Science + Health

The Do’s and Dont’s: Health Experts Answer Your COVID Questions

On Wednesday, March 25, Michael Lu, Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, hosted a virtual Q&A, “Coronavirus: Facts and Fears,” open to the public. For 90 minutes, experts from the school and other campus health services responded to listeners’ day-to-day fears and practical concerns about navigating life during the pandemic.

A Socially Distant Town Hall with Senator Nancy Skinner

On Thursday evening, March 19, California State Senator and UC Berkeley alumna Nancy Skinner held a phone-in town hall for constituents, focused on the shelter in place orders. As she was about to introduce her guest experts from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, she interrupted herself with the news that Governor Gavin Newsom had just announced a statewide shelter-in-place order, raising the stakes of the meeting.

What’s It Like in the ER These Days?

Dr. Steve LeVine has been an emergency physician at Kaiser Oakland since 1989. A UC Berkeley graduate, he completed his medical education at UC San Francisco. As he recalls, he started his career at the dawn of the AIDS crisis and is now nearing the end of his career amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Asked what life is like in Bay Area emergency rooms at this moment, he likened it to “being in the tide pools when the tide has gone way, way out and you’re looking at flopping fish, and not looking at the horizon for the big tsunami wave.”

“Post-Apocalyptic”: A NYT Reporter Describes Life on the Frontlines of Wuhan

In the last few months, Amy Qin’s reporting attire has included gloves, masks, and sometimes a hazmat suit. Stationed in China, the New York Times reporter has been on the frontlines, reporting on the coronavirus epidemic and its impact on the people of Wuhan and other Chinese cities.

Is ‘They’ Here to Stay?

“Letter-for-letter, no part of speech gets people more worked up than pronouns do,” Geoffrey Nunberg wrote last year in an op-ed for NPR. But this “pronoun rage,” which speaks to the growing agitation around gender and identity politics, isn’t all that new, he says. And he would know. 

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

Meet the Critters of Cal’s Campus

Campus is teeming with more than just students; a wide variety of wildlife can also be found in Berkeley’s backyard. From the mountain lions that roam around the Lawrence Hall of Science to the three-spined sticklebacks in Strawberry Creek, here are a few of the critters who call Cal home:

Mountain lion

(Puma concolor)

From the Spring 2020 issue of California.

What’s the Big Deal? Experts Unpack the Coronavirus Outbreak

Listen to the news and you may fear a plague or a zombie outbreak. A cruise ship off Japan’s coast has been quarantined with nearly 3,700 passengers. Its American passengers were just evacuated, including 14 infected with the virus. In Wuhan, China, the very doctor who tried, unsuccessfully, to warn people about the disease, is now dead.

Lab Notes: A New Class Brings CRISPR to the People

The announcement came in June. Berkeley Extension, the continuing education arm of UC Berkeley, was offering its first-ever introductory courseCRISPR Genome Editing: From Biology to Technology—on the revolutionary new tool that allows scientists to make precise edits in the genome. A lab and lecture course on CRISPR for anyone who has the interest (and money) to enroll? What a crazy idea. It seemed a bit like offering a workshop on how to enrich plutonium.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Meet CRISPR: Humanity’s Shiny New Tool

One of biology’s wilder facts is that we’re all family. You and me, sure, but also me and a mushroom. Triceratops shared genes with you. So does the virus that makes you cough, and a rosebush. Bacteria left us on the tree of life around 2.7 billion years ago, but the wet world they came from is still ours: One code runs all of life. The same proteins that imprint memories in your neurons, for example, do so in octopi, ravens, and sea slugs. This genetic conservation means tricks from one species can be hijacked. If you stick a jellyfish gene in a monkey, it’ll glow green.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Kiss Me, I’m 61.5% Irish

THE YEAR HAS BEEN A JUMBLE FOR ME. Long story short: I was Portuguese, then I wasn’t, then I was again.

It all started after my wife and I spat in vials and mailed the samples off to a laboratory, where our DNA was extracted from the skin cells that had sloughed off into our saliva. Many thousands of DNA segments were read and analyzed, and the results returned via email.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Intolerable Genius: Berkeley’s Most Controversial Nobel Laureate

IN THE SUMMER OF 1984 the senior scientists of Cetus Corp., a Berkeley biotech company, found themselves in a bind. One of their employees, a promising young scientist named Kary Mullis, had dreamed up a technique to exponentially replicate tiny scraps of DNA. He called it polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and if it worked it would change the world and likely earn Cetus a mountain of money. The only problem was Mullis was an interpersonal wrecking ball.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Blood Work: The Citizen Sleuth Using Genealogy to ID the Dead

ON APRIL 24, 1981, THE BODY OF A YOUNG WOMAN with auburn braids and a fringed jacket was discovered off the side of a road in Troy, Ohio.

She had been strangled to death only hours before. Authorities took DNA samples but couldn’t find a match for the woman. For decades, she was described only by the clothes on her back: “Buckskin Girl.”

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

There’s an App for That! Earthquake Early Warning Is Here.

On the 30-year anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, Governor Gavin Newsom stood near the Oakland entrance of the Bay Bridge, a portion of which collapsed during the quake, and announced the launch of MyShake, the United States’ first earthquake early warning system.

“The price of admission for living here is preparation,” Newsom said. “Today we are making a big leap forward.”

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