UC Santa Cruz challenges the status quo … and the world changes

In anthropology:Professor Anna Tsing has won a $5 million grant to establish a transdisciplinary program encompassing the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts in an exploration of the 'Anthropocene,' the geologic epoch defined by human disturbance of the earth’s ecosystems.

In the arts:John Jota Leaños is an interdisciplinary artist in UCSC’s social documentation program who works in animation, installation, and performance. He addresses social issues by merging traditional expressions with contemporary media and technology. Through humor and popular music, Leaños confronts topics such as how war, border violence, and globalization intersect with class, gender, and race.

In astrophysics:The astronomers and astrophysicists based at UCSC are global leaders in space exploration and instrumentation—including development of the dramatic new Thirty-Meter Telescope, now being built.  The UCSC Center for Adaptive Optics developed technology to dramatically sharpen images in ground-based telescopes.

In chaos theory:Graduate students Doyne Farmer (Ph.D., physics, '81) and Norman Packard (Ph.D., physics, '82) put all assumptions aside to develop chaos theory and apply it to global financial markets … and on beating the game of roulette in Las Vegas.

In data science:Computing and data analysis is the new foundational science for advances in everything from health care to exploring the galaxy  ….

In feminist studies:Professor Bettina Aptheker questioned provisions in the Patriot Act early on in 2002 before most people even knew what it was. A scholar of history with a national reputation for her talents as an instructor, Aptheker has been teaching one of the country’s largest and most influential introductory feminist studies courses for the past three decades at UCSC.

In food systems:For more than 40 years, the UCSC Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems has changed the way people think about what they eat, and about sustainability and social justice in agriculture.

In foreign policy:History professor Dana Frank has consistently questioned the foreign policy of the Obama administration toward Honduras in an effort to stop the U.S. from supporting, funding and perpetuating human rights abuses.

In genomics:Professor David Haussler’s team rushed to post the just-assembled human genome sequence on the Internet, ensuring the blueprint for life would be in the public domain and freely available to researchers all over the world. This global leadership continues with plans for the UCSC Genomics Institute and its quest to defeat cancer and other devastating diseases.

In genomics and ethics: The Science and Justice Training Program, founded by sociology professor Jenny Reardon, trains graduate students to explore the effects and impacts of their research on society.

In law and psychology:With degrees in both law and psychology, Professor Craig Haney was the first researcher to establish the biasing effects of a process known as "death qualification"--the practice of asking prospective jurors to express support for the death penalty before allowing them to participate in capital cases. His research has also exposed the debilitating effects of solitary confinement.

In marine sciences:Determined to reverse the toll being taken on the fragile marine ecosystem, UC Santa Cruz scientists were pivotal in envisioning and implementing the landmark California Marine Life Protection Act and now monitors 29 reserves.

In molecular biology:Professor Harry Noller and his lab turned on its head the world’s understanding of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in protein synthesis and its partnership with DNA in forming the molecular materials of life.

In new media:Computer games are a major new media form, a rapidly growing international industry, and a driver of technological and cultural innovation. At UCSC, researchers and students have been developing the future of games since 2006, when the Baskin School of Engineering started the first undergraduate game major in the UC system.

In psychology and language:Intrigued by the little, um, placeholders we use in everyday speech, professor Jean Fox Tree found they are not acoustic accidents, but full-fledged words that signal a delay yet to come. Then she delved into the ubiquitous 'like,' a 'messy proposition,' she says.

And our alumni carry on questioning…