The San Joaquin Valley Has a Salinity Problem

Concerns over the viability of ambitious agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley are not recent: In the 19th century, Berkeley soil scientist E.W. Hilgard—he of Hilgard Hall—described the salt intrusion that occurs when arid and mineralized lands are irrigated. Hilgard first cited the impacts following visits with engineers from India and warned that similar soil salinization was inevitable for the San Joaquin Valley, which was increasingly coming under the plow.

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

First Person: Berkeley Student and Afghan Refugee on Why She Hasn’t Given Up on Afghanistan

In 2008, I was a typical seven-year-old living in the rural outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, and completely oblivious to the reality of war and destruction occurring in my country—until my father was injured in a bomb explosion. It was the first time I had ever felt internal pain. It was the end of my childhood. I started questioning why there was so much chaos in Afghanistan and why this had happened to my family. Visiting my father in the hospital (he was hospitalized for three years), I realized that this was a reality for so many people who had it much worse than my family did.

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

Fishing for Answers with Robert Tjian

The surname is cognate with Chen, Chan, Tsien, etc., but almost everyone calls Bob Tjian “Tij”—like teej. He picked up the nickname in junior high in New Jersey, where his family had arrived from China by way of Brazil. He and his eight siblings, of whom he is youngest, spoke a polyglot mash-up of Chinese, Portuguese, and English. “We’d start a sentence in the first language and end in the third,” he says. “No one could understand us except us.”

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

What to Read, Watch, and Listen to This Winter

So many artists, thinkers, and writers with Berkeley connections have come out with new work this winter. Here are a few of our favorites: 

Facing the Mountain: A True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II

By Daniel James Brown ’74

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

Berkeley Claims Two More Nobels This Year

Another Nobel season has come and gone, and for the second year in a row, Berkeley has won laurels. Economics Professor David Card and Berkeley-trained physiologist David Julius, Ph.D. ’84, won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics and in Physiology or Medicine, respectively.

Card’s win makes him Berkeley’s sixth Nobel-winning economist and its 22nd Nobel laureate (or its 27th, depending on whether you count those who arrived at Berkeley with their prizes in tow). Julius’s award officially accrues to UCSF, which now boasts six laureates.

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

Can We Make Mars Exploration More Affordable?

Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) has received approval from NASA to launch two satellites, aptly named “Blue” and “Gold,” into orbit around Mars. Slated for launch in October 2024, the mission aims to understand how the Red Planet lost its early, Earth-like atmosphere.  

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

New Life Sciences Incubator Opens for Business

With its fanned and cantilevered wings, brutalist bulk, and rich history, the former Berkeley Art Museum on Bancroft has long been a notable campus landmark. Now, after an extensive face-lift and seismic upgrades, the stately edifice (since 2011, called Woo Hon Fai Hall) has a new purpose: It is home to the Bakar BioEnginuity Hub, an initiative to support biotech research and start-ups led by executive director Amy Herr, Berkeley professor of bioengineering. 

From the Fall 2021 issue of California.

UC Berkeley Was Ranked the Top American University. But What Does it Mean?

We’re No. 1!

In September, UC Berkeley was ranked the top American university by Forbes magazine. It was also ranked the No. 1 public school in America, sixth among both public and private schools nationally, and eighth globally, in the Times Higher Education 2022 World University Rankings.

That certainly gives the Cal community plenty to crow about. It also raises a question; the last time Forbes issued its rankings, in 2019, Berkeley came in at 13. Did things change that much in two years?

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

As Water Runs Low, San Joaquin Valley Adapts to a Drier Future

Rey León and I drive down an arrow-straight stretch of two-lane asphalt northeast of Huron, in Fresno County, on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley. On one side of the road is a vast cotton field, the bolls white and fat, ripe for the harvester; on the other is a regiment of solar panels covering multiple acres.

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

How Cal Golf Went From A Ragtag Team to the Top of the Game

When Collin Morikawa calmly sank his birdie putt on the 18th hole of the Royal St. George’s golf course in Kent, England, last July, he breathed the rarified air of someone who had reached the pinnacle of professional golf. At just 24 years of age, the 2019 Cal grad had captured the sport’s oldest tournament, the storied British Open. In the final round, he shot a 66 to hold off Jordan Spieth by two strokes.  

From the Winter 2021 issue of California.

You Are Probably Burned Out at Work

Dr. Christina Maslach is the research psychology pioneer of job burnout. In addition to award-winning articles and books that Maslach has written on the subject, she also constructed the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), the most widely-used tool for measuring job burnout around the world. 

Safe at Home! Remembering Cal’s Season on the Brink

UNDER DARKENED SKIES laden with humidity and sparked by lightning, Cal’s Devon Rodriquez slowly strode to the plate. It was June 6, 2011, the title game of the NCAA Baseball Regionals in Houston, the Golden Bears’ most crucial at-bat in their most dramatic of seasons—one in which the very existence of the team hung in the balance.


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