marry diverse disciplines and organizations, and to study the response of biological circuits to external signals and changes in the environment.

Research leaders on campus saw a need for a single, organizing center that could bring together biologists interested in quantitative aspects of their research and computational modelers interested in the application of their expertise to real biological problems.

BCI filled that need by establishing itself in 2009 with an aim to validate such modeling approaches that are used to understand and control complex biological behavior. With validated models, BCI hopes that an understanding of various biological functions will result that then can be applied to practical engineering solutions.

These tasks challenge the purposely diverse faculty, comprising experts from the biological sciences, chemistry, physics, engineering, and mathematics departments.

Whereas quantitative biology is a broad field, BCI narrows its focus to understanding the complex properties of biological regulatory circuits that control homeostasis and signal responsiveness. These biological circuits span many scales, from intracellular regulatory modules to neurobiological intercellular networks, to population dynamics and organ functions.

As BCI’s associate director, Lev Tsimring, explains, “We live in the post-genomic era, and so we are interested not only in what parts make up the circuits, but how they operate and interact with other circuits within a complex biological system to produce the desired function.”

Tsimring, along with BCI director Jeff Hasty and BCI associate director Alex Hoffman, has recently been awarded an NIH grant to study a signaling network on a single-cell level. This signaling network, called NFkB, initiates cellular responses to fundamental environmental stresses, such as infection and cancer.

This project illustrates one of the main directions of the new ORU: to study the response of biological circuits to external signals and changes in the environment.

“We expect that this project will serve as a model for other collaborative studies spanning different disciplines, which is the mission fostered by BCI,” Tsimring says.

View a list of all UC San Diego organized research units