Time's fun when you're studying flies!
Student fly researchers greeted guests and explained their work at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house held last Saturday, Jan. 12.
The event, which took place from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, drew more than 150 visitors, despite competition with the televised National Football League playoffs and other activities.
The theme, "Time's Fun When You're Studying Flies," was a take-off of "Time flies when you're having fun."
"Despite the lovely weather, visitors spent a long time at the museum talking with our department's up and coming researchers," said Tabatha Yang, the Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator. "Visitors learned about various research on flies that occurs in our department from evolution to geography to circadian rhythms."
Five scientists from the Joanna Chiu lab discussed their fruit fly research. They were graduate students Christine Tabuloc, Yao Cai and Xianhui "Nitrol" Liu, and undergraduate students Cindy Truong and Christopher Ochoa.
The Joanna Chiu lab currently has 4 PhD students (3 from Entomology and 1 from Genomics and Genetics), 6 undergraduate students (3 from Underrepresented Minorities or URM) undergraduate research programs), 1 postdoc, and 1 visiting graduate student from China.
Others fly researchers participating:
- Graduate student Caroline Wright Larsen of the James R. Carey Lab; she studies non-tephrid flies, including the Mediterranean fruit fly
- Graduate students Socrates Letana and Charlotte Herbert Alberts of the Lynn Kimsey Lab; Letana studies botflies, and Alberts, assassin flies
- Graduate student Alex Dedmon of the Robert Kimsey lab and UC Davis graduate Danielle Wishon; they specialize in forensic entomology
"They all did an excellent job engaging the public with thoughtful slide shows, images, and specimens," Yang said. "They truly communicated their enthusiasm for science."
The next open house will be Saturday, Feb. 16, when the Bohart Museum will be open as part of campuswide Biodiversity Museum Day.
Upcoming open houses:
- "Eight-Legged Wonders" (spider theme, featuring the work of the Jason Bond lab) on Saturday, March 9 from 1 to 4 p.m.
- UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 13 from 10 to 3 p.m.
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor of entomology, houses nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo" that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids. The gift shop is stocked with newly published calendars, books, jewlery, t-shirts, insect-collecting equipment, insect-themed candy, and stuffed animals. UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007) founded the museum in 1946.
The Bohart is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/ or contact (530) 753-0493 or email@example.com.
Now, newly published research on ovarian cancer, involving an anti-inflammatory compound discovered and developed in the Bruce Hammock lab at the University of California, Davis, and tested at Harvard Medical School on mice models, indicates that the compound not only suppresses inflammation but reduces cancer growth, acting as a “surge protector.”
“We are excited about this research and its potential,” said Hammock, a UC Davis distinguished professor who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Chemotherapy and surgery, the mainstays of conventional cancer treatment, can act as double-edged swords. It is tragic that the very treatments used to cure cancer are helping it to survive and grow.”
The research is a “novel approach to suppressing therapy-induced tumor growth and recurrence,” said the 13-member team from Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), UC Davis, Institute of Systems Biology of Seattle, and Emory University School of Medicine of Atlanta.
Their paper, “Suppression of Chemotherapy-induced Cytokine/Lipid Mediator Surge and Ovarian Cancer by a Dual Cox-2, sEH Inhibitor,” appears today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“To prevent tumor-recurrence after therapy, it will be critical to neutralize the inherent tumor-promoting activity of therapy-generated debris,” said lead author Allison Gartung of Harvard Medical School/BIDMC. “Our results indicate that a dual COX-2/sEH inhibitor may offer a novel alternative to protect the body from a debris-mediated inflammatory response.”
Gartung said that the study confirmed that chemotherapy-killed ovarian cancer cells “induce surrounding immune cells called macrophages to release a surge of cytokines and lipid mediators that create an optimal environment for tumors to survive and grow.”
The team treated the mice models with a dual lipid pathway inhibitor discovered several years ago in the Hammock lab. It integrates two anti-inflammatory drugs (COX-2 inhibitor and soluble expoxide hydrolase (sEH) inhibitor) into a single molecule with the aim of reducing tumor angiogenesis and metastasis.
