Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Leal, professor of biochemistry in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, said Thorp "epitomizes how emeriti contribute to UC Davis."
Thorp, a 30-year member of the entomology faculty, and a tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, retired in 1994, but he continued working until several weeks before his death on June 7, 2019, at age 85. In 2014, he co-authored two books: Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University,) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday). He published more than 50 percent of his papers following his retirement."
“Robbin's scientific achievements during his retirement rival the typical career productivity of many other academic scientists,” said Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, at the time of the legendary entomologist's death. “His contributions in support of understanding bee biodiversity and systematics are a true scientific legacy.”
The video tribute is online at
It includes images and accomplishments of many of the emeriti, meant as a small representation of the achievements of all. (See news story)
In his message, Chancellor May told the new emeriti: "You played a central role in keeping UC Davis at the forefront of excellence. Your continued engagement through teaching, research, volunteering and philanthropy is vital to our continued growth and success. So I encourage you to stay engaged with campus. The UC Davis Emeriti Association is here with resources and support for this newest chapter of your career. Please take advantage of it. Thank you for our dedication to UC Davis and congratulations on reaching this milestone."
Among its many activities, UC Davis Emeriti Association (UCDEA) interviews and records emeriti who have made "significant contributions to the development of the university." (See Video Records Project.)
One of them is Robbin Thorp. (Watch the video here.)
It was quite a celebration during the unveiling of a UC Davis ceramic-mosaic mural, The Secret Life of Vineyards, took place at a Napa Valley organic vineyard.
The 10 x 6-foot mural, which graces an outer wall of the Matthiasson Winery on Dry Creek Road, Napa, depicts more than 80 arthropods (insects, spiders and centipedes), several bird species, mammals (bobcat, deer, rabbits, squirrels, a pocket gopher), a gopher snake, mycorrhiza fungi and even earthworms, according to the three project leaders, UC Davis distinguished professor Diane Ullman and assistant professor Emily Meineke, both of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, and retired lecturer Gale Okumura of the Department of Design.
The project is the culmination of a spring quarter class, Entomology 001, “Art, Science and the World of Insects,” taught by Professors Ullman and Meineke. Ullman, founding co-director of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program, described the project as “a collaboration between students and instructors in ENT 001; community members from Davis, Woodland, and Napa, and Matthiasson Winery; and the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program." Eighty-three UC Davis students participated in the mural.
UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, Professor Ullman and Steve Matthiasson, owner of the winery, were among those delivering presentations.
Also in his address, Chancellor May discussed how UC Davis "is on the leading edge of innovation in the wine world. One of the first things visitors see as they enter our campus is a 120-acre vineyard that's used for grape breeding programs, rootstock trials and other research." (See news story)
In her presentation, Professor Ullman described the project "a testimony to the power of collaboration, community effort, creativity and collective will. This expressive, beautiful and educational artwork celebrates the synergy created when art meets science, and people observe the world around them with fresh eyes, testing their ideas and transforming those ideas into new concepts and new insights, and then share their epiphanies with others through design and art."
Ullman noted that the general education class, "Art, Science and the World of Insects," was founded in 1996. It's been taught ever year since, "attracting students from every major offered on the UC Davis campus," she said.
Meineke, an urban landscape entomologist, was unable to attend the Aug. 16th unveiling. Meineke and her husband Joe Kwon just "brought our newest Aggie, Genevieve Se Hwa Kwon into the world," Ullman told the gathering.
In a joint statement, Ullman and Meineke related that The Secret Life of Vineyards was designed to reflect the ecosystem within and around an organic vineyards as it progresses from early spring to harvest. A Cabernet Sauvignon vine is the centerpiece of the mural, shown from the first bud in the spring to harvest time in the autumn...The work is an ode to the importance of biodiversity and balance in the ecosystem in which wine vines are grown and reflects the passion of the Matthiasson Winery for sustainable viticulture.”
The professors credited artist Amanda Larson of Half Moon Bay "with the engineering and building of the hanging system, as well as the installation."
It's online on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Paq0ka3NIP0
"We had a total of 1,234 registrants," reported UC Davis Distinguished Professor Walter Leal, the organizer and moderator. "According to the ZOOM's report, we had 749 users, 613 unique views, and 500 max concurrent views (max capacity)." As of 7:30 p.m., Jan. 14, YouTube showed more than 650 viewers.
More than 94 percent of the participants who responded to the survey were very satisfied or satisfied. Some indicated it was too long, that the presentations should have been shorter, with more focus on the questions and answers. One said he/she: “liked the use of undergrads asking and introducing speakers and sharing questions. Wow, UCD has some really smart people!”
