Want to know more about the scientists behind the work in UCLA Physical Sciences? Read some of their stories below.

Faculty Spotlight: Statistics program bringing data science to high schools

Although big data is everywhere, the basics of computational skills needed for data science aren’t a requirement in grade-level school. Also, a major problem in grade-level school is losing students in the math system. To solve this problem, Rob Gould,  professor of statistics at UCLA, created a solution to both: Mobilize.

The mission behind Mobilize is to arm students with computational and analytical skills in a new way: through data science. Mobilize was born around the idea of using participatory sensing to enhance math, science, and computer science education. Introduction to Data Science, or IDS, is a year-long class designed as part of Mobilize that started a movement to focus on arming students with the tools to succeed in data science. 

Read more here.

Research Spotlight: A successful RV Atlantis Expedition in the Santa Barbara Basin

From October 29 through November 11, a research group, including Professor of Earth, Planetary, & Space Sciences Tina Treude, Sebastian Krause, DeMarcus Robinson, and David Yousavich, was on board the RV Atlantis, with a team from UCSB (lead by chief scientist Dave Valentine) and a team from the MPI Bremen/AWI (Frank Wenzhoefer and Felix Janssen).

The goal of this expedition was to study the seasonal dynamics of giant sulfur bacteria mats in the low- to no-oxygen zone of the Santa Barbara Basin and their coupling to sulfur, nitrogen, and other element cycling. Read more here.

Faculty Spotlight: Kuo-Nan Liou changing the world of climate projection

Kuo-Nan Liou, a Distinguished professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, has spent his career conducting forward-thinking and future-focused research on climate change and projection. From his work with colleagues in the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering (JIFRESSE) which Dr. Liou founded in 2006, he and his associates have been awarded a three year, $2.1 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office to improve climate models.

Other than this recent work, Dr. Liou has had ground breaking research published in various research journals over the past few years including for his work on man-made aerosols effecting ice clouds, and ways to improve China’s poor air conditions.

Read more here.

Gefen Skolnick

Student Spotlight:Center for Diverse Leadership in Science student shares her intersectionality and success in STEM

Gefen Skilnick, a rising senior at UCLA, is fellow in the Physical Science Center for Diverse Leadership in Science and student researcher under the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. However, she is much more than that, she is a young Jewish, Israeli, woman, and masculine of center lesbian in tech.

Skilnick is an advocate for women and LGBTQ+ folks breaking into the tech world, and has done a lot as a student, professional, and researcher to make a difference in these communities.

Read her interview with The Pride LA here.

Casey Jennifer

Faculty Spotlight: Chemistry faculty are honored for their dedication to education

From teaching assistants, to Senate Faculty, to Non-Senate Faculty, three UCLA Chemistry faculty members won the Distinguished Teaching Awards. In March, Professor Anastassia Alexandrova was awarded the award for Senate Faculty. Alexandrova brings the utmost respect and admiration to the scholarship of teaching. She is known for her ability to capture a student’s attention and make them enthusiastic about theoretical chemistry. Read more here.

Now, graduate student, Katherine Winchell, has been selected for the 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Teaching Assistants. After graduating in 2015, Winchell developed and taught a course on teaching students about the available clean and renewable energy and volunteers with the California NanoSystems Institute’s nanoscience outreach program. She hopes to continue to teach at undergraduate institution to improve the chemistry curricula. Read more about her amazing accomplishments here.

Most recently, Jennifer Casey, Ph.D Chemistry, 2014, joined these astounding women with the 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award for Non-Senate Faculty, for her active-learning techniques that helps engage students and foster their confidence. She has taken a large role in the Chemistry 192A class which is a stepping stone for aspiring science high school teachers, showing her admiration for education. She has a commitment not only to education but also growth and excellence. Click here for more.


Pine Island Glacier

Student Spotlight: Research on sea floor has great implications for sea levels

Ken Zhao, a PhD candidate in the department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences published phenomenal research in the Journal of Physical Oceanography. This research focuses on the effects of seafloor sills on melting glaciers.

Ultimately, the research may help scientists create a better approach to mitigate rising sea levels.

Click here to read Zhao’s account of this research and its implications.


UCLA students study better ways to deal with trash

Students from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability spent the 2017-18 academic year digging their hands into the Santa Monica Pier’s waste problem.

Click here to read about the student’s work profiling the pier’s waste management and investigation of ways to improve its current system.



New Chatterbaby app demystifies crying

Statistics alumna and UCLA faculty member Ariana Anderson lead a team of researchers in creating the ChatterBaby app, which uses artificial intelligence to interpret a baby’s cry.

Based on its sound frequencies and the patterns of sounds or silence, Chatterbaby can identify whether a cry is due to fussiness, hunger or pain. It promises to be a great help to parents who are deaf and caregivers who may not understand what a baby is trying to communicate.

