When UC Davis fourth-year student Jessica Macaluso enrolled in a longevity class taught by UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology James R. Carey, she was pleasantly surprised to learn of his expertise in teaching students to write research papers.
Macaluso not only got an "A" but she won the top prize in the science, engineering and mathematics category of the Norma J. Lang Prize for Undergraduate Information Research. She received $1000, and her research paper, “The Biological Basis for Alzheimer's Disease," will be published in eScholarship, an open-access scholarly publishing service affiliated with the University of California.
This is the first time a student enrolled in a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology class has won the universitywide competition, now in its fourth year. The award memorializes Norma J. Lang (1931-2015), professor emerita of botany.
Macaluso, who is majoring in psychology with a biological emphasis, and minoring in aging and adult development, anticipates receiving her bachelor of science degree in the fall of 2020.
Carey, an internationally recognized teacher, instructs undergraduates in his classes--which usually exceed 200 students--how to research topics, use style sheets, and structure their papers. He has produced 13 videos on how to research and write a research paper, along with a new video on the use of style sheets.
The Lang Prize recognizes undergraduate students whose research projects make extensive use of library resources, services and expertise. First, second and third-place prizes are awarded each year in two categories: science, engineering and mathematics; and arts, humanities and social sciences. Second place in the science, engineering and mathematics category went to Vincent Pan, a student doing research in the lab of ecologist Rick Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His paper: "Recent Advances in Elucidating the Function of Zebra Stripes: Parasite Avoidance and Thermoregulation Do Not Resolve the Mystery." (See all recipients at https://bit.ly/3cPPsNt.)
“Macaluso's term paper gives an in-depth synopsis of the biology of Alzheimer's disease, a prevalent form of dementia that impairs memory and cognition,” wrote the Norma J. Lang Prize judges. “Utilizing the library's databases and subject guides, Macaluso identified 20 sources from top scientific journals across multiple disciplines, including Nature and the Annual Reviews of Medicine, Neuroscience, Psychology and Public Health, to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of the science on Alzheimer's.”
“This currently incurable disease is caused by significant neuronal death in the brain due to of the accumulation of two neurodegenerative proteins: intercellular amyloid-beta plaques and intracellular tau tangles,” she wrote. “The interaction of these two proteins creates a feedback loop that facilitates the continual destruction of nerve cells in the brain. Because the destruction of nerve cells disrupts the neuronal connections in the brain, Alzheimer's disease results in significant memory deficits as well as impaired cognition. Moreover, with the use of human models and transgenic mouse models, researchers have been able to analyze the role of biology, genetics, and physiology in Alzheimer's disease. For example, mutations in the presenilin 1 (PSEN1) gene or the amyloid precursor protein (APP) gene predispose an individual to acquire early-onset Alzheimer's disease.”
“Likewise, an individual can have an increased likelihood of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease if they carry the ApoE4 variant of the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) gene. In summary, researchers are amply investigating Alzheimer's disease from a variety of biological faucets in an effort to treat or even cure this form of dementia.”
Macaluso went on to discuss three major risk factors affiliated with Alzheimer's disease: age, gender, and genetics.
Macaluso penned “The Biological Basis for Alzheimer's Disease” as her term paper for Human Development-Aging 117 (Longevity) in the fall of 2019. “The purpose of this assignment was to utilize the library databases for research, improve both my writing and editing skills, and broaden my understanding of longevity with a topic of my choice," she wrote in her Norma J. Lang Prize application. "Moreover, this research paper served to expand my communication skills and bolster my intellectual confidence. A key requirement for this paper was to use at least ten sources, seven of which needed to be primary sources such as a research article or a review paper. Initially, I was quite daunted by the prospect of this assignment because I had only modest experience reading research papers or using the online library databases. I distinctly recall reading about this assignment on the syllabus and questioning if I was capable of such an onerous task. To my surprise, by the end of this quarter and after countless hours exploring the online library reserves, I completed my assignment and felt confident in my ability to utilize the UC Davis library resources.”
A 2019-2020 McNair Scholar, Macaluso has worked as an undergraduate research assistant for the Dynamic Memory Lab (Charan Ranganath Lab) since 2017. She serves on the Animal Care Staff at Young Hall; as a genetics tutor for the Academic Assistance and Tutoring Centers; and as president of the America Red Cross Club at UC Davis.
The UC Davis student, a native of Santa Barbara but raised in nearby Buellton, plans to enroll in graduate school in the fall of 2021 to study cognitive neuroscience or cognitive psychology. Her career plans? "I'm thinking academia right now," she said. "I hope to finish my PhD, work as a postdoctoral fellow for a few years, and then pursue a professorship position."
