LAURELS: Katia Vega Shares Award for Biomedical Tattoos

Quick Summary

  • Society for Social Studies of Science honors Kalindi Vora for book, 'Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor'
  • Professor M. Saif Islam is elected a fellow of the International Society for Optics and Photonics
  • Law professor Dennis J. Ventry Jr. has 'interesting year' ahead as chair of IRS Advisory Council

Katia Vega, an associate professor of design, has taken her “beauty technology” a step farther to create biomedical tattoos — a project for which she and her colleagues earned an Interactive Innovation Award at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference earlier this month.

The tattoos, in which biosensors substitute for ink, turns your skin into a display that changes colors to indicate what’s going on in your body, say, your glucose level.

Katia Vega mugshot

The SXSW Conference, exploring “what’s next in the worlds of film, culture, music and technology,” declared the tattoos “the coolest scientific achievement or discovery that before 2017 was only possible in science fiction.” In winning the “Scifi No Longer” award. Vega and team beat out four other projects, including two from Google.

“One of the defining features of science fiction is that it empowers you to imagine the world differently,” said Dean Elizabeth Spiller, describing Vega as “an example of how our faculty across the College of Letters and Science pursue innovations that allow us not just to imagine, but to live the world differently.”

Biomedical tattoo on arm (screen shot)
As seen in the video: The purplish color “magically” appears.

Vega collaborated on the project, The Dermal Abyss: When Tattoos Meet Biotechnology, with Nick Barry, Viirj Kan and Xin Liu, MIT researchers during development; and Nan Jiang and Ali Yetisen, Harvard Medical School researchers.

The SXSW award, Vega said, will hopefully encourage biotechnologists “to improve biosensor compatibility with tattoos and embrace the idea of human device symbiosis.”

Vega, who joined UC Davis this academic year, previously turned such beauty products as artificial fingernails and eyelashes into technological devices. “You can play a virtual piano by just moving your fingers with false nails, change television channels by simply blinking the eyes adorned with artificial eyelashes or control your phone by just touching your hair,” CNET en Español wrote last October in naming Vega one of the “Top 20 Most Influential Latinos in Technology.”

UC Davis’ Kalindi Vora is the recipient of the 2018 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science, which gives the prize — named after the writer, scientist and ecologist — in recognition of a book with distinctive social and political relevance.

Kalini Vora mugshot

The book in this case is Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor, published in 2015 when Vora was a member of the ethnic studies department at UC San Diego. She joined UC Davis late last year as the director of the Feminist Research Institute and associate professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.

The society’s Rachel Carson Prize Committee reported: “Life Support is a compelling, multisited ethnography that analyzes call centers, IT outsourcing and gestational surrogacy in India as kindred forms of outsourced vital labor.

“Over the course of the book, Vora draws these disparate cases together in surprising and productive ways, where each highlights less visible aspects of the other. The result is a work that brings new ethical and political insights to each case, as well as to broader discussions of biocapital and labor.”

Professor M. Saif Islam, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been elected a fellow of the International Society for Optics and Photonics, formerly known as the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, or SPIE. Fellows are recognized for significant contributions, in research and volunteerism, to the fields of optics, photonics and imaging. 

Professor Dennis J. Ventry Jr. of the School of Law has been elevated to chair of the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council for 2018. Ventry, an expert in tax law and legal ethics, is in the third year of a three-year term on the council, appointed by the commissioner of Internal Revenue and subsequently approved by the Department of Treasury.

Established in 1953, the council is “an organized public forum for IRS officials and representatives of the public to discuss various issues in tax administration.” The council provides the IRS commissioner with relevant feedback, observations and recommendations.

“This year, the IRSAC will spend a considerable part of its time assisting the IRS in implementing the new tax law enacted in December 2017, a monumental task with no historical precedent,” Ventry said. “It should be an interesting and busy year!”

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