Systems Biology: Real Life Outsmarting the Smart Bugs Re-Inventing the Claw The Inherited Mind An Engineer in Orbit SUMMER 2005, TWO
Welcome back to Convergence. Here’s the second issue of our new magazine, designed to tell you about the people in science and engineering and about new trends in thinking and research. The feedback we got from our first issue was overwhelmingly positive. Why are we doing this magazine? Because the university isn’t meant to live in seclusion. We thrive – and we believe we contribute better to the larger community – when we communicate what we’re discovering, what we’re learning, and the challenges we’re trying to overcome. We think it’s useful to keep our friends and colleagues in the loop about what we’re doing. We’d like people who don’t consider themselves scientists or engineers (yet?) to pick up the magazine and get pulled into the topics. And we hope to advance knowledge between and across disciplines in the process. We also figure that the more people know about us, the more they’ll support us, not just with resources, but also with valuable word-ofmouth about the exciting work we’re doing.
Matthew Tirrell Dean, College of Engineering
Martin Moskovits Dean of Mathematical, Life and Physical Sciences, College of Letters & Science
Evelyn Hu Co-Director, California NanoSystems Institute
summer 2005, two
Systems: Real Life Biology Making sense of
our multitudinous moving parts.
5 8 10 11 15
Outsmarting the Smart Bugs A researcher wants to know how bacteria decide when to make us sick.
The Inherited Mind: Evolutionary Psychology Tracing human culture to the prehistoric past.
An Engineer in His Element UCSB alum Leroy Chiao gives a lesson from space.
Re-Inventing The Claw
What Is This? Shorts
News and events from Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara.
with Robert Sinsheimer, Father of the Human Genome Project
Engineering for Success Closing the knowledge gap between business and the sciences.
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CONVERGENCE The Magazine of
E n g i n e e r i ng and the Sciences at UC S anta Bar bar a
Researchers have unlocked the secrets of DNA, mapped genomes and analyzed organisms to the atomic level. Now they have to figure out how all these parts work together. Welcome to systems biology. To judge from the sheer volume of data before them, biologists have never had it so good. They know vastly more than they did a generation ago about genes, proteins and other minute components of living things. Now they face a new challenge – making sense of it all. When more parts are identified at smaller and smaller scales, the number of potential interactions grows explosively. With so much going on at once, it becomes enormously difficult to track cause and effect among the many elements of a single cell, much less in the whole human body. This analytical task has drawn the eye of engineers and computer scientists, who are applying their own methods to the biologists’ data trove. A new science, systems biology, is emerging from this meeting of disciplines. It seeks to see the subject whole, using quantitative methods to describe how an organism functions. Frank Doyle, the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp professor of process control at UC Santa Barbara, describes systems biology as the counterpoint to the “reductionist approach” of molecular biology or biochemistry. “Instead of drilling down, systems biologists look at how parts work together,” he says. Think of a car, says Joel H. Rothman, a UCSB professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology. A biochemist would “take the whole thing apart and look at each part.” A geneticist would take out a part (equivalent to creating a mutation) to see what then happens to the car. “Both are classical molecular approaches to biology,” says Rothman. He says a systems biologist might analyze the electrical system or engine in its entirety, applying feedback or networking theory to it. Mustafa Khammash, a professor and vice-chair of the mechanical engineering department at UCSB, says organisms have internal controls that function like thermostats or autopilot systems, though in far more complex ways. In systems biology, he says, “we’re trying to reverse-engineer. A control system is there; we’re trying to figure out what it is and why it is.”
Lee Hood and colleagues at the University of Washington formed the Institute for Quantitative Systems Biology in 1999 (and dropped the “quantitative” the next year). The first international conference on systems biology was held in 2000 in Japan.
Doyle, Rothman and Khammash are among a number of UCSB researchers who have turned their attention to this new field. Some, such as Doyle and Khammash, are engineers. Others, such as Rothman and David Low, a professor and vice chair of the molecular, cellular and developmental biology department, come from the life sciences. Systems biology also has attracted computer scientists, including UCSB professors Linda Petzold and Ambuj Singh.
“The field is still in its infancy,” says Doyle, but it is getting a strong push from developments in computing and biology. Molecular biology has provided mountains of new data as computer science has developed tools for large-scale analysis. “Now, people are doing high-throughput interrogation,” Doyle says. “They’re interrogating the entire network, or organism, or cell.”
The ranks of these researchers are due soon to expand. Thanks to a $2 million gift in 2003 from UCSB Chemical Engineering Professor Duncan Mellichamp and his wife, Suzanne, the university is funding four endowed chairs in systems biology, to be filled by leading scholars from across the disciplines. Doyle chairs the search committee.
A Systems View of E. Coli How does this new science promise to work in practice? One example can be seen in the research by David Low and others on E. coli bacteria.
Systems biology has intellectual roots in ideas that developed in the first half of the 20th century. It draws on the concepts of homeostasis, the tendency of organisms to maintain stability by constantly adjusting to their environment, and of cybernetics, which stresses the similarity between manmade and natural informationbased control and feedback systems. As a practical research endeavor, it is much newer.
Aaron Hernday and coworkers Bruce A. Braaten, Patrick Engelberts and Gina Broitman-Maduro in Low’s laboratory have been studying how E. coli forms hair-like structures called “pili,” which enable the organism to leave its normal home in the human bowel and colonize the urinary tract, causing infections in the process. Generation of pili is controlled by a genetic on-off switch, and the researchers have observed how a sensor called Cpx turns the switch off under certain stressful environmental conditions. At this point, Low says, they know that regulatory proteins are controlling E. coli genes, but they don’t fully understand how. The problem is all the moving parts. Even the single genetic switch for pili is influenced by multiple sources, such as pH, temperature and growth medium. “At first we thought this wasn’t so complicated,” Low said, “but now we have upwards of ten factors that control this switch.” So they are looking to systems engineers for help in integrating the data, filtering out the noise and identifying which factors really make a difference. Through sensitivity analysis, for example, engineers could predict the system-wide impact on a change in just one factor,
such as leucine-responsive regulatory protein (Lrp). “If we know all the biochemical details, the engineers can make models that potentially could provide a deeper and more useful understanding of complex regulatory systems than we currently have,” says Low. Khammash, a control-systems engineer who made his first foray into biology at Iowa State University studying calcium homeostasis, has been working with Low on the problem of the pili switch. He says he has developed a dynamic model that “enabled us to make predictions for switching that matched the experimental results very well.”
sugar with such precision that the results can be used predictively, to help insulin-dependent diabetes patients time their doses.
Bridging the Engineer-Biologist Gap A project like that is far from the biologists’ classic science of reduction, which seeks to understand a process by identifying every link on the causal chain, no matter how small. Systems science looks at the process (or organism) as a whole and hopes to find patterns of activity that can be reduced to equations or algorithms and then predicted. So biologists and systems engineers traditionally had little in common. Especially in the life sciences community, one can still hear skepticism about whether systems biology can really work.
