Berkeley in the News Archive

The links to the stories summarized on this page are time sensitive, so stories might no longer be online at that URL. We also include links to the original source publication itself.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

1. California's elite universities join to increase faculty diversity in the sciences
San Jose Mercury News (*requires registration)

UC Berkeley is part of a unique West Coast alliance pledged to recruiting more minority Ph.D. students in the STEM fields. Called the California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, it will begin with a $2.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, targeting students advancing in postdoctoral studies, as well as faculty members at research universities. According to Mark Richards, UC Berkeley's executive dean of the College of Letters and Science: "As we become an increasingly diverse state and nation, this is a crisis. ... The participation of underrepresented minorities in academic STEM careers is especially important given the pivotal role that faculty members have as role models for future scientists and engineers." Other stories on this topic appeared in the California Magazine and on KQED Radio (link unavailable online). Full Story

2. Revamped computer science classes attracting more girls
San Francisco Chronicle

Introductory computer science classes at Berkeley have been attracting more women in the last year, indicating that the underrepresentation of women in the field is beginning to show signs of evening out. The shift coincides with a reimagining of the classes meant to attract more women. Professor Dan Garcia's introductory course for non-majors, for example, expanded the class beyond "just programming," to make it "kind of right-brained as well," he says. Full Story

3. Itching: More Than Skin-Deep
International New York Times (*requires registration)

Assistant cell and developmental biology professor Diana Bautista is cited for her research into the physiology of itching. She has found that substances other than histamine, released from inflammatory cells, are involved in chronic itching, along with three different types of nerve cells. “Before," she says, "the focus was on next-generation antihistamines. ... Now, it’s on new molecular and cellular targets to develop new therapies. The pharmaceutical industry is recognizing that they have to go beyond antihistamines.” Full Story

4. All you need is love -- and some genetic luck
San Francisco Chronicle

In a 25-year study of marital longevity, psychology professor Robert Levenson has found that if a couple can make it 15 years, they have a good chance of making it long-term, provided they communicate respectfully. One of the surprising findings of the study was a genetic link to marital happiness. Couples with one or two specific gene variants, or alleles, were less likely to be happy in their marriages. Full Story

5. Water-Cleaning Technology Could Help Farmers
International New York Times (*requires registration)

Agricultural and resource economics professor Michael Hanemann discusses new solar technologies for desalinization of water, which could aid farmers during droughts. He says desalinization is a hedge against future shortages and the rising price of water. “It’s a form of insurance. ... The issue isn’t turning over your whole water supply to desalinization but adding to it.” A solar thermal desalinization plant that runs continuously and relies on free sunlight for fuel could make the technology more competitive, he says. Full Story

6. Toilet etiquette and other tips to conserve water
San Francisco Chronicle

Civil and environmental engineering professor David Sedlak, co-director of the Berkeley Water Center, suggests various things people can do to conserve water during the drought. "There's a lot of room for conservation without pain and suffering," he says. "There are the day-to-day questions that people encounter: Do I do a full load of laundry or do I turn off the shower? But frankly, the biggest impact we can have is tied to our water use outdoors." Full Story

7. Is Treasure Island toxic? Residents' worries grow
San Francisco Chronicle

Environmental science, policy and management professor Rachel Morello-Frosch weighs in on the health risks of contamination on Treasure Island. Although lease agreements bar residents from digging in their yards because of toxic materials in the soil, she says: "You can tell people not to dig in the garden, but kids dig -- they do a lot of hand-to-mouth activity." She adds that remediation activity could also be exposing neighbors. "Fencing it off doesn't keep soil from moving ... and to assume that residents adjacent to sites where soil is being remediated aren't being exposed isn't so clear. The question is how much. ... To do that right next to where kids play and people are living is not a great idea." Full Story

8. Why Minorities Are Even More Overrepresented In Private Prisons
San Francisco Chronicle

Berkeley doctoral candidate Chistopher Petrella has conducted a study of private prison populations in nine states. He found that the percentage of minorities in private prisons is often higher than 60%, and in California it's as high as 89%. Full Story

