Shakespeare Santa Cruz: At 30, still a cultural touchstone
It may be hard to believe, but Shakespeare Santa Cruz has been thrilling audiences for three decades now. The theater company opened its latest season this past summer at the Mainstage Theater with one of the most successful productions in SSC's history, The Comedy of Errors, directed by award-winning UC Santa Cruz theater arts professor, and former SSC artistic director, Danny Scheie.
"Danny's original production remains to this day a favorite of SSC audience members, and is a great celebration of our history," observed Artistic Director Marco Barricelli, who just completed his fourth summer festival at SSC.
Founded in 1981, Shakespeare Santa Cruz is a professional repertory companyin residence at UCSC. It has been celebrated by USA Today as "one of the nation's top ten most influential" Shakespeare companies.
Thinking big and going green
UCSC's undergraduates have reason to be proud of their sustainability efforts this year. This summer, a "green" delegation including undergrads Gabi Kirk and Cameron Fields (pictured) went to Taiwan to lead a green workshop. Students also launched a Carbon Fund to pay for eco-friendly projects on and off campus and convened a far-ranging Campus Earth Summit.
The all-student organized summit, this year the 10th annual, brought together students, faculty, staff, and community members to share ideas and strategize on how to transform UCSC into a sustainable campus.
Visiting the Earth Summit on Earth Day this year was a contingent from the University of Hawaii's West Oahu campus, who were looking for sustainable ideas as they build out their campus.
Turning inward with adaptive optics
For the last 30 years, astronomers have used adaptive optics to get a clearer look at outer space. Now, UC Santa Cruz biologists are harnessing the same technology to get a better look at living cells and tissues, giving them a fuller picture of human biology and diseases.
Funded by a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, the new W. M. Keck Center for Adaptive Optical Microscopy at UC Santa Cruz builds on efforts begun in 2006 by a group of biologists, astronomers, and optical engineers.
Principal investigator Joel Kubby, an associate professor of electrical engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering at UCSC, has worked on adaptive optics systems for large telescopes as well as for biological imaging. In astronomy, AO systems correct the blurring of telescope images caused by turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. In microscopy, blurring is caused by the flowing cytoplasm of living cells.
Tracking the ocean's top predators
A 10-year study involving UC Santa Cruz ecology and evolutionary biology professor Daniel Costa provides a remarkable picture of top marine predators' movements, migration patterns, and critical habits across the Pacific Ocean.
Two big regions of the North Pacific Ocean are magnets for marine life, attracting a diverse array of predators in predictable seasonal patterns, according to results from the Tagging of Pacific Predators project published in Nature in June.
The California Current, which flows southward along the U.S. West Coast, and the North Pacific Transition Zone, a boundary between cold subarctic water and warmer subtropical water, are both hot spots for large marine predators, the study found. "These are the areas where food is most abundant, and it's all driven by high primary productivity at the base of the food chain—these areas are the grasslands of the sea," said Costa, co-author of the report.
Founding faculty member traces 50 years of UCSC
William Doyle, a founding faculty member of UC Santa Cruz when the campus opened in 1965, has written a book that traces the early history of the campus. UC Santa Cruz: 1960–1991 begins with the story of how the campus came to be located in Santa Cruz and describes the challenges of designing and building the new campus.
Doyle, a professor emeritus of biology, held many important administrative positions during his years at UCSC. He is best known for his leadership in the planning and development of the marine science program at UCSC, and several chapters of the book are devoted to those efforts.
In a foreword to the book, Chancellor George Blumenthal wrote that Doyle "was indeed a pioneer, who arrived at a nascent campus with almost no buildings, no academic programs, and very few faculty. His own commitment to the campus led to a string of developments and contributions that spanned his entire career."
UCSC's own Gillian Welch makes another splash
Forty-five seconds into the new Gillian Welch CD, The Harrow and the Harvest, you realize this is the real deal.
It's a low-key affair—in the best possible way—with exquisite musicianship, haunting harmonies, and superlative songwriting. It's also the first Gillian Welch album to come out in nearly eight years.
After the album's release, the UCSC alumna (Porter '90, art) embarked on national tour with longtime musical partner David Rawlings.
The Harrow and the Harvest marks Welch's fifth CD in 15 years. It features nine new songs, plus a studio version of the stunning The Way It Will Be ("Throw Me A Rope"), a highlight of their live shows for the past several years.
Rise of the robots
UCSC has launched a new major in robotics engineering, an interdisciplinary field that combines electrical, computer, and mechanical engineering. The new major, leading to a B.S. degree, is the first of its kind in the UC system.
"Robots are used in many industry segments today, including automotive, aerospace, electronics and computers, industrial machinery, telecommunications, medicine, agriculture, mining, and textiles. As technology continues to bring cyber and physical worlds together, the demand for robotics engineers will continue to increase, which makes our new major a much-needed addition to the curriculum of the Baskin School of Engineering," said J. J. Garcia-Luna-Aceves, Baskin Professor and chair of computer engineering in UCSC's Jack Baskin School of Engineering.
