October 2016

Message from the Dean

I am pleased to welcome everyone to the 2016-17 academic school year.  For those of you returning, this year is set to be even more eventful than last.  We have an outstanding list of events planned, which should appeal to both faculty and students alike.
Let us extend a special welcome to our incoming class.  The university is welcoming its largest freshman class ever, and many of our new anteaters have chosen to join the Ayala School.  With over 1300 new students, this year’s welcome event was moved to the Bren Center to accommodate one of the largest incoming classes the School has ever had.  I wish much success to everyone as the academic year commences.  

Biology for a Better Tomorrow

Risk Factors for Congenital Heart Defects May Lie Outside the Heart
New research published by Professors Anne L. Calof (Anatomy and Neurobiology and Developmental and Cell Biology) Arthur D. Lander (Developmental and Cell Biology) and their colleagues, report that the role of genes in congenital heart defects is more complex than previously realized, and that overall risk of the disease is determined by a combination of gene effects both inside and outside of the heart itself. Read more.

Blue Mussel Population Gives Insight into Declining Biodiversity 

Professor Cascade J. Sorte (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) has discovered that the population of blue mussel populations has significantly declined over the past 40 years.  Blue mussel loss coincided with a shift in the composition of species within their habitats. The results from Professor Sorte’s study may help guide future conservation efforts to protect the biodiversity of coastal systems. Read more.
Unraveling the Mechanisms Underlying Bacterial Competition
Professor Celia W. Goulding (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) has solved the crystal structure of an activated toxin complex (CysK/CdiA-CTEC536) that is delivered by bacteria and used in contact-dependent growth inhibition (CDI). A better understanding of toxin function, gained through the identification of its structure, may lead to the production of new and/or more effective antibiotics. Read more.

Rapid Killing of Bed Bugs on Luggage Using Heat

In a recent study by Entomologist and Teaching Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Catherine Loudon discovered that a brief 6-minute exposure of soft-sided luggage to high temperatures, 158-167°F, was sufficient to kill all the bed bugs found on the exteriors of the luggage, including those located under zipper flaps or decorative piping. Read more.
New Insight into Mechanisms Governing Cancer Development
Professor Wenqi Wang (Developmental and Cell Biology) and his collaborators, have provided new mechanistic insights into protein tyrosine phosphorylation, a critical cellular event that is carried out, in part, by enzymes called protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs). PTPs are frequently mutated in various human cancers, suggesting that they have important roles in tumor suppression.  Read more.

Commentary: Why Spraying Pesticides over Orange County for Mosquito Control is a Bad Idea

Professor Bruce Blumberg (Developmental and Cell Biology) has recently commented on a proposal for mosquito control from the Orange County Vector Control District (OCVCD), featured in the OC Weekly.  The OCVCD’s plan involves spraying Duet, a synthetic pesticide, aerially over Orange County. Read more.

Will A Trip to Mars Lead to Pre-Mature Infertility? 
Sending astronauts on deep space missions is a future goal of both NASA and the private sector.  Unfortunately, little is known about the ramifications of long-term exposure to cosmic radiation on most physiological functions, including reproduction. Professor Ulrike Luderer (Medicine and Developmental and Cell Biology) has discovered that a single brief exposure to low doses of high linear energy transfer (LET) heavy iron particle radiation, a type of radiation that is also found in cosmic radiation, results in premature ovarian failure. The results from Professor Luderer’s study may help guide future research efforts to protect female astronauts from irreversible injury due to long-term space flight. Read more.

News and Highlights

Prestigious Recognition for Distinguished Neuroscientist
Distinguished Professor Bruce L. McNaughton (Neurobiology and Behavior) was awarded a National Science Foundation award and named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Professor McNaughton and his collaborators  are working to determine the mechanisms that transform short-term memories into more permanent long-term memories. Read more.

Distinguished Faculty Member Recognized During World Mosquito Day
Distinguished Professor Anthony A. James (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics) was recognized by The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on this year’s World Mosquito Day.  World Mosquito Day was first established August 20th, 1897, to recognize the discovery that mosquitoes were involved in malaria transmission. Read more.

New Summer Internships in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to Promote Diversity
In an effort to enhance diversity within University of California (UC) graduate programs, the UC system has partnered with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to create the UC-HBCU Initiative.  Several outreach award programs have been created through the initiative to assist in the recruitment of future graduate students. The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology was recently awarded a 2016 UC-HBCU award to support a summer internship program. Read more.   

