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.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Congratulations to our Workstudy graduates!

Congratulations to our five graduating Workstudy students! We hope your futures will be bright!

From left to right: Fernando Lopez, Michael Dickerson, Ada Chan, Miguel Guzman, and Erin Reyes

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mood Rhythm Team Wins Heritage Open mHealth Challenge


Pictured (from left to right): Fred Wells, Mark Matthews, Deborah Estrin, Mark Wagar, Stephen Voida, Saeed Abdullah, Ellen Frank, Tanzeem Choudhury

Washington, D.C. – The winner of the Heritage Open mHealth Challenge was announced today at Health DataPalooza IV. Co-sponsored by Heritage Provider Network, Open mHealth, and the University of California, Los Angeles, the challenge was created to catalyze the development of mobile applications using an open architecture to help them communicate with one another and function on multiple devices. The winning team and recipient of the $100,000 prize created Mood Rhythm, a mobile application (which runs on iOS and Android) developed to help patients with bipolar disorder better monitor and analyze their daily rhythms and stay in balance.

Launched in January of this year, the Heritage Open mHealth Challenge encouraged the use of the Open mHealth architecture to overcome limitations that typically arise when dissimilar mobile health applications cannot communicate with one another. Applications conforming to the open architecture increase the diversity and utility of personalized health information available to improve chronic disease management, both through better patient self-monitoring and better clinical decision-making.

Teams were required to submit a demo of their application, along with video footage of the app in action. To ensure that applications would be developed with the end user in mind, each team entering the challenge had to include at least one member with clinical expertise and at least one participating user serving as a patient or a patient surrogate. Teams were also encouraged to include development, design, and data analysis experts.

“The Challenge was a great opportunity to encourage the development of shared platforms and the integration of different tools. These are critical steps if we’re going to realize the potential of mobile health technologies to improve health. Among several promising applications, Mood Rhythm stood out because of its elegant approach to collecting data in a way that can truly improve [the] ability of patients and their doctors to make better decisions about treating bipolar disorder,” said Dr. Brian Quinn, team director of the Pioneer Portfolio and one of the Challenge judges.

Mood Rhythm takes advantage of smartphones to track a patient’s daily routine and provides feedback to help patients maintain a regular daily rhythm while incorporating this information into clinical decision making. The application also uses sensors in the phone to track sleep and social activity patterns, providing more information for both patients and clinicians. The team is contributing a routine, sleep, and sensing module to Open mHealth.

Rhythms guide our lives,” said Dr. Tanzeem Choudhury, team leader and Professor of Information Science at Cornell University. “Our biological clocks tell us when we need to sleep, eat and wake.  When these rhythms are interrupted or obstructed, it can be difficult for our bodies to get what they need to stay healthy and balanced.”

When asked what the impact of Mood Rhythm might have on the community, Choudhury said, “It is one of the greatest challenges in healthcare to develop cutting edge technology that not only meets clinical needs but that can be incorporated with ease into patients’ lives. The combination of automatic sensing and self-tracking aims to provide long-term low-maintenance support for people with bipolar disorder.  The clinicians and patients who have used MoodRhythm to date have found it to be an enormously valuable tool for monitoring social rhythms and mood and for seeing the relationship between the two. We feel this is due in large part to a balanced collaboration with patients and clinicians acting as co-designers. The ongoing and close involvement of this community will be essential—having their voices steering the future development of MoodRhythm.”

Along with Mood Rhythm, four Challenge finalists were selected. ACEScreening provides hearing screening technology for smartphones and other devices. IMPACT strives to improve physical function, pain, and mobility in older obese adults with hip and/or knee arthritis. Psychologist in a Pocket supports the treatment of psychological disorders. Spiro Sano is an infrastructure for managing multiple respiratory disease states, such as asthma and COPD and for supporting beneficial behavioral changes such as smoking cessation and physical activity.

Common features of submitted projects included the ability to record information in real time instead of having to rely on memory at the end of the day, control over when and how much information is provided to the doctor, and using sensing tools such as global position systems and accelerometers to track social activity and other behaviors.

