When it comes to education and research at UC San Diego, our divisions of study are anything but divided. The cross-collaboration that’s been at our core for decades finds a new and distinct purpose with every inspired mind—student, staff, and faculty alike—all brought together by the breadth of expertise and intellectual community that lives on campus.
Only together do new breakthroughs abound and give rise to grand initiatives. And when tools and resources for cutting-edge inquiry are given to the next generation of scholars, leaders and young minds bound to break the mold, it makes for a bigger picture, deeper insight and the resounding global impact that unites us together as we…
UC San Diego’s Big Pixel Initiative is harnessing satellite imagery and big data analytics to make even the biggest things—places, data sets, and the world’s problems—seem very, very small. When big data meets the intuitive minds of students and faculty, the result is a living, learning laboratory with the capacity to address our world’s greatest challenges at scale.
Researchers Gordon Hanson of the School of Global Policy and Strategy and Albert Yu-Min Lin ’04, MA ’05, PhD ’08, of the Qualcomm Institute founded the program in 2015, combining unprecedented access to imaging data with the analytic ability of Google Earth Engine. These unique tools have already made a remarkable difference for a variety of researchers and students on campus who strive to see the bigger picture—literally.
Ran Goldblatt uses Big Pixel satellite imagery to map urban areas around the globe, potentially revolutionizing large-scale analysis of urbanization. Starting with India, a sentinel of sorts for the dangers of urbanization, his team plans
to scale from there to create a continuous global map of urbanization that yields insights over time as well as area. The need for this kind of analysis has become increasingly clear, as urbanization shapes almost all dimensions of the modern world: from land cover and use around cities to environmental and economic policymaking.
David Kline, PhD ’05 of Scripps Institution of Oceanography has teamed with the Big Pixel Initiative to determine the extent of coral bleaching—the loss of photosynthetic algae that produces colorful and healthy reefs. Higher water temperatures, whether due to climate change, a record-breaking El Niño or other factors, can cause corals to lose algae and die, leaving large swathes
of white remains. Kline’s goal is to determine if bleaching episodes can be quantified by remote sensing, creating a “bleaching detection tool” to estimate the phenomenon’s extent and severity.
Land degradation, groundwater resources, cityscapes—Jennifer Burney of the School of Global Policy and Strategy has her hands in three research projects incorporating high-resolution satellite imagery. The first examines the structure of cities to understand the actual economies that emerge as regions grow. She’s also assessing semi-arid ecosystems to develop density maps linked to farm management data. Launching the third project in sub-Saharan Africa, she uses satellites in lieu of on-the-ground data to identify sites with a higher likelihood for successful water wells.
Avoiding the worst consequences of climate change has become one of humanity’s most pressing challenges. That’s why UC San Diego’s Deep Decarbonization Initiative takes a multidisciplinary approach—combining the best technological and scientific expertise with a nuanced understanding of modern societies—the economic, political and social factors that can make or break real change.
An interdisciplinary dream team of David Victor, Jan Kleissl and Bill Torre together perform economic modeling of microgrids, investigating how much decentralizing the energy grid can help decarbonize our world. UC San Diego’s campus even leads by example with a phenomenal microgrid orchestrated by Byron Washom, the university’s director of strategic energy initiatives.
Biologist Stephen Mayfield leads Food & Fuel for the 21st Century, a research unit developing solutions for biofuel production using green plants and algae. Together with chemist Cliff Kubiak, the unit will host the world’s leading minds at the International Solar Fuels Conference at UC San Diego this July.
Nanoengineer Ying Shirley Meng and physicist Oleg Shpyrko work together in the Sustainable Power and Energy Center to solve key technical challenges in creating novel means of generating and storing energy. Their energy-storage research has implications for many areas, including electric vehicles, wind turbines and wearable power devices.
In a world with constantly shrinking borders, global health has become a growing concern. The Global Health Institute at UC San Diego is a campus-wide effort to facilitate research, education and public-private partnerships across diverse disciplines to address the many global health challenges of the 21st century. With 150 faculty, fellows, students and staff involved, the institute aims to make an international impact with research and healthcare programs that fight diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other debilitating conditions around the globe.
Led by Steffanie Strathdee, an infectious disease epidemiologist who has focused her career on HIV prevention in underserved, marginalized populations, the Institute strives to coordinate and synergize the collective efforts of UC San Diego to make the biggest possible impact for the benefit
No one more than graduate student
Cliff Kapono captures UC San Diego’s distinct spirit of scientific excellence and wave-catching cool. The chemistry doctoral student is currently sampling microbes from the bodies of surfers around the world to determine not only the health of our oceans, but the health of communities whose lives are dependent on them. Compound this student research with the preeminence of microbiome expert Rob Knight, and the advent of the microbiome age may very well change the future of healthcare the world over.
Dr. Anita Raj is the director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health and a professor in the School of Medicine’s Division of Global Public Health. Raj has approximately 20 years of experience conducting research on sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, substance abuse, and the intersection of how these issues play out in cultures around the world.
Effecting changes in health at a global scale requires big ideas—like the concept of active genetics, a new field pioneered by biologist Ethan Bier and postdoctoral fellow, Valentino Gantz. Leveraging a novel method dubbed “gene drive,” genetic mutations can be effected within a single generation, which could lead to a solution for vector-borne diseases like malaria, which afflicts hundreds of millions of people living in tropical regions.
In partnership with India’s Tata Trusts, UC San Diego’s Tata Institute for Active Genetics will spark the potential of active genetic technology to not only eradicate disease, but enable new forms of cell therapy, develop ways to control microbial pathogens, and improve the sustainability and yield of the world’s agricultural crops.
Mental health issues impose an enormous disease burden on societies across the world. Depression alone affects 350 million people globally and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Neuroscientist Gentry Patrick studies the processes of our brain with the hopes that understanding the dynamics of mental disorders will help alleviate the stigma, prejudice and fear that drives these conditions into the shadows.