Dean Welcomes the Class of 2020

This year’s welcome ceremony was held in the Bren Events Center and played host to one of the largest incoming classes in the School’s history.  Close to 1300 new students packed the center’s floor, where they were introduced to Student Affairs Officer Jenna Bague, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Michael Leon and Ayala School Dean Frank M. LaFerla. Read more.

Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation Award

The ARCS awards are given to talented doctoral candidates who have exhibited outstanding academic and research success.

Christine Schneider, a doctoral candidate in the lab of Professor Melissa B. Lodoen (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) was selected for her outstanding academic success and her research investigating how the parasite Toxoplasma gondii evades the brain’s immune response.

Alyssa Rita Braciszewski, a doctoral candidate in the lab of Professor Donovan P. German (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) was selected for her work on abalone populations, where she is investigating the mechanisms that confer resilience against withering syndrome, a disease that wiped out large numbers of abalone over two decades ago.

Faculty Spotlight

Christine Suetterlin
Developmental and Cell Biology

Christine Suetterlin, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Developmental and Cell Biology. Her research focuses on the centrosome, a small organelle in mammalian cells that is dysregulated in most human cancers.  Professor Suetterlin also examines how the wide-spread human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis affects human health by altering the organization and function of the centrosome and of cilia, which are centrosome-derived structures. Professor Suetterlin has been fascinated by this and other interactions between Chlamydia trachomatis and its host cell because they can teach a cell biologist like Professor Suetterlin about normal cell physiology. Read more.



Department of Energy Grant

Professor Steven D. Allison (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Earth System Science) was awarded a grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the effects of climate change on microbial life.  The DOE award will fund Professor Allison and his collaborator’s research efforts to study the effects of altered global precipitation on microbial communities and carbon cycling.

New Faculty

Dr. Wenqi Wang, Ph.D., has joined the Ayala School faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology.  Dr. Wang’s future research aims to decipher the signaling networks that control tissue homeostasis, with the goal of developing specific and effective therapies for cancer treatment. Please join us in welcoming Dr. Wang to the Ayala School.

Champions of Hope in Science

Professors Anne L. Calof (Anatomy and Neurobiology and Developmental and Cell Biology) and Arthur D. Lander (Developmental and Cell Biology) were awarded the 2016 Champions of Hope in Science award from Global Genes. Professors Calof and Lander were selected for their extraordinary research in understanding developmental disorders and were recognized at the Global Genes Annual Champions of Hope Gala.

Today's 30 Most Influential Neuroscientists

Distinguished Professor James L. McGaugh (Neurobiology and Behavior) has been recently recognized as one of the most influential neuroscientists alive today. In a list compiled by, Professor McGaugh was ranked fifth for his contributions to the field of learning and memory.


Sarah McCarthy

Assistant Personnel Manager

Sarah McCarthy is the Assistant Personnel Manager at the Ayala School and has been in her current position for nearly three years. After seven years with the medical school, Sarah accepted her current position with the Ayala School in 2014. Her primary duties as Assistant Personnel Manager are to oversee personnel and payroll for the Departments of Developmental and Cell Biology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Neurobiology and Behavior. Read more.


Lakshmi Vrittamani and Robert Dang
Biological Sciences Student Council Co-Presidents
Biological Sciences Student Council (BSC) co-presidents Robert Dang and Lakshmi Vrittamani will be graduating at the end of the 2016-17 school year with plans of pursuing medical degrees thereafter.  As BSC co-presidents, Robert and Lakshmi will work to provide their fellow students with additional resources and support to help them make the most of their undergraduate careers at the Ayala School. Read more.


Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series
Heads Up: Increasing Concussion Awareness in Sports
  • Thursday, October 27 at 4:00 p.m. featuring James W. Hicks, Professor of Biology and Director of the Exercise Medicine and Sport Sciences Initiative, in UCI Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium. The Dean's Distinguished Lecture Series showcases the cutting-edge research of our faculty and the impact it has on our lives and for the local and global community. Register here.

UC Irvine Distinguished Lecture Series on Brain, Learning and Memory
What can we learn from the sleeping brain?
  • Tuesday, February 7 at 7:30 p.m. featuring Ruth Benca, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, in the Irvine Barclay Theater. Register here.


Tina Hronis-Nova, Ph.D. 
Class of '76

Tina Hronis-Nova, Ph.D., is the President and CEO of Molecular Stethoscope Inc., a molecular diagnosis start up in San Diego, California. Dr. Hronis-Nova obtained a B.S., with honors, in Biological Sciences from the Ayala School, before pursuing a doctorate in Biochemistry from UC Riverside. Read more.