The judging panel for the challenge included Deborah Estrin, Computer Science Professor and Co-Founder of Open mHealth; Dr. Richard Merkin, CEO and Founder of the Heritage Provider Network; Dr. David Feinberg, President of the UCLA Health System; former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra; Dr. Mark Smith, President and CEO of California HealthCare Foundation; Anne Wojcicki, Co-Founder of 23andMe; Dr. Mark McClellan, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans; and Brian Quinn, Team Director of Pioneer Portfolio.

About HPN:
Heritage Provider Network, Inc. (HPN) is on the cutting edge of the accountable care model of healthcare delivery: coordinated, patient-doctor centric, integrated health care systems that represent the future of health care in the United States. HPN is dedicated to quality, affordable health care and putting patients' wellness first. The collaborative mobile aps prize is one of a number of competitions HPN is sponsoring in its ongoing efforts to spur innovations in healthcare, including the $3million Heritage Health Prize Competition, and the Institute of Medicine’s Go Viral for Health Prize. HPN is also in the process of launching a number of other health related prizes.  (

Media Contact HPN: DC Media Group LA, Inc
Janet Janjigian,

About Open mHealth:
Open mHealth is non-profit startup building open software architecture to break down the barriers in mobile health to integration among mHealth solutions and unlock the potential for mHealth. Through a shared set of open APIs, both open and proprietary software modules, applications and data can be ‘mixed and matched’, and more meaningful insights derived through reusable data processing and visualization modules. Enhanced integration at both module and application levels allows products to be more nimbly adapted and customized to maximize potential impact. Through an open community, we are working together to build more effective mhealth solutions, drive innovation in healthcare evaluation, and transform healthcare for all. Open mHealth is funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (

Media Contact Open mHealth: Anna de Paula Hanika,

About UCLA:
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and six faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize. (

Media Contact UCLA: Davin Malasarn,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Art|Sci Exhibition :: "Duality" by James K. Gimzewski

"Duality" is an Art|Sci manifestation of complexity emerging from a tiny network of billions of tiny self-assembled, self-organized, non-linear connections that materialize in time and space through holistic processes and which are a kinesthetic visualization of wandering in and out of the fuzzy borders of chaos and order. We use real networks, where the creator has given permission to its expanding and collapsing spatio-temporal morphogenic and often catastrophic dynamics.

This project represents the transition in science and art from giving up on the clock to embrace a cloud in terms of Karl Popper’s important statement, "We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds". In the laboatory, we build electro-ionic clouds. In the gallery, we let them self-create images, songs, and dance for this Art|Sci exhibit entitled "Duality".

It is the duality of the dark space between the known and unknown, determinism and surprise, mathematical form and fuzziness from which the atoms, electrons, and ions speak to the visitors without censorship.

James K. Gimzewski is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA. His accomplishments include the first STM-manipulation of molecules at room temperature, the realization of molecular abacus using bucky balls, the discovery of single molecule rotors and the development of nanomechanical sensors based on nanotechnology, which explore the ultimate limits of sensitivity and measurement. His current interests within CNSI are in the nanoarchitectonics of molecular systems and molecular and biomolecular machines, in particular those with quantum mechanical possibilities for information processing.

In Collaboration With: Henry Sillin, Audrius Avizienis & Huanqi "Franky" Zhu


Photos by: Blanka Buic for the Art|Sci Center + Lab at UCLA
Exhibition Date: April 4, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

UCLA Researchers Collaborate in BRAIN Initiative

On April 2, 2013, President Obama announced the launch of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies project or BRAIN and his intent to help “get this project off the ground” by proposing significant investment on this project by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the budget he will send to Congress next week. The new initiative will focus on developing and improving new technologies to better understand the human brain at both a basic level and at an applied level. The project builds on an early proposal published in Science and co-authored by UCLA’s Paul Weiss, Director of the California NanoSystems Institute, Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences, and a distinguished professor in the departments of chemistry and biochemistry and materials science and engineering, in which the program was called the Brain Activity Map (BAM) project.

