Research Excellence

Misbehaving “Killer” Cells Accelerate Progress of Autoimmune Disease

In 1998, scientists studying rheumatoid arthritis observed a population of immune cells that weren’t behaving the way they were supposed to. Immunologists noted the strange phenomenon, but decided not to pursue the subject further, and the cells were soon forgotten.

But interest in these cells has swelled over the past few years as they’ve been found in patients with chronic viral infections and cancer.

Following a Devastating Pandemic, California’s Sea Stars are Evolving

In 2012, Environmental Systems graduate student Lauren Schiebelhut was collecting DNA from ochre sea stars living along the Northern California coast — part of an effort to study genetic diversity in various marine species that serve as indicators of habitat health. She had no idea that just one year later, most of the sea stars would be dead.

Study Finds That Gene Transcription Can Serve as Brain’s Timekeeper

Neurons keep time. These brain cells – which are responsible for the brain’s “heavy lifting,” from information processing to memory formation – seem to "know" how long they’ve been exposed to sensory stimulation. Now, scientists are starting to understand how they do this.

Students Discover Cannibal Lizards on Remote Aegean Island

It reads like a mashup of Greek mythology and H.G. Wells. “The Odyssey of Doctor Moreau,” perhaps. Explorers find their way to a remote Aegean island and discover it’s inhabited by reptilian cannibals. They describe one encounter as follows:

“[I]t began to run away, with the dead lizard torso and head still in its mouth. The cannibal continuously ran along the top of a wall and paused intermittently to thrash the corpse against the cement.”

A Fruit Fly Walks Into a Bar ...

Editor’s note: Every year UC Merced shines a spotlight on the cutting-edge research underway at the university. Research Week is an opportunity for the public to explore the groundbreaking work conducted by students and faculty. As part of Research Week, the Newsroom will highlight a few of these ongoing efforts. Tune in for new research stories all week long.

Humans aren’t the only species with a well-developed drinking culture. The social life of the humble fruit fly also revolves around alcohol.

Process That Kills Damaged Cells Hints at New Cancer Therapies

Scientists have long known that cells originating from an animal’s anterior — the body’s upper half — tend to grow, divide and survive better than those from the posterior. Studies show this to be true in cancer as well, with anterior cancers metastasizing more aggressively. Now scientists are beginning to understand why.

Another First for Nobile: NIH Outstanding Investigator Award

Professor Clarissa Nobile is changing the way we look at microbes. She wants to understand them as they’re found in nature, not as they exist in the laboratory. And she was just awarded a five-year, $1.89 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to bolster her efforts.

Interdisciplinary Collaborations Broaden Archaeology Research

Archaeologists have been asking where high-elevation populations came from for decades; how they are going about answering the question, however, is new.

“Fifty years ago, I would have consulted other archaeologists,” UC Merced Professor Mark Aldenderfer said. “It used to be the one archeologist who led a dig with assistants. It was much more insulated. Now, you can’t answer interesting questions about the past without a team of scientists.”

NSF Grants Will Help Unravel Mysteries of Sea Stars, Jellyfish

The National Science Foundation recently awarded Professor Michael Dawson $900,000 to study some rather mysterious marine phenomena.

Dawson received $700,000 — part of a three-year, $1.2 million grant awarded to Dawson and collaborators at UC Santa Cruz, the University of Georgia and Cornell University — to investigate the repercussions of the 2013 outbreak of sea star wasting disease (SSWD), a marine pandemic that killed 90 percent of ochre sea stars along North America’s Pacific coast.

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