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March 8 - Pioneering synthetic drugs; UCI basketball scores big with All-Big West honors

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A rainy day creates an abstract overhead view impression of the UCI campus

A rainy day creates an abstract overhead view impression of the UCI campus. Photo by Steve Zylius/UCI


John Chaput (seen holding a vial on synthetic DNA) is a professor of pharmaceutical sciences.

John Chaput (seen holding a vial on synthetic DNA) is a professor of pharmaceutical sciences. Photo by Steve Zylius/UCI

Pioneering the polymer-based pharmaceutical drugs of the future

The laboratory of John Chaput, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is one of the few places in the world where students can study the evolution of artificial genetic polymers. These molecules are synthetic forms of genetic sequences that contain an alternative sugar in place of the natural deoxyribose sugar found in DNA. Chaput and his students are using the lab to develop the next generation of drug therapies at a much faster rate and lower cost than via traditional methods. He recently spoke to UCI Magazine about the complex work involved in synthetic gene sequencing.

Will end of COVID-19 emergency end Cal-Optima for 146,000 O.C. residents?

According to the Voice of OC, the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration in part kept people enrolled in the state’s low-income health program, MediCal, despite disqualifying income increases. With that ending, the number of CalOptima-covered people could drop by about 13-15%, or roughly 146,000 people. This worries UCI’s Dr. José Mayorga, a CalOptima board director who is also executive director and executive medical director at UCI Health Family Health Center. “I think we really are underestimating the impact it’s going to have,” Mayorga says.. “And for us that are in the clinic, seeing the patients – the last thing you want to do is turn people away, or not get them referred timely to receive services from specialists, or imaging, or surgeries.”

UCI women’s basketball scores 5 spots on 2023 All-Big West teams

Five Anteaters women basketball players have received 2023 All-Big West accolades, the conference announced Monday afternoon. Hunter Hernandez was a first-team selection, while Nikki Tom, Déja Lee and Nevaeh Parkinson earned honorable mention recognition. Parkinson was also tabbed the league's Best Sixth Player, and Diaba Konate was named to the Big West All-Defensive Team. This is the sixth year in a row UCI has had a representative on the six-member All-Big West First Team, while it is Hernandez's second postseason award after being selected to the All-Freshman Team in 2022.


‘Warm’ atmospheric river set to slam California, causing potential flooding

Another atmospheric river system is expected to hit California late this week, raising considerable concern about flooding and structural damage, according to the Los Angeles Times. Forecasters warn that, unlike previous storms, this one originates from the waters near Hawaii and is expected to bring warmer rain that will fall atop the Sierra Nevada’s near-record snowpack. Last week, the odds of such a system developing were only about 20%,; however the likelihood has now increased to 70% or greater, and at least one more storm could follow later this month.


Note: Some news sites require subscriptions to read articles. The UCI Libraries offer free subscriptions to The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, The Orange County Register and The Washington Post for students, faculty and staff.

Walgreens Says They Won’t Sell Abortion Pills in These States: Here’s Why

Healthline, March 7
Cited: Michele Bratcher Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor of law and director of the Center for Biotechnology & Global Health Policy

Plan B to cancel student loan debt? The White House won't go there even as pressure mounts

USA Today, March 4
Cited: Dalié Jiménez, professor of law and director of Student Loan Law Initiative

Get Ready — Winter Wonderland Of Snow Heightens Risk Of Bigger Spring Floods (Landslides, Too)

LAist, March 3
Cited: Brett Sanders, professor of civil and environmental engineering


UCI’s Joni Ricks-Oddie is now a District 9 Long Beach City Council member.

UCI administrator joins Long Beach City Council

As the director of the UCI Center for Statistical Consulting, Joni Ricks-Oddie is an expert in epidemiology and statistics. It’s a background she plans to bring to her latest role: Long Beach City Councilmember. Ricks-Oddie earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology from UCLA, and along with directing statistical consulting at UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, she’s the director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design unit within UCI’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences. “As someone with a science and research background, I want to bring data and metrics to the way we make decisions in the city,” she said of her new job in Long Beach, “to ensure we are making the most well-informed decisions on the ways we invest in our city, particularly our most vulnerable communities.”

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