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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 25 · Number 1 · Fall 2007

News & Notes


(Photo: Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

$100 million infusion for nursing

UC Davis plans to open a new professional nursing school in Sacramento next fall, thanks to a record- setting grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation totaling $100 million.

The funding, to be allocated over 11 years, is the largest philanthropic grant to UC Davis and one of the largest in the history of the University of California. It is also the largest philanthropic gift in the nation in support of nursing education.

Pending successful completion of the approval process, the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing will admit its first master’s and doctor’s students in fall 2008, with undergraduates following in 2010 or 2011. Once all students are enrolled, the school is expected to serve 456 students.

“This is just incredible, such an exciting time for UC Davis, a historic moment. . . . Nursing is a perfect fit for UC Davis and our public service traditions. We are going to be so proud to be able to add nursing to what we do,” said Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, speaking in late July before a surprised crowd of 200 people — including many UC Davis nurses and medical students — gathered outside the new medical education building in Sacramento.

Moore Foundation President Ed Penhoet said the grant was an investment in future nurse leaders. “UC Davis and the foundation share a vision to face our nation’s health care problems by integrating the best of health care and scientific practices with multiple disciplines in higher education for nurses,” Penhoet said.

The school’s namesake and her husband established the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2000. With an endowment of $5.7 billion, the foundation is the nation’s 10th largest.

Betty Irene Moore is an advocate for patient safety, quality nursing care and education and is the impetus behind the San Francisco-based foundation’s Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative. Gordon Moore is the co-founder, past CEO and chairman emeritus of Intel Corp. A chemist and physicist, Gordon Moore is most widely known for “Moore’s Law,” the guiding principle for predicting the delivery of more powerful computer chips.

The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is intended to leverage the campus’s existing professional schools of medicine, veterinary medicine, law, business and education. UC Davis is also pursuing the creation of a professional School of Public Health, which is currently progressing through the approval process.

Plans for the nursing school include rigorous admission standards, a curriculum that will be integrated with both UC Davis’ School of Medicine and Graduate School of Management, and residency training for bachelor’s degree candidates. All degree programs will also incorporate UC Davis’ expertise in biology, public health, telemedicine and health technology.

In addition to the funding from the foundation, a mix of public funding and additional philanthropic support from other donors will be required to realize the long-term vision for the school.

The nursing school will share existing facilities in Sacramento and Davis with the UC Davis Medical Center and UC Davis School of Medicine. The school will be the fourth professional nursing program in the UC system, joining nursing schools at UCLA and UC San Francisco, and a nursing program at UC Irvine.

“There is a need for at least one more, highly focused, research-intensive school of nursing in California,” said Wyatt Hume, UC system provost and executive vice president for health affairs. He cited a recent UC study on state education needs in the health care professions that identified “first and foremost” the need to train more nursing faculty in the state. Legislators and other opinion leaders are also calling for an expansion in the number of nurse educators in California, where thousands of qualified applicants are denied entry into nursing education programs due to a lack of faculty to teach them.

“UC Davis is the perfect place for that confluence of forces to meet . . . this extraordinary need for the people of California,” Hume said.

— Lisa Lapin

Namesakes: Gunrock

Valley Hall friezes

Gunrock 1914-32

Gunrock, the Aggie mascot, is a huggable, furry blue mustang, but the original Gunrock was a Thoroughbred of blueblood heritage — by virtue of both his racehorse pedigree and the wealthy sporting elite who owned him before he came to UC Davis.

Gunrock was born and bred for the track, but the golden chestnut stallion with white face and legs would make his mark on the horse world — with the help of UC Davis breeding expertise — as a military stud.

Born in Britain in 1914, Gunrock was the offspring of English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand and race mare Gunfire, which gave him bloodlines similar to the legendary racehorse Man O’ War.