Chemist Sung Hee Hwang of the Hammock lab developed the compound, known as PTUPB, for the study. “The dual inhibitor here follows earlier work we did with it, blocking breast and lung tumors in mice,” Hammock said. “PTUPB is already being clinically evaluated for its therapeutic properties in other diseases.” Chemist Jun Yang of the Hammock lab did the mass spectrometry, showing how stabilization of lipid mediators reduces cancer growth and metastasis.
Lead researcher Dipak Panigrahy, a former Harvard physician turned full-time researcher, described chemotherapy and surgery “as our best tools for front-line cancer therapy, but chemotherapy and surgery create cell debris that can stimulate inflammation, angiogenesis, and metastasis. Thus, the very treatment used by oncologists to try to cure cancer is also helping it survive and grow. Overcoming the dilemma of debris-induced tumor progression is critical if we are to prevent tumor recurrence of treatment-resistance tumors which lead to cancer therapy failure.”
The tumor cell debris generates a “cytokine surge” that can result in a perfect storm for cancer progression. “The dual inhibitor acts as a surge protector,” Panigrahy said.
Panigrahy, who led angiogenesis and cancer animal modeling in the laboratory of Judah Folkman, a leading cancer research laboratory, based the debris model on his mother's chemotherapy treatments, and dedicated the research to his mother and “all other women who lost their lives to ovarian cancer.” American Cancer Society statistics show that among women, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths. A woman's risk of ovarian cancer is about 1 in 78; every year more than 14,000 die from the disease.
“Traditional cancer therapy sets up a dilemma,” Panigrahy commented. “Yes, we need to kill cancer cells but the inevitable byproduct of successfully doing so also stimulates tumor regrowth and progression. The more tumor cells you kill, the more inflammation you create, which can inadvertently stimulate the growth of surviving tumor cells. Overcoming the dilemma of debris-induced tumor progression is paramount if we are to prevent tumor recurrence of treatment-resistant tumors – the major reason for failure of cancer therapy. Our studies potentially pave the path for a new strategy for the prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-induced resistance with potential to translate to the clinic. If successful, this approach may also allow us to reduce the toxic activity of current treatment regimens.”
“The collaborative work in this paper not only defines a common problem with current cancer therapy, but it actually offers a potential solution to reduce metastasis and tumor growth following therapy,” said Primo Lara Jr., director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and associate director of Translational Research. “I am pleased that our Center was involved in this exciting project and we hope we can be involved in translating this basic research to the clinic.”
Panigrahy said that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include aspirin and ibuprofen, reduce pain, fever and inflammation “bit may have severe side effects including stomach and brain bleeding as well as severe cardiovascular and kidney toxicity. They also do not specifically enhance clearing of debris.”
“We are exploring all options to translate PTUPB to cancer patients especially in combination with current cancer therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, or surgery which either directly or indirectly may generate tumor cell debris,” Panigrahy said. “Our next step is to investigate whether our findings are consistent with clinical studies involving human cancer.”
The Hammock lab has been researching the sEH inhibitor for 50 years. As a graduate student at UC Berkeley, Hammock co-discovered the sEH inhibitor with fellow graduate student Sarjeet Gill, now a distinguished professor at UC Riverside.
"We have a series of papers largely in PNAS, with the Panigrahy group showing first our soluble epoxide hydrolase inhibitors block tumor growth and metastasis when used with omega3 fish oils or with COX inhibitors and the role for these compounds in regulating a number of mediators of cancer growth," Hammock said.
Multiple grants funded the research. Hammock, the 31-year director of the UC Davis Superfund Program, received funds the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences. The Panigrahy laboratory is funded by the Credit Union Kids at Heart Team. Other grants came from the C. J. Buckley Pediatric Brain Tumor Fund, Molly's Magic Wand for Pediatric Brain Tumors, the Markoff Foundation Art-in-Giving Foundation, the Kamen Foundation, Jared Branfman Sunflowers for Life, and the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. An NIH T32-training grant funded Gartung's work.