UC Davis Chancellor Gary May delivered the opening remarks. UC Davis scientists Richard Michelmore, Nam Tran and Heather Bischel explained the COVID tests underway at UC Davis and the Davis community and answered questions. UC Davis Health physician Stuart Cohen, chief of the Division of infectious diseases and director, Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, answered questions about vaccines.
"Dr. Cohen is leading a Phase 3 clinical trial of the Novavax vaccine called NVX-CoV2373,” said Leal, a chemical ecologist with the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a former chair of the Department of Entomology, now the Department of Entomology and Nematology. “This vaccine has a subunit from the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and it's combined with an adjuvant, a boosting agent to improve the body's immune response to the vaccine."
Viewers also learned about “Healthy Davis Together,” a program partnering UC Davis with the City of Davis to prevent the spread of the virus and “to facilitate a coordinated and gradual return to regular city activities and reintegration of UC Davis students back into the Davis community."
- "Amazing presentation. Will the recording be archived to view? there was information that I missed (I was taking notes) and wished I could rewind to listen to a second time."
- "Excellent focused and varied content. Impressive development of infrastructure and community collaborations. Nice introductions to some of the content that might need background information for some participants without taking away from the more in-depth information."
- "Great symposium, well organized, good flow of parts, excellent info provided by presenters."
- "Honestly I didn't think it was going to be so information dense, Dr. Leal really surprised me with organization, structure and information presented through this symposium."
- "I found the symposium panelists to be very informative and accessible, and Dr. Leal did a great job moderating the discussion! I appreciated the diversity of the panelists that are involved in different areas of testing, distribution, and surveillance."
- "Went longer than expected but very interesting!"
- "Thank you for hosting these sessions and for spreading more high quality information on the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm very grateful to be able to hear from specialists actively working on or around this tremendous issue. Huge thanks to all of the people involved and UCD!"
- "Very informative and engaging. Thank you Dr. Leal for hosting this. Your hard work and time is appreciated."
- "Thanks so much for offering this symposium. It's very informative, and the simple act of viewing the conversation makes me more confident in our community's preparedness and our shared determination to stop the virus and keep our community safe."
- "Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity! It was an incredible educational experience and I really appreciate the time and collective effort that was put into this symposium to make it happen."
- "These symposia provide me with the best, up-to-date information about COVID-19 that isn't dumbed down so much as to be meaningless. Priceless access to these great minds. Thank you so much!! - From A Veterinary Epidemiologist"
- "Very well organized and facilitated. An overall fantastic presentation!"
- "I enjoyed the interaction between the panel speakers in terms of answering a question or simply discussing safety and the people involved in the vaccine and COVID prevention/testing process. I liked the interview-style videos."
- "I have to give a shout out to UC Davis attacking this pandemic in its 3-pronged approach (testing, contact tracing, quarantining) and giving personal guidance for each case. Having had to go thru it, it's definitely very helpful."
- "Witnessing how my husband's work doesn't have the same hands-on guidance is giving a lot of misinterpretations and lack of direction and more work exposures. Thank you."
- "I really enjoyed this symposium! It was very informational and I learned so much! I really liked how students were able to ask questions because as student I had some of the same questions!"
This was the fourth UC Davis COVID-19 Symposium that Leal has organized and moderated since April 2020.
(Note: UC Davis Distinguished Professor Walter Leal focuses his research on the biochemical and molecular basis of insect olfaction, or how insects perceive the world through the sense of smell. However, he is also heavily involved in public service.)
Do you have questions to ask at the UC Davis Symposium on COVID-19? Questions about COVID tests or vaccines?
UC Davis Chancellor Gary May will deliver the opening remarks. UC Davis scientists Richard Michelmore, Nam Tran and Heather Bischel will explain the COVID tests underway at UC Davis and the Davis community and answer questions. A new addition to the panel is UC Davis Health physician Stuart Cohen, chief of the Division of infectious diseases and director, Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, "who is running vaccine trials will answer your questions about vaccines," Leal said.
"Given the overwhelming interest in the coronavirus vaccine, we have amended the COVID Symposium's program to include Dr. Cohen," Leal said. "He is leading a Phase 3 clinical trial of the Novavax vaccine called NVX-CoV2373. This vaccine has a subunit from the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and it's combined with an adjuvant, a boosting agent to improve the body's immune response to the vaccine."