Gunrock was bred by U.S. telegraph company mogul Clarence Mackay and would be owned by a series of other millionaire race enthusiasts, including Standard Oil heir Herbert Pratt, who raced him in 1917, and financier August Belmont Jr., who bred Man O’ War and built the Belmont Park racetrack. It was Belmont — such an avid patriot that he volunteered at age 65 to help the Army in World War I — who donated Gunrock and many other horses to the Cavalry Remount Service, according to a 1923 Los Angeles Times article. The Cavalry placed hundreds of breeding horses and mules on select private farms and land-grant colleges nationwide with the aim of improving horse stocks.

During his 1921–31 stay at UC Davis, Gunrock was bred with 476 mares, some of them from the university herd and the rest from Northern California farms.

The Cavalry bought many of the Remount Service foals for military use, but many others led civilian lives, whether as race, show, rodeo, ranch or pleasure horses.

Patricia Erigero ’71, owner of the Thoroughbred Heritage site, as a teenager owned a champion show horse, Bay Sands, that descended from Gunrock — “the product of many generations of breeding at UC Davis.”

Phil Livingston, co-author of War Horse: Mounting the Cavalry with America’s Finest Horses, said the Cavalry Remount Service, which existed until 1948, made a lasting impact on the horse industry, improving breed lines with the help of UC Davis and other breeders, and advancing husbandry and veterinary care.

Sixty percent of registered horses now descend from Remount Service sires, he said. “Without it, we wouldn’t have the horses we have today.”

— Kathleen Holder

Plight of the Honeybees

With honeybee hives suffering mysterious die-offs, UC Davis is revitalizing its bee research program, the oldest of its kind in the nation.

Susan Cobey, an accomplished bee breeder and geneticist shown in photo, right, joined the 65-year-old program as manager of the Harry Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility and began offering specialized classes this spring to help bee breeders improve the hardiness of their stock.

In addition, a new faculty member specializing in pollination research was expected to join the entomology department this fall. The campus plans to renovate the Laidlaw facility and is building a $1 million endowment fund, with contributions from the beekeeping industry and the estate of Harry and Ruth Laidlaw, to support graduate students and research in honeybee genetics and pollination biology.

“The honeybee industry plays a key role in the success of California agriculture, and it is imperative that
UC Davis provide the research necessary to help solve some of the pressing problems related to bee health, breeding and pollination,” said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Almonds, cherries, sunflowers, alfalfa and a host of other crops depend on honey bees to transport pollen from blossom to blossom. Each year, professional beekeepers truck hundreds of thousands of white-boxed colonies of honey bees into California so the bees can play their brief but critical role in the state’s agricultural industry.

Late last fall, beekeepers in the eastern United States began to report the disappearance of bees. The situation worsened during the winter months and spread to 27 states, including California.

For decades, beekeepers were accustomed to losing 5–10 percent of their bees during the winter. When the tiny, but devastating, Varrroa mite appeared on the scene in the 1980s, winter losses climbed to 15–25 percent. This year, however, some beekeepers saw winter die-offs as high as 30 percent to 60 percent.

UC Davis was once a powerhouse in bee biology research, but the program was decimated during the 1990s by retirements and budget cuts.

Cobey, most recently at Ohio State University, worked during the late 1970s and early 1980s in UC Davis’ bee biology lab, where the late Professor Harry Laidlaw inspired her career choice.

A leading expert in instrumental insemination of bees and practical bee breeding, Cobey will be restoring the facility’s colonies, which dwindled from 250 to just 30.

She will collaborate with Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, who has anchored the bee biology program’s research and industry education efforts during the lean years.

— Pat Bailey

Valley Hall friezes

(Photo: Cary Wolinsky)

Walk this way

Humans evolved to walk on two legs because it required less energy than getting around on all fours, suggests new evidence from a team of anthropologists.

“When our earliest ancestors started walking on two legs, they took the first steps toward becoming human,” said lead researcher Michael Sockol, a UC Davis doctoral candidate. “Our findings help answer why.”

Sockol and colleagues studied chimpanzees trained to walk on two legs and to “knucklewalk” on all fours on a treadmill. The five chimps also wore face masks so their oxygen consumption could be measured.

