The UC Office of the President recently awarded around $19 million total for Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives, or MRPI — and UC Davis is participating in more than half of the funded projects.
UC backed 15 projects in the biannual funding competition. The eight with UC Davis participation deal with agriculture, the coronavirus, humanities and culture, state policy on social and economic issues, and the Electron-Ion Collider.
“The MRPI competition funds discoveries that improve the lives of Californians and draws world-class student, faculty and staff talent to the university,” UC President Michael V. Drake said. “UC programs like this help keep California at the forefront of breakthrough research and technological innovation.”
Since 2009, the university has made more than 100 MRPI grants totaling $139 million and involving more than 600 UC faculty members. To be eligible, applications must draw on talent from multiple areas of study representing a minimum of three UC institutions.
“It’s exciting and so important to support groundbreaking projects such as these, across all UC campuses, and in disciplines from computer science and particle physics to anthropology and human rights,” said Theresa Maldonado, vice president of Research and Innovation, who noted the stiff competition. This year’s cycle drew 94 eligible applications.
Here are the research projects involving UC Davis and the campus representatives in each:
Labor and Automation in California Agriculture
California’s role as the nation’s food basket is under pressure from climate change, agricultural workforce shortages, new regulations and drought, among other challenges. Experts from the Berkeley, Davis, Merced and Riverside campuses and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources will team up with agricultural workers, farmers and agriculturalists to find ways to improve both agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability. Leader: Professor Thomas Harmon, UC Merced. UC Davis representatives: Martin Kenney, professor, Department of Human and Community Development and Associate Professor M. Anne Visser, Department of Human Ecology. ($3.1 million)
UC Coronavirus Assembly Research Consortium
To understand how SARS-CoV-2 assembles itself into a viable virus, experts in biophysics, computer science and medicine from the Davis, Merced and Riverside campuses will conduct experiments and computer simulations that have never before been performed on this virus. This knowledge can propel development of drug therapies that slow or destroy the virus. Leader: Roya Zandi, professor, UC Riverside. UC Davis representative: Patrice Koehl, professor, Department of Computer Science and the Genome Center. ($1.8 million)
The Global Latinidades Project: Globalizing Latinx Studies for the Next Millennium
Latinx studies has made profound contributions to 20th- and 21st-century thought through its complex explications of culture and politics in borderlands and colonial contact zones. The field’s terrain, however, has remained grounded in a North American milieu, particularly the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, Caribbean locales and various Latin American diasporic flows to and within the United States. The Global Latinidades Project expands the scope of Latinx studies by refocusing the field’s attention onto a broader global terrain. The goal is to recover and assess new and complex models of Latinx life, culture, history and politics — or Latinidades — that are synthesized in contact with peoples and contexts throughout the world, particularly Africa and the Mediterranean, Asia and Pacific Islands, subaltern Europe and neglected areas of the Americas. Leader: Professor Ben Olguin, UC Santa Barbara. UC Davis representative: Ofelia Cuevas, assistant professor, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. ($1.8 million)
Strengthening Honeybee Health and Crop Pollination to Safeguard Food Availability and Affordability
Honeybees are responsible for the pollination of more than 80 food crops worldwide with an estimated annual global value of up to $570 billion. These essential pollination services are threatened by dramatic declines in honeybee health. Research into honeybee declines has identified several environmental stressors that contribute to this pollination crisis. This project will form a Californiawide, cross-disciplinary research network to study factors affecting honeybee health, identify biomarkers for their health, and develop new solutions including remote sensing of bee health, a breeding program and novel medications. It will also develop new outreach and extension modules that will be offered through UC Cooperative Extension to support beekeepers. Leader: Professor Boris Bar, UC Riverside. UC Davis representative: Elina Lastro Niño, Cooperative Extension specialist, Department of Entomology and Nematology. ($900,000)
California Policy Lab: Data-Driven Solutions to California’s Most Complex Issues
The California Policy Lab partners UC students and faculty with state and local government agencies to conduct research that helps solve the state’s most urgent social and economic problems. This project will expand the existing California Policy Lab infrastructure to three campuses (Merced, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz) and add new principal investigators at existing campuses (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles and San Francisco). It will also develop or add three new data sources, making them available for UC researchers: the UC Consumer Credit Panel, to be the nation’s largest longitudinal database of consumer credit records; health care utilization data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and the Homelessness Research Accelerator Datahub, Los Angeles’ homelessness management information system. The project will curate and broaden access to these data for UC researchers. Leader: Jesse Rothstein, professor, UC Berkeley. UC Davis representative: Michal Kurlaender, professor, School of Education. ($3.2 million)
Living Through Upheaval: The University of California Humanities Initiative
“Living Through Upheaval” consists of three research platforms that sustain the strong international reputation of UC humanities: Future of the Humanities and the University, a 21st-century humanistic research agenda and evolving curricula for graduates and undergraduates to help respond effectively to widespread upheavals such as climate change, mass migrations, natural catastrophes and pandemics; Literacies and Leadership in a Diverse Society, addressing how the humanities support leadership and collaborative problem-solving in diverse, complex social environments and clarifying how humanistic learning can respond effectively to rapid change; and the Living Through Upheaval Competitive Grant Programs, renewing collaborative, interdisciplinary research programs that support faculty and graduate students and public communication of humanities research for citizens of California and elsewhere. Leader: Tyrus Miller, professor, UC Irvine. UC Davis representative: Mani Tripathi, professor of physics and associate dean of research and graduate studies, College of Letters and Science. ($1.5 million)
Centering Tribal Stories of Cultural Preservation in Difficult Times
Cultural heritage protection is of the utmost urgency for many UC students and their communities across California because their irreplaceable sites and natural environments face increasing impacts from development and climate change. UC researchers have led specific conversations around these issues in environmental science, biology, ethnography and archaeology, but the millennia of expertise within Indigenous Californian communities is often overlooked. Only through interdisciplinary conversations can we highlight the knowledge of California Native communities in order to effectively understand the full scope of potential impacts of climate change and development on cultural heritage. In this project, a team of UC professors who have been engaged in community-based research with Indigenous people throughout California will create a holistic teaching approach to train students on engaging with indigenous cultural heritage experts. Leader: Mishuana Goeman, associate professor, UCLA. UC Davis representative: Beth Rose Middleton, assistant professor, Department of Native American Studies. ($900,000)
California Consortium at the Electron-Ion Collider
This program will engage UC faculty with the Electron-Ion Collider, or EIC, recently approved for construction by the U.S. Department of Energy at a cost of $2 billion. The EIC is the only new particle collider planned for the United States in the next 20 years. It will use electrons to image the quarks and gluons inside nuclei with unprecedented precision. The new project will build on an existing EIC consortium of four UC campuses and three UC-managed laboratories. In collaboration with 1,000 scientists from 30 nations, the California Consortium will design and build the new instrument including developing the technology for new detectors. This is an extraordinary opportunity for UC students to design and construct large-scale detectors using state-of-the-art technologies, such as highly granular silicon pixel sensors and novel compact calorimeters. Students will analyze Petabyte-scale datasets with supercomputers at the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. The project also includes an outreach plan to spark the imagination of K-12 students across California with public lectures and exhibits. Leader: Barbara Jacak, professor, UC Berkeley. UC Davis representative: Daniel Cebra, professor, Department of Physics. ($1.8 million)