"Top nanoscientists and neuroscientists have come together to see how the substantial investment and advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology can be used to measure the dynamic chemical and voltage signals in neural circuits." Weiss says. "This project will enable us to develop and to test new models to understand processes such as learning and memory. We may also be able to shed light on what causes neurological disorders when brains malfunction."

The brain is made up of an estimated 85 billion neurons connected at 100 trillion junctures called synapses that dynamically transmit signals in response to external or internal stimulation. Neurons communicate using both electrical signals, such as the movement of ions to create voltage gradients across cell membranes, and chemical signals, such as the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin that diffuse across synapses between neurons. Moreover, sets of neurons work together in networks or neural circuits to carry out different brain processes and to provide signaling feedback.

Understanding how these signals interact will likely depend on understanding neurons, not at the individual level, but at the circuit level. These circuits can involve as many as millions of individual neurons, making them extremely challenging to study.

This challenge is where the BRAIN Project comes in.

An interdisciplinary group of nanoscience and neuroscience researchers from around the country including Weiss; Anne Andrews, the Richard Metzner Endowed Chair in Clinical Neuropharmacology, a Professor in the departments of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and chemistry and biochemistry and member of CNSI and the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior; and Sotiris Masmanidis, Assistant Professor in the department of neurobiology and CNSI member, have been designing methods to create maps of brain activity that measure and probe the chemical and electrical signals involved in brain circuits.

"This work is what I came to UCLA to do,” says Masmanidis, an expert in the development of microscale neural probes, “to develop nanoscale tools to probe the network-level dynamics of the brain at small scales and high speeds. In order to do this, we have to make many simultaneous measurements beyond what is currently possible."

Unlike other attempts to map the static architectures of the brain—the framework of neurons and their connections—this effort will build on previous knowledge to focus on the dynamic signals that navigate through that framework. In an interview by io9, George Church, a professor in the department of genetics and the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the Science perspective, compared the difference to studying the distribution of a city’s telephone wires versus studying “where, when, and how those wires are transmitting messages.”

"The brain is a dynamic organ, a transducer between the body and the environment, and as such it is constantly changing. To measure and to understand the dynamics of the brain at a critical scale—looking simultaneously at the chemical, physical and neurophysiological interaction among many thousands of neurons—is a technically formidable challenge, for any perturbing analysis itself brings further dynamic change. But we are beginning to assemble the tools that can make such investigation possible and ultimately lead to better understanding of disease and its treatment," says Peter Whybrow, Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Judson Braun Distinguished Professor and Executive Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and Physician-in-Chief of the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA. "[BRAIN] is the compelling project for the science of our time."

The project aims to provide valuable information that explains how actions, thoughts, and emotions are controlled by the brain and seeks to shed light on disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and schizophrenia. Chemical and voltage activity maps could also enable scientists to develop new therapeutic drugs for such disorders.

"Understanding the interacting, dynamic chemistry of the brain is the key to understanding, and eventually treating, diseases such as anxiety and depression," says Andrews. "My group teamed up with nanoscientist Paul Weiss a decade ago in order to see how we might develop new tools to reach the smaller and faster time scales at which the action happens."

The timeliness of the initiative is based on the availability and coalescence of new technology that will have a critical impact on the field. As the name of the initiative implies, technology development will be a major driving force behind the research.

An article describing the current and possible future technologies for the project and how they will enable this endeavor was recently published in ACS Nano by over two dozen co-authors including Andrews, Masmanidis, Church, and Weiss, who is also the journal’s Editor-in-Chief.

"The idea is to accelerate, by decades, the development and application of technology to study the brain by bringing to bear the advances generated by the major U.S. and international investments in nanotechnology over the last decade," Weiss says.

Current technology is capable of measuring either the electrical activity of a small number of neurons at high resolution or of imaging the whole brain at relatively low-resolution, but tools capable of working between those two extremes—focused on neural circuits—are still in the early stages of development.

