A native of Puente Alto, Santiago, Chile, he joined the Chiu lab in 2020 and is exploring the molecular and neural circuits that regulate seasonal biology in animals.
Under this Pew program, young scientists from Latin America receive postdoctoral training in the United States, “giving them an opportunity to further their scientific knowledge by promoting exchange and collaboration between investigators in the United States and Latin America—ultimately resulting in advances in research in Latin America,” Pew spokesperson Abigail Major said.
Sergio is one of 10 post-docs from across Latin America—including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay—to receive two years of funding to conduct research. The fellows will work under the mentorship of prominent biomedical scientists, including alumni of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.
“Sergio's academic and research track record is outstanding,” said Chiu, associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology. “Although he has only worked in my laboratory for less than a year, I have been very impressed by his drive, independence, ingenuity, and intellect. Given his long-standing interest in understanding how neuronal mechanisms regulate behavior and physiology, his research goals align very well with my laboratory. I am excited he has been named a Pew Latin American Fellow; it is very well deserved. I look forward to partnering with him to study regulation of seasonal biology."
Hidalgo Sotelo wrote his dissertation on “Using Drosophila to Model Schizophrenia Symptoms.” He was awarded a dual doctorate in physiology and pharmacology in 2020 from the University of Bristol, and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. He also holds a master's degree in biological science from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a bachelor's degree in biochemistry there.
Of his research in the Chiu lab, he explained: “Animals use environmental cues to match their behaviors with the season: as temperatures fall and days grow shorter, birds fly south, and fruit flies curtail their reproduction, Hidalgo Sotelo said. “But little is known about the mechanisms that allow animals to synchronize with the calendar. I will work on elucidating this machinery, using an array of cutting-edge techniques in cell and molecular biology, neurogenetics, and genomics, aiming to identify the molecules that contribute to the seasonal oscillations of EYA, a key component of the seasonal timer previously described by a number of groups, including Dr. Chiu's lab. These findings will broaden our understanding of seasonal biology and could lead to new approaches for treating disorders that display seasonality, including infectious diseases and seasonal affective disorder.”
Another Pew postdoctoral fellow is Mariana Duhne Aguayo of the UC San Francisco lab of Joseph Berke where she is mapping the neural circuits that calibrate how swiftly animals move.
Other postdocs are training in labs at Harvard University, New York University Grossman School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, University of Virginia, Washington University School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and New York University Langone Health.
Pew Trust officials also announced the recipients of the Pew Scholars in Biomedical Sciences, who include Bennett Penn, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Medicine's Division of Infectious Diseases. The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health.
In announcing the Horizon Team Award on June 8, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) applauded the 47 worldwide collaborators “for the development of multidimensional click chemistry, a next-generation click-technology that extends perfect bond creation into the three-dimensional world, opening doors to new frontiers in biomedicine, materials science, and beyond.” (See list of winners. See Horizon Team award winners)
K. Barry Sharpless of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Sharpless epoxidation, led the team. “His magic is like the click- chemistry he invented,” said Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The scientists from UC Davis also include researcher Christophe Morisseau of the Hammock lab and Seiya Kitamura, who completed his doctorate in the UC Davis Pharmacology/Toxicology Graduate Group working with Hammock and Morisseau before starting a postdoctoral position at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla.
Morisseau described click-chemistry “as such a ubiquitous tool in multiple aspects of science that kits are sold and the chemistry utilized without even recognizing where it comes from. Many of the beautiful and informative fluorescent pictures of cells on journal covers are based on click chemistry.”
The list of the team members reads like a Who's Who of modern organic chemistry at multiple stages of their careers, Hammock noted.
Hammock said his involvement in click chemistry started when he was on sabbatical leave at UC San Diego. “Barry explained to me how one could use the SF bonds of SOF4 and related compounds to make additions one at a time and create a defined three-dimensional molecule with high precision. The potential of these reagents to design new pharmaceuticals and agricultural products was really exciting. Thus, our contribution was being there at the right time to show translation into the real world.”
“Seiya did amazing work showing the utility of this reaction,” Hammock said. “He is continuing to work with Drs. Wang and Morisseau at UC Davis on using another concept in modern medicinal chemistry called PROTAC to investigate cell biology.”
“Click-chemistry and particularly the copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne-Huisgen cycloaddition (CuAAC), has had a profound impact on drug discovery (for which it was intended),” the team wrote in the award packet. “It is now the 'go-to' technology in every corner of molecular science. The introduction of Sulfur(VI) fluoride exchange (SuFEx) in 2014 opened up a whole new world of possibilities for reliable bond-forming technology, particularly for chemical biology applications where the fugacity of sulfur-fluoride functional groups are primed for selective covalent bond formation with active protein sites.”
