“Food Evolution” Screening Brings Lively Expert Panel

Alan McHughen, a cooperative extension biotechnology specialist at UCR, moderates a Q&A session following the film.

On Friday, March 16, the documentary film “Food Evolution,” a science-based investigation into the controversy of GMOs, was screened on campus and followed by a lively panel discussion and Q&A moderated by geneticist Alan McHughen, a cooperative extension biotechnology specialist at UCR.  Seen in the photo are, from left to right, McHughen; Scott Hamilton Kennedy, the film’s producer and director; Alison Van Eenennaam, a cooperative extension specialist at UC Davis; Tom Delfino, executive director of the California Citrus Nursery Society; and Norm Ellstrand, distinguished professor of genetics at UCR.  The event was cosponsored by the UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, UCR School of Public Policy, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UCR Healthy Campus Initiative, and the Global Food Initiative.

Iqbal Pittalwala

Professor Leads Local High School Students in an International Particle Physics Masterclass at UCR

Bill Gary, professor of physics, leads the Masterclass at UCR.

In mid-March, students from Murrieta Valley High School, Centennial High School (Corona), and Sage Hill High School (Newport Beach) visited the Department of Physics and Astronomy to participate in the International Particle Physics Masterclass, an annual program of the European Particle Physics Outreach Group.  The Masterclass is an interactive exercise in which high school students analyze actual particle physics data collected at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the particle physics laboratory on the border of Switzerland and France. Following data analysis, the visiting students took part in a videoconference with CERN and high schools in Europe to discuss their findings.  Bill Gary, second from left, professor of physics, led the Masterclass at UCR.

Iqbal Pittalwala

Quantum Simulator Could Explain Energy Transport in Biological Systems

Börge Hemmerling, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, participated in the research.

Even powerful supercomputers have difficulty simulating quantum phenomena.  But now a UC Berkeley-led research team reports in Physical Review X, a peer-reviewed open-access journal published by the American Physical Society, on the realization of a quantum simulator (assembly of qubits) that can potentially give new insights into complex biological quantum systems in the future.

“This is a proof-of-principle experiment which simulates an aspect of a transport phenomenon that occurs in some biological systems,” said team member Börge Hemmerling, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy who joined UCR last year. “In photosynthesis, for example, light excites a molecule and this excitation or energy packet is transported towards a ‘place’ in the plant where it is stored in a more permanent, durable way – it’s as if the plant was charging its batteries. What’s interesting is that this transport happens in the real biological system with almost no losses, and that the environment – in the case of plants other molecules present in leaves – can aid the transport process.”

The Berkeley simulation demonstrates this aspect of an environment aiding an energy transport process in a simple system. The system consists of two trapped calcium ions; the environment is given by the motion of the ions.

“We were able to show that the successful transfer of excitation between the ions can be enhanced or suppressed depending on the coupling to the environment,” said Hemmerling, who participated in the research while he was a postdoctoral researcher UC Berkeley. “While our experiment does not yet give new insights into the real biological process, it is a promising first step towards more realistic implementations of such simulations in future experiments.”

The research was featured on the cover of the January-March 2018 issue of the journal.

Iqbal Pittalwala


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