Allison Gartung completed her doctorate at Wayne State University in 2016 and has since served as a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School/BIDMC. Highly honored for her work, she won the highest award for a post-doctoral fellow (Santosh Nigam Award) at the 15th International Conference on Bioactive Lipids in Cancer, Inflammation and Related Diseases, held in 2017 in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. She served as a guest editor of a special double-issue of 24 invited world-experts in Cancer and Metastasis Reviews on Bioactive Lipids.
Dipak Panigrahy was accepted into medical school at Boston University at age 17. He trained in surgery with Dr. Roger Jenkins, who performed the first liver transplant in New England. Over the past decade, Panigrahy led angiogenesis and cancer animal modeling in the Judah Folkman laboratory. He joined the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2013, and in 2014 was appointed assistant professor of pathology, and currently has a laboratory in the Center for Vascular Biology Research. Panigrahy is the expert on the team for preclinical tumor models and examining novel concepts for cancer therapy at the preclinical stage –the diversity of models he has created and worked with is unmatched.
Bruce Hammock, UC Davis distinguished professor, is the world expert and discoverer of the dual COX2-sEH inhibitor. He received his doctorate in entomology/toxicology from UC Berkeley and joined the UC Davis faculty in 1980. Highly honored by his peers, Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the recipient of scores of awards, including the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; and the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry,
Mark Kieran of Bristol-Myers Squibb and Professor Vikas Sukhatme (Dean of Emory School of Medicine), both senior co-authors, are leading world-experts on personalized medicine approaches to support the treatment of cancer patients. Kieran is a leading oncologist with expertise in translating novel therapeutic modalities (beyond chemotherapy/irradiation) into the clinic. Plans for clinical trials involving PTUPB are underway.
Professor Sui Huang, with the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), is known as the world's leading expert on systems biology and debris-induced tumor growth.
No, time's fun when you're studying flies!
Nearly a dozen fly researchers from throughout the UC Davis campus will greet the public and explain their research at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open house from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12 in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building, Crocker Lane. The event, themed “Time's Fun When Studying Flies," is free, open to the public, and family friendly.
The open house will showcase botflies, fruit flies, assassin flies, mosquitoes and other members of the Diptera order. Ten scientists, including undergraduate students, graduate students and a visiting scholar, are scheduled to participate. They will display specimens, photos and field equipment and chat with the public.
"Besides checking out the flies, this is also a good time for visitors to inquire about graduate school, ask about starting research projects, and to meet people working in forensics, evolution, agriculture, animal behavior, genetics, geography, and home pests, among other topics," said Tabatha Yang, education and outreach coordinator.
Entomologist Jeff Smith, who curates the Bohart's butterfly and moth section, will be on hand to open the Diptera section. "He will dust off and put on his pest industry hat to talk about those relevant flies," Yang said.
A family craft activity is also planned.
Among the fly researchers participating will be fourth-year doctoral candidate Charlotte Herbert Alberts, who studies assassin fly (Asilidae) systematics with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and UC Davis professor of entomology.
She lists other interesting facts about assassin flies:
- They are venomous! Their venom both immobilizes their prey and starts extra-oral digestion.
- They have very fancy facial hair (beards and mustaches) called a mystax, thought to protect their face while they catch and eat their prey.
- Some assassin flies are very selective in their prey choice and may have specialized venom to help them overcome their prey.
- There are more than 7,500 species found all over the world!
“I am currently working on a few projects: An Asiloidea Phylogeny, Predator-Prey Dynamics of Asilidae and their kin, and a few side projects including the revision of Ablautus, and Nearctic Saropogon,” Alberts says. She is also interested in assassin fly venom and how it may have evolved to target certain prey taxa. In addition, she teaches basic entomology and art in a UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program course.
Graduate student Socrates Letana, who also studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey. researches the evolution and diversification of botflies (Oestridae) "in the global mammal host-space with special emphasis on the New World." Part of his research interests include Diptera systematics, biogeography and Southeast Asian biodiversity. He is a research associate with the California State Collection of Arthropods, California Department of Food and Agriculture.
