Berkeley Alumni

Editor’s Note: Nothing Writes Itself, Yet

“This practically writes itself,” is something writers often say but don’t really believe. No story worth telling comes without toil. That could change, however, with an assist from artificial intelligence. Already, AI programs are being used to help craft poetry, stories, and essays.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

Chancellor’s Letter: COVID and the Arts

Since the pandemic began, Jeremy Geffen, director of Cal Performances, has been sending a weekly email to patrons, a play­list of half a dozen or so performing arts videos, entitled “Now, More Than Ever.” The title resonates. At a time of great crisis, like the one we are experiencing, we need the arts, to bring us moments of beauty, of profound reflection on the human condition, of heightened emotion captured in the symmetries of form.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

First Lady of Physics Gets Stamp of Approval

IN FEBRUARY, THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE released a new Forever Stamp honoring the late Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu, one of the most influential nuclear physicists of her era.

Born in China in 1912, Wu came to America at age 24 and studied nuclear physics at Cal. As a graduate student, she worked at Berkeley’s Radiation Laboratory—now the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab—under Ernest O. Lawrence, for whom the lab was later renamed.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

In the Wake of the Capitol Riot, A Conversation on Right-Wing Ideology

On January 6, 2021, a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block the peaceful transfer of power from former President Donald Trump to his successor, President Joe Biden. The insuing riot led to five deaths, hundreds of arrests, and renewed concern over the impacts of right-wing rhetoric.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

A Bug’s Life: Surviving Disease in the Colonies

It’s a warm, spring day. You’re sitting under a tree snacking on a bag of potato chips, when a breeze tickles your nose. You sneeze, sending a soggy crumb into the grass where it bonks an unsuspecting ant on the head. Unfazed, she nibbles the chip, then heaves it over her shoulder and carries it back to the colony. Little does she know that, during its brief flight from your mouth, this sticky glob picked up a fungal spore that is deadly to ants. Within a day she’ll be sick, within two she’ll be dead.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

Smooth Sailing? A Public Health Expert Is Hopeful About the Vaccine Rollout

California periodically touches base on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic with John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley Public Health Clinical Professor Emeritus and an international authority on infectious diseases and vaccinology. In October, Dr. Swartzberg was hopeful that forthcoming vaccines would be at least 70 percent effective; as it turned out, they far surpassed that figure, with both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines approaching 95 percent efficacy.

You Should Know About Ida Jackson

“Since I’ve gotten old, I have wondered how I did all the things that I did then,” Ida Louise Jackson reflected in 1984 at the age of 82. Jackson participated in some of the major movements of the 20th century: the Great Migration, school desegregation, the battles for equitable education and health, and the Civil Rights Movement. Some of her earliest activism began at Berkeley when she organized the second Black sorority on the campus (shortly after the founding of AKA’s rival Delta Sigma Theta).

From the Fall 2020 issue of California.

Black Cultural History at Cal: Sun Ra, James Baldwin, and More

UC Berkeley has historically been a magnet for African American activists, artists, and thinkers but never more so than during the tumultuous ’60s and ’70s. And with a little googling, many of these historical appearances can still be seen, heard, and savored online. In honor of the upcoming 45th annual Black History Month (February 2021), here’s a selection of Black speakers and cultural events that the Cal campus has played host to over the years.

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

Stiles Hall, Always in Style

For Arlinda Ruiz the road to higher education was not an easy one. A 45-year-old domestic violence survivor, she worried there wouldn’t be a place for her in the world of academia.

“I’m this short Mexican girl, dark, Indigenous, blasted up with tattoos,” Ruiz says. “I was homeless at 13, a teen mom, a high school dropout. … I didn’t really see much of a future for myself.”

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

Swift Justice: The Historic Fight for Gender Equality at Berkeley Law

ELEANOR SWIFT LEFT THE DEAN’S office at Boalt Hall, walked upstairs, and started packing her things. After a promising legal career and eight years as one of Berkeley School of Law’s most beloved professors, she had just been fired—her tenure denied by her overwhelmingly male peers. 

From the Fall 2020 issue of California.

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