Carey, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty since 1980, is considered the preeminent global authority on arthropod demography. He directed the multidisciplinary, 11-institution, 20-scientist program, “Biodemographic Determinants of Lifespan,” which garnered more than $10 million in funding from the National Institute on Aging from 2003 to 2013.
Highly honored by his peers for his teaching expertise, Carey received the Entomological Society of America's 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award; a 2018 Robert Foster Cherry Award from Baylor University, which presents international teaching awards; and the UC Davis Academic Senate's 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award, an honor given to internationally recognized professors who excel at teaching.
(Here's where UC Davis undergraduate students can apply for the 2021 Norma J. Lang Prize)
The second UC Davis-based COVID-19 Symposium, https://bit.ly/2A2Qd8a, will be streamed via ZOOM and YouTube on Thursday, May 14 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Registration is free.
"We've assembled another panel of experts for viewers to address their questions and concerns,” said UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology faculty and a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.
One of the folks asking questions will be former NASA astronaut Steve Robinson, now a UC Davis professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Professor Robinson, who graduated from UC Davis in 1978 with dual degrees in mechanical and aeronautical engineering, saw Earth from outer space four times during NASA shuttle missions, including the 2005 Space Shuttle Discovery.
“Yes, our Aggienaut (alumni-turned-astronaut) will be asking questions, and we're encouraging others to follow suit and ask questions, too,” said Leal, a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and highly honored for his research, teaching and public service.
Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California system, will deliver the welcoming address. Among the panelists: Dr. David Lubarsky, vice chancellor of Human Health Sciences and chief executive officer, UC Davis Health, Dr. Allison Brashear, dean of the School of Medicine, UC Davis, Dr. Emanuel Maverakis, professor of dermatology and Immunology, UC Davis School of Medicine, and Dr. Atul Malhotra, professor of medicine, Pulmonology and Critical Care, UC San Diego Health.
The questions will include:
- Can our pets place us at risk for contracting the coronavirus?
- Can we get the virus through sexual transmission?
- Can COVID-19 survivors get secondary infections?
- What research is underway on COVID-19 therapies, management and testing?
The first symposium, with a welcoming address by UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, spotlighted the cutting-edge expertise of physicians, researchers, and a recovering COVID-19 patient. It is online at https://bit.ly/2VurK3Z. It drew viewers from 10 countries and the comment “I just wanted to thank you! You are my heroes.”
“This give me a sense of hope and calmed my anxiety like nothing else,” letter writer Kim Allen continued. “To hear people, real doctors and scientists who are so knowledgeable talk about what is going on and why, is so appreciated. We need to know what we are contending with to fight it and be safe. You are all so much appreciated!”
(Editor's Note: At the first UC Davis-based COVID-19 virtual seminar, UC Davis distinguished professor James R. Carey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology delivered a presentation on “Actuarial Perspectives on the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The updated presentation is at https://youtu.be/aid69khJftU.)
The webinar, to be broadcast on Zoom and YouTube Live from 1:30 to 4 p.m., will feature physicians, scientists and a survivor of the COVID-19 virus, announced organizer-moderator Walter Leal, UC Davis distinguished professor of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.
“COVID-19 is set apart from all other strains of flu for the simple reason that people die from it at higher rates than from other varieties,” Carey says. “It follows that understanding the actuarial details and consequences of this virus is central to understanding, has potential impact on the U.S. population in particular and on the world population in general.”
In his presentation, Carey will ask and answer three questions: “The first is related to case fatality rate of COVID-19. The second concern will be the age-specific mortality of this virus, and the third, to its demographic consequences if no health-related interventions, policies implemented, or a vaccine were available.” Carey is the co-author of the newly published book, Biodemography: An Introduction to Concepts and Methods. (See news story.)
The webinar, free and open to the public, will include experts in immunology, infectious diseases, pathology and emergency medicine. Viewers can register at http://zoompresentation.com and submit advance questions. Also, viewers can access YouTube Live at covidactionplan.com or https://bit.ly/2VurK3Z.
Chancellor Gary May will give the introduction.
The main speakers are UC Davis physician-scientists Emanuel Maverakis, Stuart Cohen and Nathan Kuppermann; UC Davis veterinarian-scientist Nicole Baumgarth; physician Ron Chapman, Yolo County Health Officer; and pediatrician State Sen. Richard Pan, District 6 chair, Senate Committee on Health.
Davis resident Marilyn Stebbins, a pharmacist who works at the UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy--and a survivor of the deadly illness that to date has killed more than 182,000 people worldwide (15,000-plus in the United States)--will tell her story. (See Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus map for up-to-date statistics.)
