Walter Munk speaks at Point Loma Nazarene

How do you land the internationally legendary oceanographer Walter Munk as a guest speaker for your administrative communications class at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU)?

Easy: Be the daughter of one of the founders of the Walter Munk Foundation of the Oceans!

Professor Madeline Scarpella, who was raised and lives in La Jolla, called in the favor and it was granted big time. In addition to Munk, guest speakers included Foundation reps Mary Munk, Damien Leloup and Scarpella’s mother, Julie.

“While Walter was speaking, I took a moment to pause and look up at my students,” Scarpella recalled. “I have never seen them so engaged and focused. I have never seen them look at me that way when I lecture. Walter and the foundation really had a positive effect on them and they were beyond interested in hearing what he had to say. Almost mesmerized.”

It was the first time Munk ever spoke at PLNU, Scarpella reported.

La Jolla prof named world’s leading diabetes expert

Dr. Matthias von Herrath — founder of the Type 1 Diabetes Center at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) — has been named the world’s leading expert in the disease by Expertscape, an online base of biomedical expertise.

Rankings by Expertscape use an algorithm to assign a weighted score to peer-reviewed scientific publications over the last 10 years to identify the most knowledgeable and experienced physicians, clinicians and researchers across more than 26,000 specific topics.

Dr. von Herrath splits his time between his lab at La Jolla Institute and Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, where he was recently named vice president and senior medical officer.

Veterinarian’s day at Children’s School

Author Ruth MacPete recently held a book-reading — accompanied by her dog, Oski — at The Children’s School on Dec. 6. MacPete, the San Diego veterinarian — who has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “The Doctors” and “Good Day LA” — read her book, “Lisette the Vet,” to 70 students. Afterwards, she talked about what it takes to become a vet (21 years of school) and offered students to her stethoscope to listen to Oski’s heart.

The Children’s School reports that the students — who have been writing their own books in writing workshops — were “excited to meet a published author.”

UCSD campus fire station approved

The first fire station on the campus of UC San Diego has passed its first hurdle. The City’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee has unanimously approved its construction. The 10,500-square-foot fire station is earmarked for the northwest corner of the UC San Diego campus, near the intersection of North Torrey Pines Road and Northpoint Driveway.

Currently, UCSD hosts 36,000 students, with the nearest fire station 1.5 miles away at 4285 Eastgate Mall.

“This fire station is long overdue and I am appreciative of UC San Diego for their patience and commitment throughout the process,” said City Council member Barbara Bry, a member of the aforementioned committee. “The UC San Diego Fire Station is a much-needed infrastructure addition which will greatly benefit the surrounding community.”

Next, the proposal will go before the entire City Council in January.

Salk Institute uses fruit flies to improve computer searches

New research from the Salk Institute sheds light on an important neurobiological problem — how organisms detect new odors — and could also improve algorithms for novelty detection in computer science.

The research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that adding an algorithm for how fly brains identify similar odors — developed in 2017 by Saket Navlakha, an assistant professor in Salk’s Integrative Biology Laboratory — greatly improved computer “similarity” searches, such as those that suggest products that are similar to your previous purchases.

“When a fly smells an odor, the fly needs to quickly figure out if it has smelled the odor before, to determine if the odor is new and something it should pay attention to,” Navlakha said. “In computer science, this is an important task called novelty detection. Understanding how novelty detection strategies compare in both domains could give us valuable insights into both brain algorithms and computing.”

UCSD develops metastasis sensors

Researchers at UC San Diego have developed sensors that detect and measure cancer’s ability to spread.

In a paper published online in iScience, senior author and UCSD School of Medicine professor Pradipta Ghosh described identifying a protein and its unique modification, called tyrosine-phosphorylated CCDC88A (GIV/Girdin), only present in solid tumor cells. This modification could represent a point of convergence of multiple signaling pathways commonly hijacked by tumor cells during metastasis.

“Although there are many ways to detect metastasis once it has occurred, there has been nothing available to ‘see’ or ‘measure’ the potential of a tumor cell to metastasize in the future,” Gosh said. “So at the Center for Network Medicine, we tackled this challenge by engineering biosensors designed to monitor not one, not two, but multiple signaling programs that drive tumor metastasis. Upon sensing those signals, a fluorescent signal would be turned on only when tumor cells acquired high potential to metastasize, and therefore turn deadly.”

The sensors need further refinement, Gosh wrote, but have the potential to be a transformative advance for cancer cell biology.

$2 million in college scholarships available

Hundreds of scholarships, worth more than $2 million, are available for San Diego students pursuing higher education during the 2019-2020 school year from the San Diego Foundation. Applications are available online through Feb. 5.

“Investing in our students is one of the most important ways to build a strong local talent pipeline for our region,” said Danielle Valenciano, director of community scholarships for the San Diego Foundation. “Today’s students will be the leaders of tomorrow. By supporting them with scholarships, we are creating a more inclusive economy and workforce, and building a lifelong connection between San Diego students and the region.”

The awards — generally ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 — are granted to attendees of four-year universities, two-year colleges, graduate or trade/vocational schools. To apply, visit