The larvae of botflies are internal parasites of mammals; some species grow in the host's flesh and others within the gut. Dermatobia hominis is known as the only species of botfly known to parasitize humans routinely.
UC Davis undergraduate researcher Cindy Truong of the Joanna Chiu lab, will be showing flies in various life stages and provide coloring pages for kids. "We primarily study circadian rhythm, which is the sleep and wake cycle. More specifically we study the mechanisms in which 'clock proteins' go through in order to maintain this cycle." She will expand on "How flies tell time.”
Christine Tabuloc, graduate student researcher in the Chiu lab, will discuss her work on fruit flies. "My current focus is to investigate the effects of climatic change on gene expression of an invasive pest and determine whether there is a correlation to resistance and survival," she said. "In addition to pest management research, I am also studying a kinase of a core clock protein in Drosophila melanogaster and hoping to dissect its functional contribution to the molecular oscillator."
Others from the Chiu lab participating will be Yao Cai, a doctoral graduate student who studies genetic mechanisms underlying the regulation of organismal behavior, and undergraduate researcher Christopher Ochoa.
The presenters also will include fruit fly, forensics and mosquito experts:
- Kathlyne-Inez Soukhaseum of the Frank Zalom lab will talk about her research on the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, a major agricultural pest that invaded California in 2008.
- Danielle Wishon, a forensic entomologist who holds a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Davis, will discuss how flies are used in forensics. She hopes to enroll in graduate school at Purdue University.
- Nermeen Raffat, visiting scholar in the Sharon Lawler lab, will focus on mosquito larvae. He is working on "the effect of copper sulphate and other toxicants on the development and anti-predatory behavior of the mosquitoes larvae."
The Bohart Museum, founded in 1946 by UC Davis entomologist Richard “Doc” Bohart (1913-2007), is the home of nearly eight million insect specimens, plus a year-around gift shop and a live "petting zoo" that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, stick insects, tarantulas and praying mantids. The gift shop is stocked with newly published calendars, books, jewlery, t-shirts, insect-collecting equipment, insect-themed candy, and stuffed animals.
The Bohart Museum is open to the general public Mondays through Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m., plus occasional, weekend open houses. Admission is free. Further information is available on the Bohart Museum website at http://bohart.ucdavis.edu/ or contact (530) 753-0493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, praised Page as “a pioneer researcher in the field of behavioral genetics, an internationally recognized scholar, a highly respected author, a talented and innovative administrator, and a skilled teacher responsible for mentoring many of today's top bee scientists.”
“Robert Page is arguably the most influential honey bee biologist of the past 30 years,” Nadler wrote in his letter of nomination. The award, administered by the UC Davis Emeriti Association, honors outstanding scholarship work or service performed since retirement by a UC Davis emeritus.
Page will receive the award--a plaque and a cash prize of $1000--at a luncheon hosted by Chancellor Gary May on Monday, Jan. 28 in the UC Davis Conference Center. Two recipients of the Edward Dickson Emeriti Professorship Award—Caroline Chantry and Anthony Phillips (both pediatrics)--also will be honored.
Page, who received his doctorate in entomology from UC Davis in 1980, joined the UC Davis faculty in 1989 and served as the chair of the Department of Entomology from 1999 to 2004, the year he gained emeritus status and the year Arizona State University recruited him for what would be a series of top-level administrative roles. He continues his research, teaching and public service in both Arizona and California, but now resides in California, near Davis, with his family.
Page is known for his research on honey bee behavior and population genetics, particularly the evolution of complex social behavior. One of his most salient contributions to science was to construct the first genomic map of the honey bee, which sparked a variety of pioneering contributions not only to insect biology but to genetics at large.
At UC Davis, he maintained a honey bee-breeding program for 24 years, from 1989 to 2015, managed by bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. They discovered a link between social behavior and maternal traits in bees. Their work was featured in a cover story in the journal Nature. In all, Nature featured his work on four covers from work mostly done at UC Davis.