You-Lo Hsieh, UC Davis distinguished professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and an expert on textiles and clothing, will explain the differences between regular masks, surgical masks, and N95 masks.
Newly added to the list: Michael B. A. Oldstone, M.D., of Scripps Research Institute; professor emeritus Niels Pedersen, DMV, of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Anne Wyllie, PhD., Yale School of Medicine.
We missed it, too. So did the ants and other insects.
The Department of Entomology and Nematology annually hosts dozens of popular Picnic Day events at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. But this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, “closed” was the word of the day.
"Closed." It's not a popular word when you're craving to show your audience the wonderful world of insects.
However, this year the campuswide Picnic Day Committee hosted a virtual tour of some of the planned events, and posted this link: https://picnicday.ucdavis.edu/virtual/
The spotlight paused on the Bohart Museum, which houses nearly eight million insect specimens; the seventh largest insect collection in North America; the California Insect Survey, a storehouse of the insect biodiversity; and a live “petting zoo” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, tarantulas and the like. It also is the home of a gift shop, stocked with T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
Directed by UC Davis entomology professor Lynn Kimsey for 30 years, the museum is named for noted entomologist Richard Bohart (1913-2007). The Bohart team includes senior museum scientist Steve Heydon; Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator; and entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths section).
If you browse the Bohart Museum site, you'll find fact sheets about insects, written by Professor Kimsey.
But if you want to see the Bohart Museum's virtual tours, be sure to watch these videos:
- Director Lynn Kimsey giving a Bohart Museum introduction
- Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator, presenting an arthropod virtual tour
- Diane Ullman, professor of entomology and former chair of the department, presenting a view of the Lepidodpera section.
Also on the UC Davis Virtual Picnic Day site, you'll learn “How to Make an Insect Collection," thanks to project coordinator James R. Carey, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and "Can Plants Talk to Each Other?" a TED-Ed Talk featuring the work of ecologist Rick Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Other research work that draws widespread attention at the annual UC Davis Picnic Day is the work of UC Davis medical entomologist-geneticist Geoffrey Attardo, assistant professor of entomology. A global authority on tsetse flies, he specializes in reproductive physiology and molecular biology, in addition to medical entomology and genetics.
"Female tsetse flies carry their young in an adapted uterus for the entirety of their immature development and provide their complete nutritional requirements via the synthesis and secretion of a milk like substance," he says. PBS featured his work in its Deep Look video, “A Tsetse Fly Births One Enormous Milk-Fed Baby,” released Jan. 28, 2020. (See its accompanying news story.)
PBS also collaborated with the Attardo lab and the Chris Barker lab, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, for a PBS Deep Look video on Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue fever and Zika. The eggs are hardy; "they can dry out, but remain alive for months, waiting for a little water so they can hatch into squiggly larvae," according to the introduction. Watch the video, "This Dangerous Mosquito Lays Her Armored Eggs--in Your House."
In the meantime, the UC Davis Picnic Day leaders are gearing up for the 106th annual, set for April 17, 2021. What's a picnic without insects?
As you shelter in and look for something intriguing to do, would you to learn more about entomology, the science of insects?
The Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, offers a wealth of information on insects in its free fact sheets that you're welcome to peruse and download. Topics include beetles, wasps/bees, mites/ticks, ants, flies, butterflies/moths, true bugs, and non-insects (think spiders, lawn shrimps, scorpions, springtails.) The fact sheets are the work of Bohart director Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
If you want a bug identified, you can also shoot Professor Kimsey an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for how to create an insect collection, the Department of Entomology and Nematology provides a great resource. Back in 2010, distinguished professor James R. Carey led a group of students in producing short, clear, concise videos on just that: how to create an insect collection. (Many high school and college teachers assign their students to collect insects, as do some youth programs that engage in entomology.)
The entire series, totaling 11 clips ranging in length from 32 seconds to 77 seconds, can be viewed in just less than 10 minutes. "So in less than 10 minutes, someone can learn how to make an insect collection,” Carey says. The clips are tightly scripted, with an emphasis on brevity, simplicity and low cost.
The project won an award from the Entomological Society of America (ESA). Carey went on to win the ESA's 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award; the "How to Make an Insect Collection" project was just one of the many factors considered.
So, how do you make an insect collection? Easy!
Here are the videos:
Hand Collecting (32 seconds)
Using an Aspirator (34 seconds)
Ground Collecting (54 seconds)
Aquatic Collecting (58 seconds)
Using Nets (58 seconds)
Killing (51 seconds)
Pinning (43 seconds)
Point Mounting (50 seconds)
Labeling Specimens (48 seconds)
Spreading (77 seconds)
Storage and Display (32 seconds)