July/August 2016

Message from the Dean

I am pleased to announce that construction has commenced for a new Starbucks café to be located between Natural Sciences I and Biological Sciences 3.  It’s anticipated that the first phase of construction will be completed in September.  Starbucks will then handle the next phase of the construction, interior work and equipment setup, to be completed before the end of the Fall quarter.  This new facility will serve as a great point to help foster interaction and collaboration among Ayala faculty, students and staff.
Rendering of the new Starbucks café.

Biology for a Better Tomorrow

A New Approach For Treating Skin Cancer
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer with high metastatic potential. Using new and innovative immune-therapeutic approaches, Professor Alexander D. Boiko, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, discovered that blocking the cell surface protein, CD47 (known as a “don’t eat me” signal), on melanoma cells, increased the degree by which these cells were phagocytosed, or “eaten,” by macrophages. Read more.

New Insights into Water Polo Head Injuries and Concussions

Director of the Exercise Medicine and Sport Sciences Initiative, Professor James W. Hicks, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, along with Steven L. Small, Chair of Neurology and Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior, worked with their colleagues to survey over 44,000 water polo players to systematically characterize the risk of head injury and concussion within the sport. Read more.

Uncovering the Genetic Code of a Carnivorous Plant

Professor Rachel W. Martin, Chemistry and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and her collaborator Professor Carter T. Butts, Sociology and Statistics, have sequenced the genome of the carnivorous plant, Drosera capensis, which is related to the Venus flytrap, and is the first plant to be sequenced from the order Caryophyllales. Read more.

Can We Predict Death?

The groundbreaking work of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Professors Laurence D. Mueller and Michael R. Rose was recently featured in an online BBC article.  Professors Mueller and Rose have spent over two decades studying the biology of aging to shed light on the slowing of mortality rates at older ages, a phenomena known as the “third phase of life." Read more.

New Test May Help Identify Susceptibility to Alzheimer's Disease

Professor Michael A. Yassa, Neurobiology and Behavior, is uncovering the brain mechanisms that control learning and memory storage and how memories are altered during aging and disease. Recent work from his lab has led to the development of a new memory test that allows researchers to determine the impact of emotion on memory processing. Read more.

Shedding Light on the Structure of Alzheimer's Toxic Protein
Professor Charles G. Glabe, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, conducts research on the structure and aggregation of amyloids in degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. In a recent study, Professor Glabe assisted in discovering the three dimensional structure of the protein fragment amyloid-ß, believed to play a central role in the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Read more. 

Climate Change's Effect on Plant is Driven by Sex

Recent work from the laboratory of Professor Kailen A. Mooney, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, led by William K. Petry, Ph.D., has identified that climate change over the past four decades has significantly altered the sex ratios of the plant Valeriana edulis. This first-of-its-kind study highlights the ecological effects of climate change on the sex of certain species. Read more.

Commentary: A New Discovery in Lichen Biology
Professor Kathleen K. Treseder, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is an expert in the biology of fungi and studies how the species affects the broader ecosystem.  Professor Treseder has recently commented on a new study published in the journal “Science” that sheds light on an old organism, the lichen. Lichen have long been thought to consist of two organisms living in symbiosis, a fungus and algae. Read more.

News and Highlights

Ambry Genetics Founder Joins the Dean's Leadership Council

The president and founder of Ambry Genetics, Charles “Charlie” L. Dunlop, joined the DLC to help build new opportunities for Ayala students and faculty.  “We are proud to have Charlie join the DLC,” says Dean LaFerla, “He will bring a level of energy and experience to the DLC that will complement our already impressive group and further strengthens our ties to industry.” Read more.

International Collaboration to Foster Innovation in Alzheimer's Research
Several Ayala School faculty members joined Dean Frank M. LaFerla and their distinguished colleagues at Tel-Aviv University for the 24th Tel-Aviv University Alzheimer’s Disease Conference in Israel. The conference represents a growing partnership between the two universities, as both seek to increase the success of their faculty by providing new opportunities to collaborate with researchers across the globe. Read more.

Faculty Spotlight

Justin F. Schaffer
Developmental and Cell Biology

Justin F. Shaffer, Ph.D., is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Developmental and Cell Biology and the recent awardee of the 2016 Golden Apple Award for outstanding teaching. He also serves as Director of the “Becoming an Effective Mentor” workshop series, which trains Ayala School graduate students and postdocs on effective mentoring of undergraduates in the research lab. Read more.



Distinguished Faculty Award 

Professor Marcelo A. Wood, Chair of Neurobiology and Behavior, was honored with the 2016-17 Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching.  Conferred by the Academic Senate. The award is among the most prestigious bestowed by the Academic Senate to University of California faculty.


Congratulations to our newly tenured faculty! We're looking forward to the continued impact that your research will have in biology. The Ayala School is very proud of this great career milestone that you have achieved!

Timothy Bredy, Neurobiology and Behavior

Professor Bredy’s research investigates the molecular mechanisms that control how environmental stimuli and experience translate into long-term memories. 

Kim Green, Neurobiology and Behavior

Professor Green studies the role of brain inflammation in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

Michael Yassa, Neurobiology and Behavior

Professor Yassa focuses on understanding the underlying mechanisms of learning and memory, and how memory function is altered during the course of aging and disease.


Heather Lane

Asst. Building Manager

Heather Lane, Assistant Manager of Building Management, has been with UCI for over 29 years.  Heather’s first job at UCI was with fleet services. She worked there for 3 years before taking a position as a lock smith at the campus lock shop. After 18 years in the lock shop, Heather accepted the Assistant Manager of Building Management in the Ayala School. Her primary duty is to supervise general space and facilities projects, which involves working closely with School and campus personnel. Read more.


Daniel Winkler
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Daniel Winkler is a Ph.D. student in the laboratory of Professor Travis E. Huxman, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  Daniel was recently awarded the Exploration Fund grant and designated a Mamont Scholar by the Explorers Club for his proposed project to study climate change in the Ecuadorian Andes. The Exploration Fund grant is awarded to early career scientists and provides support of exploration and field research. Read more.


Hey Bio Anteaters! Send us your photos on Instagram representing the Ayala School in the lab, out with friends, or where you study by tagging @uciayalabiosci or using #UCIBioSci!