Ayala School eNewsletter - COMMENCEMENT EDITION (PART 1)
June 2015   

Message from the Dean

As the 2014-15 academic year concludes, several important milestones were achieved in the Ayala School. We are proud of the approximately 800 new Biological Sciences graduates. It was an honor to have five-time Olympic Champion Greg Louganis deliver the keynote address at commencement. His encouragement to the graduates to remain flexible through life’s challenges and his story of triumph over adversity was an inspiring message. To illustrate, Greg even demonstrated his own flexibility by doing a hand-stand on stage in full cap and gown. See photos of this year’s Commencement featuring Greg Louganis

Following commencement, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion with Greg Louganis and Dr. James W. Hicks, director of the UCI Exercise Medicine and Sports Science Initiative, on the importance of exercise in total body health for both world-class athletes and the general population. Notably, the Ayala School offers a degree program in Exercise Science. Read more about it here.

The Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences monument on the corner of Bison and W. Peltason was unveiled on June 10, during a ceremony with faculty  students, and staff joined by special guests, Drs. Hana and Francisco J. Ayala to dedicate this new marker. This monument announces to the world the highest quality of scientific inquiry that occurs in the Ayala School. For our students, this monument reflects hope and excitement, as they embark on their lifelong ambition to become clinicians, researchers, and educators. For our alumni, faculty and staff, it is a daily reminder of our pride to be linked to the name of Francisco J. Ayala; and for our community, it reflects our commitment to solve society’s most pressing issues as we all work in powerful and creative ways to make a positive difference for our world. See photos of Monument Unveiling

I wish you all the best this summer. 

Dean LaFerla

News and Highlights

California's Drought Could Spur Ecological Rebirth
The Guardian newspaper reports on the California drought, featuring Dr. Peter Bowler, Sr. Lecturer SOE in the Ayala School and director of the school’s arboretum. Professor Bowler stated “Obviously having drought-resistant plants, whether they’re native or not, is good, but why stop there? Why not go the extra step and focus on native plants that benefit the whole ecosystem? I think this is a positive opportunity.” Read the article. 

Professor Kim Green named 2015 Golden Apple Award Winner
Professor Kim Green, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, received the 2015 Golden Apple Award by the Ayala School of Biological Sciences. The Golden Apple Award, given annually since 2004, was announced by Dean LaFerla during the Ayala School's Graduate Honors Convocation and Teaching Awards Ceremony. This award honors outstanding contributions of educators who inspire students and create innovative teaching programs at the Ayala School. Read more.

Congratulations to the UC President's Dissertation Year Fellowship Winner
Dr. Soledad Mochel is the recipient of the 2015 UC President's Dissertation Year (PDY) Fellowship. The PDY Fellowship is intended for students in their final year of graduate study who are planning to pursue teaching and research appointments soon after their dissertation fellowship year.  Soledad completed her Ph.D. in Professor Ken W. Cho's laboratory in the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology.

Ayala School Student Awarded STEAM Scholarship to Study in Japan
Undergraduate student, Charlene Tran was recently announced as one of six UCI students to be awarded the Institute for International Education’s Generation Study Abroad STEAM Scholarships (STEAM = STEM + Arts). Charlene will be studying and conducting research at Osaka University as part of it’s Summer Lab Research, Engineering & Science program. The program is designed for students seeking a summer STEM research experience to work in a group lab setting and contribute to projects at the university. Read more. 

Exercise Medicine and Sports Science Initiative Announces Fall Moving Through Life Event
The UCI Exercise Medicine and Sport Sciences Initiative is hosting a community event on Saturday, September 12 at the UC Irvine Student Center. Featuring Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first female Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist, the all day even will provide forums on many aspects of health and lifestyle.  Read more. 

Research in the News

New Journal Article Explores how Natural Selection on Floral Morphology can be Influenced by Climate
Climate has the potential to influence evolution of organisms. One way to approach this topic would be to measure how natural selection changes over long periods that vary in environmental conditions. Professor Diane Campbell, in the Department of  Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, recently published results of measuring selection over a uniquely long time period for plants. She quantified the strength of selection on floral traits of a subalpine plant in the Colorado Rockies each year for 10 years. Read more

Alaska growing plant previously used in Secret Experiments
Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Mahtab Jafari was noted in a recent Smithsonian article about the growth of Rhodiola rose in Alaska, a plant thought to have many medicinal benefits. The article highlights how the Soviet Union Military also used the plant for secret experiments.  Read more.

Free online course inspired by TV drama,The Strain 

Dr. Pavan Kadandale, Lecturer PSOE in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, writes in his recent Huffington Post article, "The human body is home to teeming billions of organisms that affect our everyday lives, and this "microbiome" may very well influence every aspect of our health and disease." He joins two other UCI faculty members in teaching a free online learning course on the nature of parasites, and relating the material to the cable drama, The Strain.  Read more.

UCI Neurobiologists Restore Youthful Vigor to Adult Brains

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The same can be said of the adult brain. Its connections are hard to change, while in children, novel experiences rapidly mold new connections during critical periods of brain development. UC Irvine Professor Sunil Gandhi, Neurobiology and Behavior, and his colleagues wanted to know whether the flexibility of the juvenile brain could be restored to the adult brain. Apparently, it can. Read more about his study and recent work here.


Calling all Bio students! Send us your selfies representing the Ayala School with pride in a lab, out with friends, where you study, etc. and you could be featured in an upcoming newsletter! Send photos to or tag the Ayala School page on Facebook #ayalaschool.


Find out how you can help other students today by emailing Andrew DiNuzzo at or visiting Make a gift to the Ayala School here.


Jennifer Au
Ayala School Student

Jennifer Au, a fourth year Biology major at the UCI Ayala School was awarded the opportunity in fall 2015 to study at Beijing Normal University for four months to learn Madarin. She chose this intensive Chinese language program to help her better communicate with other individuals including her family in China. Read more.


Rachel Perlas Cinco
Ayala School Student

Rachel Perlas Cinco is a graduate student in Professor Ulrike Luderer’s laboratory in the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology who recently was awarded an F31 Ruth Kirschstein National Research Service Award to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research. Granted by the National Institute on Aging, one of the National Institutes of Health. Read more.


Marcelo Soares
Marketing and Design Associate

The Ayala School welcomed Marcelo Soares, our new Marketing and Design Associate, to the Dean’s Office on June 1. While new to the Ayala School of Biological Sciences, Marcelo joins the Ayala School from the UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) where he worked for over two years, most recently as the Director of Communications and Special Projects, and prior to that as Education Coordinator. Read more.