The Department of Computer Engineering will administer the new program. Students started enrolling in the robotics engineering major this fall.
'Soc doc' filmmakers hit the big screen
Just imagine the thrill of the senior social documentation ("soc doc") program students at UC Santa Cruz when the house lights went down at the Del Mar Theatre in Santa Cruz and their work appeared on the big screen.
These students had the chance to premiere their master's thesis video documentaries at the elegant and historic theater. It was the fifth annual Soc Doc Graduate Exhibition and the second to be showcased at the Del Mar. The screening had to be moved this year to the Del Mar's larger, downstairs screen after last year's full house resulted in many attendees being turned away.
"The work you will see, hear, and experience is the culmination of an intense two years as our students immersed themselves in documentary traditions and craft, scholarly research and analysis, and storytelling," said Renee Tajima-Peña, professor and graduate director of the social documentation program.
New additions on campus
With its redwood views and terraced gardens, UC Santa Cruz's McHenry Library is a gorgeous place to cram for exams. Now the library has expanded, while stepping up its role as a community hub.
Ten years in the making, the newly completed addition and renovation project allow the library to house a growing collection of print and electronic materials and offer more comprehensive electronic resources for students. The campus has chosen locally owned Hoffman's Bistro and Patisserie to operate the new Global Village Cafe in the lobby.
Nearby, on Science Hill, construction continues for UCSC's Biomedical Sciences Facility, set for completion early next year. The building will provide 92,000 square feet of laboratory space and facilities to support health and medical research. It will be used by students, faculty, and researchers in the Departments of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology; Chemistry and Biochemistry; Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology; and Biomolecular Engineering. A stem cell research center, funded by a $7.2 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, will occupy the fourth floor.
Cinematic Banana Slugs in the spotlight
"The UC Santa Cruz student may not get the first job compared to his or her Ivy League competitor ... but I assure you they will get the best job in the end... because they will out-think them."
Those rousing words were delivered by Kevin Beggs (Porter '89, politics and theater arts), president of Lionsgate Television Group, during his keynote address for a film symposium called Bridging the Gap at UCSC in June.
The alumnus was just one of many graduates of the campus who participated in panel discussions and screenings at the event.
Other featured alumni guests at the symposium included Rick Carter, production designer (Sucker Punch, Avatar); Ron Yerxa, producer, BonaFide Productions (Little Miss Sunshine, Little Children, Election); Tad Leckman, visual effects designer (Escape Studios/Industrial Light & Magic); Sarah Schechter, senior vice president, production, Warner Brothers; and Tiffany White, assistant costume designer/costumer (Mad Men, True Blood).
Pioneering social psychologist Elliot Aronson honored
Eminent social psychologist Elliot Aronson earned one of his highest accolades this year, honoring the work he has done in his post-academic career.
Aronson, UCSC emeritus professor of psychology, was named winner of the 2010 Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award.
The award recognizes outstanding University of California professors in the humanities or social sciences for research and activities since retirement. Established in 1983, it is named for Constantine Panunzio, a sociology professor at UCLA, who is known as the architect of the UC Retirement System. It includes a $5,000 prize.
Aronson, 79, who retired in 1994, is the fifth UCSC professor to win and the third in consecutive years. "For me, doing research on social psychological issues is not work—but a great joy," he said. "So, in a sense, I am being rewarded for having fun! Not bad."
A poet's gift
This summer the campus received a gift of $500,000 to establish The George P. Hitchcock Modern Poetry Fund at Porter College.
A renowned publisher, poet, painter, and UCSC lecturer emeritus in creative writing, Hitchcock died in August 2010 at the age of 96.
His longtime partner, Marjorie Simon, has made the gift to honor and fulfill Hitchcock's wishes—to establish an endowment, through his estate, that would support poetry-related activities in perpetuity.
Hitchcock, who published the literary magazine kayak, taught writing at UC Santa Cruz from 1970 to 1989.
The endowment will provide support for projects including residencies for poets, readings, a poetry prize, and more.
Video shows tool use by a fish
"What the movie shows is very interesting," Bernardi said. "The animal excavates sand to get the shell out, then swims for a long time to find an appropriate area where it can crack the shell. It requires a lot of forward thinking, because there are a number of steps involved. For a fish, it's a pretty big deal."
The actions recorded in the video are remarkably similar to previous reports of tool use by fish.
Bernardi shot the video in Palau in 2009.
Tool use was once considered an exclusively human trait, and Jane Goodall's reports of tool use in chimpanzees in the 1960s came as a stunning revelation. Since then, many other animals have been observed using tools, including various primates, several kinds of birds, dolphins, elephants, and other animals.
This article appears in the fall 2011 issue of Review magazine.