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UCSF Bioengineering

Halloween Costumes Inspired by Science

From MRSA, to vampire squid, to “funding cuts,” The Guardian has your last minute, science-inspired Halloween costumes covered. Peer review is pretty good and scary, but we’re just not so sure if that last one is funny…

What’s the best science-inspired costume you’ve seen?

Spending Cuts: Biomedical Research’s Biggest Threat

UC San Francisco Bioengineer Tejal Desai, PhD, talks with Sally Rockey, PhD, deputy director for extramural research at the NIH 

Biomedical research has had numerous impacts on U.S. health in the past few decades:

  • The cancer rate is falling about 1 percent a year
  • Death rates for cardiovascular disease have dropped 60 percent in the last half-century
  • And HIV therapies are enabling people in their 20s infected with the virus to live to age 70 and beyond

But all that progress is under attack, according to Dr. Sally Rockey, deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a theme she regularly discusses on her blog, Rock Talk. Last week she visited UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus and spoke of the impact of funding on the biomedical sciences. 

"We cannot afford … to let science get ahead of us," Rockey said in her talk. "We still have to be at the cutting edge, we have to promote new programs and we have to remain innovative." 

And that’s just what the NIH is doing. Several new programs are in the works, including “Transforming Translation,” which aims to repurpose abandoned compounds from drug companies for wider use. 

While funding is always in the forefront of a researcher’s mind, and the NIH will continue to be a prime source of funding, our bioengineers are forging onward, bolstered by funding opportunities through UCSF’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) at UCSF, and the robust Research Grants Program through the University of California

As Rockey said: “This is a time like never before. … we have to take advantage of this.” Indeed we do.

Photo & quote source.

Pssst! We know we’ve been a little quiet over here, but we’re doing some important thinking. We’ll be back soon! In the meantime, maybe you’ve been doing some thinking, too? Some blue-sky thinking? Great. Because we think one of you have some seed money coming your way. Read the rules and then get to it!

Pssst! We know we’ve been a little quiet over here, but we’re doing some important thinking. We’ll be back soon! In the meantime, maybe you’ve been doing some thinking, too? Some blue-sky thinking? Great. Because we think one of you have some seed money coming your way. Read the rules and then get to it!


Today at 12pm! Watch the livestream of the Chancellor’s State of UCSF address & hear what this talk of a big gift to the basic sciences is all about! Tweet questions to #ucsf2013 


Grab the livestream here: http://lecture.ucsf.edu/special-events/state2013/

Throwback Thursday: Learning about the evolution of holography

Did you know holography took shape in the mid-twentieth century, with experiments in microscopy? Of course, the development of the laser helped, too. Check out the whole story via the video below!  

GIZMODO - The History of Holograms from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

From the archives: Digging for Proteins the Patricia Babbitt Way

For Patsy Babbitt and her lab at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus, sequence and structure are nothing without function. Her primarily computational lab is home to a few bioengineers with a penchant for statistical models. As we celebrate the ten year anniversary of our Mission Bay campus this year, we thought it fitting to have a look back on the archives to see what some of our faculty were up to. 

You never know what you’ll find, like the fact that Patsy really wanted to be an archaeologist:

In a way I’m still the archaeologist I wanted to be. I search through evidence about the evolutionary past and make predictions.”

Check out the UCSF Magazine Archive to learn more about Patsy’s research then, and be sure to see what they’re up to now. Happy Anniversary, Mission Bay!


SF never disappoints for cool things to see and do! Check out this new installation coming to the Exploratorium. If you haven’t been to the new space, this is a perfect opportunity. See you there?


Play to the Edge of Your Comfort Zone at San Francisco’s Exploratorium

Participatory exhibit in collaboration with choreographer Benjamin Levy of LEVYdance | October 22, 2013 – January 31, 2014

How do we navigate social boundaries, and how do they shape who we are? What choices do we make when interacting with others, and how does that affect our intimacy with each other?

The Exploratorium and San Francisco-based dancer and choreographer Benjamin Levy explore the nuances of social boundaries with Comfort Zone, a new participatory installation which integrates choreography into a virtual, interactive experience, exploring themes of group dynamics, choice, and social boundaries. Comfort Zone will debut October 22, 2013, in the Black Box in the museum’s West Gallery, a space devoted to experimenting with social interaction and exploring the interplay between science, society, and culture.

Learn more about the Exploratorium’s West Gallery at http://www.exploratorium.edu/visit/west-gallery

Five Questions: Jeffrey Yunes

Every week we peel one hard-working grad student away from the lab for a quick Q&A to learn a little bit more about the people crazy passionate enough to work in one of the UC San Francisco labs while they get their PhD in Bioengineering through the UC Berkeley/UC San Francisco Graduate Program in Bioengineering. Today we have Jeffrey Yunes, a graduate student in the Babbitt Lab where he researches informatics-based approaches to the computational prediction of protein function. Jeffrey received his BS in Computer Science in 2006 from the Georgia Institute of Technology and then went on to write warehouse optimization software for Amazon.com for three years before returning to academia to pursue his PhD. Read on to see how dinosaurs, space, and math tricks got Jeffrey to where he is today. Thanks, Jeffrey!  

When did you first realize you loved science?

I grew up loving dinosaurs, space, math tricks, Capsela, and computers. (I don’t remember which one was introduced to me first, but thank my parents for doing so.) As I got older, I realized that the more math and science I learned, the better I was at making stuff. In college, I grew excited by the prospects of applying computer science to biological data.

What brought you to UC San Francisco?

Many factors led me to the Joint Graduate Group: the access to faculty across both campuses; the high caliber classes in bioinformatics, computer science, and statistics; the flexible curriculum; and lots of potential advisors working in bioinformatics- all in a place I wanted to be!

When you’re not hard at work in the lab, how do you spend your time?

The entrepreneurial spirit and accompanying resources in the San Francisco Bay Area are unparalleled. There are biotech hackerspaces, prototyping studios, technical workshops, and release parties. That being said, I like to work on side projects; I just released a mobile app, and have been dabbling in decentralized cryptocurrencies. I also like to exercise and participate in one-off events in the area.

What’s the coolest thing about your current research in bioengineering?

Sometimes, I’m exploring how to model relationships between protein sequence and function. Other times, I’m mustering weak signals in homologous protein sequences to identify how a protein became pathogenic. I get to learn the latest machine learning algorithms and take part in interdisciplinary collaborations. The work changes every day, and I’m always learning new stuff and becoming a better scientist.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about a graduate program in bioengineering or a related field, what would it be?

Take the time to find a problem you think is important. The process will be unsettling; at first, it will seem that everything has been investigated. When you suddenly discover a treasure trove of unexplored problems, you’ll know that you’ve matured scientifically.

2,600 people. 24,600 ideas.

Happy weekend.

Happy weekend.