Sixteen UCLA faculty whose research contributes to UCLA Grand Challenges recognized as some of the most influential researchersNovember 19, 2019
UCLA had 47 faculty members included on the Global Highly Cited Researchers 2019 (“Highly Cited List”) list that is published annually. And of the world’s most influential researchers, several are faculty members whose research contributes to the Depression Grand Challenge and the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge. The Highly Cited List is comprised of scientists ranking in the top 1% by citations in their respective fields, demonstrating significant research influence among their peers.
Sustainable LA Grand Challenge
Thirteen of the 47 UCLA faculty who made the 2019 Highly Cited List are doing critical sustainability research that contributes to achieving UCLA’s ambitious Sustainable LA Grand Challenge (SLA GC) goals. Their breakthroughs in clean energy, transportation, public health, water, and ecosystem health are helping to create a more resilient and sustainable future for the megacity of Los Angeles and beyond.
Jun Chen, professor of bioengineering in the Samueli School of Engineering, researches nanotechnology and bioelectronics in the form of wearables and smart textiles that have applications for energy, sensing, and healthcare. His research contributes to a sustainable energy future via three fundamental approaches: harvesting renewable energy from the ambient environment; improving energy efficiency; and developing alternatives to conventional fossil fuels.
Xiangfeng Duan, a Howard Reiss Career Development Chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Physical Sciences, conducts research that explores nanoscale materials, devices and their applications in future electronics, energy technologies and biomedical science. His research on the design and synthesis of nanostructures contributes to the advancement of fuel cell efficiency and energy storage – technologies that are critical to renewable energy expansion.
Bruce Dunn, professor of materials science and engineering in the Samueli School of Engineering, is an SLA GC research grant program awardee and a member of the SLA GC Steering Committee. His research focuses on creating technological advances in solar power. In his SLA GC project, Dunn and Yang Yang – a materials science and engineering professor who is also on the highly-cited list – integrated batteries and photovoltaics to develop a thin-film device that converts sunlight into energy and stores that energy in batteries for later use. This technological breakthrough could lead to the integration of the device into architectural elements such as window coverings, awnings and building panels that can make energy harvesting and storage part of daily life.
Yu Huang, professor of materials science and engineering in the Samueli School of Engineering, is conducting research on nanotechnology that has applications in renewable energy storage and efficiency. For example, Huang and Xiangfeng Duan led a research team who developed a new process for assembling semiconductor devices that could lead to more energy-efficient transistors for electronic diodes for solar cells and light-emitting diodes, and other semiconductor-based devices. She has also led research that developed nanostructures made from a compound of three metals that increases the efficiency and durability of fuel cells while lowering the cost to produce them.
Michael Jerrett, a professor and chair of environmental health sciences in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, is an SLA GC research grant program awardee. One of his SLA GC research projects focuses on active low-carbon methods of transportation like bike-share programs and e-scooters in Westwood, Los Angeles. He is also working with fellow Fielding environmental health sciences professor Yifang Zhu on an SLA GC-funded project to study the public health benefits of Los Angeles County’s transition to 100% clean energy.
Richard Kaner, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Physical Sciences, is an SLA GC research grant program awardee. Kaner’s SLA GC research project focuses on improving the energy efficiency of wastewater treatment, an essential source of local water for Los Angeles County. The energy efficiency of wastewater treatment has traditionally been limited by membrane biofouling – a process by which the membrane filtration system in wastewater treatment facilities becomes clogged with microorganisms, restricting the passage of water through the filter. Kaner is focusing on developing a membrane coating system that can resist membrane fouling, thus improving the energy efficiency of wastewater treatment.
Nathan Kraft, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in Life Sciences, is conducting research that focuses on examining ecological factors that determine the biodiversity of plant communities – a critical factor in improving the health of Los Angeles’ ecosystems.
Dennis Lettenmaier, distinguished professor of geography in Social Sciences, is an SLA GC researcher grant program awardee. His interests include hydrologic modeling and prediction, hydrology-climate interactions and hydrologic change. Lettenmaier’s SLA GC research project focuses on analyzing the impact of urban vegetation on water use in the Los Angeles Basin.
Zhaoyang Lin is a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and biochemistry in Physical Sciences. He is a member of Xiangfeng Duan’s research group, which studies nanoscale materials, devices and their applications in future electronics, energy technologies and biomedical science. Among many other studies, Lin contributed to research led by Yu Huang (a professor of materials science and engineering who is also on the highly-cited list) that developed nanostructures that increase the efficiency and durability of fuel cells while lowering the cost to produce them.
Andre Nel is a distinguished professor of medicine and founder and chief of the Division of Nanomedicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine. He is also director of the University of California’s Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology. Nel researches the role of air pollutants in asthma, particularly how ultrafine particles emitted by vehicles and other combustion sources contribute to airway inflammation and asthma.
Lawren Sack, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in Life Sciences, is an SLA GC Research grant program awardee. Sack’s cross-disciplinary SLA GC research project aims to develop technologies that can reduce the water use associated with irrigation while anticipating tree-mortality from natural drought. The project aims to develop a device that can rapidly analyze leaf water content to determine the amount of water that a tree needs for survival and growth. By integrating this information with the irrigation system, Sack hopes to keep trees healthy while reducing irrigation water use.
Kang Wang, distinguished professor and Raytheon Chair in electrical engineering in the Samueli School of Engineering, has made pioneering contributions in the field of spintronics, which uses the spin and orbital properties of electrons, rather than their charge, to carry information and energy.
Yang Yang, a materials science and engineering professor from the Samueli School of Engineering and a Carol and Lawrence E. Tannas Jr. Endowed Chair in Engineering, is an SLA GC researcher grant program awardee. Yang’s SLA GC research project with Bruce Dunn focuses on harnessing the potential of solar energy through the development of single device that can convert sunlight into energy and then store it for later use. By creating a thin-film device that can both create and store energy, Yang seeks to create a technology that is versatile enough to be used in window coverings, awnings, panels in homes and commercial and public buildings. Dunn and Yang collaborated with UCLA School of Arts and Architecture adjunct professor and renowned architect Kevin Daly on the real-world application of this groundbreaking project.
Depression Grand Challenge
Three researchers recognized on the 2019 Highly Cited List are engaging within the Depression Grand Challenge (DGC), read whose research is informing efforts to cut the global burden of depression in half by 2050.
Michelle Craske, professor of psychology, psychiatry and biobehavioral studies at UCLA, is a member of the Executive Committee of the UCLA Depression Grand Challenge. Professor Craske conducts research in the fields of fear, anxiety and depression, and has recently focused her efforts on treatments for anxiety disorders and depression, particularly using virtual reality to treat anhedonia–an often overlooked symptom of depression that reflects a lack of ability to feel pleasure and joy. Professor Craske is the thought leader behind the creation of the Screening and Treatment for Anxiety and Depression (STAND) system of care.
Daniel Geschwind is a professor of neurology and psychiatry at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the Institute for Precision Health at UCLA. The institute provides leadership and strategic vision, facilitating the development of platforms for big data integration, clinical diagnostics, and patient bio-banking. This platform is an essential component for the DGC and other precision medicine efforts on campus.
Michael Sofroniew, professor of neurobiology at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, is engaged with the Discovery Neuroscience component of the DGC. Dr. Sofroniew helps lead one of the demonstration projects, focused on understanding astrocytes, understudied brain support cells that make up about 40 percent of our brain, and their role in the brain circuits of individuals with depression.
Read more at Newsroom.
See the 2018 Highly Cited Researchers list
See the 2017 Highly Cited Researchers list