Nature as Engineer He also is studying another aspect of E. coli, its “heatshock response.” This is the organism’s ability to repair protein damaged by heat or other stresses. Khammash and collaborators including Hana El-Samad, who recently earned her doctorate in mechanical engineering at UCSB, have used mathematical modeling to show how the complex workings of the heat-shock response reflect features that make the protein repair fast, robust and efficient. “It is how, if you had a good engineer, the process would be designed,” he says.
Low, for instance, says systems biology has some way to go before it meets the rigorous standards of biological science. It’s one thing for engineers to come up with models and make predictions, he says, but the real test of a theory is whether it survives real-life experiments. “Unless we test those predictions and measure the biological outcome,” he says, “the engineers won’t know if their models are accurate, and the models won’t be useful to biologists.”
Rothman and computer science professor Singh are investigating the nematode roundworm C. elegans, another much-studied organism of great value to biomedical science. Rothman says thousands of experiments have been done to test how the roughly 20,000 genes of this animal react under a wide range of conditions. With so many genes and variables, he says,
Yet Low says the time is right for systems biology. “Biologists need engineers and engineers need biologists,” he says. He and other life-sciences researchers need the analytical tools of the engineers and their computerscience partners to make sense of data that is just too much for the unaided human brain to handle. But engineers need the data and experiments of biology to test their quantitative models; otherwise, they are just speculating – reverse-engineering natural systems in theory but not in practice.
“Biologists need engineers and engineers need biologists,” says Low.
Doyle, too, says biologists have been slow to accept systems theory: “In biology, there has been enormous skepticism about the utility of the mathematical model.” But he says this was due in part to a mistaken belief that the model was meant to be a “surrogate for reality,” when its real purpose is to generate stronger hypotheses and avoid unnecessary experiments. He now sees “a remarkable common ground” with biologists on the need for convergence. To understand their data, he says, “They need quantification.” And on the engineering side it’s not enough to come up with a design, whether of a spacecraft or a heat-shock reaction. The engineer has to know if the design will work in the real world. For that, says Doyle, “I need their data.”
“we would have thought there would be an enormous number of regulatory patterns.” In fact, there are only about 50 prominent gene regulatory patterns. “There’s an underlying simplicity,” he says, “that is revealed only by looking at the system in totality.” The two collaborators are using large-scale experimental and computational approaches to reveal the functional networks that control the life or death decisions made by all cells. Most systems biology at UCSB is concerned with life at the cellular scale. Rothman and Singh’s C. elegans work, for instance, focuses on the control of programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Doyle is looking at a larger system, that of the human body, in some of his work. He is collaborating with Lois Jovanovich, M.D., director and chief scientific officer of the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, on a federally-funded project to develop a mathematical model of the natural blood glucose cycle. The aim is to analyze the daily ups and downs of blood
Have e-mailed Frank Doyle for a Lab Shot to superimpose on to this.
Outsmarting the Smart Bugs
How do bacteria decide when to make us sick? Microbiologist Peggy Cotter looks for the answer in a complex system of chemical signals.
Peggy Cotter, an assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at UC Santa Barbara, is studying what might be called the bacterial brain. It’s the process by which a micro-organism adjusts its behavior in response to changes in its environment, such as different locations within the human body. This system, if not literally a brain, is very good at enabling bacteria to adapt, survive and thrive under incredibly diverse and sometimes hostile conditions. In their way, says Cotter, bacteria “are way smarter than we are. Trying to outsmart them is a challenge.” Cotter’s research focuses on the infectious cycle of bacteria belonging to the genus Bordetella, including the causative agent of whooping cough, B. pertussis, and B. bronchiseptica, which causes respiratory infections in animals such as rabbits, rats and guinea pigs. Along with other UCSB researchers, she is studying the system called BvgAs, which regulates Bordetella virulence.
Together these states add up to a wide-ranging adaptive repertoire, one that enables the bacteria to survive under different conditions and under different stresses. In the Bvgi phase, for instance, the organism generates proteins that allow it to stick to body surfaces, but it does not produce toxins that cause damage, inviting an immune response. The decision to go from semi-virulent to virulent is thus a choice between co-existence and confrontation. Sometimes one course suits the survival of the bacteria, sometimes the other. Cotter is studying this process to see how Bordetella picks particular phases for particular environments – such as avirulent to survive the lack of nutrients in the external environment, semi-virulent for harmless colonization of the host’s upper respiratory tract, and virulent to colonize the lower respiratory tract. In the latter phase, symptoms induced by the bacteria, such as coughing, would cause them to be expelled to find a new host. To test such hypotheses, Cotter and her colleagues are producing Bordetella strains with mutant BvgAS systems and analyzing gene expression patterns under varying conditions.
To help determine what kinds of mutants to make, Cotter is Bordetella cling to villi on the bronchial wall surface. Their abilty to adapt to the ever-changing and hostile conditions in the bronchial tract by adopting a completely collaborating with Linda Petzold, professor of different pattern of gene expression gives this bacteria a very resourceful survival computer science and mechanism. Biologists have known for a engineering at UCSB. long time that the BvgAS control system turns virulence The collaboration is an example of a new science, systems genes on and off, and that it does the same for genes that biology, which uses the quantitative methods of computer allow the bacteria to survive outside the host. But Cotter’s science and engineering to investigate how organisms research shows that the system does not work like your control processes such as virulence gene expression. standard on/off light switch. Instead, it works more like a “We are trying to use the data from the experiments to dimmer. When it’s adjusted to an intermediate setting, it develop a simple model to try to explain why the biological allows the bacteria to express a completely different pattern structure is the way it is,” Petzold says. of gene expression than when it is either fully on or off. In shorthand terms, this means that Bordetella can express (at least) three different phases; the Bvg+ (virulent) phase, the Bvg- (avirulent) phase, and the Bvgi (intermediate or semivirulent) phase.
Professor Peggy Cotter surrounded by 'smart bugs' freshly placed in petri dish cultures.
If this research succeeds in deciphering Bordetella’s operating rules, Cotter sees the potential for developing an improved whooping cough vaccine “that is more effective and less damaging to the host. One of the reasons that whooping cough is on the rise is that the current vaccines do a good job of protecting against disease, but they are not very good at preventing colonization. If we can understand gene expression patterns during the entire infectious cycle, we may be able to develop vaccines that will block the bacteria during the critical first step in the establishment of infection and therefore prevent colonization to begin with.”
"In their way bacteria are way smarter than we are," says Cotter.