The team will receive a trophy and each member will receive a certificate. John Moses of the Cancer Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York, submitted the nomination on behalf of the team.
The RSC Horizon Prizes “highlight the most exciting, contemporary chemical science at the cutting edge of research and innovation,” according to its website. “These prizes are for teams or collaborations who are opening up new directions and possibilities in their field, through ground-breaking scientific developments."
The mission of the London-based RSC, founded in 1841, is to advance excellence in the chemical sciences. The organization includes physicians, academics, manufacturers and entrepreneurs. Dialysis inventor Thomas Graham served as its first president.
- Bruce Hammock: Lifetime Achievement Award from Chancellor
- Why Science Is Fun (feature on Bruce Hammock)
Spider wasps belong to the family Pompilidae, and are aculeate (stinging) wasps. Most spider wasps (also known as spider-hunting wasps) capture, sting and paralyze their prey. The worldwide family is comprised of some 5,000 described species in six subfamilies.
“A U-Haul was needed to transport the collection from Brookings to Davis last weekend,” said Bohart Museum director and UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey.
Wasbauer, who died in the spring, was a global expert on spider wasps and a scientific collaborator with Kimsey. He was a member of the Bohart Museum Society and a strong supporter of the museum.
“The donation consists of a diversity of aculeate wasps but 95 percent are spider wasps (Pompilidae), an estimated 50,000 specimens from all over the world, in 180 drawers, in 13 24-drawer cabinets,” Kimsey said. “This is material he had been accumulating since the 1960s.”
Wasbauer studied entomology and biosystematics at UC Berkeley, where he received his bachelor's degree and doctorate (1958). “Like many entomologists of his generations,” Kimsey said, “Marius was an instructor in preventive medicine in the U.S. 7th Army Medical Service at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.” He joined the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as a systematist in September 1958. His CDFA career spanned 34 years.
Wasbauer was a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences; president and secretary of the Pacific Coast Entomological Society; research associate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), a member of Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society; a member of the Biosystematists Society; and a research associate at UC Davis.
“He was generous with his time, and worked with many scientists and students around the world,” Kimsey said. “However, aside from his family and wasps, his other greatest love was fishing.”
Marius and his wife, Joanne, longtime supporters of the Bohart Museum, frequently offered annual challenge grants of $5000, matching donations of other donors up to $5000. They hoped to inspire others to give.
The Wasbauers participated in a Bohart Museum Bioblitz to Belize in 2017, a trip led by entomologists David Wyatt, a professor at Sacramento City College, and Fran Keller, now a professor at Folsom Lake College. Keller, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, is a Bohart Museum research associate.
A trio of entomologists—Lynn Kimsey and her husband, forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Bohart Museum research associate Brennen Dyer—prepared a space in the Bohart for the large donation. They unloaded the truck with Kimsey friends, retired Placer County Sheriff Mike Whitney and his wife, Becky.
The Bohart Museum, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, houses a global collection of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a live “petting zoo” comprised of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and tarantulas. The Bohart Museum also inclues a year-around gift shop stocked with insect-themed t-shirts, sweatshirts, posters, books, jewelry and insect-collecting equipment.
Temporarily closed due to COVID-19 pandemic precautions, the Bohart is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
Pollination ecologist Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, an associate professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, will speak on "Beyond Flowers; Examining the Role of Soils in Bee Conservation Efforts" at the next UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar.
The online seminar, the last of the spring quarter, is set for 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, June 2. Host is pollination ecologist and professor Neal Williams. Access the Zoom link here.
More than 80 percent of bees nest below ground and most univoltine species spend more than 90 percent of their life cycle in contact with soils, Harmon-Threatt points out. "Yet most conservation efforts ignore soils and few research studies consider these critical life stages and possible exposures that occur during them. In a series of studies, our lab has begun to explore how much soils matter and whether ignoring them is to the detriment of conservation."
In her research, Harmon-Threatt zeroes in on understanding the patterns and processes that govern plant-pollinator interactions for conservation. "Pollinators play a vital role in plant reproduction, food production and ecosystem stability but are believed to be declining globally," she says. Her work focuses on identifying and understanding patterns in natural environments to help conserve and restore pollinator diversity. With a particular focus on bees, she investigates how a number of factors at both the local and landscape scale, including plant diversity, isolation and bee characteristics, effect bee diversity in local communities.
Harmon-Threatt received her doctorate from UC Berkeley, where she worked on bumble bee preferences and phylogenetic patterns. She completed a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship in biology at Washington University in St. Louis.
She was recently featured on the podcast, People Behind the Science. Any change in pollinator populations, she told her audience, can have significant effects on natural and agricultural communities. Recent declines in bee populations, in particular, indicate how "little we know about these important insects in their natural environments, she told her audience."
