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Baskin Engineers: Creating the future

Baskin Engineering students pose with Sammy the Slug during Baskin Day
Baskin Engineering students pose with Sammy the Slug during Baskin Day.

National Engineers Week, celebrated this year during the week of February 19, 2023, is an annual campaign to highlight the achievements of engineers and encourage students to pursue engineering-focused education, research, and careers. This year’s “Creating the Future” theme was fitting for the Baskin School of Engineering as it celebrates 25 years of technical and educational innovation and its commitment to leveraging technology to create a better future for all. 

Engineers Week (EWeek) is celebrated throughout the University of California system, where all UC engineering programs highlight their combined strengths, while recognizing unique and innovative work at each campus. This year, the UCs focused on their impacts in the fields of health engineering, sustainability, cyber security and privacy, and inclusive engineering.

“These four themes exemplify the 21st century, forward-looking research we are conducting at Baskin Engineering,” said Dean of the Baskin School of Engineering Alexander Wolf. “Deeply rooted into every interdisciplinary degree program and research lab at our school is a change-maker mindset and a strong dedication to innovate for social good.”


Health engineering

Baskin Engineering has a rich history of leadership in genomic innovation, dating to publishing the first working draft of a human genome sequence in 2000 and continuing today with transformative work in pangenomics and regenerative medicine. 

UCSC genomic innovations such as the UShER tool and nanopore sequencing technology have been widely recognized for their transformative impact and adapted into labs across the globe.

Baskin Engineering Biomolecular Engineering Associate Professor Russell Corbett-Detig’s software tool UShER is now the primary method used by health officials across the globe to track the spread of COVD-19 variants.

MinION, a small, portable device that uses a nanopore to read DNA and RNA at a fraction of the cost of the state-of-the-art competitors, making sequencing accessible for scientists around the world (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta).
MinION, a small, portable device that uses a nanopore to read DNA and RNA at a fraction of the cost of the state-of-the-art competitors, making sequencing accessible for scientists around the world (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta).

Biomolecular Engineering Emeriti Professors David Deamer and Mark Akeson revolutionized DNA sequencing with their nanopore sequencing technology, first developed over 25 years ago and licensed to Oxford Nanopore Technologies. Thanks to their pioneering work to develop this fast, portable, and affordable sequencing tool, researchers around the world have been able to make some of the most significant genomics advances of our time, including the completion of a gapless human genome. 

UC Santa Cruz researchers are also advancing health engineering in areas such as vaccine development for viruses like RSV, wound healing through smart bandagesnext-generation x-ray imaging, assistive technologies for people living with visual impairmentsserious games for speech therapy and physical rehabilitation, and early cancer detection testing through liquid biopsy technology.


Always looking forward, Baskin Engineering faculty are producing technology to mitigate adverse environmental impact and support sustainable practices.

With funding from UCSC CITRIS, Professor Nobby Kobayashi is using a cutting-edge electrolysis technique to generate green hydrogen—a form of renewable energy—from seawater, without generating byproducts that damage coastal environments and marine ecosystems.

“We’re developing new technology by fearlessly abandoning customs and meticulously engineering mechanics,” Kobayashi said. “If successful, our technology should benefit humanity hungry for renewable energy and protect coastal environments from deteriorating.”

Assistant Professor Colleen Josephson is deploying research on microbial fuel cells, a method for gathering tiny amounts of energy from bacteria that live in soil, as a potential solution to provide renewable energy to power soil moisture detection systems on farms. 

Additional foundational environmental engineering research conducted at Baskin Engineering involves smart power and microgrids and agricultural technology that incorporates drones, statistical analysis, and climate resilience and mitigation measures. 

Cyber security and privacy

As technology advances, concerns about integrity and security inevitably escalate. Computer Science and Engineering Associate Professor Alvaro Cardenas and his Cy-Phy Security Lab team are focusing on cyber-physical systems security and privacy to assess risks and deter cyber-system attacks. 

Student teams mentored by Cardenas are successfully competing in cybersecurity competitions, including the recent National Security Agency (NSA) Codebreaker Challenge, where UCSC placed third out of 445 universities

Ph.D. candidate James Casaletto and UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute research scientist Melissa Cline created a federated analysis strategy for securely sharing and analyzing genomics data, allowing scientists to better understand and test for genetic variations that cause cancer and other heritable diseases, while addressing their concerns about patient privacy.

Inclusive engineering 

Creating the future at Baskin Engineering is exemplified by a dedication to supporting the next generation of engineers and technologists through diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts.

Through innovative student success programs, fellowships, and summer camps that invite grade school students to get involved in STEM, Baskin Engineering is committed to providing pathways for students from all backgrounds, especially those from historically underrepresented communities, to pursue engineering education and research. 

An example is the immersive STEM camp created by Professor of Computational Media Katherine Isbister and researchers from her Social Emotional Technology (SET) Lab. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Isbister and her team developed the Social Wearables Educational Live Action Role Play (SWEL) Camp, blending social experience with computational activities to drive middle school girls’ interest and confidence in pursuing technical subjects.

“There’s a lot of core research around providing girls and women opportunities to solve social problems through technology,” Isbister explained. “There’s more interest in computation if girls are able to craft technology to solve issues that they care about and are relevant to them.” 

Shellye Archambeau, during her Diverse Voices talk
Shellye Archambeau, during her Diverse Voices talk

The camp was established to become a use case for other institutions and organizations to adopt and carry out on their own to help bridge the gender and diversity gap in technology and computation. 

Many of the school’s student success programs are organized by The Inclusive Excellence Hub (IEH), led by Director of Student Excellence, Engagement, and Inclusion Carmen Robinson. IEH programs strengthen diversity and inclusion efforts at Baskin Engineering by providing a variety of resources and academic enrichment programs that promote belonging and academic excellence for historically underrepresented engineering students.

Now in its fifth season, the IEH-hosted Diverse Voices speaker series elevates diverse voices in engineering and builds belonging and inclusion in STEM. During Engineers Week, former CEO of MetricStream Shellye Archambeau was the featured Diverse Voices speaker. 

Highlighting concepts from her latest book, Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms, Archambeau engaged the audience in a powerful discussion on navigating the tech industry, especially when imposter syndrome gets in the way, using resilience when faced with obstacles, and leading with ambition to attain personal and professional success. 

Her anecdotes of the challenges she faced and the bold moves she made in her career and the honest, real advice she gave deeply resonated with the audience, who ranged anywhere from college students to seasoned industry professionals. You can watch the recording of Archambeau’s compelling talk, as well as past Diverse Voices events, on the Baskin Engineering YouTube channel

To discover additional Baskin Engineering innovative research and programs in the areas of health engineering, sustainability, cybersecurity, and inclusive engineering, visit engineering.ucsc.edu