Cotter has been at UC Santa Barbara for four years. As she explains, “I did not take the normal path” to get here. After doing undergraduate work at UCLA, she worked there as a medical technologist for five years. She had two children during that time – a daughter who graduated from UCLA last year and a son who is currently a junior at UCSB. She went to graduate school starting in 1987, earning a PhD in microbiology and molecular genetics in 1992. She stayed at UCLA until 2001, as a post-doctoral fellow, a research associate, and an adjunct assistant professor, compiling a substantial body of published research in regulation of gene expression. She has continued that work at UCSB, taking advantage of the university’s trademark interaction among the disciplines. She says she has come to appreciate this meeting-place of diverse minds: “You realize how much your research is influenced by your neighbors.”
UCSB’s Glenn Beltz gets hands-on practice in ancient engineering for a Discovery Channel documentary.
rchimedes, the great mathematician and inventor of the 3rd century B.C., was said once to have boasted, “Give me somewhere to stand, and I will move the earth.” He never pulled off that particular feat. But if historical accounts are true, he was some engineer.
described the plan for three documentaries on weapons of antiquity. “One was going to be a battering ram, another was to be a fire-breathing siege engine, and the other was something called the Claw of Archimedes, something I had never heard of before,” Beltz says.
Just how good was he? A team including Professor Glenn E. Beltz of UC Santa Barbara got a sense of the challenges Archimedes faced – and of his ingenuity in dealing with them – when they reconstructed one of his inventions for a recent Discovery Channel series “Superweapons of the Ancient World.”
Shortly after that, the producers picked the team. Joining Beltz were Stephen Duff, an architectural engineer from the University of Oregon; two civil engineers, Virginia Eng of San Francisco and David Burnett of Denver, and Eric Seeling, a Denver-based timber framer. The five met by phone and e-mail in January. For the next two months, they worked out their basic design strategy in weekly conference calls and hundreds of e-mails, observing the producers’ rule that they could not actually meet in person until the
The device is known as the Claw of Archimedes (though it may have looked more like a hook than a claw). It was built to defend the Greek stronghold of Syracuse, on the island of Sicily, from a seaborne Roman assault, and evidently it worked. The Romans could not take Syracuse by sea, though they later succeeded in seizing it by land. According to early historians such as Polybius, Livy and Plutarch, the claw was able to lift Roman galleys out of the water and either capsize, swamp or smash them. But no pictures, models or pieces of the weapon survive. It’s known only through a few brief descriptions. So it was up to modern engineers to figure out how it worked, what it might have looked like, and even if it was within the range of known technologies of its time. A British production company, Darlow Smithson, had the idea of bringing five of them together to reconstruct the weapon at a place something like ancient Syracuse. To make things more interesting, they had to get the job done on camera and on a tight deadline, as if the Romans really were coming and there was no time to waste. Beltz, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and associate dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Engineering, says he hadn’t even heard about the claw until December 2003, when a Darlow Smithson producer
project was ready to begin. (This was partly to heighten the challenge, but as Beltz notes, “This is how engineering projects often are done.”) The five finally got together in person late in March at the project site, the city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Then, for 10 days, they scrambled to design, build and test a workable Claw before “the Romans” arrived to storm at the sea wall of Essaouira. The producers had readied a 50-
foot replica of a Roman galley to represent the enemy; Beltz and his colleagues had to come up with a device capable of sinking the ship. They could take some shortcuts for convenience or safety, such as using power tools and employing steel cable where Archimedes would have used hemp rope. But they were not allowed to apply engineering principles unknown in Archimedes’ day. They had to play mostly by the 3rd Century B.C. book. It wasn’t easy. To judge from the ancient authors’ sketchy descriptions, the Claw would have been an impressive structure even by modern engineering standards. It apparently consisted of a long boom with a heavy grappling hook suspended from one end. As galleys neared the sea wall, the Syracusan defenders would somehow hook them and then use the boom as a lever to pull them partly out of the water. The boats would then heel over, capsize or be smashed against the rocks under the sea walls. Beltz and Duff had the job of re-creating the boom. “From the engineering and design standpoint, we definitely had the hardest part,” Beltz says. They had to make a self-supporting beam some 60 feet long, capable of deploying the grappling hook and lifting a ship. Modern-day engineers would have made it out of steel, but only wood was available in Archimedes’ day. To make their job even tougher, they had to use dense, green eucalyptus. The boom made from this wood would not be able to support its own weight – about 10,000 pounds – much less hoist a galley out of the water. They solved the problem with some historical conjecture. Looking at the design of Roman ships, they concluded that the Romans knew how to use guy lines for structural strength. So they made the small leap to assuming that Archimedes could have applied such knowledge to his claw. They added diagonal tie lines, like those on modern construction booms, and the weighty wooden beam held together. It worked in the field, too, after some refining of the claw to make it grip the replica Roman ship. The engineers used machine power to lift the parts of Archimedes’ weapon into place (one of them, Eng, was a specialist in lifting large, unwieldy objects such as the prefabricated walls of big-box stores). But when it came to actually operating the Claw, they relied on muscle power – their own and that of 15 Moroccan volunteers. The show aired on the Discovery Channel in February of this year. It gives viewers a lesson in problem-solving, and Beltz says he learned from the experience, too. “For me, the biggest lessons were in teamwork, working with people of different backgrounds and skills,” he says. He also came away with a new appreciation for the skill of ancient engineers: “Seeing what they were able to figure out without knowing Newtonian mechanics amazes me.” As for his students, he was able to get them involved back at UCSB in preliminary work, such as analyzing the tides and shoreline at the Morocco site and building a “very rudimentary six-foot-long plywood boat” to test how much force the Claw would need to lift an entire galley. And there’s nothing like hands-on experience to get a grasp on knowledge. After building that giant wooden boom, Beltz says, he has been teaching his strength-of-materials course without notes.
The engineering team. Clockwise from upper left: UCSB’s Glenn Beltz, University of Oregon Architectural Engineering Professor Stephen Duff, timber framer Eric Seeling, civil engineer David Burnett, civil engineer Virginia Eng.
The hook has taken a bite out of the hull and is being re-hoisted for another swing at the galley.
WHAT IS THIS?
See Answer On Inside Back Cover 12
News and Events from the Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
NSF Gives $1.8 million in CAREER Awards to 4 UCSB Faculty Members Four junior faculty members at
UC Santa Barbara have received Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards totaling $1,841,272 from the National Science Foundation. The CAREER program offers the NSF’s most prestigious awards, supporting the early-career research of faculty deemed most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Awardees are selected on the basis of their proposals, and their CAREER grants are paid over a fiveyear period. The winners at UCSB are: Jeffrey W. Bode, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Bode will receive $575,000 to develop catalytic methods for the synthesis of organic molecules and to apply these new reactions to the synthesis of biologically active peptides and natural products.
