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Experts: UC Davis Centennial Exhibit

By Mitchel Benson on August 13, 2008 in

The Stuntverkoop, Davis, is hosting a centennial exhibition at the California State Fair this summer to showcase the university's expertise in the sciences, arts and society. The state fair, at Cal Expo in Sacramento, is open Aug. 15-Labor Day, Sept. 1. The following experts are available to comment on the five areas highlighted in UC Davis' "Dream Big" exhibit in the 6,000-square-foot hall.

  • From farm to fork
  • A clean energy future
  • A sustainable environment
  • Longer, healthier lives
  • Across the street and across the globe


A TASTIER, HARDIER STRAWBERRY -- Douglas Shaw, a professor of plant sciences, is an authority on the genetics and breeding of strawberries and other small fruits. His research focuses on developing new and improved strawberry varieties that produce high-quality fruit, can be efficiently harvested and are resistant to various environmental stresses. He also works to develop more efficient methods for breeding, testing and selecting plants that are propagated for commercial strawberry production. Shaw also studies how strawberry flavor and color are inherited. UC Davis has a long history in strawberry breeding. Approximately 60 percent of the world's strawberries are now produced using one of the 12 varieties developed and released by UC Davis. Contact: Douglas Shaw, Plant Sciences, (530) 752-0905, [email protected]. (He will be in and out of the office doing fieldwork, but will respond to inquiries when possible.)

LOW CARBON DIET -- Gail Feenstra, food systems analyst at the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) and the statewide UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, is collaborating with other campus researchers on an analysis of a reduced carbon footprint diet -- a life cycle assessment that measures energy and carbon emissions/green house gases from farm to fork. She and the "food carbon footprint" team are calculating the energy and carbon emissions for specific food items, starting with rice and tomatoes, two Yolo County crops. "We want to measure the global warming potential of regional diets," Feenstra said. Contact Gail Feenstra at (530) 752-8408, or (530) 574-4794, [email protected].

NUTRITION AND FITNESS -- Liz Applegate, a nationally renowned expert on nutrition and fitness, is a faculty member in the nutrition department and the director of sports nutrition. Applegate consults frequently for U.S. Olympic athletes and is the team nutritionist for the Oakland Raiders football team. She is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and a member of the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists, a practice group of the American Dietetic Association. Applegate also writes the popular Fridge Wisdom nutrition column for Runners World magazine and has authored six books on nutrition. Contact: Liz Applegate, Nutrition, (530) 752-6682, [email protected].

RICE PRODUCTION HERE AND EVERYWHERE -- Jim Hill, associate dean for international programs in UC Davis' College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist, is an international authority on how rice crops are grown. His work focuses not only on increasing rice productivity but also on improving the environmental effects of rice-farming methods. In collaboration with the California Rice Commission, Ducks Unlimited, and others, he has conducted research on winter-flooding to enhance waterfowl habitat. He recently spent three years at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, coordinating irrigated-rice research and outreach efforts throughout Asia's rice-production areas. Contact: Jim Hill, Agronomy and Range Science, (530) 752-3458 or (530) 754-9600, [email protected].

SUSTAINABILITY VIA GENETIC ENGINEERING AND ORGANIC FARMING -- Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak are co-authors of "Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food," published in April 2008 by Oxford University Press. Together, they are exploring the juncture where genetic engineering and organic farming can meet to ensure environmentally sustainable food production.

Ronald is a professor in UC Davis' Department of Plant Pathology. Her laboratory has genetically engineered rice for resistance to diseases and flooding. Her work has been published in Science, Nature and other scientific periodicals and has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and on National Public Radio. She is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She also writes a blog at

Adamchak has grown organic crops for 20 years, part of that time as a partner in Full Belly Farm, a private 150-acre organic vegetable farm. He has inspected more than 100 organic farms as an inspector for California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and served as a member and president of that group's board of directors. He is now coordinator of the Market Garden at UC Davis' Student Farm. Contacts: Pam Ronald, Plant Pathology, (530)752-1654, or on her cell phone, (530)219-4618, [email protected]; Raoul Adamchak, Plant Sciences, (530) 752-7655, [email protected].

FOOD AND CULTURE -- UC Davis English professor Timothy Morton can discuss how food consumerism originated during the Romantic movement of 1790-1830. Morton says much of the Western food culture today -- ranging from picnics and restaurants to drinking mineral water and practicing vegetarianism -- stemmed from 200 years ago. Morton is particularly interested in relationships between culture and the natural and global environment, with emphasis on food studies. He edited "Cultures of Taste/Theories of Appetite: Eating Romanticism" (2004) and wrote "The Poetics of Spice: Romantic Consumerism and the Exotic" (2000) and "Shelley and the Revolution in Taste: The Body and the Natural World" (1994). His forthcoming book, "Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics," talks about food and Romantic cultural legacies today. Contact: Timothy Morton, English, [email protected].