While the chimps worked out, the scientists collected metabolic, kinematic and kinetic data that allowed them to calculate which method of locomotion used less energy and why. The team gathered the same information for four adult humans walking on a treadmill.

The researchers found that human walking used about 75 percent less energy and burned 75 percent fewer calories than quadrupedal and bipedal walking in chimpanzees. They also found that for some, but not all of the chimps, walking on two legs was no more costly than knucklewalking.

— Claudia Morain

Fingered by a bug

When two FBI agents and a Bakersfield detective hauled a radiator and air filter—both splattered with insects—into the Bohart Museum of Entomology, they were not there to contribute to the museum’s 7 million insect collection.

They wanted museum director Lynn Kimsey, a professor of entomology, to identify the insects and their geographical home for an upcoming mass murder trial.

“I saw it as a puzzle to be solved,” Kimsey said of the car parts embedded with several hundred insects. “I’ve never heard of anyone doing this.”

Kern County prosecutors were alleging that Vincent Brothers, a former Bakersfield elementary school vice principal, caught a flight from California to Ohio, rented a car and drove back to Bakersfield, where he killed his estranged wife, three children and mother-in-law. The defense argued that the car had never left Ohio.

Kimsey, one of 137 witnesses called to testify in the internationally publicized case, told the court that several insect species picked from the car parts are found only in the West and one was abundant in California. They included a large grasshopper, a paper wasp and two “true bugs.” (A true bug is a wingless or four-winged insect in the order Hemiptera.)

She and senior museum scientist Steve Heydon had spent seven to eight hours picking off the insects from the car parts. They found no butterflies, indicating that the car had been driven at night.

“The insects we found were consistent with two major routes to get to California from the East,” said Kimsey, adding that court testimony revealed 4,500 unaccounted-for miles on the rental car.

The Kern County Superior Court trial in Bakersfield ended in May with the jury convicting Brothers of five counts of first-degree murder in the July 2003 shooting and stabbing deaths. The jury recommended the death sentence, though, as the magazine went to press, he had not yet been formally sentenced.

In a recent telephone interview, Lisa Green, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, described Kimsey as an excellent witness. “From the prosecution’s point of view, half of the battle is being able to have witnesses knowledgeable in their field and the ability to explain that knowledge,” Green said.

Following Kimsey’s testimony, the defense called four entomologists to counter her evidence: three from Purdue University and one from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The defense tried to make a case that insects are easily distributed,” Kimsey said.

But Green, the prosecutor, said it was evident that the defense witnesses did not have “near the expertise or credentials” of Kimsey, who has identified insects for more than 30 years and directs one of the country’s largest insect museums. “Her help was invaluable,” Green said.

— Kathy Keatley Garvey

Voting machine vulnerabilities

A UC Davis computer security expert headed a state-commissioned team that hacked into touch-screen voting machines, leading California Secretary of State Debra Bowen in August to restrict their use in elections until the flaws are fixed.

The voting systems, made by three companies, were used in 43 of the 58 counties in California by 9 million of the state’s 15.7 million registered voters.

The researchers, led by UC Davis computer science professor Matt Bishop, were able to compromise the physical and software security of all three systems tested.

“The problem with the systems should have been detected early in their development,” Bishop said. “There are ways to develop and implement systems that resist compromise much better than the systems we examined. Many of these safeguards are taught in undergraduate and graduate computer security courses, but it was clear they were not used effectively in the electronic voting systems we evaluated.”

The test, begun in May and completed in July, was part of a “top-to-bottom” review commissioned by Bowen to ensure that California elections are secure, accurate, reliable and accessible.

The resulting ban on electronic voting machines drew objections from their manufacturers and county election officials, who pointed out that Bishop’s team was given operating manuals, software and source codes usually kept secret.

But Bishop said keeping such information secret provides a false sense of security. “We really only had five weeks to try to penetrate the machines’ defenses, but people intent on breaking through the security would spend as much time as necessary to find holes to exploit.”