His work has garnered a significant impact in the scientific community through his research on the evolutionary genetics and social behavior of honey bees. He was the first to demonstrate that a significant amount of observed behavioral variation among honey bee workers is due to genotypic variation. In the 1990s he and his students and colleagues isolated, characterized and validated the complementary sex determination gene of the honey bee; considered the most important paper yet published about the genetics of Hymenoptera. The journal Cell featured their work on its cover. In subsequent studies, he and his team published further research into the regulation of honey bee foraging, defensive and alarm behavior.
In addition to his pioneering work on the first genetic map of any social insect--demonstrating that the honey bee has the highest recombination rate of any eukaryotic organism mapped to date--Page was personally involved in genome mappings of bumble bees, parasitic wasps and two species of ants. His most recent work focuses on the genetic bases to individuality in honey bees; demonstrating genetic links between pollen and nectar collection, tactile and olfactory learning characteristics, and neuroendocrine function. This work provides the most detailed understanding to date of the molecular and genetic bases to task variation in a social insect colony.
He has authored than 250 research papers, including five books: among them The Spirit of the Hive: The Mechanisms of Social Evolution, published by Harvard University Press in 2013. He is a highly cited author onsuch topics as Africanized bees, genetics and evolution of social organization, sex determination, and division of labor in insect societies. His resume shows more than 18,000 citations.
In 2004, Page was recruited by ASU as the director of the School of Life Sciences of Arizona State University (ASU). He organized three departments--biology, microbiology and plant sciences, comprising more than 600 faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff--into one unified school. As its founding director, he established the school as a platform for discovery in the biomedical, genomic and evolutionary and environmental sciences. He also established ASU's Honey Bee Research Facility.
His ASU academic career advanced to a number of titles: dean of Life Sciences; vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and university provost. Today he holds the titles of provost emeritus of ASU and Regents professor emeritus, as well as UC Davis department chair emeritus, professor emeritus, and now distinguished emeritus professor.
Page's colleagues laud his strategic vision, his innovative leadership, and his stellar contributions to science.
James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis, who continues to work with Dr. Page on research projects, describes him as "one of the most gifted scientists, administrators, and teachers I have had the privilege to know in 30 years in academia.”
Colleague Bert Hoelldobler, an ASU professor of life sciences, said Page is “the leading honey bee geneticist in the world. A number of now well-known scientists in the U.S. and Europe learned the ropes of sociogenetics in Rob's laboratory.”
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, former manager of the Laidlaw facility and now of Washington State University, praised Page's major contributions to the beekeeping industry, including the Page-Laidlaw Closed Population Breeding Theory. This has offered a practical system of stock improvement for honey bees, used worldwide, she said. “It's a challenge, as the queen mates in flight with numerous drones and selection is based upon complex behaviors at the colony level, influenced by the environmental.” She has applied this theory throughout her career, developing and maintaining a population of Carniolan bees, now in their 36th generation.
Among Page's many honors:
- Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Awardee of the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award (the Humboldt Prize - the highest honor given by the German government to foreign scientists)
- Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- Elected to the Leopoldina - the German National Academy of Sciences (the longest continuing academy in the world)
- Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
- Fellow of the Entomological Society of America
- Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences
- Elected to the Brazilian Academy of Science
- Recipient of the James W. Creasman Award of Excellence from the Arizona State University Alumni Association
- Fellow, Carl Friedrich von Siemens Foundation, Munich, Germany, September 2017-August 2018
- Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Award from UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology received the UC Davis Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. He served on the faculty from 1964 to 1994. He is the co-author of Bumble Bees of California: An Identification Guide (2014, Princeton University Press) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (2014, Heyday Books).
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
No, they won't—at least not for Bruce Hammock, a distinguished professor at the University of California, Davis, and the hundreds of scientists he's trained over an academic career spanning more than four decades at UC Davis and UC Riverside.
Looking back over 2018, Hammock remembers fondly the weekend that 100 of his former laboratory alumni from 10 countries traveled to Davis to honor his work, reunite, collaborate, and reminiscence.
