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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Science of Food

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Interview with Sharon Fleming

Dr. Sharon Fleming has been a professor in the Department of Nutritional Science & Toxicology at UC Berkeley since 1979. After getting her PhD in Food Science and Nutrition from the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon in 1975, her research has followed her interests from cellular and molecular pathways of macronutrients to public health in low-income inner-city communities. Professor Fleming was a co-founder of the Robert C and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health and has also been very involved in assessing risk factors for type II diabetes. Her symposium in 2002 on type II diabetes in children comprehensively reviewed these various risk factors for use in public policy. BSJ interviewed Dr. Fleming just as she was clearing out her office in preparation for retiring from teaching and research at Berkeley to become a professor emeritus.

Interview with Professor Matt Francis

Professor Francis completed his doctoral thesis on the discovery and optimization of transition metal catalysts at Harvard University in 1999 and then moved to UC Berkeley as a postdoctoral scholar under organic chemistry Professor Jean Fréchet, working on DNA-facilitated assembly of polymers and the role of dendrimers in pharmaceuticals. In 2001, Francis began his own research career at Berkeley and has been studying organic reactions for protein modification. He has received numerous awards both for his research and his teaching, including the NSF Career Award and the University Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the faculty advisor for the Decal Chemistry 98, “The Chemistry of Cooking” which routinely receives a packed lecture room and rave reviews from the students. The Decal is accessible to students of all majors, regardless of chemistry background.


Solar Power as a Source of Noise-free Power for Research

There has been increasing interest in solar convertors, mostly for energy. A further and in some cases primary advantage for many applications is the immunity to noise and interference. Many research disciplines that are dependent on sensitive research instrumentation can benefit from it, since solar power precludes the 60Hz (and multiples) noise of grid power. In this paper, we present a study that implements solar direct current (D.C.) power to eliminate such background disturbances. We measured and analyzed the electrical characteristics of a set of three industrial solar panels (by SHARP, model NU-U235FI) as a function of load resistance, sun intensity, and varying weather conditions. Since a significant decrease in noise is observed when batteries are used, these solar panels will be used in future projects to continuously recharge such batteries to power the amplification and data acquisition stages of experiments.

Semantic Representation in the Mirror Neuron System

The mirror neuron system is a fronto-parietal network of neurons that is activated both when a person performs an action and when he or she observes that action. The goal of this study was to investigate the semantic representation in this system during action language and gesture processing. This was done in a set of two behavioral experiments. Experiment 1 employed a simple priming paradigm—subjects viewed videos of symbolic gestures or landscapes, which served as the prime, followed by a word that was congruent or unrelated to the video prime, or a pseudo-word. The subject performed a lexical decision task on the target word. The study found a significant priming effect for semantically congruent target words, relative to semantically unrelated target words. However, this same priming effect was found for the video primes of landscapes.  In experiment 2 we aimed to determine whether the videos were primed through effector-specific means, that is, whether hand and arm gestures would activate mirror neurons somatotopically and lead to different priming results when comparing hand responses to foot responses. We used the same priming study as experiment 1 except that subjects made their lexical decision responses on a foot pedal rather than a keyboard. Results suggest that symbolic gestures prime in a very diffuse way, such that semantic priming occurs independent of the effector being used to respond.