Eye on Science: Look for a busy year for these La Jolla-based folks

By Lynne Friedmann

Contributor

It's time to take a peek at what the year ahead may hold for some research leaders with ties to La Jolla.

Sandra Ann Brown

starts 2011 as the newly appointed vice chancellor for research at UCSD. She will be responsible for promoting, facilitating and supporting the university’s complex and growing research mission which in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2010 amounted to more than $1 billion in funding.

The Office of Research Affairs at UCSD fosters research across disciplines and is charged with creating opportunities, enhancing the research experience, developing tools and training to improve research administration, and supporting and promoting university innovations to benefit the region, the state, the nation, and the world.

A professor of psychology and psychiatry, Brown has spent more than 20 years at UCSD managing academic appointments in two departments: Psychology on the general campus, and Psychiatry in the School of Medicine. She has also simultaneously directed the development of clinical, education, and research activities as the chief of psychology at the Veterans Affair Health Services System in San Diego.

Astrophysicist

Alison Coil

will one day tell us how and why galaxies cluster. The Universe is built up by various structures: Stars are collected together into galaxies, galaxies are collected into galaxy groups, and galaxy groups are collected together into galaxy clusters. Coil’s research interest lies at the intersection between large-scale structure, cosmology, and galaxy evolution. An assistant professor in the UCSD department of physics, Coil conducts her research as part of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences (CASS) and focuses on the evolution of galaxies when the Universe was half its current age. This provides enough of a time baseline to measure significant evolution but is near enough that large statistical samples can be gathered.

She works primarily with observational evidence, utilizing multi-wavelength imaging and spectroscopy, and interpreting her findings by collaborating with theorists to compare her results with numerical and analytic simulations. The outstanding promise of Coil’s work was recognized in 2010 when she received a Sloan Research Fellowship awarded to exceptional young researchers early in their academic careers and at a pivotal stage of their research

Philip Steven Low

is a pioneer in the field of computational biometrics. He is founder and CEO of NeuroVigil is a wireless neurodiagnostics company with offices in La Jolla. Low is the inventor of the iBrain — a wireless device for at-home sleep monitoring and diagnosis. Other applications for the technology include the systematic search for brain-derived biomarkers of neuropathologies that include narcolepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.

Major pharmaceutical companies are interested in iBrain as a means to detect subtle changes in brain activity during clinical trials before visible signs of drug side effects surface. The iBrain received top honors in the 2010 CONNECT Most Innovative New Product Awards competition (Life Sciences/Diagnostics and Research Tools category), and Low was named as one of the top young innovators of 2010 (under the age of 35) by MIT Technology Review magazine.

Eric Topol

is a cardiologist, genomics expert, and considered the leading thought leader in the emerging health industry. Chief academic officer of Scripps Health and chief medical officer of the La Jolla-based West Wireless Health Institute, Topol has been involved with wireless medicine since its inception. In 2010, he gave high-profile presentations at venues ranging from The Future of Wireless Medicine Conference to the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.

Topol also has done much to expand the understanding of how genetics can determine a person’s health risks. A study on a gene expression test for coronary disease, on which he is a principal author, was ranked by Time Magazine as among the 2010 Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs.

In 2011, Topol predicts accelerated, notable advances in genomic medicine in five key areas: patient screening for more effective use of prescription drug therapies; finding and targeting cancer tumors; expanding and refining subtypes of diabetes for more effective treatment together with wireless monitoring of glucose levels; online learning and credentialing of physicians on various aspects of genomic medicine, and continued improvements in personal gene tests for consumers.

Yuanyuan (YY) Zhou

specializes in making computers safer and more reliable. She joined the UCSD faculty in 2009 as the first holder of the Qualcomm Endowed Chair in Mobile Computing in the Jacobs School of Engineering. Zhou’s research the focused around the challenges in designing the next generation of computer systems: energy and thermal management for data centers, software dependability, and storage systems.

Since joining UCSD, she has secured National Science Foundation (NSF) support as principal investigator (PI) on four projects and is co-PI on a fifth. Her grants as solo investigator total more than $1.6 million. Zhou is also part of a team of researchers at UCSD and five other universities involved in a $10 million project that proposes to re-think and enhance the role that software can play in a new class of computing machines that are adaptive and highly energy efficient. The idea is to use system components — led by proactive software — to routinely monitor, predict, and adapt to the variability in manufactured computer systems.

2010 Scorecard:

Here’s an update on those featured in last year’s "Eye on Science."

Sheng Ding

, associate professor of chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is co-investigator on a five-year, $4.66 million NIH Transformative Award to study the regenerative potential of retinal cells with the long-term goal of restoring disease-related vision loss.

Joseph Ecker

, of the Salk Institute, is one of five researchers to receive the George W. Beadle Award presented by the Genetics Society of America for outstanding contributions to the community of genetics researchers.

Ph.D. graduate student in biological oceanography at Scripps Institute of Oceanography

Miriam Goldstein

was back at sea last summer continuing her work on the impact of plastic debris on zooplankton in the North Pacific Central Gyre.

“Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present and Future,” authored by

Michael B. A. Oldstone

, a professor at The Scripps Research Institute, was named a 2010 San Diego Book Award finalist.

TogetherGreen Fellowship recipient

Amy Trujillo

, a biologist with the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy (SELC), has made inroads with many of the lagoon’s neighbors along Escondido Creek, working with them to improve habitat quality.

   
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