The spirit of inquiry@UC Santa Cruz

Welcome to the third edition of inquiry@UC Santa Cruz! This annual research magazine is jointly sponsored by the Office of Research and University Relations, and provides updates on some of the exciting and innovative work being conducted by UC Santa Cruz researchers. It also highlights our campus’s training in public outreach: the magazine showcases features written by graduates of UC Santa Cruz’s internationally renowned Science Communication Program.

In this issue, the creativity that is part of the ethos of the UC Santa Cruz campus, from engineering to the arts, is illustrated through topics that include the deployment of novel materials made from crustacea and cephalopods (shrimps and squids) as guides for applications that range from biosensors to environmentally friendly surfboards; UC Santa Cruz’s spearheading research on the Victorian author and social critic Charles Dickens, via its ongoing Dickens Project; and the urban planning implications of self-driving cars, which are programmed to defer to pedestrians. Our researchers also continue to be honored for the impact of their work: honors this year include the three-million-dollar Breakthrough Prize, endowed by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, awarded to Harry Noller for his half-century of pioneering work on how ribosomes and RNA make cells work—and how they may have even been the keys to the first life-forms on Earth.

We hope that you enjoy the descriptions of the research enterprise at UC Santa Cruz that are highlighted in this 2017–18 edition of inquiry.

As can be seen in the features, our researchers, staff, and students all contribute to making UC Santa Cruz research a bold, creative, and vibrant enterprise that pushes the frontiers of human knowledge in new and unexpected directions.

Scott A. Brandt
Vice Chancellor for Research
and Professor of Computer Science

University of California Santa Cruz

  • Chancellor: George Blumenthal
  • Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor: Marlene Tromp
  • Vice Chancellor, Research: Scott Brandt
  • Vice Chancellor, University Relations: Keith Brant

inquiry@UC Santa Cruz, 2016–17

  • Editor: Elizabeth Devitt
  • Creative Director: Lisa Nielsen
  • Art Director/Designer: Linda Knudson (Cowell ‘76)

Associate Editors

  • Quentin Williams, principal
  • Jeanne Lance
  • Tedd Siegel
  • Lynne Stoops


  • Carolyn Lagattuta


  • Elizabeth Devitt (SciCom ‘13)
  • Melissae Fellet (SciCom ‘11)
  • Greta Lorge (SciCom ‘03)
  • Robin Meadows (SciCom ‘87)
  • Robin Poppick (SciCom ‘13)
  • Kim Smuga-Otto (SciCom ‘15)
  • Cameron Walker (SciCom ‘02)
  • Amy West (SciCom ‘12)
  • Sarah C. P. William (SciCom ‘07)

Produced by UC Santa Cruz Communications & Marketing
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064-1077