LAURELS: He’s a Chancellor and a Chevalier

Quick Summary

  • Royal Society of Chemistry honors R. David Britt with Bioinorganic Chemistry Award
  • Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar wins Noel T. Keen Award for Research Excellence in Molecular Plant Pathology
  • Diana Aramburu, assistant professor of Spanish, receives Woodrow Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship
  • Wiebke Bleidorn earns early-career award from European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations

Amid the International Wine and Health Summit held May 4-7 at UC Davis, the Renaud Society welcomed Gary S. May into its ranks as a chevalier, recognizing his role as chancellor of a university with leading programs in viticulture and enology, and health.

“We are a society of medical professionals with an interest in better health and a passion for wine,” the organization proclaims. It is named after the researcher Serge Renaud, known as the “Father of the French Paradox,” theorizing that wine can contribute to improved health.

Indeed, as reported by UC Davis’ Andrew Waterhouse, presentations at the wine and health summit held here led to the general conclusion of an association between moderate consumption of alcohol — particularly wine — and reduced mortality.

Renaud Society logo, "Better Health, Passion for Wine"

Waterhouse served as the summit co-chair with Tedd Goldfinger, the society’s grand maître (master). It was Goldfinger who, during a gala dinner at the International Center, surprised Chancellor May with his new title, represented by a neck ribbon and tastevin (wine tasting cup, attached to the ribbon).

Chancellor Gary S. May, wearing chevalier ribbon with tastivin.
Chancellor May wears the ribbon and tastevin of a chevalier of the Renaud Society.

Chancellor May, in his welcome remarks that night, noted the university's agricultural roots and continuing research on grape growing and winemaking.

"We’re helping to lead the way in sustainability and the best viticulture practices in the face of climate change," the chancellor said. "We’re helping the wine industry learn about managing smoke taint, especially as wildfires around the world continue to impact major viticulture areas in California and Australia."

He also referenced UC Davis' commitment to health care, and expressed his appreciation to summit participants for looking into "the broadest aspects of wine and health, from its impact on diabetes, to issues of public health and much more."

The four-day summit included seminars, panels, tours and tastings (including samples of alumni-produced wines). Presenters included academics, research scientists, clinical specialists and thought leaders from around the globe, addressing the complicated topics surrounding wine, alcohol, health and longevity.

UC Davis’ Timothy Albertson, professor and chair, Department of Internal Medicine, chaired a panel on alcohol, health and public policy; and Dragan Milenkovic, a visiting scholar at UC Davis, spoke about how phenolics, found in wine, reduce inflammation.

“One particularly interesting new result from Linda McEvoy of UC San Diego, was the association of moderate wine consumption with improved cognition in an aging population,” Waterhouse said.

— Dave Jones

R. David Britt mugshot

The Royal Society of Chemistry (United Kingdom) has awarded its prestigious Bioinorganic Chemistry Award to Professor R. David Britt, Department of Chemistry, for his work developing state-of-the-art spectroscopic methods to characterize the active sites of metalloenzymes.

Britt’s laboratory is working to understand how living cells assemble enzymes that enable plants to use sunlight to split water. Replicating this process would be a new route to generating clean energy from hydrogen.

Britt, who holds the Winston Ko Professorship in Science Leadership in the College of Letters and Science, and he and his lab operate the CalEPR center (EPR stands for electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy).

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the recipient of the Bruker Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry, a gold medal from the International EPR Society and the  Zavoisky Award from the Russian Academy of Sciences (Kazan).

— Andy Fell, science writer, News and Media Relations; and Becky Oskin, content strategist, College of Letters and Science

Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar mugshot

Professor Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar, chair of the Department of Plant Biology, has been awarded the 2019 Noel T. Keen Award for Research Excellence in Molecular Plant Pathology from the American Phytopathological Society. The award is presented annually to a member of the society for outstanding contributions and sustained excellence in research in molecular mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions in plants.

He was elected last year to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in recognition of distinguished contributions to plant immune receptors and the role of chloroplast stromules and autophagy in innate immunity.

— Andy Fell

Diana Aramburu mugshot

Diana Aramburu, assistant professor of Spanish, has received a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship. She said she will use the award in support of her book project Between Bodies: Illness and Transformation in Women’s Graphic Narratives in Spain, based on her research on comics and graphic novels addressing illness.

Graphic narratives on illness and treatment are growing in use around the world, said Aramburu, who joined the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in 2016. She discovered the medically-oriented books when her mother and her grandfather were ill. “They opened up a whole new line of inquiry,” she said.

Her research will examine how Spanish comics and graphic novels present the relationship between women and their bodies during illness. She will focus on books related to diseases that primarily affect women, such as breast cancer and bulimia, and the “medicalization” of menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.

She has another book, Resisting Invisibility: Detecting the Female Body in Spanish Crime Fiction, scheduled for release later this year.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist, College of Letters and Science

Wiebke Bleidorn mugshot

Wiebke Bleidorn, an associate professor of psychology, was recently selected by the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations to receive its 2019 Comenius Early Career Psychologist Award. The award is given to a young psychologist from Europe for original contributions to psychology.

Federation President Telmo Baptista, said Bleidorn was chosen for the impact and promise of her research addressing big questions in social psychology, personality psychology, developmental psychology and behavior genetics.

She was born and educated in Germany and was on the faculty at Tilburg University in the Netherlands before joining the Department of Psychology in the College of Letters and Science in the fall of 2015.

Read the complete article by Kathleen Holder, content strategist, College of Letters and Science.

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