“This symposium will yield important information that everyone should know,” said Leal, a chemical ecologist with the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a former chair of the Department of Entomology, now the Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Free COVID-19 saliva tests are being administered by appointment to the Davis community--those who live in Davis or work at UC Davis--at testing kiosks on campus. It is a rapid, comprehensive laboratory-developed test that detects whether a person is currently infected with the coronavirus. The UC Davis Genome Center processes the saliva samples. Technically, the test uses a high throughput, real time, quantitative polymerase chain reaction protocol run on machines repurposed from the agricultural genetics industry.
The symposium also will cover how the COVID-19 tests administered in an hospital emergency room or at bedside can distinguish between whether a patient has COVID-19 or the flu. In addition, wastewater surveillance tests, also known as sewage tests, are underway to detect the virus.
Viewers also will learn about “Healthy Davis Together,” a program partnering UC Davis with the City of Davis to prevent the spread of the virus and “to facilitate a coordinated and gradual return to regular city activities and reintegration of UC Davis students back into the Davis community.”
Chancellor Gary May, Ph.D.
He became the seventh UC Davis chancellor on Aug. 1, 2017. A native of St. Louis, Mo., he received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1985 and his master's degree and doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley in 1987 and 1991, respectively. Prior to becoming the UC Davis chancellor, he served as the dean of the Georgia Tech College of Engineering from July 2011-June 2017 and as the Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering from May 2005-June 2011. His resume also includes executive assistant to Georgia Tech President G. Wayne Clough from 2002-2005.
Heather N. Bischel, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 2017, is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She focuses her research on protecting and improving human and environmental health through more sustainable water and sanitation practices, with emphases on waterborne viruses, water quality and reuse, organic micropollutants, and resource-oriented sanitation.To build a local early warning system for COVID outbreaks, she worked with Karen Shapiro (VetMed) and campus Safety Services & Facilities to launch wastewater monitoring for SARS-CoV-2 at UC Davis. Through the Healthy Davis Together Initiative, she co-leads the Environmental Monitoring program with David Coil (UC Davis Genome Center) to monitor SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, surface samples, and HVAC systems throughout the City of Davis.
Bischel holds degrees in civil and environmental engineering. She received a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley in 2005, a master of science degree from Stanford University in 2007, and a doctorate from Stanford University in 2011. She served as a postdoctoral scientist at the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Reinventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (2011-2012) and the Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (2012-2017).
Michelmore, a UC Davis distinguished professor in the Departments of Plant Sciences (College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), Molecular and Cellular Biology (College of Biological Sciences) and Medical Microbiology and Immunology (School of Medicine), is the founding director of the UC Davis Genome Center, established in 2003. Educated in natural sciences at Cambridge, Michelmore joined the UC Davis faculty in 1982 and has authored more than 200 scientific papers. His multidisciplinary research utilizes molecular, genetic, and evolutionary approaches to plant genomics. He aims "to exploit such approaches for information-driven deployment of resistance genes in crop plants to provide more durable disease resistance." In addition, he is interested in fostering research to enhance global food security. His interests also include applications of DNA sequencing to all areas of biology and its increasing impact on society. In response to the current pandemic, he has been a major contributor to the team providing rapid testing for COVID-19.
Nam Tran serves as associate clinical professor and director of clinical chemistry, special chemistry, toxicology, Point of Care (POC) Testing, and the Specimen and Reporting Center (SARC). He is board-certified in clinical chemistry (high complexity laboratory director certification) through the American Board ofBioanalysis (ABB). He also serves as the instructor of record for the resident physician and medical student clinical chemistry rotations. He received his bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2003 from UC Davis, and his doctorate in comparative pathology from UC Davis in 2008. He served as a postdoctoral scholar at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), UC DavisPOC Technologies Center, from 2009-2011. During this time, Tram also completed a master's degree in pharmacology and toxicology. He served as a National Institutes of Health Mentored Clinical Research Training Program (MCRTP) Scholar from 2011-2013.
Dr. Cohen specializes in clinical infectious diseases and infection control in the hospital environment. He is interested in AIDS, HIV infection and treatment of immuno-compromised patients and serves as primary infectious diseases consultant to transplant programs. Cohen uses molecular biology to investigate epidemiology of resistant microorganisms. His laboratory-based studies look at susceptibility testing of HIV clinical isolates to multiple antiretroviral agents. Additional research focuses on new antimicrobial agents and chemokine and cytokine level changes.
He received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1974 and his medical degree from Chicago Medical School in 1978. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of New Mexico from 1978-81 and a fellowship in infectious diseases at the UC Davis Medical Center, 1981-1983. He is board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease. (See his recent interview with UC Davis Health.)