THE CAR OF TOMORROW -- UC Davis transportation expert Daniel Sperling is an international authority on the feasibility of alternative car and truck fuels, such as biofuels and electricity, and the security of our existing transportation-fuels system. Sperling is a UC Davis professor of civil engineering and of environmental science and policy, and founding director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS-Davis). He regularly advises national and international policymakers and industry leaders on transportation technology assessment, energy and environmental aspects of transportation, and transportation policy. Contact: Daniel Sperling, ITS-Davis, (530) 752-7434, [email protected].

LIGHTING'S BRIGHT FUTURE -- Michael Siminovitch, director of the UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center and a professor of design, can talk about how efficient lighting systems can lead to energy savings. He has been designing such systems for the past two decades, including the Berkeley Lamp, which uses one-quarter the energy of traditional lamps, and an innovative fluorescent lighting system. The state fair exhibit includes a display of energy-saving lighting -- at the touch of a button. The lighting center conducts both cooperative and independent activities with lighting manufacturers, electric utilities and the design and engineering professional communities. Many new lighting designs and systems are on display at the center's Davis laboratories. Contact: Michael Siminovitch, CLTC, (530) 754-7616, [email protected].

PLUG-IN HYBRID VEHICLES -- Andrew Frank, professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering at UC Davis, is recognized as the father of "plug-in" gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles. Unlike commercially available hybrid vehicles, a plug-in hybrid can recharge its batteries from a domestic power supply. For short, everyday journeys, the vehicles can operate almost entirely on battery power, reducing fuel costs and emissions. The new Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC Davis, established in January, is helping policymakers, energy suppliers and automakers learn how consumers will use plug-in hybrids. The Plug-in Hybrid Center has $3 million in funding from the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program and $1.8 million from the California Air Resources Board. The center is directed by research anthropologist Tom Turrentine. Contacts: Andrew Frank, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, (530) 752-8120, [email protected]; Tom Turrentine, Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Research Center, [email protected].


TURNING GARBAGE INTO BIOGAS -- UC Davis bioenvironmental engineer Ruihong Zhang sees a vast untapped energy resource in yard clippings, household table scraps and other biodegradable materials: converting that garbage into enough energy to keep the lights burning in thousands of California homes. Zhang is building a prototypical anaerobic digester, part of a $4 million project funded by the California Energy Commission and industry partners. A fanciful simulation of Zhang's biodigester is a centerpiece of the state fair's centennial exhibit. Contact: Ruihong Zhang, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, (530) 754-9530, [email protected] (available by phone or e-mail Aug. 15-16 and Aug. 25- Sept. 1; available only by e-mail Aug. 17-24).

VIRTUAL REALITY IN EARTH SCIENCES --The W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences (Keck CAVES) at UC Davis allows researchers to step inside their data in a three-dimensional virtual reality environment. A unique collaboration between geologists and computer scientists means that researchers can not just look at their data in a new way, but handle it, carry out "virtual experiments" and get results in real time. The state fair exhibit includes the continuous screening of a Keck CAVES 3-D movie -- complete with loaner 3-D glasses -- that takes fairgoers on an underground geological tour. The campus facility is currently being used for studies of the deep interior of the Earth, examining surface features of the Earth and Mars, and for new ways to look at rocks and fossil specimens. The scientists have also collaborated with the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance on a multimedia stage production, COLLAPSE, presented in 2007. The facility was established with a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation and is also funded by the National Science Foundation. Contact: Louise Kellogg, Geology, (530) 754-6673, [email protected].

SUSTAINABLE FARMING PRACTICES REDUCE POLLUTION -- California is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S., of which eight percent of carbon dioxide and 59 percent of nitrous oxide emissions are from agricultural activities. The adoption of subsurface drip irrigation, which decreases water use and cuts greenhouse gas emissions, is increasing in the Central Valley but still is less than 15 percent of all irrigation, according to Will Horwath, J.G. Boswell Endowed Chair in Soil Science at UC Davis. Horwath can talk about how subsurface drip irrigation limits the water delivery to a small area, which reduces the activity of soil microorganisms and processes related to trace gas emissions. He is coordinator of a 20-year sustainable agriculture farming systems project and hopes that results on the economics of drip irrigation will help growers evaluate the benefits of alternative irrigation systems. Contact Horwath at (530) 754-6029, [email protected].


THE WAR ON PAIN -- Scott Fishman, M.D., is an internationally recognized expert in pain management and author of the 2000 book, "The War on Pain." As a professor of anesthesiology, and past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, Dr. Fishman can discuss the various measures physicians can now use, including everything from new drugs and technologies to alternative medicine, to provide relief for those suffering from chronic pain. Contact Dr. Fishman through Charlie Casey, senior public information officer, office (916) 734-9048, pager (916) 762-3047, [email protected].