Patrick S. Daugherty, assistant professor of chemical engineering. Daugherty will receive $400,000 to develop experimental approaches for the analysis and engineering of biomolecular interaction specificity in complex, multi-component systems.
An artist's impression of nano-sized cubic crystals, from the research of Ram Seshadri.
Ram Seshadri, assistant professor of materials. Seshadri will receive $466,272 for his fundamental research on why certain magnets are half metals while others are not, and on how new half metals could be designed from scratch. Half metals are a special class of magnetic materials that show great potential in spin-based electronics, where the spin of electrons rather than their charge is manipulated.
Timothy P. Sherwood, assistant professor of computer science. Sherwood will receive $400,000 to develop specialized architectures and algorithms for security processing on high throughput memory tiles. The National Science Foundation promotes and advances scientific progress in the U.S. by competitively awarding grants and cooperative agreements for research and education in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
News and Events from the Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara Evelyn Hu Named UCSB’s 2005 Faculty Research Lecturer
David Awschalom Awarded the 2005 Agilent Europhysics Prize in Condensed Matter Physics
The European Physical Society (EPS) has awarded the 2005 Agilent Europhysics Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Condensed Matter Physics to UC Santa Barbara Professor David Awschalom. He and two others were honored for their investigations of magnetic semiconductors and spin coherence in the solid state – research that has paved the way for the emergence of spin electronics, or “spintronics.” The Europhysics Prize is one of the leading physics prizes presented in Europe. Awschalom is director of the Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation, as well as associate scientific director of the California Nanosystems Institute. He and his research group have pioneered new experimental techniques that made possible the discovery of long-lived electron spin lifetimes and coherence in semiconductors and nanostructures. They recently demonstrated all-electrical generation and manipulation of both electron and nuclear spins in prototype solid-state devices. This work opens the door to new opportunities for research and
technology in the emerging fields of semiconductor spintronics and quantum computation, including the development of fundamentally new systems for high density storage, ultrafast information processing and secure communication. Agilent has sponsored the Europhysics Prize for the past 30 years (as part of HewlettPackard until 1999), based on the belief that fundamental advances in science have the potential to revolutionize the way people live and work. The prize recognizes scientific excellence and focuses on work that advances the fields of electronic, electrical and materials engineering. The EPS provides an international forum to discuss science and policy issues of interest to its members. Created in 1968, it represents over 80,000 members and physicists through its 38 national member societies.
The faculty at UC Santa Barbara has honored Evelyn Hu, director of the California NanoSystems Institute and professor of electrical and computer engineering and materials, as this year’s recipient of its highest honor, the Faculty Research Lectureship. The 2005 award committee chairman, William Murdoch, professor of ecology, evolution, and marine biology, said Hu was chosen for her scholarship, her scientific research, the quality of her research and her broad contributions to engineering and UCSB. Hu delivered the lecture, “Michelangelo’s Laser: Sculpting Form into Function,” on May 24 in the Engineering Science Building. Hu’s research has earned her global recognition and a number of prestigious honors. She has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering and has been selected as a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Physical Society.
News and Events from the Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
Could Injections Someday Be a Thing of the Past?
Researchers led by Samir Mitragotri, a UC Santa Barbara professor of chemical engineering, have identified fundamental mechanisms that may lead to the design of safer and more efficacious topical drug delivery systems. The group reported its findings in a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Certain molecules, called chemical penetration enhancers (CPEs) help drugs pass through the skin. After analyzing more than 100 different CPEs to better understand how they manage to increase skin permeability, Mitragotri and his colleagues engineered more than 300 new CPEs based on their understanding of the molecular forces that are associated with CPE safety and potency. They then screened the new CPEs, first using computer technology and then testing the most promising ones in the laboratory environment. The molecules identified broaden the number of CPEs that can be used in the design of transdermal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. “The methods used in this research not only increase our ability to create effective new CPEs, but they also will expand our ability to evaluate potential new CPEs for safety and efficacy,” said Mitragotri. “By enhancing our ability to deliver drugs
Bowers, McMeeking Named to National Academy of Engineering Two UC Santa Barbara professors have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, bringing to 26 the total number of UCSB College of Engineering faculty holding that honor. John E. Bowers, (pictured below) a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Robert M. McMeeking, (pictured on page 14) a professor of mechanical engineering and materials, were among 74 new members and 10 foreign associates
elected in balloting by the academy’s members. The results were announced in February. The academy cited Bowers “for contributions to the development of high-speed semiconductor lasers and other special optical devices for optical switching and communications systems.” McMeeking was cited “for contributions to the computational modeling of materials and for the development of codes widely used by industry.” The National Academy of Engineering is an independent, nonprofit institution that provides leadership and guidance to the nation on the application of engineering resources to vital problems and issues. Election to the academy is one of the highest professional distinctions for an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made “important contributions to engineering theory and practice” and those who have demonstrated unusual accomplishment in the pioneering of new fields of engineering, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing or implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.
An artist's conception of skin layers.
topically, we will be able to reduce the number of drugs that must be given by injection.” By studying the molecular properties of a CPE, its propensity to penetrate or irritate the skin can be predicted. Simply put, the researchers draw a CPE’s structure on a computer, add its molecular properties and then compute its penetrability or effectiveness and its potential to irritate the skin. Such computer-aided modeling facilitates the analysis of millions of molecules, allowing researchers then to submit the most promising candidates to further in-vivo laboratory analysis.
News and Events from the Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara Continued from page 13
National Academy Recognizes Chemist Thomas C. Bruice for Enzyme Research Thomas C. Bruice, professor in
New Species of Coral Discovered Off Southern California
A new species of black coral has been discovered off Southern California by Milton Love, UCSB marine researcher, and Mary Yoklavich of NOAA Fisheries. The discovery came during dives by the researchers in the submersible “Delta.” The new species, found at depths of approximately 300 to 725 feet, was reported in the online scientific journal Zootaxa. Love named the new species “Christmas Tree Coral” (dendochristos in Greek) since it grows to a height greater than two meters and resembles pink, white and red flocked Christmas trees. The Christmas Tree Coral was first noticed by the researchers during dives for surveys of rockfishes on deep rocky banks about 40 miles off the coast, west of Los Angeles. “Many of the deepwater reefs in Southern California harbor remarkably healthy communities of corals, sponges, and other large invertebrates,” said Love. “This may be the case because, historically, there has been relatively little trawling over reefs in our area. What we need to know is the role that these large invertebrates play as deep-water habitats for fishes and other marine life.”
the UC Santa Barbara Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has received the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences. The medal and prize are awarded annually for innovative research in the chemical sciences that, in the broadest sense, contributes to the understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity. The award cites Bruice for “his leading role in the development of bioorganic chemistry, and especially for deep and lasting contributions to the understanding of enzyme mechanisms.” Bruice has been a Guggenheim Fellow and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He has received the major awards of the American Chemical Society in the sub-disciplines of bioorganic and bioinorganic chemistries, physical organic chemistry, and biochemistry.
