Monday, September 9, 2013

CSST Celebrates Another Successful Summer

By Erin Reyes

They sing, they dance, they play instruments – no, I’m not talking about the latest group of triple threats to audition on America’s Got Talent; they’re the newest crop of CSST students!

Students belt out the Beatles’ hit song “Hey Jude” for their fellow CSST scholars. Photo Credit: Andrew Jesena
CSST, the Cross-disciplinary Scholars in Science and Technology, is a ten-week program that brings together students from all over the globe to carry out their scientific research under the advisement of UCLA’s world-class faculty. Since it was established in 2008 by Dr. Ren Sun, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology and CNSI member, with support from UCLA’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh, the program has hosted 432 of the brightest minds from Asia and across the globe, with an additional 89 students this year.

Dr. Ren Sun, founder and director of CSST, gives a presentation in the CNSI auditorium. Photo Credit: Andrew Jesena
The new campus setting can be a little overwhelming for the students – especially for those who are visiting the United States for the first time – so each morning for the first few weeks of the program, the students gather in the CNSI lobby to showcase their talents and get to know one another in a fun, relaxed setting.

A group of CSST students practice their dance routine for the morning talent show. Photo Credit: Andrew Jesena
Energetic students perform the ubiquitous Gangnam Style dance for their peers during one of the morning talent shows. Photo Credit: Andrew Jesena
The frivolity is a welcome break away from the research-intensive work the students carry out during their time at UCLA. That doesn’t mean the students don’t enjoy working hard in the lab, though; indeed, the program’s scientific focus is particularly appealing for students from abroad who want to come to the U.S. to study a topic besides language.

“I joined the CSST program because it is a research program, not a program aiming for English study,” said Karen Shih, a first-year grad student at Waseda University in Tokyo. “As a student majoring in science and engineering, language is just a tool and research content is much more important.”

Since its inception in 2008, CSST has made quite a name for itself, and its good reputation helps attract prospective students. “CSST is a well-known program in my university and many previous students introduced [it] to me,” said Xinkai Fu, a senior at Nanjing University in China. “I learned that the program focuses on improving our interdisciplinary research ability, which I think is very important for my future career.”

However, Dr. Sun, the program’s faculty director, stresses that CSST is about more than the interdisciplinary research training the students receive throughout the ten weeks that lead up to a final poster presentation, taking place on September 10th. “This program bridges cultures together and promotes goodwill between our university and the top universities in China, Japan, and beyond,” Dr. Sun said.

CSST students unite to boldly take the stage during one the program’s morning talent shows. Photo Credit: Andrew Jesena
In addition to spending time in the lab, students are offered a variety of other activities to supplement their research.

“The students are exposed to cross-disciplinary research through a series of lectures given by world-renowned scientists who have expertise across multiple fields,” said Jiaying Feng, CSST’s administrative director. “There are also seminars teaching the students presentation skills, interview skills for graduate school, ethics in academia, and other information sessions that help the students academically.”

Lynn Talton Yamamoto, the Postdoctoral Affairs Officer for the Dean’s Office at the David Geffen School of Medicine, teaches the students about proper citation formatting for their research. Photo Credit: Andrew Jesena
The well-rounded nature of the program ensures that students get the most out of their time in LA, and many students enjoy the experience so much that they opt to continue their studies at the university. To date, 125 CSST students have made the decision to further their education in various UCLA PhD programs.

This year’s students are not immune to the UCLA bug – many are hoping to return to UCLA for their graduate studies or to get a Ph.D. For instance, Junyuan Feng, a junior from Fudan University in Shanghai, is hoping to return as a grad student to the department of physics. This summer he’s been working with Professor Huan Huang and Dr. Gang Wang to search for a new particle called pentaquark.

Yu Shi, a senior from the University of Science and Technology in Hefei, China, is also considering pursuing an advanced degree in the United States. UCLA is one of his top choices after working with Professor Wei Wang in the computer sciences department this summer. 

Students from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) show their school pride during CSST’s trip to Santa Monica State Beach. Photo Credit: Yu Shi
Xiangzhi Meng, a second-year grad student at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, added: “After the great experience of this summer here, I definitely want to continue a Ph.D. program at UCLA.”

It’s no surprise that Meng wants to return; she has grown to particularly enjoy the academic offerings of UCLA.

“I think the best academic experience is the lab meeting we have every Tuesday,” Meng explained. “People get together to discuss everyone’s research, and there are a lot of inspiring ideas and practical suggestions coming out.”

Discussions aren’t the only stimulating parts of the students’ time in LA. They have plenty of fun outside of the classroom, exploring all that the city has to offer and taking advantage of the beautiful California weather. Some of the students’ favorite non-academic activities include visiting the Getty Villa, hiking Mt. Baldy, and camping in Malibu.