As described above, tiny probes are being designed that are capable of recording electrical signals over three-dimensional space within the brain. Novel optical tools are being combined with computational approaches to improve the precision of neural imaging while also increasing the numbers of neurons that can be visualized simultaneously. Wireless electronic circuits can be introduced into neuronal networks to measure activity and to affect signaling without requiring invasive surgery.

Additionally, the work of Weiss and Andrews has been focused on uncovering the relationships between neurotransmitters and their receptors, chemical interactions that have required the development of novel strategies that take advantage of cutting edge chemical patterning technology, which enables the researchers to precisely position receptors in a way that is optimized to identify their binding partners.

Experiments will depend on the ability to work at micrometer and nanometer scales that will enable the study of individual neural circuits, synapses between neurons, and neurotransmitter receptors.

Comparisons between the BRAIN project and the Human Genome Project have been drawn. The Human Genome Project, formally begun in 1990 and coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), energized researchers and catalyzed discussion leading to new areas of investigation. The main goals of the project were to identify all of the genes in human DNA and to determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA. Approximately $300 million per year was provided for the effort.

Likewise, BRAIN offers a new opportunity for collaboration among the NIH, the NSF, and DARPA, with room for participation from industry and foundations. If all goes well, the return from the BRAIN project will rival the return—estimated by some to be $140 for every $1 spent—coming from the Human Genome Project. The project will also create additional jobs for individuals trained in multiple fields and provide educational enrichment, both from a scientific standpoint and from a technology training standpoint. Ethical implications of the research will also be required, according to the White House.

"We have a chance to improve the lives of, not just millions, but billions of people on this planet through the research that’s done in this BRAIN initiative alone,” Obama said in his announcement. “But it’s going to require a serious effort, a sustained effort, and it’s going to require us as a country to embody and embrace that spirit of discovery that is what made America America."

Reprinted from the CNSI website.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Presentation Day for the Entrepreneurship for Science, Medicine, and Technology class

The Entrepreneurship for Science, Medicine, and Technology class comes to an end today with five student groups presenting their business ideas to colleagues and some distinguished guests.

The new class was offered with support from the Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the UCLA Anderson School of Management and CNSI. For the last eight weeks, enthusiastic participants have learned about what it means to be an entrepreneur, including such topics as opportunity recognition, incorporation, calculating the total available market, risk, legal considerations, fundraising, and other topics. Almost all of the classes lasted longer than expected as questions about different scenarios were thrown to Professor George Abe, who has been doing a remarkable job of introducing a new world to our clinicians, scientists, and engineers. The students' hard work culminates with group presentations describing business plans based on their own technology.

We're expecting a good show!

Also, today in history, the Higgs boson shares the stage with Pope Francis on the front page of CNN:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ome Sweet Ome

In 1990, the Human Genome Project was launched, seeking to identifying the more than 20,000 genes in human DNA. But that was just the beginning of the new era of the "omes" in science.

Modern mass spectrometers are able to identify all of the proteins in a given sample of cells. This approach has been termed the "proteome."

And the analysis of all of a cell's metabolites has been fittingly termed the "metabolome."

The "-ome" suffix in modern molecular biology science means "all constituents considered collectively," and it has become more and more popular as new technology has enabled the pursuit of BIG science.

Whereas molecular biological thesis projects used to be completed after the identification of a single gene, now the identification of tens of thousands of genes may only make up a single thesis chapter. Genomic studies can lead to transcriptomic studies (the identification of all transcribed genes) to proteomic studies, and so on. Researchers have moved beyond technical proficiency at the bench to also be able to understand the basics of computational biology and the field of bioinformatics.

In some recent published articles proposing the creation of brain activity maps as part of an initiative supported by the White House Office of Science and Technology, researchers focused on the brain will attempt to create "connectomes" the identification of all the neural connections in a given brain circuit.

Other "omes" are likely being collected in laboratories all around the world.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Science Games Online

Happy Friday, everyone!

In case you haven't seen them, here are a few science games you can play online. The first few are part of a movement called "citizen science," where researchers are taking advantage of clever brains around the world to help answer scientific questions.

Foldit, asks players to help figure out optimal ways to fold proteins, a question that could help researchers predict how new proteins will fold, and thus how to create new enzymes. 

