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UC Irvine Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences

Summer 2014 E-newsletter

A Message from Dean Frank LaFerla

Historic renaming of school has lasting impact on past and future graduates

Dear Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Community Friends,

The past five months as the dean of the newly minted Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences have been truly rewarding. We are working hard to change the look and the culture of the school and we have many exciting events ahead, including the upcoming graduation of the 2014 class and the celebration of UCI’s 50th anniversary.

Read the rest of Dean LaFerla's message on our website.

President Obama to deliver UCI Commencement Address on June 14

Ayala School commencement follows June 16

President Barack Obama will deliver the commencement address to UC Irvine's entire Class of 2014 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California on Saturday, June 14. This event marks the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s dedication of campus land and also represents an exciting departure for the campus typical tradition, as this year’s degrees will be conferred to all graduates in one commencement ceremony. Additionally, the Ayala School of Biological Sciences will have its school commencement on Monday, June 16 at the Bren Events Center, where every biology graduate will be called up on stage. 

Annual Lauds and Laurels gala honors three from the Ayala School

On May 15, 2014, three outstanding individuals from the Ayala School of Biological Sciences were honored at the annual UCI Lauds and Laurels gala. Frank LaFerla, Hana and Francisco J. Ayala Dean of the Ayala School of Biological Sciences was honored for Outstanding University Service. Sandra Holden, Biological Sciences graduate student, was honored as Outstanding Graduate Student and Carl Ware, class of 1974, was named Distinguished Alumnus. 

The UC Irvine Alumni Association (UCIAA) has presented Lauds and Laurels since 1971, honoring outstanding members of the UC Irvine community for their service to the university, the community or their profession.
Read more about the awardees here.

Marcelo Wood wins Professor of the Year

Debra Mauzy-Melitz wins TA Development Award; Larry Marsh awarded Dean's Honoree

On April 24, 2014 at the 21st Annual Celebration of Teaching program, Marcelo Wood, 
Chair of the Department of Neurobiology & Behavior was named the 2014 Professor of the Year. Recipients were selected on a campus-wide, competitive basis by the Academic Senate Council on Student Experience using nominations from faculty and students.

Prior to his chair position, Marcelo previously served as director of the Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program in the Ayala School of Biological Sciences.
Additionally, Debra Mauzy-Melitz in Developmental and Cell Biology was awarded the TA Development Award and Larry Marsh, also Developmental and Cell Biology, was awarded the Dean's Honoree for Excellence in Undergraduate Education.

Read more about the honorees and if you are interested in supporting Bio Sci research, please contact Andrew DiNuzzo.

Congratulations to our five 
Chancellor’s Award of Distinction recipients

Five graduating seniors in the Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences received the 2014 Chancellor’s Award of Distinction: Rame Basem Bashir, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, Rebecca My Linh Do, Biological Sciences major, Christina Bao Han Phan, Biological Sciences major, Bryan Jiaming Xie, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major and Michael C. Yang, Biological Sciences major.
The Chancellor’s Award of Distinction acknowledges the University of California, Irvine’s most outstanding graduating seniors. Awarded by the UC Irvine Alumni Association, these students represent exceptional academic achievement, and a commitment to cutting-edge research, leadership and service to UCI. Selected by a committee of alumni, recipients can be identified by the blue and gold shoulder cord worn with their commencement regalia.

Read more about our outstanding seniors here. If you're interested in supporting promising Bio Sci undergraduates, please contact Andrew DiNuzzo.

Spring Break in the Desert
increases outreach for Salton Sea and Anza-Borrego Desert regions

During the week of spring break, March 24-28, ten UC-Irvine undergraduate students participated in a weeklong service-learning program in the Anza-Borrego Desert and Salton Sea Region, led by UCI’s Center for Environmental Biology (CEB) and UCI Salton Sea Initiative (SSI). Students represented seven different campus majors, including earth system science, chemistry, engineering, social ecology, and public health and came together because of their shared interest in sustainability. This inaugural program partnered with California State Parks and the Borrego Springs School District for 2014 to present an environmental education program focused on the biology and ecology of the Salton Sea Basin.

Read more about this great program and Chancellor Drake's surprise visit here
If you are interested in supporting Bio Sci research, please contact Andrew DiNuzzo.

Bio Sci Undergraduate receives $10k scholarship to educate elementary students on nutrition and activities

Christine Pham, a 3rd-year biological sciences major at UC Irvine, was awarded a $10,000 scholarship by the Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation, to fund a public service project she will implement in her senior year.
Pham, a Fountain Valley resident, received the scholarship for her proposed project “My Healthy Start,” a monthly after school program that will educate students from the 36 elementary schools in the Santa Ana Unified School District, as well as their parents, on proper nutrition and physical activity.