Jing Liu shows off the stunning scenery during the students’ Mt. Baldy hike. Photo Credit: Jing Liu
“CSST is one of the most unforgettable experiences I had in college,” said Fu. “It’s more than just research training. We get to know new people from different fields and different backgrounds, make friends with students from universities across China and Japan and discover a whole new life in LA. I am sure everyone will benefit from this unique experience.”

Likewise, Jia Guo, a senior at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, joined the CSST program to gain more life experience, and he has greatly appreciated getting the chance to meet students from all over China.

“Some friends I met here said it was crazy of us to fly all the way here just to volunteer to do research in the lab, but I think it was worth it!” explained Jing Liu, Guo’s classmate at Zhejiang University. “CSST really provides us with a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with the world’s most advanced technology and great minds.”

Meanwhile, Junyuan’s sentiments about CSST can be summed up in one sentence: “The program is perfect.”

A group of students happily pose for the camera. Photo Credit: Andrew Jesena

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Science as art: beautiful world under the microscope

By Mike Fricano 

This beautiful image is not an artsy photo of a pink flower. It’s a picture of an electrically conductive molecule captured with a scanning electron microscope.

This image, titled "Tetraaniline in Full Bloom," won first place in the Materials Research Society’s "Science as Art" competition this spring for Yue Wang, a member of Ric Kaner's lab and former IGERT fellow. In addition to being beautiful, this molecule has potential for sensors and organic supercapacitors because of its shape and electrical conductivity. The "flower" in the upper right is actually aggregated sheets of doped aniline oligomers and the black and white leaves are flexible sheets.

Who knew the microscopic world could be so spectacular?

Source: UCLA Newsroom

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Octopus Mandala Glow set to light up famous Pacific Wheel

Victoria Vesna’s artwork will premiere at Santa Monica’s Glow Festival on September 28th 

Victoria Vesna, a professor in UCLA’s department of Design|Media Arts and director of the Art|Sci center at the California NanoSystems Institute, is a world-renowned artist who frequently collaborates with nanoscientists to unite the worlds of art and science. Her latest project, Octopus Mandala Glow (OMG), is part of a worldwide movement to encourage people to occupy their Ferris wheels, with a vision of creating a global chorus and spreading joy. For more info about OMG, please check out the project’s website:

Join the OMG movement now by donating the symbolic minimum of $8! Then pass it on to 8 friends. Your help will not only make this global project possible, but will also have you directly participating in the creation of the Octopus Mandala. We want to collect “Om’s” from the peaks of wheels all over the world—people of all religions, languages, and with different “views.” To donate, go to:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Nanoscientists work with orthopaedic surgeons to advance studies of knee injuries

This was an invitation we couldn't pass up.

Dr. Keith Markolf and Dr. Dan Boguszewski from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at UCLA invited us to their laboratory to learn about their studies of knee injury mechanisms. An enormous robot--typically used for spot welding in car manufacturing plants--had been repurposed to grasp the bones connected to a cadaver knee and apply pressures on them, mimicking what would happen during a fall on the basketball court or during a gymnastics performance.

The bright orange robot applied 200 Newtons of force (45 lbs.) to the tibia (one of the shin bones) while shifting the bone forward and backward 250 times to look at how the joint was dislocated as a result of a torn ACL. These studies are helpful, but the doctors want to understand better how the bones are grinding together and pressing down on one another. To do this, they asked CNSI nanoscientists if they knew of coatings that could be applied onto the bones like paint before the mechanical forces were applied. Then, looking at how the paint material wore away or responded to the pressure, the doctors could pinpoint exactly where the pressure and grinding was being applied.  This would help inform surgeons about how to improve the success of surgical knee procedures to prevent orthopaedic arthritis and the need for full knee replacements.

The work is still in the early planning stages, but some of the materials being investigated include alginate or hyaluronic coatings, lyposomes embedded with fluorescent dyes, or nanodiamond coatings. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

UCLA Scientists and Engineers Focus on Entrepreneurship

Recently, a group of UCLA scientists and engineers presented their business plans for commercializing technologies developed at the university to colleagues and a panel of expert reviewers. The presentations were the culmination of a partnership between UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) and UCLA Anderson’s Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, created to educate participants about entrepreneurship and to prepare them to enter the business world.

The joint effort between CNSI and the Price Center began more than six months ago, when the groups launched an 8-week class focused on technological entrepreneurship. Faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students from engineering and the physical and life sciences met once a week to learn about topics, such as opportunity recognition, market analysis, entrepreneurial finance, operations, and human resource issues. These courses came as part of the campus’ effort to enhance its entrepreneurial ecosystem.