9. Labor Regroups in South After VW Vote
International New York Times (*requires registration)

Labor professor Harley Shaiken weighs in on a failed unionization attempt at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee last week. Before the vote, State Senators Bob Corker and Bo Watson had suggested that the expansion of the plant and Chattanooga’s future economic well-being hinged on rejecting the U.A.W., and Professor Shaiken says that could have swayed more than a hundred workers to vote against the union. U.A.W. officials have reported that the union lost by a margin of just 44 votes. Full Story

10. Forum with Michael Krasny: Are Well-Funded PTAs Widening the Education Inequality Gap?
KQED Radio

Public policy professor Robert Reich joins a discussion of the way PTA fundraising is increasing inequality between rich and poor school districts. Link to audio. Full Story

11. Commentary: The Truth About the 'One Percent'
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

Economics professor Emanuel Saez is quoted on the changing profile of top earners. "The top income earners today are not 'rentiers' deriving their incomes from past wealth," he had written, "but rather are the 'working rich,' highly paid employees or new entrepreneurs who have not yet accumulated fortunes comparable to those accumulated during the Gilded Age." Full Story

12. Microsoft’s Stakes in the Battle for Handsets
International New York Times (*requires registration)

Visiting economics professor Nicholas Economides, a specialist in network economics and electronic commerce, discusses Microsoft's role in the smartphone market. “We’re in a world where the biggest market share by far is Android. And the second-biggest is Apple. Then, way behind, is Microsoft. What’s in this game for Microsoft? ... [The company's] objective is to get to the point where Windows phones would be able to use Microsoft software and applications for PCs and tablets. ... If they can get there, that would be a huge win. They could leverage all their applications and be a formidable competitor. But they’re not there. Saying that’s the objective doesn’t mean it will happen.” Full Story

13. Congress in middle of Hollywood copyright clash with Silicon Valley
Los Angeles Times

Law professor Pamela Samuelson, director of Berkeley's Center for Law and Technology, comments on changes in copyright law. Referring to protests spurred by tech firms and digital rights groups two years ago to stop antipiracy legislation Hollywood was pursuing, she says that "everything has changed" since then. "This has become something a lot of people feel strongly about." Full Story

14. UC Berkeley building set for Northside comes under fire

A proposed building is meeting opposition in the Northside neighborhood of Berkeley. The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and neighbors of the building site feel the design of the new College of Engineering design facility is too modern for the historic area. They also object to the need to remove several trees to build it. Full Story

15. Knowing When It's Time to Sell Your Favorite Stock
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

Business and finance professor Terrance Odean is quoted in a story about investors' reluctance to sell disappointing stocks. He says investors typically sell a stock only when they need cash to buy another one they're newly excited about, and they often resist selling any stock they are holding at a loss—something that, needless to say, has nothing to do with its potential. As a result, he says, "for most investors, buying is a forward-looking activity and selling is a backward-looking activity." He adds that there is no evidence the average individual can pick stocks that outperform the market, so he recommends investing in a broad-based index fund instead. Full Story

16. Taking Political Stands Does Not Sit Well With All Scholarly Groups
Chronicle of Higher Education (*requires registration)

History professor David Hollinger is quoted in a story about academicians who choose to speak up -- or refrain from speaking up -- on political issues. He had said in an Organization of American Historians debate on political engagement in 2010 that he preferred a limited role, in part because group activism could give some members a false sense that they "gave at the office" and had thus fulfilled their civic obligations. Full Story

17. Legacy of civil rights leaders source of fights
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

john a. powell, director of Berkeley's Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, comments on family conflicts among the descendants of civil rights leaders over the potentially valuable possessions of their forbears. powell says that Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X were not wealthy in their lifetimes, so their families have a right to be concerned about the financial value of their famous relatives' legacy. "Somebody is going to make money off their names," he says. "You just hope people do it with a certain amount of dignity." Full Story

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