The spirit of inquiry at UC Santa Cruz

Welcome to the 6th edition of inquiry\@UC Santa Cruz, our annual showcase of the exceptional research being performed at UC Santa Cruz across its five academic divisions.

As in previous years, the stories in these pages were crafted by alumni of the world-renowned UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Master's Program (see INQUIRINGminds). Their writing this year invites you to: view an artist’s work that asks us to contemplate history from a modern perspective; mind your manners when interacting with robots; plunge into the politics of multi-city coalitions and their fight against climate change; open your mind to how the expansion of gender identities is changing the world; embrace the uncertainty of a mathematical quest; dive into aquaculture and a mission to provide a more sustainable approach for satisfying the world’s growing appetite for farm-raised fish; track mercury's hazardous journey through our habitats, including the college cafeteria; travel the Nile via a historical exploration of how its changing course has impacted human health; and, in our cover story, admire a ubiquitous bacterium whose wily ways are unexpectedly providing valuable insights into the complexities of cell biology and solutions to age-old scourges. In addition, in PEN&INQ you’ll find selected books authored by our faculty; likewise, you’ll find recent inventions highlighted in inquiries&INNOVATIONS.

Importantly, this year we celebrate our new chancellor—professor of chemistry Cynthia Larive, a highly accomplished researcher and educator—as well as our new membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), a prestigious and influential group composed of America’s 65 leading research universities (see BRIEF inquiries). The outstanding breadth, depth, and creativity of the UC Santa Cruz research enterprise provides a wealth of intellectual adventures to share with you. We hope you enjoy this sampling!

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

University of California Santa Cruz

  • Chancellor: Cynthia K. Larive
  • Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor: Lori Kletzer (interim)
  • Vice Chancellor, Research: Scott Brandt
  • Vice Chancellor, University Relations: Mark Davis

inquiry@UC Santa Cruz, 2020-21

  • Editor: David Egerter (SciCom ‘88)
  • Creative Director: Lisa Nielsen
  • Art Director: Linda Knudson (Cowell ‘76)

Associate Editors

  • Heather Shearer, principal
  • Jeanne Lance


  • Bethany Augliere (SciCom ‘16)
  • Erika K. Carlson (SciCom ‘19)
  • Ula Chrobak (SciCom ‘17)
  • Thomas Garlinghouse (SciCom ‘19)
  • Emma Hiolski (SciCom ‘17)
  • Dana Mackenzie (SciCom ‘97)
  • Jyoti Madhusoodanan (SciCom ‘14)
  • Robert Pollie (SciCom ‘82)
  • Ramin Skibba (SciCom ‘16)
  • Cameron Walker (SciCom ‘02)
  • K. M. Watson (SciCom ‘84)
  • Lindzi Wessel (SciCom ‘16)
  • Sarah C. P. Williams (SciCom ‘07)
  • Marcus Woo (SciCom ‘07)
  • Aylin Woodward (SciCom ‘17)
  • Mike Wooldridge (SciCom ‘92)

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