Interested in helping to diagnose malaria? Both MalariaSpot and MOLT (the latter developed by our very own Prof. Aydogan Ozcan) ask players to help identify malaria or malaria infected cells from images of blood samples. Researchers are hoping to leverage this talent and pool the results to help real patients who may not have access to adequate health care.

Lastly, Nanocure, is a game offered by Nanooze, a magazine to get kids excited about science. It involves setting up an immune system to defend against viral attacks. It's not as educational or as helpful as the others--unless you take the time to read the real virus information available on the site--but it's a lot of fun to play!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Summer 2013 :: CNSI's Nanoscience Lab for High School Students

Images of various campus locations

Registration has just begun for this year's CNSI Nanoscience Lab!  This exciting summer workshop is geared towards high school students who have an interest in the sciences and provides a unique opportunity to explore questions similar to those currently investigated by the scientific community.  This five day program teaches students the key concepts of nanoscale research with the use of fun and engaging scientific experiments, instrumentation trainings, and science and career mentorship.  This program also carries 2 quarter units of UCLA course credit, and a limited number of full and partial scholarships are made available.

Due to a larger number of applicants than expected from last year's program, there will be two course sessions this year: 

Session A: July 8-12
Session B: July 15-19

The activities in the NanoScience Lab require a strong science foundation in chemistry, physics, and biology. The program is designed for students going into the 10th grade level or higher next school year, but 9th graders with exceptional scientific knowledge and the ability to work productively in teams are considered on a case by case basis.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Entrepreneurship for Science, Medicine, and Technology

Recently, CNSI started a new experiment. In partnership with the Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the UCLA Anderson School of Management, the Institute offered the "Entrepreneurship for Science, Medicine, and Technology" course geared toward research scientists, medical practitioners, and engineers who want to learn more about the business side of technology transfer and entrepreneurship.

One of CNSI's most important goals is to encourage university collaborations with industry and enable the rapid commercialization of discoveries. To help meet this goal, the Institute is developing a multi-prong approach that will support its community regardless of where its members are in their career or their past experience with industry. The class, taught by Anderson Lecturer George Abe, strives to educate people with little or no experience with the entrepreneurial space, and, judging from the enthusiastic participation in the first two classes, people definitely want this information. The last class focused on issues such as incorporating your business and benefit packages, and Abe's 2-hour lecture was constantly interrupted with interesting questions and scenarios (many of them surrounding a hypothetical lemonade stand founded by the students in the front row). The group also happily skipped the midway break in the hopes of covering all of the week's material in time.

An important component of the course will be group work to develop product pitches for the class and possible guests. Already, students have offered up their own technology, and teams are forming for the first elevator pitch session happening next week.

If successful, the class may be offered again in the future.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The EnGen Roadshow :: NSF-IGERT Clean Energy for Green Industry Graduate Fellowship Program

The NSF-IGERT CGI graduate fellowship program at UCLA and the California NanoSystems Institute present the EnGen Roadshow, energy education for Los Angeles area high schools:

About: The Clean Energy for Green Industry IGERT (CGI) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is designed to train U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers for leadership roles in the clean energy sector--university-industry-government. Emphasis is placed on economic expansion through transformational research, new business, highly trained workforce development, equity and inclusion. The Clean Green IGERT addresses the urgent societal challenge of meeting increasing energy needs without further negatively affecting the environment. Meeting this challenge requires a revitalized energy production and delivery infrastructure in which innovative and commercially viable energy harvesting, storage, and conservation solutions are developed in concert. The development of such solutions is only feasible through university-industry-government partnerships with highly-skilled, broadly-educated, globally-minded leadership. Such partnerships have high potential for economic development in urban areas primed for growth in this sector, with a well-trained workforce, a supportive government and visionary industrial foundations.