Matthew Tirrell, dean of the College of Engineering and a National Academy member, said, “Professors McMeeking and Bowers have made major contributions to mechanics and optoelectronics, respectively. They are superb examples of the strong, fundamental research and the effective technology development for which our College of Engineering is so well known.” Bowers is director of the Multidisciplinary Optical Switching Technology Center (MOST) at UCSB, where he heads the optoelectronics research group. His research interests are in the development of novel optoelectronic devices for the next generation of optical networks. He is the author of more than 400 journal articles and conference papers. McMeeking’s research is focused on solid mechanics, materials and structures, including the mechanics of materials, fracture, plasticity, composite materials and materials processing. He has published more than 180 scientific papers on a wide range of related subjects, such as plasticity, fracture mechanics, computational methods, glaciology, tough ceramics, composite materials and materials processing.
engineering for success Does America need another management program? UC Santa Barbara’s Gary Hansen thinks so. He says technology students should also learn how to run a business.
and universities offer some type of instruction in business administration, finance or marketing. There are signs that demand for business degrees is starting to sag even at elite schools. BusinessWeek magazine recently noted that applications to the top 30 MBA programs in its rankings have fallen almost 30% since 1998, with some schools seeing drops of 50% or more.
ary Hansen, a professor of mechanical engineering, is also associate dean of the university’s new Technology Management Program (TMP). In this role, his mission is to build TMP into an interdisciplinary academic program that closes the gap between the sciences and management. “The Technology Management Program is a radical departure from a typical business school. Yet it’s a very natural outgrowth of UC Santa Barbara’s College of Engineering, whose international academic reputation has been built by working across traditional boundaries.”
All true, says Hansen, but he argues that most of those institutions are offering virtually identical programs: essentially the same slate of courses along with a social network to build future business contacts for students while in school. Although traditional business schools may have technology management programs, Hansen says most of these are geared toward the non-technology student. “They don’t view technology commercialization as the life blood of their programs. They assume a technology or a product is already in place and then ask, how should the student market it? At UC Santa Barbara we seek to invent technology solutions to unmet needs in the marketplace – profitably.”
This year, TMP is up and running with a full-time staff and courses – 15 graduatelevel classes and 12 classes for undergraduates – that cover topics such as general management skills, new venture creation and finance, product development, marketing and analysis of new business opportunities. The program’s business plan projects a steady expansion of course offerings between now and 2010.
UCSB’s program diverges from the traditional engineering or business school by targeting a particular student, one whose primary training is in science or engineering, and it focuses on training for one type of business, the technology-based firm.
Through the Technology Management Program, the College of Engineering plans to add an undergraduate management minor next year, followed by an M.S. in technology management and Ph.D. program in 2006, with a technology-focused MBA planned five years from now. Hansen thinks the undergraduate minor will be a big hit. “An electrical engineering student will graduate from one of the best EE departments in the country,” he says, “and will know something about pro formas, target markets, competitive analysis and working in interdisciplinary teams. This ‘businessaware’ engineer will be prepared to enter the world of work at full speed and will be very attractive to technology-based businesses.”
A University with Entrepreneurial Genes? UCSB has proven experience at creating technologybusiness links. TMP grows out of a program started in the boom years of the 1990s, the Center for Engineering and Entrepreneurial Management (CEEM), which enlisted economics and engineering faculty along with business people to teach students how to start successful businesses. CEEM’s popularity and success led to creating a more comprehensive academic program. In 2001, College of Engineering Dean Matthew Tirrell invited Hansen, then heading the entrepreneurship program at the University
Business Training Tailored to Technologists Why add business courses at a college of engineering, when the field of management education already seems crowded? The U.S. has more than 400 accredited business schools, and many more colleges
Continued on back page
The Inherited Mind
UC Santa Barbara’s Leda Cosmides and John Tooby stir up the social sciences as they trace the roots of human culture to our prehistoric past.
No big grants, almost no budget, a few researchers and a Web site – add all these up and you have one of the most high-impact institutions in the world of science and ideas. UCSB’s Center for Evolutionary Psychology, led by a husband and wife who have been researching and publishing together for about 25 years, is almost literally a mom-and-pop operation.
British biologist and author Lewis Wolpert has written of Cosmides’ and Tooby’s research, “It should now be very difficult for anyone working in the social sciences to ignore this work.” And, love it or hate it, few do. Tooby attributes this high profile to the power of ideas, certainly not funding. “To the outside world we look like a several-million-dollar-a-year venture,” he says. Most of Esquire’s other “centers of genius,” he notes, were labs, universities or firms boasting “staffs of hundreds and budgets in the hundreds of millions” – such as Caltech, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT’s Whitehead Institute and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “We have a budget that varies between nothing and four to five thousand dollars a year.”
But it gets plenty of attention, and not just in the academic world. In 1999, Esquire listed it as one of the 26 “Red-Hot Centers of Genius in America” and said of it, “Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, and a powerful coterie of evo-psychs are kicking the neurons out of classical and cognitive psychology in favor of more Darwinian explanations for why people behave--and misbehave-as they do.” Time, in its survey that year of the leading scientists, thinkers, ideas and inventions of the 20th Century, noted how “such scholars as Leda Cosmides, John Tooby and Steven Pinker (author of How the Mind Works) have begun to explain human language, logic and perception in Darwinian terms.”
Moderns with Hunter-Gatherer Minds
Those powerful ideas of which Tooby speaks are variations on a theme – that the mind was designed by evolution to think in certain ways. Much of the mental activity thought by earlier scientists (and many still) to be dictated by culture is, to the evolutionary psychologists, inherited. And they argue that culture itself is rooted in instincts that developed among early humans and their ancestors long before recorded history. In their view, the differences between cultures may be striking, but they are all variations on a theme, grounded on a universal human nature. To take one example, research in evolutionary psychology treats incest avoidance as a response that evolved through natural selection. Those early humans who were repulsed by the thought of sex with siblings or parents had more healthy offspring than those who embraced it. This is not the view held by Freud, who held that humans are born with strong sexual attraction toward parents of the opposite sex. To him and to most social scientists of the last century, incest taboos come from culture, not biology. They are seen as rules imposed by human society to rein in human nature. In the evo-psych view, disgust at incest is caused by human nature, and develops toward anyone whom our minds categorize as a sibling or parent—not based on what people tell you, but on cues that reliably predicted kinship among our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Or consider basic patterns of human cooperation. In the “blank-slate” model of the mind, every human being has to learn the rules of social interaction from scratch – and thus from the surrounding culture. But evolutionary psychologists have evidence that something as subtle and seemingly culture-bound as reciprocation is produced by specialized cognitive mechanisms. Evolutionary
"Evolutionary psychology, says Harvard's Steven Pinker, is "the first scientific psychology that studies the things important to people." game theorists had shown that reciprocal cooperation cannot evolve without the ability to detect cheaters—those who accept favors without returning them. This led Cosmides and Tooby to look for—and find—a cognitive mechanism that is specialized for cheater detection. In the early days, humans with good cheater detection would have helped their survival chances by depending only on people they could trust. The stakes are a bit different today, but we’re still mentally equipped to watch out for the dishonest or untrustworthy.