Nguyen received $1000 in the competition, which recognizes undergraduate students whose research projects entail extensive use of library resources, services and expertise. Another student in Carey's longevity class, La Rissa Vasquez, a neurology, physiology and behavior major, won the third prize of $500 in the SEM category for her paper, “Surviving COVID-19: Variables of Immune Response.”
This is the second consecutive year that a student in Carey's longevity class has won the top prize in the SEM category. The awards program, launched in 2017, memorializes Norma J. Lang (1931-2015), professor emerita of botany.
In his longevity classes, Carey requires a term paper and teaches his students how to research topics, use style sheets, and structure the document.
Said Nguyen: “My paper discusses the biological process of allostasis, a stress response much like homeostasis, but instead of maintaining the body's internal conditions within narrow ranges, allostasis makes changes to the body's internal parameters to appropriately meet external demands. In other words, homeostasis revolves around a set mean value while allostasis deviates from it. Repeatedly activating this process over time can actually damage the associated physiological systems itself and lead to brain damage. This malfunctioning state is a characteristic of Allostatic Load, a state that describes the negative effects caused by a damaged Allostatic process.”
Allostatic Load (AL) can be utilized in the discussion of mortality across social classes, Nguyen related. “For example, by using educational years as a means to measure social class, scientists found a relationship between social classes and AL. Specifically, higher AL measurements were prominent in lower social classes. In the same study, mortality rates were also seen much higher in lower social classes. Taken together, a higher AL measurement may confer a higher risk of death.”
Nguyen, who grew up in San Rafael, expects to graduate from UC Davis in 2023. He describes himself as a “a student exploring interests in the biological sciences and seeking opportunities in the medical setting.” In March, he joined the John Morrison laboratory at the UC Davis California National Primate Research Center as an undergraduate research assistant with the Advancing Diversity in Aging Research (ADAR) program, funded by the National Institutes of Health. Nguyen is currently investigating HIV associated neurocognitive disorders.
Nguyen is active in the UC Davis Biology and Undergraduate Scholars Program (BUSP), and is the founder/president/CEO of VN Give, a non-profit organization that assists underserved communities in Hue, Vietnam. He is also a junior editor of The Aggie Transcript, an undergraduate life science journal; and a trustee of Aggies Helping Aggies.
La Rissa Vasquez
In her paper, Vasquez provides an in-depth synopsis of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), focusing on its innate and adaptive immune responses. She analyzed diverse sources, ranging from autopsy reports and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to peer-reviewed journals.
“In the beginning of the (longevity) course, I was asked to address any topic related to aging, survival, health span or longevity,” Vasquez wrote. “I chose to discuss COVID-19 because it is currently one of the most prevalent threats to our global survival and remains at the start of every conversation. I learned to think about longevity as not a conversation about aging and death (but as) discrete occurrences that happen at certain stages in a person's life. Death is not a single grim reaper but more like a pack of devils constantly at work to hinder and eventually terminate function.”
Vasquez sought to touch on innate and adaptive immunity “because they are the pack of devils contributing to death. I then looked for sources that actively discussed causes of death in the form of autopsy reviews of COVID victims.”
“The way I pursued the topic was genuine because of family members I lost to COVID. Writing about the virus became less desensitizing and more personal.”
Vasquez, who is from Stockton, expects to receive her bachelor's degree from UC Davis in 2023. At UC Davis, she is an undergraduate research assistant in the Bliss-Moreau laboratory of the California National Primate Research Center; a member of the Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program; and a junior editor of The Aggie Transcript. She also volunteers for the Brain Exercise Initiative, a non-profit organization that uses simple math, writing and reading loud exercises as an intervention to improve cognitive functions in Alzheimer's patients.
UC Davis Distinguished Professor James R. Carey
Carey, a member of the UC Davis faculty since 1980, is an internationally recognized teacher. He won a 2018 global award in the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching Program, an academic competition sponsored every two years by Baylor University, Waco, Texas. He won the 2015 Distinguished Achievement in Teaching Award from the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award from the Pacific Branch of ESA.
The UC Davis Academic Senate honored him as the recipient of its 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award, given to internationally recognized professors who excel at teaching. Carey is globally recognized for his research in insect demography, mortality dynamics, and insect invasion biology.
Another 2020 prize winner, Vincent Pan, a student researcher in the lab of ecologist Rick Karban, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, won the $750 second-place award in the SEM category for his paper: "Recent Advances in Elucidating the Function of Zebra Stripes: Parasite Avoidance and Thermoregulation Do Not Resolve the Mystery." At the time, Pan was enrolled in the University Writing Program.