The Clean Green IGERT at UCLA will establish new programs, networks and relationships that do not currently exist, and will invoke enduring impact on UCLA campus and local Los Angeles community. The Clean Green IGERT program will support economic development in the Los Angeles basin accomplished by launching new businesses through UCLA spin-offs and transfer innovative technology to existing business. We will also educate a local workforce primed for cleangreen science, policy and business. In the community, we will provide education and awareness to K-12 students on clean-energy issues, science and careers. We have placed significant emphasis on equity and inclusiveness in the Clean Green fellowship ranks and green industry workforce addressed by aggressive, mentoring and retention objectives. These programs will increase minority applicant pool at UCLA, increase participation in underrepresented students in this topical area of clean energy and create new jobs especially in Los Angeles.

One of the unique strategies of this IGERT program is its specific emphasis on local green industry and workforce development. Their goal is three-fold: first to provide a highly trained, culturally diverse and globally-minded clean-energy workforce, second to introduce new green industry jobs in our local community through new business development and third is to provide existing companies with new solutions generated by close industry-university collaborations. Exposing science and engineering students to the culture of IP generation, business development, energy policy, providing training and support for these endeavors and providing interaction with local business and government, accomplish these goals.
To learn more, visit:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mobilizing medicine through mHealth

In many ways, our mobile phones know more about us than our doctors do. They know who we talk to. They know what we've seen. They know where we are, where we've been, and sometimes where we're going. Now, people involved in the healthcare industry are trying to figure out ways to take advantage of our mobile phone's knowledge of us to improve patient care.

Mobile Health

The recent movement to use mobile devices to support medical care and public health is called "mobile health" or "mHealth." Developers are figuring out ways to help patients monitor such things as their stress levels, their physical activity, their cigarette cravings, and their adherence to medication routines. Patients no longer need to rely on their memories at the end of the day or at their latest doctor's appointment to report on these experiences. Instead, they can enter reports easily and immediately throughout the day. A few of these tools include: BodyMedia FIT or Fitbit systems, both of which can track your physical activity, sleep, and caloric intake. Glucometers allow people to monitor their blood sugar levels at home. Some smartphone apps and devices can even monitor diseases such as asthma or COPD by relying on built-in microphones or attachments. mHealth strategies are also helping to improve care in low- and middle-income countries, helping deal with pregnancies or diseases such as HIV/AIDS.    

Who will see this information?

A concern among potential users is who will see this information. Self-reports can instantly be correlated to a person's location, perhaps revealing more than what was intended.

Does a person want her doctor to know that she was out drinking at 4 a.m.?

Does a patient want his therapist to know that he hasn't been taking his anti-depression medication?

Many developers are keeping privacy matters in mind, assuring that the data is seen only by the user and others the user allows access to. At the same time, they would like to be able to strike a balance in data collection if at all possible. After all, the collected information from millions of people with multiple diseases could provided extremely valuable information for research purposes. 

The field of mHealth has been quickly gaining popularity. The second mHealth Summit, organized by HiMSS media, The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, mHealth Alliance, and The National Institutes of Health, hosted (tens of) thousands of people in 2012. And, UCLA is co-sponsoring the Heritage Open mHealth Challenge with Heritage Network Provider and Open mHealth. The challenge will award $100,000 to a team proposing the best app to help manage clinical conditions. With so many great minds working on this new face of healthcare, it will be interesting to see how the field develops over the next few years.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Interview :: UCLA's Society of Postdoctoral Scholars (SoPS)

CNSI has recently become acquainted with the Society of Postdoctoral Scholars (SoPS) over the past year.  Starting out as an endeavour by the Office of Postdoctoral and Visiting Scholar Services in 2004, CNSI researchers Greg Pawin and Shelley Claridge joined forces with the group more recently and our involvement  has grown immensely as have their activities and resources.  CNSI bloggers spoke with Greg Pawin and current SoPS President Xue Hua to learn more about SoPS and its offerings to the UCLA Campus. This valuable resource is surely an effort we'd like to help spread the word about, so read below and find out more at the SoPs Website.


What kind of resources and/or events does SoPS offer?
In a way, we at SoPS like to think of ourselves as serving as the compass for postdocs who feel lost at sea, which is a common sentiment due to the grey status they have between that of a student/staff/or faculty. It's a time of transition yet academics are spending more and more time in it. In the meantime, postdocs are trying to gain experience running a lab, fortifying their CVs with publications, figuring out their future careers, and possibly have a family.

