Acid in Antarctic Waters Endangers Sea Mollusks

By the year 2050, seashells by the seashore will amount to nothing more than a tongue twister as pteropod mollusks, a soft-bodied, hard-shelled sea creature that lives mainly in Antarctic waters, are expected to die out.

These creatures, snacked on by various species, serve as the main stable food source for fish. Researchers such as UCSB associate biology professor Gretchen Hofmann have theorized that if the current increase of carbon dioxide continues, the ocean’s waters will become more acidic, which will jeopardize the mollusks’ ability to develop their shells. In a press release, Hofmann said that in order for these marine invertebrates to adapt to the acidic waters and still make a shell, they will become smaller and unable to live in warmer waters. She also said the food chain itself would be compromised should these unique creatures become extinct. Fish dependent on pteropod mollusks would have nothing to feast on, and similarly, penguins and polar bears that depend on fish would have a scarce supply of food.

Scientists Find Easy Way to Study Electron Spin

Cutting-edge research at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCSB, in collaboration with the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Ames Laboratory in Iowa, has revealed stunning developments in the field of quantum mechanics and computing.

David Awschalom, associate director of CNSI, and Slava Dobrovitski, a visiting scientist from Ames Laboratory, worked with a group of scientists to conduct a series of studies aimed at analyzing the quantum mechanics of particles in unique states, such as “superposition” – a state where an electron exists in two places at the same time. The team used diamond crystals to examine a single electron spin, a property that makes electrons act like magnets and be in an up and/or down form. The scientists also looked at spin-bath interactions, when subatomic particles act in a way that reveals quantum fluctuations. In a press release, Dobrovitski said they found that diamond crystals are a good medium to study the quantum dynamics of spin, which may be important when researching the possibilities of carbon-based electronic devices – efficient devices with low power consumption.

UCSB Professor Receives 2008 Distinguished Award

Michael Gazzaniga, UCSB psychology professor and director of UCSB’s SAGE Center for the Study of Mind, received the 2008 Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association. This honor is presented to psychologists and researchers whose work enhances the understanding and perception of psychology. Gazzaniga currently oversees research aimed at studying the perception of mind by analyzing patients with split-brain surgery. Split-brain surgery is used to treat epilepsy, which causes seizures, and it involves cutting the region of the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres. Currently, Gazzaniga serves as president of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute, and he is the director of the Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience. He earned his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology.

UCSB Praises Physics Professor for His Lectures

The UCSB Faculty Research Lectureship honored David Awschalom as the 2008 Faculty Research Lecturer, the highest honor presented to professors campuswide. A physics and electrical & computer engineering professor, Awschalom currently researches magnetic and electron spin dynamics in semiconductor-based nanoscale systems, which refers to a nano-sized system – one nanometer equals .000000001 meters – that can conduct an electrical current between a conductor and an insulator. An electron spin is when an electron is considered to be a spinning ball of charge, and when in this state, a magnetic field has the ability to split atomic energy levels.

Awschalom also serves as the associate director of the California NanoSystems Institute and as director of the Center for Spintronics and Quantum Computation. Since his arrival at UCSB in 1991, he has mentored nearly 60 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. The Faculty Research Lectureship has awarded 53 honors to professors since its establishment in 1955.