Innovation

Back in the Game: Cal Program Helps Former Student-Athletes Graduate

When Keala Keanaaina came to Cal on a football scholarship in 1998, a career in the NFL was not on his radar.

“I wasn’t one of those football guys that dreamed of going to the pros,” says Keanaaina. “I chose Berkeley because of its academic reputation. My goal was to graduate and get my degree.”  Read more about Back in the Game: Cal Program Helps Former Student-Athletes Graduate »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Welcome to the Decentralized Energy Revolution: Cleanly Electrifying the World

While the boons of electricity are obvious to anyone who has watched a 49ers game on a 70-inch ultra HDTV or whipped up a frozen margarita in a blender, it also has its downsides—most of them environmental. Coal and natural gas power plants belch planet-warming CO2 into the atmosphere, while nuclear plants produce highly lethal radwaste. Read more about Welcome to the Decentralized Energy Revolution: Cleanly Electrifying the World »

Reverse Cycle: Inspired by Leaves, a New Invention Turns Sunlight and Water into Fuel

For the past ten years, Peidong Yang has been trying to make like a tree. Yang, a professor in UC Berkeley’s Department of Chemistry, researches artificial photosynthesis, a process that mimics a leaf’s ability to convert sun, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel. But in his case, the fuel isn’t glucose—it’s gasoline. Read more about Reverse Cycle: Inspired by Leaves, a New Invention Turns Sunlight and Water into Fuel »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Many Enroll, Few Finish, Moocs March On: How Online Courses Are Changing Higher Ed

When Damilare Oladapo looks back at his undergraduate years at UC Berkeley, he says that when it comes to his education, he only made one mistake. “I really wanted to focus on graduating,” says the Nigerian-born English major. “I saw school as a short-distance race instead of a marathon.” Read more about Many Enroll, Few Finish, Moocs March On: How Online Courses Are Changing Higher Ed »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

The Ballad of John and Helen: Berkeley-Based Meyer Sound Are Global Audio Pioneers

Drop out. It’s such a leaden term. Yes, yes, Helen Brodsky dropped out of UC Berkeley in 1968, dashing the hopes and dreams of her Cal alumni-laden family. Before even declaring a major (she was leaning toward Russian Lit), she and her new boyfriend, John Meyer, an autodidact with a gift for tinkering and engineering, decided that unsettled times called for adventurous spirits, and lit out for the East, ending up in India. Read more about The Ballad of John and Helen: Berkeley-Based Meyer Sound Are Global Audio Pioneers »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Natural by Design: Next-Gen Robots Run, Flap, Crawl—and Talk to Each Other

Imagine a city in the near future devastated by a powerful earthquake. Rescue workers arrive and unleash hundreds of tiny robots. Some of these robots flap into the air with “wings,” sending images of the disaster area to the ground team—a swarm of insect-like devices the size of a matchbox that scuttle over the concrete and disappear into crevices. One robot’s sensors detect a person trapped under the rubble, so it signals to a larger, stronger robot for assistance before moving on to the next building. Read more about Natural by Design: Next-Gen Robots Run, Flap, Crawl—and Talk to Each Other »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Silicon Valley’s Merry Prankster Put His Degree on Hold and Reshaped the World

The recipients of the Cal Alumni Association’s Alum of the Year Award are an impressive group, to say the least. The list includes decorated military officers, Supreme Court justices, Nobel laureates, leading industrialists, and renowned authors. None, as far as we know, ever dropped out of the University. Read more about Silicon Valley’s Merry Prankster Put His Degree on Hold and Reshaped the World »

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

An Orgasm App? UC Berkeley-Nurtured Tech Team Launches its “Smart” Vibrator

Wave energy. A portable spirometer for kids with asthma. Tools to lower the carbon footprint. A robot-building kit. 

These are just a few examples of what UC Berkeley startups are developing at the Foundry, Cal’s technology incubator. But Liz Klinger and James Wang are working on something else entirely: a smart vibrator.  Read more about An Orgasm App? UC Berkeley-Nurtured Tech Team Launches its "Smart" Vibrator »

Print This: UC Berkeley Uses 3D Printers to Construct a First-Ever Cement Pavilion

Perhaps you remember the day when printers, requiring only lowly paper and toner, simply produced documents. Now we’re well on our way into the Jetsonian age: today 3D printers, supplied with a sophisticated cement, can produce a house.

That, in fact, is precisely what’s happening at UC Berkeley today as a team headed by associate professor of architecture Ronald Rael unveils his architectural creation “Bloom”—billed as the first and largest powder-based 3D-printed cement structure to date. Read more about Print This: UC Berkeley Uses 3D Printers to Construct a First-Ever Cement Pavilion »

Not So Fast: At UC Berkeley, Biofuel Research Takes Hit as BP Oil Company Backs Away

Eight years ago, UC Berkeley struck a historic but controversial deal with the British oil company BP: Berkeley would benefit from the oil giant spending $350 million to create a new Energy Biosciences Institute on its campus, and BP would reap the benefits of that institute’s research into biofuels.

Now, with almost $100 million still unspent, the road to cleaner biofuels has just hit a big speed bump. Read more about Not So Fast: At UC Berkeley, Biofuel Research Takes Hit as BP Oil Company Backs Away »

Grid Guru: This Atypical Biophysicist’s Startup Helps Us Control Where Energy Comes From

Yes, it’s true that there aren’t many women in the sciences. And the reason for the gender gap is predictable: Male scientists seem to like it that way. That, at least, was the conclusion of a 2013 Yale study that found physicists, biologists and chemists are inclined to view a young male scientist more positively than a young woman with the same qualifications. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to conclude that it may be a little harder to achieve tenure or obtain research funding in such circumstances. Read more about Grid Guru: This Atypical Biophysicist's Startup Helps Us Control Where Energy Comes From »

SkyDeck Success: Berkeley Project Helps Six Soar onto Forbes “30 Under 30” Lists

Whatever wariness has accompanied the collaboration between public universities and private sector profit-seeking, that horse appears well out of the barn, foaming at the mouth and galloping madly for the horizon. At UC Berkeley, academic/corporate “incubators” and “accelerators” are all the rage. Supporters focus on the upside: Creative researchers are able to launch start-ups that produce spookily cool products and generate gigabucks in the process—and may even embody the maxim to do well by doing good. Read more about SkyDeck Success: Berkeley Project Helps Six Soar onto Forbes "30 Under 30" Lists »

Are Your Holiday Purchases Naughty or Nice? Cal Prof’s App Aims to Help Millions Be Good

If you are looking to make ethical gift-giving decisions this holiday season, UC Berkeley environmental sciences professor Dara O’Rourke can help.  O’Rourke is the co-founder of GoodGuide, a free app and website where close to 30 million consumers have gone for product ratings based on the items’ impacts on health, the environment and society. Read more about Are Your Holiday Purchases Naughty or Nice? Cal Prof's App Aims to Help Millions Be Good »

What’s for Dinner? For These Urban Foragers in Berkeley, The Answer is Weeds

When Thomas Carlson and Philip Stark find a foot-tall dandelion growing out of the sidewalk on Hearst Street, it’s all they can do to contain their excitement.

“Oh wow! Now that is robust!” Carlson exclaims. They won’t eat this one; it’s too close to cars and exhaust. But wow, just look at that beauty! Read more about What's for Dinner? For These Urban Foragers in Berkeley, The Answer is Weeds »

From the Winter 2014 Gender Assumptions issue of California.

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