Seven faculty have received 2016 Life Sciences Faculty Excellence Awards. They are:

Stephen Smale, Distinguished Professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, received the award in the category of Innovation. Smale has made innovative improvements in the education of undergraduates in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics and in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology–through the development of a novel curriculum where undergraduates get hands-on research training. 

Bill Grisham, academic coordinator in the department of psychology, received the award in the category of Excellence in Educational Innovation. Working with faculty collaborators, Grisham has co-developed inquiry-based digital modules addressing several topics in neuroscience, including analyzing MRI data sets. Through the development of these digital resources, Grisham allows students to explore novel hypotheses in the field of neuroscience.

Christina Palmer, professor in the Institute for Society and Genetics, won the award in the category of Excellence in Promoting Diversity and Inclusion. As chair of the Faculty Executive Committee from 2013-2015, Palmer was instrumental to the initiation, conceptualization and passage of the new UCLA college diversity requirement that was approved in Spring of 2015.

Blaire Van Valkenburgh, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, won the award in the category of Excellence in Research. Van Valkenburgh uses the behavior and ecology of living animals to bring alive our past. In “The impact of large terrestrial carnivores on Pleistocene ecosystems,” Van Valkenburgh and her collaborators used modern data (body masses of living predators and prey) to ask the question, “Were megaherbivores such as mammoths relatively safe from predation?” They found that historically important Pleistocene predators were likely too small to kill adult megaherbivores but sufficiently large enough to kill young megaherbivores, limiting ecological damage from overgrazing.

April Pyle, associate professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, received the award in the category of Excellence in Research. In the paper, “Deletion Strategy that Targets the Majority of DMD Patients Restores Dystrophin Function in hiPSC-Derived Muscle Cells,” Pyle and colleagues demonstrate a high-impact, innovative approach for a genetically challenging disease, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which is the most common fatal genetic disease of childhood, affecting approximately 1 in 3,500-5,000 boys.

Grace Xiao, associate professor of integrative biology and physiology, received the award in the category of Excellence in Research. Her publication, “Genome Sequence-Independent Identification of RNA Editing Sites,” presents a new bio-informatic method called GIREMI that very accurately identifies genome-wide RNA editing sites from RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) data alone – an exciting breakthrough in how gene expression can be diversified beyond the DNA genomic blueprint.

Amy Rowat, assistant professor of integrative biology and physiology, received the award in the category of Excellence in Research. In “Screening cell mechanotype by parallel microfiltration," Rowat and her team describe her innovative Parallel Microfiltration (PMF) high-throughput, screening technology They found that PMF can distinguish different types of cancer cells based on their "mechanotype," or their deformability. Using PMF, they can then screen for compounds that target specific kinds of cells, e.g. drug resistant cancer cells.

Learn more about the recipients in the original announcement published by the UCLA College Life Sciences Division.