This is the fourth in a series of COVID-19 symposiums that Leal has organized and moderated since April. A query from one of Leal's students prompted the Jan. 13 symposium.
Yes, that's UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock "resting" in a hammock on the UC Davis campus.
But as his family, friends, students and colleagues can testify, the indefatigable professor, inventor, researcher, scientist, author, CEO and athlete does not rest...much less rest in a hammock!
Cindy McReynolds of the Hammock lab, a UC Davis doctoral student in pharmacology/toxicology, coaxed him to pose for that image when some of the Hammock lab folks were heading across campus (before the coronavirus pandemic precautions).
And now we're delighted to see that Hammock, internationally recognized for his work in alleviating inflammatory and neuropathic pain in humans and companion animals--and known as the founder of the field of environmental immunoassays--is the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in Innovation, part of the 2020 Chancellor's Innovation Awards.
An honor well-deserved!
The annual campuswide award honors researchers who have made a long-term positive impact on the lives of others and who inspire other innovators. It is one of several awards announced June 15 in a program managed by the Office of Research. (See recipients.)
“Research universities like UC Davis play a critical role in advancing innovative solutions for the global community that not only stimulate our economy but create a better quality of life,” said Chancellor Gary S. May in a news release. “The recipients of this year's awards demonstrate the impact of reaching beyond what is expected to deliver game-changing innovations that address some of the world's most critical issues.”
Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, co-discovered a human enzyme termed Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase (sEH), a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. It regulates a new class of natural chemical mediators, which in turn regulates inflammation, blood pressure and pain. Hammock and his lab have been involved in enzyme research for more than 50 years.
UC Davis recently licensed certain patents exclusively to EicOsis that support the underlying technology.
Hammock traces the history of his enzyme research to 1969 to his graduate student days in the John Casida laboratory, UC Berkeley. Hammock was researching insect developmental biology and green insecticides when he and colleague Sarjeet Gill, now a distinguished professor at UC Riverside, discovered the target enzyme in mammals that regulates epoxy fatty acids.
“My research led to the discovery that many regulatory molecules are controlled as much by degradation and biosynthesis,” Hammock said. “The epoxy fatty acids control blood pressure, fibrosis, immunity, tissue growth, depression, pain and inflammation to name a few processes.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded a $15 million HEAL grant (Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative) to EicOsis in 2019 to support human clinical trials of a novel compound that has been found effective for the treatment of pain in preclinical animal studies.
In 2019, Hammock received a $6 million “outstanding investigator” federal grant for his innovative and visionary environmental health research. His pioneering work on inflammation not only extends to alleviating chronic pain, but to targeting inflammation involved in cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other health issues.
EicOsis won the Sacramento Region Innovation Award in the Medical and Health category in 2019.
More recently, Hammock has turned his attention to using sEH as a means to control the deadly cytokine storm associated with COVID-19.
A member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980, Hammock has directed the UC Davis Superfund Research Program (funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) for nearly four decades, supporting scores of pre- and postdoctoral scholars in interdisciplinary research in 5 different colleges and graduate groups on campus. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Sciences, and the Entomological Society of America. He is the recipient of scores of awards, including the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry; and the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. At UC Davis he received the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Faculty Research Lectureship.
He has authored or co-authored more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications and holds more than 95 patents in agriculture, environmental science and medicinal chemistry.
Hammock is known for his expertise in chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry and entomology. Earlier in his career, he founded the field of environmental immunoassay, using antibodies and biosensors to monitor food and environmental safety, and human exposure to pesticides. His groundbreaking research in insect physiology, toxicology led to his development of the first recombinant virus for insect control.
As director of the UC Davis Superfund Research Program, he pioneered trans-disciplinary research across campus, engaging faculty in multiple colleges and schools “to transform the way we treat diseases in multiple species.”
A native of Little Rock, Ark., Hammock received his bachelor's degree in entomology (with minors in zoology and chemistry) magna cum laude from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, in 1969. He received his doctorate in entomology-toxicology from UC Berkeley in 1973. Hammock served as a public health medical officer with the U.S. Army Academy of Health Science, San Antonio, and as a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation, Department of Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.
In the Army, Hammock served as a medical officer at Fort Sam, Houston, and what he saw--severely burned people in terrible pain--made a lasting impression on him and steered him toward helping humankind.
The rest, as they say, is history: "his story" that is drawing worldwide attention.