Student Researchers

Exploring the Inner Lives of Primates, Birds and Whales

The day that Josephine Hubbard met Twain, she didn’t realize at first how unusual the encounter was. 

Hubbard, who earned a Ph.D. in animal behavior in the College of Biological Sciences, is now a post-doctoral researcher at UC Davis. She is 33, five foot seven, has kind, serious eyes, and grew up in upstate New York. She’s animated as she describes the afternoon, three summers ago in Alaska, when she met Twain. Yes, it was a stilted conversation — that’s often the case when there’s a language barrier — but she’ll remember it for the rest of her life.

CBS Students Receive Prestigious Goldwater Scholarships

Three UC Davis students, including two from the College of Biological Sciences, have won the highly prestigious and competitive Barry Goldwater Scholarship. 

Every year, the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation honors fewer than 500 undergraduate second- and third-year students from across the country with scholarships recognizing their science, technology, engineering and mathematics research accomplishments and future potential.

How Plants Sense Scent

Plants need to be able to communicate with themselves—by sending signals from their leaves to their roots to their flowers—so that they can coordinate growth and optimize resource use. They also need to communicate with other plants and organisms, which they achieve by releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), tiny molecules that are often associated with distinct smells. Scientists know a lot about how plants emit these odorous signals, however very little is known about how they receive and interpret them.

Student-Led Research Reveals “Off-Switch” for Autophagy

A chance observation in an undergraduate laboratory class has shed light on a key cleaning and recycling process carried out by all eukaryotic cells. Autophagy breaks down organelles, proteins and other molecules so their components can be reused and plays a protective role in preventing disease. However, when autophagy doesn’t work correctly, it’s associated with cancer and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s. Previous research has uncovered how cells activate autophagy, but little is known about how it is switched off.

Discovery Hints at Genetic Basis for the Most Challenging Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Our understanding of schizophrenia has increased greatly in recent years, as studies of large groups of people have identified a multitude of genetic variants that increase a person’s risk of the disease. But each of those individual risk factors accounts for “only a very minor amount of the overall risk,” said Alex Nord, a professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior in the College of Biological Sciences and the Center for Neuroscience.

How Students Dive into Marine Science at UC Davis

UC Davis junior Caroline Donohew watched the everyday power of biology in just five minutes during her summer session class at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory, or BML, a coastal research and education facility about 100 miles west of campus. 

While observing a mussel’s muscle through a microscope, “I saw it create a byssal thread in real time,” said Donohew, who is from San Anselmo. “And it was just so cool.” 

Understanding Neutrophil Decision-Making: How Immune Cells Prioritize Competing Signals

Neutrophils, the primary foot soldiers of the immune system, swarm to sites of infection and inflammation by following breadcrumb pathways made up of signaling molecules. But the human body is a complex place, and neutrophils are often simultaneously bombarded with multiple signals, some of which are more important than others. For example, signals of infection or tissue damage require more urgent attention than signals produced by other immune cells.

Chloroplasts Do More Than Photosynthesis; They’re Also a Key Player In Plant Immunity

Scientists have long known that chloroplasts help plants turn the sun’s energy into food, but a new study, led by researchers in the Department of Plant Biology, shows that they’re also essential for plant immunity to viral and bacterial pathogens.

Chloroplasts are generally spherical, but a small percentage of them change their shape and send out tube-like projections called “stromules.” First observed over a century ago, the biological function of stromules has remained enigmatic.