Read more about Christine's project and award here. If you're interested in 
supporting promising Bio Sci undergrads, please contact Andrew DiNuzzo.

Renowned neuroscientist James McGaugh featured at Dean's Distinguished Lecture

On May 16, 2014, renowned neuroscientist and memory expert James McGaugh, Ayala School of Biological Sciences founding faculty member and research professor, presented at the 2nd presentation of the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series. Speaking to a packed crowd of over 300, McGaugh spoke about “Making Memories Last.”

Check back in the Fall for the next date in the lecture series. The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series was created in 2014 to promote interdepartmental knowledge and synergy within the Ayala School of Biological Sciences. Sponsored quarterly by the Hana and Francisco J. Ayala Dean, the lectures feature faculty who represent the wide range of expertise found throughout the School’s four departments.

Faculty Recognition

Tom Poulos, in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, was recently awarded the Gordon Hammes ACS Biochemistry Lectureship, a national award given by the American Chemical Society for outstanding contributions in scientific research at the interface of chemistry and biology.

Anthony James, in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to test evolutionary models for controlling malaria transmission.

Chris Hughes, chair of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, was named Chair of the Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT) Foundation International's Global Research and Medical Advisory Board.

Kim Green, in Neurobiology and Behavior, and colleagues lead new study finding that cancer drugs block dementia-linked brain inflammation. 

Dritan Agalliu, in Developmental and Cell Biology, leads study identifying new cause of brain bleeding immediately after stroke.

Peter Bowler, in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was selected by the Class of 2014 as the Most Outstanding Professor of the Francisco Ayala School of Biological Sciences, presented by the UCI Anthology Yearbook.

Thomas Schilling and postdoctoral fellow Adam Tuttle, in Developmental and Cell Biology recently identified a protein, Rbc3a, which could be a therapeutic target for resolving birth defects and cancers. Tuttle’s study published in the May 6 issue of PLoS Biology.
Michael Leon and Cynthia Woo, in Neurobiology and Behavior, received the D.G. Marquis Award from the American Psychological Association for their autism work, an award given each year to recognize the best paper published in Behavioral Neuroscience.

Sergio Rasmann, in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, received the Early Career award from the International Society of Chemical Ecology.
Craig Walsh, in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, co-authored a study on stem cell therapy that shows promise for mice with multiple sclerosis.
Tim Bredy, in Neurobiology and Behavior and Fellow of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, leads study shedding new light on the process of loosening fear-related memories.
Matthew Inlay, in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, leads Stem cell study identifying the source of earliest blood cells during development.
Matthew Blurton-Jones, in Neurobiology and Behavior, leads study finding that modified stem cells offer potential pathway to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
2 p.m. - Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences Graduate Convocation

Saturday, June 14, 2014
UCI Commencement (all schools) at Angel Stadium in Anaheim

Monday, June 16, 2014
9 a.m. - Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences Undergraduate Convocation

11 a.m. - Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

Graduate Student Recognition

Three Neurobiology and Behavior graduate students received prestigious National Research Service Awards (NRSA); Rachel Rice for “Role of Microglia in Synaptic Sculpting in the Healthy and Injured Adult Brain”; Julia Overman for “Investigation of ApiCCT1 for Huntington’s Disease Therapeutics”; Andre White for “The role of neuron-specific nucleosome remodeling in cocaine associative memory.” This pre-doctoral National Institutes of Health fellowship is one of the most prestigious training fellowships a graduate student can receive.

Neurobiology and Behavior graduate students Derek Huffman (1st prize) and Andre White (2nd prize) received the Ralph Waldo Gerard Prizes for Excellence in the History of Neuroscience, a Campus award given to students who have written outstanding papers on the history of neuroscience. It honors Dr. Gerard, the first Dean of the Graduate Division at UCI, who was a pioneering neuroscientist best known for developing the intracellular micro electrode.


Give Back to the Ayala School today! 

Your gift to the Ayala School makes a difference. Whether it’s to assist a high-achieving student or ground-breaking research, your gift will help turn the problems of today into the solutions for tomorrow. 
For more information on how to set up scholarships or to endow faculty chairs, please contact Andy DiNuzzo at  To make a one-time gift to the Dean’s Fund for Excellence, visit our online giving page.  

Join the Bio Sci Alumni Club!

Join the Bio Sci Alumni Club!  Join a worldwide network of Bio Anteaters and reconnect with old friends while showing support of the Ayala School – all for free! More details at

Become a mentor to students today!

Are you interested in helping students achieve academic and career success? Would you like to make a difference in a student’s life? Join the Bio Sci Mentor Program by emailing Alyssa Sanchez today. Sign ups start August 11, 2014!
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