This entrepreneurship course prompted a second 7-week course supporting the same cohort of students and focusing on business plan development. Both were taught by George Abe, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“The success of the courses was due to the commitment that the students brought to the classroom every day,” said Abe. “They came hungry with questions and scenarios that they wanted to discuss. Plus, they came with great ideas and new technology that deserves to be made available to the world.”

“There was a lot that we got out of the classes, but I think the biggest thing is that they helped us to develop a business mindset, which is fairly different from a science mindset,” said Garrett Mosley, a graduate student in the department of bioengineering.

Jian Yang (left) and Garrett Mosley answer questions after their business plan presentations.

He and fellow graduate student Ricky Chiu presented a business plan for the commercialization of the “A-PEN,” a tool based on lateral flow analysis that can quickly and easily identify the presence of allergens in food.

Students who attended both courses had the opportunity to present elevator pitches, written summaries, and business plan presentations to panels of faculty, entrepreneurs and representatives from the UCLA Office of Intellectual Property & Industry Sponsored Research (OIP-ISR), whose mission is to support UCLA’s efforts to commercialize intellectual property rights and advance entrepreneurship, for critical feedback.

Ideas and applications evolved, sometimes dramatically, over the two courses. After their second presentation, one of the judges asked Mosley, “Where do I send my check?”

“We knew we had a good technology, and for the first presentation we went with one of the first applications that we brainstormed,” said Mosley. “We kept focusing on how/why everything would be successful, but not thinking about how/why it wouldn't be successful. We took the constructive criticism from the first quarter and rethought our angle. We needed to look at our product and make sure that it was going to work at every step along the process and for everyone involved in the process, which I think we did a better job at the second time around.”

“The opportunity for our research scientists and engineers to learn directly from someone like George at this early stage in their careers is wonderful,” said Jia Ming Chen, Education Director at CNSI. “The courses filled an important gap in our traditional training programs, and we look forward to developing more programs to support our community.”

Other innovations advanced during the courses included novel infrared camera systems, reagents to help crystalize cellular membrane proteins, biologics to fight acne, and microcentrifuge tube racks that enhance the brand recognition of distributors. Many of the ideas are patented, and some groups are already working with companies that are trying out their products.

This year’s courses were underwritten by generous donors to the Price Center as part of its curriculum development efforts and Technology and Innovation Partners Program. The donors included Jean and Ed Wedbush, the Heshmatpour Family Foundation, the Knapp Foundation, the Louis and Harold Price Foundation and members of the Price Center Board of Advisors. Both CNSI and the Price Center are currently exploring ways to fund future courses.

“We will offer these courses again,” says Elaine Hagan, executive director of the Price Center. “The partnership between the Price Center and CNSI holds great potential for students and other researchers at UCLA, and for the university in general.”

(Top and bottom panels) Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers attend a reception after the final presentations.

Lecturer George Abe (right) chats with Dr. Farhad Parhami, one of the business plan judges.

Director of Development Fred Wells (left) and business plan judge Winn Hong. 

Price Center Executive Director Elaine Hagan (right) and graduate student Helena Chia.

About the California NanoSystems Institute
The California NanoSystems Institute is an integrated research facility located at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Its mission is to foster interdisciplinary collaborations in nanoscience and nanotechnology, to generate partnerships with industry, and to contribute to the economic development and the social well-being of California, the United States and the world.

About the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Celebrating its 25th year, the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at UCLA Anderson School of Management is an internationally recognized leader in entrepreneurial education and research. With a distinguished faculty as its cornerstone, the Center works closely with UCLA Anderson’s outstanding MBA students, alumni and the entrepreneurial community, overseeing activities that advance the theory and practice of entrepreneurship as well as the related fields of technology and innovation, venture capital and private equity, and social enterprise. Well known for the impact of its outreach programs, the Price Center fosters a spirit of innovation in individuals, enhances the managerial capacity of organizations, and prepares entrepreneurial leaders who will provide significant, sustainable and economic value to society.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Napolitano to be the next president of the University of California

U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona Janet Napolitano has been nominated to be the next president of the University of California after Mark Yudof steps down in September. Read more here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The National Institutes of Health retires the majority of its chimpanzees

Last week the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it was retiring most of its 360 chimpanzees that have been available for research. According to an article published in the July 5, 2013 issue of Science, only 50 chimpanzees will be supported, and those animals will be used mainly for behavioral or genomic research as opposed to invasive procedures.

A new rule proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 11 may also change the status of captive chimpanzees from "threatened" to "endangered," thereby affecting privately funded research on chimpanzees.