Answering the Big Questions
Evolutionary psychology has caught on, in part, because it offers cogent explanations for the basic stuff of human life. Harvard’s Steven Pinker calls it “the first scientific psychology that studies the things important to people” such as “sex, motherhood, status, beauty, food.” Freud trained his sights on such things, too. But he was more a man of letters, probing myths and literature for insights into human behavior, than a modern experimental scientist. Evolutionary psychology as practiced by Cosmides, Tooby, Pinker and others starts from a core principle of modern biology – that species develop through adaptation and natural selection. It applies this tenet to specific psychological traits and tests its hypotheses through standard scientific approaches such as laboratory experiments and cross-cultural studies. A paper on race encoding, published in 2001 by Tooby, Cosmides and Robert Kurzban of UCLA, shows how this method works. Social psychologists John Tooby and Leda Cosmides have found that people form first impressions of one another by noticing their age, gender and race. The habit of making snap judgments based on skin color and facial features, of course, has led to much conflict and misery. Social psychologists had tried to diminish race encoding—the tendency to notice and remember people’s race—without success. They began to wonder when the brain is designed to encode race, endowed with a hardwired mechanism too basic to be changed. According to the evolutionary psychology model, however, racial encoding doesn’t make adaptive sense. It’s easy to see why hunter-gatherers, looking for mates or watching out for
rivals, would notice a stranger’s age and sex. But in the thinly-populated world of old, their chances of coming into contact with people who looked distinctly different would be slight. Cosmides, Tooby and Kurzban posited that modern humans notice race because it’s a proxy for something that was important back in the Pleistocene. They figured that people have always formed alliances, coalitions, in-groups and out-groups, even when everyone looked largely the same. So they set up an experiment involving an “alternate social world” in which there were two rival coalitions, but race did not predict who was allied with whom. Tooby says it took only about four minutes for race-consciousness to fade. “The tendency to encode race is not something that’s hard to change, as social scientists thought,” he says. “It’s not a category that the mind has to form. It’s just a category that the mind happens to form, given the right social conditions.”
The Poetic Primate
Humans these days do, say, think and feel things that seem to have little connection to the typical concerns of a hunter-gatherer. Did modern culture in all its intricate development – not just incest taboos but the symphonies of Beethoven and the novels of Tolstoy – really grow out of cognitive machinery that evolved long ago, in a vastly different world? Evolutionary psychologists would say yes—but not all cultural forms are produced by mechanisms that were designed for that purpose. They note that some inherited traits are true adaptations while others are byproducts of adaptations that were designed for entirely different functions. On the question of the human love of music, Cosmides says, “I’m more inclined to the byproduct notion.” But even here, some evolutionary psychologists see possible adaptive purpose in dance, say, for its power to teach collective action and coalition-building. Cosmides suggests that our ideas of the pleasing and beautiful in art are pegged to ancient experience, and not just on obvious issues such as what makes a human face attractive. Continued on page 21
AN ENGINEER I N
H I S E L E M E N T UCSB alumnus Leroy Chiao logs his fourth space mission and pays a video visit to his alma mater.
he 44-year-old astronaut is showing just how far one can go with hard work, some luck and a solid grounding in science and engineering. Late in April, he finished a six-month stint on the International Space Station (ISS) as commander and NASA science officer (he was joined by Russian Cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov). Added to his three earlier missions on space shuttles, this puts Chiao in a select group. Out of the 97 current NASA astronauts, he is one of only seven who have been on four or more space voyages. In addition to being one of NASA’s seasoned space travelers, Chiao is one of UCSB’s most accomplished alumni. He earned a PhD in chemical engineering at the university in 1987 and four years later became a NASA astronaut. He flew his first mission in 1994. The next year, UCSB named him a Distinguished Alumnus. The year after that, he gave the commencement address for the university’s engineering graduates. Chiao’s faculty mentor, Chemical Engineering emeritus professor Robert Rinker, says space travel is right up the engineering alley. He says NASA looks for problem solvers, and problem solving is arguably the essence of engineering. The agency wants “people in the space program who think analytically and quantitatively,” Rinker says, “and that’s what engineers are trained to do in order to create new technology.” Interviewed by e-mail during the ISS mission, Chiao said his own experience in space proves Rinker’s point. Although he wasn’t “directly applying the scientific research topic that I studied at UCSB,” he said he was applying “problem-solving skills on a
daily basis.” Moreover, he said his work under Rinker at UCSB gave him exposure to a wide range of engineering and science knowledge, which he was putting to work “to understand the goals and peculiarities of experiments and experimental equipment onboard.”
Putting Problem-Solving Skills to Work “On a different level,” Chiao said, “The space station is full of classical chemical engineering systems. Just a few examples are the thermal control system, the CO2 scrubbers, the micro-impurities scrubber and the electrolysis oxygen generator. Thus, my general chemical engineering studies are very applicable.” Chiao took some time on his latest mission to teach and inspire. He appeared via NASA downlink at UCSB’s annual Science and Technology / MESA Day on March 5, telecast on a giant video screen before hundreds of students from local middle schools, high schools and colleges. As he orbited 220 miles overhead, the students got a chance to ask him about living and working in space. They also got a chance to see how the right education might open doors for them. The event was coordinated by Robert Cota, director of the MESA Programs and the Office of Engineering Enrichment Programs, with guidance from Glenn Beltz, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering. The video downlink was coordinated by NASA scientist Brittany Guillory, who teamed up with a UCSB Instructional Resources crew under the direction of Ray Tracy.
Next Up: Jose Hernandez Leroy Chiao is the first UC Santa Barbara alumnus in space, but he’s likely not to be the last. Preparing for his own shot at space is Jose M. Hernandez, 41, who earned his Masters of Science in electrical engineering (concentrating on signals and systems) at UCSB in 1987. Hernandez is about midway through an 18-month training program in Houston as one of NASA’s astronaut candidates. He is on track to become a fullfledged astronaut this December.
Magaly Vazquez, a UCSB student majoring in Chemical Engineering, poses a question to the astronaut.