ChatterBaby is also being used to collect data to see if crying can be used as a tool to diagnose autism. Anderson’s innovation can be read about in the UCLA Newsroom and on Wired.

Student Spotlight: Translating Research Into Public Policy

David Gonzalez, a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, traveled this spring to Washington, D.C. and Sacramento to discuss his research with policy makers.

The trip to Washington, D.C. was part of training for David’s Switzer Foundation Fellowship. In Sacramento, David and other Bruins represented UCLA at this year’s UC Grad Research Advocacy Day.

Click here to read David’s account of these life-changing experiences.

Faculty Spotlight: Marco Velli is leading an expedition to the sun

Under the scientific leadership of professor Marco Velli in the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be the first-ever mission to “touch” the sun. Its instruments will collect information that will make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment – changes that affect life and technology on Earth as we know it.

Click here to read UCLA Magazine’s report on the mission, and click here to visit the NASA website dedicated to the trailblazing expedition.


Student Spotlight: The making of scientists in the Nelson Group

Under the guidance of a dynamic new faculty member, three Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate students had the opportunity to publish their first paper in Science. Hosea Nelson, a professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, is the paper’s senior author, and it is within his lab that these budding researchers are being cultivated.

The professor had been brainstorming the idea for this particular catalysis before joining the faculty at UCLA in 2015. When he joined forces with the three graduate students, things happened with surprising speed. Click here to read more about this exciting group of young researchers.

Faculty Spotlight: Neil Garg, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Neil Garg has been recognized for his exceptional research with the Glenn T. Seaborg Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, and the Roche Excellence in Chemistry Award. His lab develops synthetic strategies and methods that enable the synthesis of complex bioactive molecules. Garg is also lauded for his unique and passionate instructional approach. In his hugely popular organic chemistry course, students create music videos about chemical reactions.

Garg received the 2018 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, which honors outstanding professors who are extraordinary, inspiring teachers with a positive, long-lasting effect on students and a record of distinguished scholarship. Click here to read more about Garg’s research and educational approach.

Student Spotlight: the ELFIN satellite team

After thousands of hours of work by undergraduates in UCLA’s Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, the ELFIN cubesat spacecraft made believers of the Air Force, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

The project is cleared for takeoff in fall of 2018. Click here to read more about this first-ever mission for the university.


Faculty Spotlight: Suzanne Paulson, Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences

Suzanne Paulson travels across Los Angeles in her Toyota RAV 4 electric vehicle (watch her in action here). One study found that neighborhoods downwind of Santa Monica airport have elevated levels of pollutants, and Paulson’s further research into the atmospheric chemistry of aerosols continues to illustrate the effect of pollutants on our health and our climate here in Los Angeles.

Paulson is the director of UCLA’s Center for Clean Air, headquartered within UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. Click here to read more about the critical research being done by Paulson and her colleagues.

Student Spotlight: Nako Nakatsuka

Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate student Nako Nakatsuka illustrated the children’s chemistry book “A is for Atom”. Available now on Amazon, the book was co-authored by UCLA alumnus Heidi McMahon.

Nakatsuka, a dissertation year fellow, received a competitive travel award earlier this year for her presentation at the “Brain in Flux: Genetic, Physiological, and Therapeutic Perspectives on Transporters in the Nervous System” meeting in France.

She also starred in a “Kids Teach Science” video produced by BuzzFeed for Pfizer (watch it here).

Faculty Spotlight: Terence Tao, Mathematics

Terence Tao was a seven year-old high school student when he began taking calculus classes. By age 20 he had received a Ph.D. from Princeton and joined the UCLA faculty. He has won the Fields Medal in Mathematics, a MacArthur “genius” grant, and the Crafoord Prize for Mathematics. Watch Tao talk about how he approaches problem-solving. View the video.

Faculty Spotlight: Song-Chun Zhu, Statistics

Song-Chun Zhu conducts computer vision research using image parsing, video parsing, and statistical modeling. His work presents exciting applications for machine learning and artificial intelligence including: surveillance, human body modeling and simulation, aerial imaging, visual arts, and intelligent vehicle design. Read more.


Faculty Spotlight: Sabeena Merchant, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Sabeeha Merchant uses a combination of classical genetics, genomics, and biochemistry to discover how a single-celled green alga, Chlamydomona, uses metal ions to create energy for biosynthesis. Sabeeha is a lead researcher on the gene sequencing of the Chlamydomona, which has wide-reaching implications for the study of how cells work and the study of human diseases. Read more.


Faculty Spotlight: Richard Kaner, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Richard Kaner has synthesized novel superconductors, developed membranes that separate gases from air, and produced new high temperature materials. These discoveries have extraordinary industrial implications which should lead to more pure and effective pharmaceuticals. Renowned for his exceptional teaching, the Academic Senate selected Richard as a Faculty Research Lecturer. Read more.