Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference Coming Sept. 29

One of the most anticipated economic forecasts in Southern California is being held Thursday, Sept. 29 at the Riverside Convention Center.

The 7th annual Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference will deliver fresh outlooks for the U.S., California, and Inland Empire economies including new data on where home prices, employment, personal income, consumer and business spending, commercial real estate markets, and many other indicators are heading in the near and mid-term future.

An image of Christopher Thornberg

Christopher Thornberg.

This year’s event also includes a long-range forecast and panel discussion about what the local region will look like in 2035. In 20 years, the Inland Empire will be the second largest population center in California and have more jobs than any place in the state other than Los Angeles. The Inland Empire 2035 panel will discuss the coming growth and how demand for education, health services, and transportation infrastructure will be met.

Additionally, leading political journalist John Myers will discuss the 2016 election and what it means to California. Renowned forecasters Christopher Thornberg and Robert Kleinhenz will present along with local leaders from across the region.

The event is presented by the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. The Center opened its doors one year ago and has been producing a wide variety of economic analysis ranging from revenue forecasts to gross metropolitan product reports.

General registration is open until Wednesday, Sept. 28 on the conference website. Media wishing to attend should contact Victoria Pike Bond.

Dean Deas Sworn Onto California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Governing Board

Kathy Barton, School of Medicine

Kathy Barton, School of Medicine

Dean Deborah Deas of UC Riverside’s School of Medicine was sworn in on Sept. 20 in San Diego as a member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Governing Board by Chair Jonathan Thomas, Ph.D., J.D.

In the photo, seen behind Deas is Vice Chair Senator Art Torres (Ret.), J.D.

Deas joined UCR as the Mark and Pam Rubin dean of the School of Medicine and chief executive officer for Clinical Affairs in May 2016.

News Sources And Their Impact On What Undergraduates Know About Diseases

News and social media are undergraduates’ most popular sources of information during times of a disease outbreak, but these sources do not correspond to a high knowledge of the disease, concludes a study published Aug. 25 in PLOS Current Outbreaks.

Brandon Brown, an assistant professor in the Center for Healthy Communities in the School of Medicine at UC Riverside, is one of five coauthors on the paper that focuses on the 2014 Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak. The study is among the first to assess the impact of news sources used by college students during the 2014 EVD. The researchers set out to examine the role of outbreak information sources through four domains: knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and stigma.

Brandon Brown

Brandon Brown

After conducting an online survey of 797 undergraduates at UC Irvine (which led the study) and Ohio University during the peak of the outbreak, they found that EVD knowledge was low. Further, misinformation was widespread. Students mostly used news media (34 percent) and social media (19 percent) as sources of EVD information, while fewer students (11 percent) used official government websites, such as WHO, NIH, and CDC.

“But this 11 percent had higher knowledge, more positive attitudes towards those infected, a higher belief in the government, and were less likely to stigmatize Ebola victims,” Brown said.
He and his colleagues argue that the study contains crucial insight for those tasked with risk communication to college students, and strongly support developing effective strategies to bring about comprehensive knowledge of future public health threats.

Brown came to UCR in 2015 after working for four years at UC Irvine. He earned his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from UCI, followed by a master of public health in epidemiology from UCLA. He then attended the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to earn his Ph.D. in international health, conducting his postdoctoral work in global health back at UCLA.

He is a member of the Infectious Disease Society of America, the International Society of Vaccines, the Global Health Council, the American Public Health Association, and the UC Global Health Institute. He has authored more than 70 publications and is a regular reviewer for high impact journals.

The PLOS Current Outbreaks research paper is titled, “Lessons from Ebola: Sources of Outbreak Information and the Associated Impact on UC Irvine and Ohio University College Students.” Thrissia Koralek and Miryha Runnerstrom at UC Irvine; and Chukwuemeka Uchegbu and Tania Basta at Ohio University are Brown’s coauthors.

Two Researchers Publish Paper on Disease-Causing Bacterial Virulence Proteins

A research team co-led by Jikui Song, an assistant professor of biochemistry, and Wenbo Ma, a professor of plant pathology and microbiology, both at UCR, describes in a paper published online in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology a mechanistic investigation of a large family of disease-causing bacterial virulence proteins produced by plant and animal pathogens.

“We report the first crystal structure of these proteins,” Song said. “Specifically, our study illustrates how this family of proteins builds into a novel acetyltransferase – an enzyme that transfers acetyl groups from one compound to another. Our work provides a framework for developing novel drugs to fight bacterial infection.”

Acetylation is an important enzymatic activity in which an acetyl group is added to a protein, leading to changes in protein stability and/or activity – a very prevalent modification in cells.

Jikui Song

Jikui Song


Wenbo Ma

Called the YopJ family effectors, the family of bacterial virulence proteins has been shown to promote infection of animals and plants. Proteins in this family include those produced by many bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella and Yersinia.

Wenbo MaMa noted that many research groups have been trying to solve the proteins’ crystal structure which offers the only way to understand their enzymatic activity.

“We describe a novel crystal structure, and hence a novel enzymatic mechanism, of a bacterial protein that possesses a known enzymatic activity,” she said. “Our structure explains how this family of proteins evolves from the scaffold of a different enzyme, cysteine protease, with addition of new structural elements, which allows it to function as an acetyltransferase. What we report in the paper is a completely novel structure of acetyltransferases.”

Do both animal and plants produce these acetyltransferases? That question can now be answered by modeling studies that Song, Ma, and their team of researchers plan to perform. In addition, the researchers have the ability now to screen novel drugs that specifically target acetyltransferase.

Song and Ma were joined in the research by Zhi-Min Zhang (co-first author), Ka-Wai Ma (co-first author), Shushu Jiang, Eva Hawara and Songqin Pan at UCR; Shuguang Yuan at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland; and Youfu Luo at West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China.

The importance of including biomechanics in understanding how species form

A longstanding and fundamental question in biology is how species originate.

Along with several well-known evolutionary biologists and biomechanists, Timothy Higham, an associate professor of biology, and David Reznick, a distinguished professor of biology, have published a perspective paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B that introduces the importance of including biomechanics in our understanding of how species form.

Timothy Higham

Timothy Higham

From bee pollination to the function of the heart, biomechanics, the authors argue, is crucial for understanding evolution. “When a species splits into two populations, these new populations may get separated in terms of ecology,” Higham explained. “Biomechanics is critical for driving these populations apart, and may ultimately lead to the formation of new species.”

David Reznick

David Reznick

The authors review ecological speciation and the origin of species in the paper. The main thrust, however, is outlining how to incorporate biomechanics into the framework for studying speciation. “We think this is the critical missing piece to the puzzle for understanding the origin of species,” Higham said.

The tools available to scientists today, such as high-speed video and robotics, allow them to investigate in detail how animals work, not just how they look. “How animals work is ultimately what defines whether an animal survives and reproduces, and will become an increasingly important area of study as we aim to determine what drives speciation in an ever-changing world,” Higham said.



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