We hope we can make all of that a little easier and possibly take one step further and prepare postdocs for routes for unexpected career paths outside of academia, which is why we have been pushing for more entrepreneurship related workshops. In addition to our extensive series of career development seminars and workshops, we hold informational events for more mundane yet daunting hurdles for postdocs, like how to pay their taxes or renew their visas. We have also been trying to expand on the number and type of socials that we hold, including hikes, monthly socials, and coffee hours. However, we are lacking in family friendly events, which is why we're trying to bring back the yearly BBQ.

What is the relationship of SoPS to the Grad Division, and also the rest of campus?
The SoPS is an advisory committee to the Office of Postdoctoral and Visiting Scholar Services, which is in turn a part of Graduate Division, which supplies us with a yearly budget with which we are able to fund our informational seminars, socials, and other myriad of activities. We have sponsored events with various other organizations on campus, especially on career development oriented seminars and workshops. We probably work with CNSI on a most regular basis due to our alignment of interests and very helpful staff.

What discipline does the current group mainly come from, and what diversity in the group do you hope to create?

Fortunately, we're comprised of all types of disciplines, including those from the physical sciences, medical school, and humanities. Ideally, it would be nice if we were perfectly representative in every way to the postdoc population; in race, gender, discipline, marital status, and number of offspring. Understandably, we are lacking in members with children and there is a need for someone to represent their needs. 

Who are the key players of UCLA SoPS? How is the group organized?
SoPS is comprised of the president, who is currently Xue Hua, and various committee chairs, each in charge of: advocacy, career development, treasury, communications, entrepreneurship and business development, social and outreach activities; and each staffed by postdocs who volunteer their time to organize events for the postdoc community. It's a very egalitarian organization, where all positions are vice-president positions aside from the president. Due to the transient nature of the postdocs, we are constantly looking for new members to join the team. If you are interested in helping with one of our many programs currently in place or have ideas you would like to share about helping us grow, please feel free to email

What are the short term, and long term goals of the Society?Our short term goals are to expand the number and types of events that we offer. We would like to offer more entrepreneurship seminars and business meet-and-greet type events to get postdocs to become more business savvy so they can adapt to the changing job climate. We would also like to expand our social activities and build a stronger postdoc community. These goals are all for the long term vision of a vibrant, self-sustaining postdoc community that helps its members succeed and flourish in all their future endeavors long after their stints as postdocs.

What (if any) is the relationship between CNSI and SoPS?
As previously hinted to earlier, SoPS is very fortunate enough to have very similar goals to those in charge of career development and education at CNSI, which has a dedicated and experienced staff for organizing and hosting these events. We work very closely with Jia Ming Chen on a series of career development seminars and workshops and are constantly on the lookout for more speakers and future events. Everyone on the staff who is involved are very committed and supportive of our events, so much so that we also hold our monthly socials there. Also, it doesn't hurt that CNSI is one of the nicer buildings to host events in.

Are there any upcoming events that we can tell our readers about?
In addition to our monthly socials, pub nites, hikes, and career development seminars that all can be found on our website:, we will be hosting a vendor show at CNSI on February 14th, Valentine's Day.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Third Culture: Science, Art & Ideas: Dr. Adam Stieg at TEDxYouth@Conejo

A talk from TedxYouth@Conejo by Adam Stieg, who currently serves as Scientific Director of the Nano and Pico Characterization Core Facility at CNSI and Director of the UCLA Sci|Art NanoLab

His research focuses on the design and application of physical methods toward development of an integrated understanding of matter at the interfaces of traditionally defined boundaries. Numerous ongoing, collaborative efforts involve the study of molecular machines, nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery, inorganic carbon-based materials, directed stem cell differentiation and the pursuit of physically intelligent systems through neuromorphic computation.

Since 2003, he has collaborated with artists in a variety of projects, installations, and public exhibitions that provide inspiration and motivation for bringing the power of such creative approaches to the forefront of education.