Making a Case for Math and Science Chiao was the main attraction, but not the only one, at Science and Technology/MESA Day. The all-day event also featured science and engineering competitions, tours of campus labs and libraries, and opportunities for participants to meet with UCSB faculty and students. It drew some 800 students from 27 middle and high schools in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Another 100 students were on hand from UCSB, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and community colleges. The annual gathering is part of a UCSB’s longstanding effort to promote math, science and engineering among students in the region. MESA (for “Mathematics, Engineering, [and] Science Achievement”) was started in 1970 to help prepare more educationally disadvantaged students for collegelevel study and eventual careers in math-based fields. It takes more than an advanced degree to become an astronaut, of course. Would-be space travelers have to pass exhaustive tests and go through three years of training. Only a few can expect to make the cut. Chiao, who caught the astronaut bug when he was eight years old, watching the first moon landing, advises young people to be realistic. “The fact is, there are limited slots available,” he said. “My approach … is to study and apply yourself to a field in which you are interested, which also qualifies you to apply to become an astronaut.” For a scientist or engineer who loves his or her work, that work will be satisfying even if NASA says no. And if NASA says yes, so much the better. As Chiao points out, “you can be happy in your field of endeavor,” no matter what.
He’ll be eligible for his first assignment then, but he says he will probably not get a slot on the Space Shuttle or the International Space Station right away. With the pace of shuttle flights slower than planned -- even before they stopped entirely after the Columbia disaster in February 2003 – NASA has a backlog of trained astronauts. But Hernandez is looking ahead to the next phase of space travel, when astronauts once again break free of the Earth’s orbit. His class of astronaut candidates is being readied for shuttle and ISS missions in the near term, but it is also the first one being trained for the future Crew Expedition Vehicle. This spacecraft would not only take over the shuttle’s work (such as servicing the ISS) but would also ferry astronauts to the moon, where President Bush has proposed setting up a base for missions to Mars. Under current plans, manned orbital CEV flights would start no later than 2014, with the first manned lunar mission by 2020. “Conceivably, one of us in the class will be among the first ones to walk again on the moon,” Hernandez says. Hernandez’ current training is a mix of listening, conditioning and hands-on practice. On one recent day, he started out with lectures and orbital simulations. Then he flew from Houston to El Paso and back on a T38 jet to sharpen his flying skills. His education as an engineer also comes into play. “I think it trained me to be a good scientist, in terms of learning how to approach problems and being able to solve them in a very effective manner,” he says. “It gave me the tools that enabled me to get where I am today.”
The Inherited Mind Continued from page 17
The rhythmic quality of language in poetry, for instance, “has been tied to mother-infant vocalizations.” And she says the universal human trait of making up stories, from fairy tales and legends to Anna Karenina and blockbusters, may have evolved as an effective form of mental training. She suggests that fiction gives us “lowcost enactments of the social world.” We can learn from a make-believe experience without the risks of going through the experience in reality. And what we learn is more than just the facts illustrated by a story. Cosmides says fiction may also be a way of sharpening our “improvisational intelligence,” making us better able to imagine and prepare for the future, to understand others and to act more wisely as a result. As Cosmides and Tooby put it in a 2001 paper, “With fiction unleashing our reactions to potential lives and realities, we feel more richly and adaptively about what we have not actually experienced.” This, they say, not only makes us understand others better, but also helps us make better choices ourselves.
Human-Nature Wars Evolutionary psychology still has plenty of critics, who question the science behind it and, maybe even more, its political implications. The scientific arguments center on issues such as the timing of evolution and on the roles of culture and genes in human behavior. Both sides say we are formed by both nature and nurture, not one exclusively. But evolutionarily-inclined thinkers such as Cosmides and Tooby argue that a rich human nature is precisely what makes learning and culture— nurture—possible. They also tend to the view that we’re mainly living with an inheritance of past evolution, the product of millions of years of adaptation, and that to change the behavior of modern humans, we need to understand these evolved mechanisms. Those who stress the formative power of culture see human behavior as determined by the here-and-now, with no rich texture given by adaptations designed for a vanished world.
reaction to that was that it’s terrible to talk about people in biological terms.” Ironically, scientists such as Tooby use biology to identify human universals, not differences. But he says the social sciences “have inherited this extremely pervasive attitude that biology is taint, a contaminant.” Still, the intellectual climate is more welcoming than it was when Tooby tried to find a kindred spirit on the psychology faculty when he studied at Harvard in the early 1970s. He ended up earning his doctorate in anthropology. Cosmides, who was five years behind him, had better luck. She found a professor in psychology willing to advise her, but without a lot of enthusiasm for her ideas. (As she and Tooby recall, he initially claimed that evolutionary approaches to psychology “make me gnash my teeth.”) Since then, evolutionary psychology has moved into the mainstream of cognitive science – if not in sociology or anthropology – and Cosmides and Tooby are widely credited with helping to put it there. Pinker, who met them in 1988 and who recalls that he spent the 199596 academic year at UCSB “so that I could imbibe their insights,” says, “They’ve revolutionized psychology. They are among the most brilliant psychologists I have ever met.” For their part, Cosmides and Tooby point to another UCSB scholar, the now-retired anthropology professor Donald Symons, as one of the thinkers who influenced them most. In fact, evolutionary psychology was already thriving at UCSB when the pair came here in 1990 – recruited by Symons and others –from the Stanford University-affiliated Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
These disputes spill over into politics, especially on a hot-button subject like gender differences. If we are still living with hunter-gatherer brains, does this mean we should accept hunter-gatherer sex roles? Evolutionary psychologists would say no – that, in fact, understanding the inherited roots of human behavior is the first step toward achieving real social change. But to many in and outside the social sciences, the idea that we may be wired for attitudes that don’t fit modern ideas of fairness is just too convenient an excuse for oppression. From another side of the spectrum, cultural conservatives attack the biologists’ view of man as an animal that evolved through natural selection. An evolutionary psychologist, in short, has to have a certain appetite for controversy. Tooby says the social sciences also have historical reasons for resisting a biological approach to the study of the human psyche and society. “In the social sciences in general, late in the 19th Century, there were a lot of people who were scientific racists,” he says. “The
Today, their Center for Evolutionary Psychology is the core of a network that includes UCSB faculty such as Steven Gaulin and Michael Gurven in Anthropology, Daphne Bugental, Tim German, Jim Roney, and Stan Klein in Psychology, Ted Bergstrom in Economics, and Paul Hernadi in Literature. Outside UCSB, the Center’s extramural board includes Pinker, Paul Ekman of UC San Francisco, Irven DeVore, professor emeritus of anthropology at Harvard, and two central figures in cognitive science, Michael S. Gazzaniga of Dartmouth and retired Stanford professor Roger Shepard. More than a dozen graduate students also are doing research through the center. Evolutionary psychology, says Tooby, “has become a major scientific movement,” and UCSB scholars are leading the way.
