February 2016

Message from the Dean

Making connections and providing the community of Orange County with the opportunity to learn about the critical role that biological sciences play in our world is one of the most exciting activities sponsored by the Ayala School. Many of the issues facing our world, from the environment/sustainability to health and wellness to energy production will have a biological-based solution. Carl Sagan once said “we live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” Hence, it is critical that UCI and the Ayala School help inform and educate the citizens of Orange County and beyond about the complex issues related to the life sciences. 
On February 4th, Arthur D. Lander, M.D., Ph.D., Donald Bren Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology, was the guest speaker for the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture series. It was a resounding success for two main reasons. First, it was exciting to see that the lecture hall was packed with many members of the local public who were interested in learning about the life sciences. Second, Professor Lander delivered a truly remarkable lecture that provided a fresh perspective on biological systems. The enthusiasm spilled over into the reception, where the dialogue between Ayala faculty and community members evolved beyond Professor Lander’s topic for that night. 
As a public university, The Ayala School seeks to build strong bridges to the community to help inform them about the sciences, which will hopefully translate into stronger lobbying support for research and other benefits. We intend to continue to reach out to our local public using our lecture series as a bridge between the researchers who seek to find solutions to society’s grand challenges, and the people seeking solutions to those challenges.

News and Highlights

Purpose, Complexity and Failure in the Living World 
The first Dean's Distinguished Lecture of 2016 kicked off with a presentation by the Donald Bren Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology, Arthur D. Lander, M.D., Ph.D., at the Crystal Cove Auditorium at the UCI student center. Professor Lander's lecture introduced the audience to the fascinating world of complex biological systems. Read more.

Technology Development Innovation Award

Professor Aimee L. Edinger, Developmental and Cell Biology, recently received a Track 3 Award from UCI Irvine Applied Innovation. The award aims to assist university faculty with the development of technology that focuses on rapid assessment of commercial feasibility. Professor Edinger is currently researching cancer cell metabolism and how to combat cancer cells by depriving them of nutrients. Read more.

Fighting the Zika Epidemic
The Zika viral epidemic is the latest mosquito-borne illness to afflict humans. Professor Anthony A. James, Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, has been approached by several news organizations to give his expert opinion on the potential use of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat the Zika virus. Read more.

Faculty Receives Honorary Life Member Award

Professor Andrea J. Tenner, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Neurobiology and Behavior, was recognized for her contributions to the field of leukocyte biology by receiving the 2015 Honorary Life Member Award from the Society of Leukocyte Biology. Professor Tenner is internationally recognized as a leader in the immunological field and currently serves as the director of UCI MIND.  Read more.

New James L. McGaugh Endowed Chair Named

Professor Craig E. L. Stark was recently awarded the James L. McGaugh Chair, Neurobiology and Behavior, for his profound impact on understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of memory. His most recent research has focused on the link between memory formation and playing 3-D video games. He will receive an endowment that will support his research and teaching for up to five years. Read more.

Ayala Faculty to Watch: Christie Fowler

Professor Christie D. Fowler, Neurobiology and Behavior, was recently featured as a "Scientist to Watch" in The Scientist magazine. Her research explores how the abuse of drugs can modulate the circuitry of the brain and create drug-seeking behavior. Professor Fowler also serves as an executive committee member of the UC Irvine Center for Addiction Neuroscience (ICAN). Read more.

Saving the Salton Sea

The California Natural Resources Agency has named Professor Timothy J. Bradley, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, to the science advisory committee to help preserve the Salton Sea. Professor Bradley is the current director of the Salton Sea Initiative, which has been working to understand the environmental impact of the Salton Sea's aridity. Read more.

Focus on Addiction

The UC Irvine Center for Addiction Neuroscience (ICAN) held their first Addiction Symposium led by ICAN's director, Professor Marcelo A. Wood. The event brought faculty from UCI, other universities, and medical professionals together to highlight their research and technical expertise  and foster collaboration on addiction research. Read more.

Two Ayala Faculty Members Among Thomson Reuters Most Cited

The Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers List was created to identify scientists who have significantly contributed to their field of research. Two Ayala School faculty members were selected along with many faculty members from across the UC campuses. Read more.

Spark the Zot in You - UCI Homecoming 2016

Alumni, students, faculty and staff filled Aldrich Park for this year's homecoming despite light rain. Throughout the day, the Ayala School booth gave visitors the opportunity to 
learn about the school's various research fields, meet Dr. Catherine Loudon, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and UCI MIND, who showcased a human brain and spinal cord. Read more.

Research in the News

Marine Life Impacted by Elevated CO2 and Higher Temperatures
Through studying tide pool habitats in Alaska, Professor Cascade J. Sorte, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and colleagues have found a direct link between changes in marine life physiology and ecology and elevated changes in temperature and CO2. Her research may help forecast what changes might occur if global temperatures continue to change. Read more.

Having the Muscle to Move
Professor Eman Aziz, Dr. Natalie Holt, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and colleagues investigated whether skeletal muscle morphology and physiology determines optimal performance that allow muscles to perform a broad range of movements by studying the movements of the cane toad planteris muscle. Read more.


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 our next newsletter! Send photos to or tag the Ayala School page on Facebook #ayalaschool.

Assessing the Value of Prerequisite Courses

From top: Drs. Brian Sato, Pavan Kadanadale, Justin F. Shaffer

Teaching professors in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Developmental and Cell Biology collaborated with a team of undergraduate researchers to develop a way to measure the knowledge gained in prerequisite classes within the context of student performance in biology courses. Read more.


David Saldana

David is a 4th year Neurobiology major and his career goal is to obtain a faculty position in neuroscience at a major university. Read more about David here.


Robert Avalos
Executive Director of Development

Robert Avalos is the new Executive Director of Development and will focus on engaging our alumni and members of the community to grow the school's base of support. 
Read more about Robert here.


In Memoriam: Dr. Robert K. Josephson

It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Dr. Robert K. Josephson, professor emeritus in the Departments of Neurobiology and Behavior and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Professor Josephson joined the Ayala School in 1971, working in various departments and as the Chair of the Department of Psychobiology (now Neurobiology and Behavior) from 1981 to 1984. He was a committed instructor and mentor and will be dearly missed. Read more.

Upcoming Events

UCI Distinguished Lecture on Brain, Learning and Memory
  • April 19, 2016 featuring Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine
    Wake Forest School of Medicine; Irvine Barclay Theatre