Billed as “Biochemistry and Society: Celebrating the Career of Professor Bruce Hammock,” the three-day event drew Hammock lab alumni from throughout the United States, as well as Egypt, Spain, China, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic.
“It was really special and I will treasure that weekend always,” said Hammock, who trained scientists at UC Riverside for five years before joining the UC Davis faculty in 1980. He currently holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has directed the UC Davis Superfund Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Environmental Health (NIH/NIEHS), for 31 years.
The distinguished professor, known for his expertise in chemistry, toxicology, biochemistry and entomology, meshes all four sciences in his 50-year research on acute and neuropathic pain in humans and companion animals. It all began with his basic research on how caterpillars become butterflies, research that led to key discoveries about chronic pain.
Since then, his lab has generated more than 80 patents, 300 postdoctoral fellows, and more than 65 graduates, who now hold positions of distinction in academia, industry and government.
Hammock's colleagues, and former postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students and visiting scholars arrived at the lab reunion with their spouses--as well as their scientific posters for display and discussion. The posters covered everything from ground-breaking research in prestigious journals to a humorous look at his annual water balloon battles in front of Briggs Hall.
The scientists dined at the UC Davis Conference Center, the Buehler Alumni Center and the Stonegate Country Club; shared months, years and decades of memories; and toasted, roasted and gifted their mentor. Hammock, in turn, toasted, roasted and gifted them.
“We had a blast,” recalled organizer Shirley Gee, a former research toxicologist and manager of the Hammock lab for 31 years. She retired in June 2016 after 40 years of service with the university.
“I have had a vision of this event to honor Bruce for many years now, and it was such a thrill to see it come together,” she said. “Reconnecting in person with all the alumni and their families was more rewarding than I could have imagined, but even more importantly was the thrill of watching alumni reconnect with each other! There were a lot of tears in the house. Many people I think were surprised by how the years melted away when they began reacquainting. I think that speaks to the environment that Bruce created that led to many strong personal and professional bonds.”
Gee credited her seven-member committee—former Hammock students Keith Wing, Jim Ottea, Tom Sparks, Babak Borhan, Qing Li; postdoctoral fellow and “academic grandson” Kin Sing Stephen Lee, a former student of Babak Borhan; and colleague Sarjeet Gill, now a distinguished professor at UC Riverside, with greatly contributing to the success of the one-of-a-kind celebration.
As graduate students, and Hammock and Gill worked together in the John Casida lab at UC Berkeley and later in Larry Gilbert's lab where they co-discovered the enzyme, soluble epoxide hydrolase. Hammock remembers researching juvenile hormones and what's involved in "how caterpillars became butterflies."
Hammock has studied the enzyme system and its inhibitors ever since. He recently formed a Davis-based company, EicOsis, to develop an orally active non-addictive drug for inflammatory and neuropathic pain for human beings and companion animals. Human clinical trials are scheduled to begin in 2019. Several seed-fund grants and a NIH/NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) Blueprint Development Grant support EicOsis.
Hammock, described at the lab reunion as a “genius,” collaborates with scientists worldwide in what's been described as “unprecedented research with a multidisciplinary, integrated approach to research focused on insect biology, mammalian enzymology, and analytical chemistry.” He has authored more than 1000 publications on a wide range of topics in entomology, biochemistry, analytical and environmental chemistry in high quality journals, and has been cited more than 54,000 times. In the epoxide hydrolase field, the Hammock laboratory has published almost 900 peer-reviewed papers.
Tom Sparks, who was Hammock's first graduate student at UC Riverside, chronicled Hammock's career and recalled humorous anecdotes from his early professorship at UC Riverside. A former professor at Louisiana State University, and now a research fellow in Discovery Research at Dow AgroSciences (now Corteva Agriscience, Indianapolis, Sparks praised Hammock's intellect and curiosity. “For Bruce, it was all about the journey, looking around and operative at the interface between entomology, biochemistry and chemistry.”
Gill, along with University of Utah emeritus professor Glenn Prestwich and UC Davis research scientist Karen Wagner also delivered presentations, fondly recalling their shared time and science with Hammock.