Q&A with Robert Sinsheimer Father of the Human Genome Project Robert Sinsheimer is one of the world ’s most distinguished biologists. Born in 1920 in Washington D.C., raised in Chicago and educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he taught for 20 years at California Institute of Technology and served as Chancellor at UC Santa Cruz from 1977 to 1987. While at Caltech, he and his colleagues achieved the historic breakthrough of replicating DNA. At Santa Cruz in 1985, Sinsheimer convened a group of scientists to discuss the feasibility of sequencing the human genome. That meeting was the impetus for the Human Genome Project, the ongoing effort to read and understand the complete genetic blueprint of human life. Since 1990, Sinsheimer has been on the UCSB faculty as Professor Emeritus of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. He has stayed active in laboratory research, working in recent years with Michael Mahan, Associate Professor in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, on salmonella bacteria. In 1999, Sinsheimer, Mahan and their colleagues discovered a salmonella gene that plays a key role in starting infections. The man often called “The Father of the Human Genome Project” recently talked with Convergence about his past and present work and his thoughts on the changing science of biology. Is science as fun as it used to be?
How has the science of biology changed during your career?
It is for me. Some people, I suppose, might be daunted by the complexity, but others are challenged by it. It’s clear that there’s almost a whole new area, called bioinformatics, which attacks some of these problems in a more complex fashion.
We now know the complete genome. But while we know the complete human genome and know about 24,000 genes, we only know what half of them do. There’s a lot that we don’t understand. There’s an interesting point here, when a discovery tells you how much you don’t know.
What is distinctive about UCSB compared to other universities with which you’ve been associated?
Does this change the way you formulate questions?
It has done wonderfully, with five Nobel prizes. That has giving it a cachet that is extraordinary. As for comparisons, I was at Santa Cruz and Caltech, and I have to go back and talk about each institution. Caltech is a very intense place; very distinguished faculty, much smaller ratio of students to faculty, very highly selective. Santa Cruz is a much younger institution. It’s still finding its way, in a way. It’s a place that pays a lot of attention
It does to some degree. You have a better sense of how much effort is required to get a complete picture. It also gives you a sense of the complexity of all the interactions that are going to have to be worked out.
to undergraduate students, it’s just gotten its first engineering building. Santa Barbara is in a more advanced stage. It’s developing in a lot of areas.
What attracted you to UCSB? I had been at Santa Cruz as a chancellor, and when I retired as chancellor I decided to leave. I thought it was a bad thing for a chancellor to hang around. I happened to have a house in Santa Barbara. I arranged to come here in 1988 and I taught for two years. At that time they had a mandatory 70-year retirement age, so I retired from teaching in 1990.
What has been the focus of your research since you came to UCSB? I started out collaborating with Helen Hansma in physics. We were trying to see what we could learn by looking at DNA with the atomic force microscope, hoping to sequence DNA. But that wasn’t practical. Since then I have been researching salmonella.
Tell us about your role in initiating the Human Genome Project? In 1985, I convened a workshop at Santa Cruz to ask whether it was doable. The next year, I was involved in a conference that laid out the original plan.
What was your expectation at that time for the HGP? There were many expectations. To know the human genome was a colossal achievement in itself; this was the essence of humanity. I expected that to be of immense value in biology and medicine. I expected also – and this may seem a little odd – that there must be big science projects in biology that we weren’t doing. I had been involved as UC Santa Cruz chancellor in big science projects, such as the Keck telescope and some high-energy physics projects; UC at the time was trying to get the next big supercollider. I thought there were areas of biology we weren’t approaching because we didn’t know how to do big science. Getting the genome was a very big science project, and as a result there are big science projects going on now in biology.
Have you been surprised by anything? I’ve been surprised by what we found. The genome is more complicated than we expected. It seemed like an awesome task before it started, but we believed the technology would come along to make it more practical, and it did.
Why the human genome, and not that of some other organism? It might have been more practical to do a smaller organism, but it wouldn’t have gotten the money.
Has your thinking about human biology and genetics changed? Yes it has. I’m struck by how much humans have in common with other species. We evolved from the mouse 50 million years ago, yet we’re 80% similar. You find that some of
our genetic characteristics are preserved all the way back through drosophila. Also interesting are the differences among humans. We are 99% similar, but the 1% difference is interesting. I saw a paper recently out about the two X chromosomes in females. It had been assumed that one X is turned off; we now know that a significant amount of it is not turned off, and that this amount varies among women. As a result, women are more different from one another than from men.
"It might have been more practical to do a smaller organism, but it wouldn't have gotten the money." Are Americans more or less scientifically literate than they used to be? Everybody was scientifically literate at Caltech; at a place like Santa Barbara, science literacy among students is rather sad. There should be more science required. Of course, the situation in the high schools is very bad, but again, it’s been possible to get through with just one course in algebra and one course in science.
Why is scientific literacy important if one doesn’t want to be a scientist? Our society needs scientifically literate people in order to maintain its economic momentum, but I think people need to understand what is going on around them.
What mystifies you these days? I don’t fully understand how chips work – integrated chips, all the marvelous stuff you have in these phones that are also a camera and an Internet receiver. The chips they have in there must be fantastic.
Will you ever retire? Not if I don’t have to.
engineering for success Continued from page 15
Together in professor John Bowersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Electrical Engineering lab are, from left to right: Stephen Laguette (with tie), Jim Morouse, Susan Block, Steven Cerri, Gary Hansen, Emily Burmeister and Kevin Almeroth.
of Washington, to UCSB as a visiting professor. In 2003, Hansen was named to a full-time faculty post and the TMP plan was launched. The university also has a rich history of technology-tobusiness activity among its own faculty. Hansen ticks off some figures: More than 30% of the engineering faculty members are entrepreneurs. More than 175 UCSB alumni or faculty have founded high-tech companies. Among these companies, spin-offs have produced over $7 billion in market value through mergers and acquisitions. Businesses started at the university have attracted over $650 million in venture funding. TMP is designed to apply that knowledge and experience to educating a new generation of technology business leaders. Over the next several years, TMP will hire faculty in fields such as marketing, strategy, and business management, with joint appointments reaching out to related fields in psychology, communications, statistics, political science and others. The program already has enlisted professors from the
departments of Computer Science, Communication, Materials Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical and Environmental Engineering. One of them, Professor John Bowers from Electrical and Computer Engineering, is an entrepreneur who has co-founded two companies -- Terabit Technologies and Calient Networks. Another TMP recruit, Communication Professor David Seibold, has wide experience as a management consultant and trainer for businesses and government agencies. Building a faculty mostly from scratch is a challenge in which Hansen sees an upside. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our real advantage is that we exemplify the nimble business model, developing new programs quickly to meet changing market needs.â&#x20AC;?
CONVERGENCE The Magazine of Engineering and the Sciences at UC Santa Barbara
What it is! Answer from page 10.
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