OVERCOMING DISTANCE FOR SPECIALTY CARE -- Thomas Nesbitt, M.D., M.P.H., can speak about the advances that telecommunications technology has made to improve access to and the delivery of specialty care services to rural and medically underserved communities throughout the state. UC Davis physicians have conducted more than 14,000 video consultations since 1997 and are leading a statewide and national effort to expand telemedicine services to even more rural and remote clinics and hospitals. Contact Dr. Fishman through Charlie Casey, senior public information officer, office (916) 734-9048, pager (916) 762-3047, charl[email protected].

KEEPING KIDS MENTALLY HEALTHY -- Robert Hendren, D.O., executive director, UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, can speak about the pharmacological management and treatment of children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, including autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia spectrum disorders and impulse control disorders. He can discuss leading edge-research that is under way at UC Davis, as well as discuss controversial approaches to treatment, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Contact Dr. Hendren through Phyllis Brown, senior public information officer, office (916) 734-9023, pager (916) 762-3047, cell (916) 730-1496, [email protected].

BETTER BODIES THROUGH TECHNOLOGY -- Carolyn de la Peña, a UC Davis assistant professor of American studies, can talk about the history of quack products that promise better bodies and the relationship between energy devices and legitimate/illegitimate medical practices. According to de la Peña, early 20th century attitudes about using technology to release latent energy and reverse physical decline have carried over to today. She can talk about how Americans work out key cultural myths about our physical capabilities through popular culture such as in comic book heroes. De la Peña's book, "The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built the Modern American," was published in 2003. Contact: Carolyn de la Peña, American Studies, (530)752-8965, [email protected].

AIR POLLUTION, CLIMATE AND HEALTH -- Anthony Wexler, director of the UC Davis Air Quality Research Center, studies the chemical and physical nature of air pollution. He is co-director of an $8 million U.S. EPA research grant to study air pollution in California's huge San Joaquin Valley, where bad air causes the nation's highest rates of asthma in children. He also studies how tiny airborne particles contribute to global climate change. Contact: Anthony Wexler, Air Quality Research Center, office (530) 754-6558, cell (530) 574-8813, [email protected] (available through August 28).


ECONOMICS OF TRANSPORTATION -- UC Davis economist Christopher Knittel can talk about transportation economics, especially how the various markets relate to transportation function. A specialist in the economics of industrial organization, Knittel teaches about the various transportation industries: automobile, airline and oil. He also can explain the dynamics between demand for various autos and government regulation of the industry, and how consumers make decisions on cars with better mileage when gasoline prices skyrocket. Contact: Christopher Knittel, Economics, (530) 302-1032, [email protected].

RACE RELATIONS -- Professor Bill Ong Hing, who has appointments in the UC Davis School of Law and Asian American studies, is an expert in race relations, immigration law and history, and Asian American community issues. In "Deporting Our Souls: Values, Morality, and Immigration Policy," forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, Hing examines moral issues and immigration policy. In "Defining America Through Immigration Policy" (2004), Hing explores links between traditional racial concepts of who is a true American and how we enforce federal immigration policies. The professor says we have "de-Americanized" South Asian, Muslim and Arab immigrants. His other books include "To Be an American -- Cultural Pluralism and the Rhetoric of Assimilation" (1997). Contact: Bill Ong Hing, School of Law and Asian American Studies, (530) 754-9377, cell (415)846-2122 [email protected].

EMPLOYMENT IN THE 'NEW ECONOMY' -- Jobs scholar Vicki Smith, professor and chair of sociology, can talk about the changing nature of work, especially the rise in job insecurity in recent decades. She is the author of the 2008 book, "The Good Temp," which analyzes the temporary employment industry, and "Crossing the Great Divide: Worker Risk and Opportunity in the New Economy," published in 2001. Contact: Vicki Smith, Sociology, (530) 752-6170, [email protected].

IMMIGRATION POLICY AND CIVIL RIGHTS -- Kevin Johnson, the Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law at UC Davis, is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on immigration and civil rights. Johnson is also dean of the School of Law and a professor of Chicana/o studies. His books include "Opening the Floodgates: Why America Needs to Rethink Its Borders and Immigration Laws" and "The 'Huddled Masses' Myth: Immigration and Civil Rights." He is co-editor of the Immigration Prof blog and a member of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's Immigration Policy Group. Contact: Kevin Johnson, School of Law, (530) 752-0243, [email protected].

Media (s)

Mitchel Benson, (530) 752-9844, [email protected]


UC Davis

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