Keith Wing, who was Hammock's second graduate student at UC Riverside/Davis, served as emcee at the lab reunion. A former senior research associate at DuPont and Rohm and Haas and current consultant, Wing said “Bruce has inspired many hundreds of developing scientists. For myself and many others, he was able to see what we could become as scientists and social contributors before we could see it ourselves."
Qing Li, a professor in the University of Hawaii's Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources who received his doctorate from UC Davis, studying with major professors Bruce Hammock and James Seiber, said that "Bruce is an eminent scientist and a great mentor. Many of us have benefited from his effective mentorship. Back in 1990, after he signed my dissertation, he shook my hand, and then he asked me to tape-record it and give him the recordings -- a great 'homework' assignment and good practices for me."
Others commented that they learned this from Hammock: “We explore the unexpected and get to do things that don't work” and “Design things to fail; when they don't fail follow along.”
Hammock, the crowd agreed, seems to follow baseball legend Yogi Berra's sage advice: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Gill praised Hammock's “impact on human health, environmental health” as well as his love of the outdoors—from kayaking to mountain climbing.
Numerous alumni lauded Hammock's sense of humor. One scientist quoted Albert Einstein as saying “Creativity is intelligence having fun” and added “Bruce is always having fun.”
Among the other comments:
- “I never heard him speak a cross word.”
- "He treats everyone with respect.”
- "Bruce loves science and he loves people.”
- "He never heard a crazy idea.”
- "What Bruce does—he delivers the future.”
- "Bruce has a lot of determination and can approach difficult problems from multiple angles.”
- "Bruce values strong relationships with friends he has made over the years”
A native of Little Rock, Ark., Hammock received his bachelor of science degree, magna cum laude, in 1969 from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, where he majored in entomology and minored in zoology and chemistry. Then it was off to UC Berkeley, for his doctorate in entomology/toxicology in 1973, and postdoctoral fellowship.
It was at UC Berkeley where he met and married his wife, Lassie, who had just entered the doctoral program in plant physiology. They married in 1972 and then “the Army called me up,” Hammock remembers.
Hammock served as a public health medical officer/first lieutenant with the U.S. Army Academy of Health Science in San Antonio, Texas; and then did more postdoctoral research at the Rockefeller Foundation, Department of Biology, Northwestern University, Evanston. Ill.
Hammock then joined the faculty of the Division of Toxicology and Physiology, UC Riverside Department of Entomology in 1975 before heading for UC Davis in 1980 to accept a joint-faculty appointment in toxicology and entomology.
Bruce and Lassie reared three children: Tom, Bruce and Frances. “Frances and her husband, Adrian, teach math at UC San Diego; Bruce is on the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine faculty; and Tom, a graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory, makes movies,” Hammock said, adding that he and Lassie appeared in one of the movies that Tom directed: "The Last Survivors."
Highly honored by his peers, Hammock is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, which honors academic invention and encourages translations of inventions to benefit society. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and the recipient of scores of awards, including the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism, sponsored by the America Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; and the first McGiff Memorial Awardee in Lipid Biochemistry.
Hammock told the crowd at the reunion that he began his career studying insect science but switched to human research after encountering “all the suffering involved in acute and neuropathic pain.”
His insect science research centered around how a key enzyme, epoxide hydrolase, degrades a caterpillar's juvenile hormone, leading to metamorphosis from the larval stage to the adult insect. He then wondered "Does the enzyme occur in plants? Does it occur in mammals?" It does, and particularly as a soluble epoxide hydrolase in mammals.
“It is always important to realize that the most significant translational science we do in the university is fundamental science,” said Hammock. “The extreme and poorly treated pain that I observed as a medical officer in a burn clinic in the Army, is a major driver for me to translate this knowledge to help patients with severe pain.”
And it all began with him asking how caterpillars turn into butterflies.
"Science is full of surprises," the distinguished UC Davis professor said. "We need to remember that the concept, the clinical target, and even the chemical structure came from asking how caterpillars turn into butterflies."