Medical research goes global

36dsc_1304_ucsandiegopublications_erikjepsenBy Marg Stark

For more than 30 years, Dr. David Shapiro has had a front-row seat to watch the growth and evolution of San Diego’s booming biotech community and its increasing impact on the world. Shapiro, who is the chief medical officer at Intercept Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on developing treatments for nonviral liver disease said the engine that drives the growth of the life sciences is clinical trials, which help to prove—or disprove—the efficacy of possible treatments. Over the years, he said, as biotech companies around the globe have raced to find treatments for a wide range of diseases, clinical trials have become more crucial and more rigorous than ever.

“The primary and secondary research endpoints have to be more defined at the outset; there’s more uniform coordination across the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and others, and less margin for error across the board,” Shapiro said. “Of course, even amid higher regulatory standards, we are always trying to make the pathway shorter. And drugs are now being tested globally much earlier in the development process, with patients being recruited for trials on multiple continents.”

To manage these intricacies, professionals need instruction that keeps up with a staggering pace of change and offers them global research insights. Because of the critical importance of having a talent pool with this expertise, Shapiro serves as an advisor to UC San Diego Extension’s clinical trials programs. He said the courses and certificates Extension offers in clinical trials and drug development allow professionals the opportunities to stay current and ensure San Diego continues as a leading hub in biotech and life science.

“Extension provides ideal training for professionals,” Shapiro said. “I’m extremely impressed with the energy and expertise of the program and the way it prepares students and rewards prospective employers.”

Robyn Leary is one of those professionals who has benefitted from Extension’s training. She had spent 14 years working in various roles in clinical research labs, but she yearned to see the results of her work in patients. Although Leary has a PhD, she said her lack of an MD thwarted her efforts to shift from “bench science to human work.”
So, while pursuing her second “postdoc” fellowship, Leary embarked on clinical trials administration studies at UC San Diego Extension. Within a year, she landed her dream job at Teva Pharmaceuticals, serving as a medical science liaison between the company and the outside community.

For Leary, learning the practicalities of how clinical trials are run and becoming versed in pharmaceutical industry lingo in the Extension certificate program proved essential to her career transition.

“Medical science liaison has become a hot job in the industry, and I would not otherwise have had enough insider knowledge to make the jump into it,” she said.

Shapiro said UC San Diego Extension works extremely hard to design programs that anticipate the constantly changing nature of research and clinical trials.

“Extension attends to innovations with a very fast-wheeling commitment to change and improvement,” Shapiro said.

To stay ahead of the curve, Grace Miller and Donna Stern, who oversee Extension’s clinical trials programs, travel the globe, attending international conferences and forging international partnerships. They also recruit instructors who are leaders in the field, refine curriculum, and add courses to keep the Extension program and its students at the forefront of the industry.

As an example, Miller recently noticed an uptick in interest in project management in clinical trials and attended a session on this topic at a conference in Montreal. Miller promptly recruited the instructor, who will soon teach the course for Extension. Similarly, Stern said, initial coursework in the Clinical Trials Administration Certificate Program will feature more information on the International Council for Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) and other regulatory bodies, not just the FDA and EMA. Clinical trials studies are also offered in Spanish to accommodate the emergence of clinical trials in Latin America.

At Intercept Pharmaceuticals, where Shapiro is overseeing the development of an agonist in bile acid chemistry to treat liver disease, among other therapies, clinical trials are underway in 20 countries.

“That’s an amazing global reach for a small company,” he said. “But that is typical today in drug development.”

International trial recruitment comes earlier in the research process, and global trials are no longer pursued just by field giants such as Merck and Pfizer, both of which Shapiro worked for.

100dsc_1400_ucsandiegopublications_erikjepsenTrained in the United Kingdom, Shapiro said San Diego is the perfect training post for this fast-moving industry. Some of the seminal work on the nuclear receptor FXR, which Shapiro’s company is advancing, was performed two decades ago by UC San Diego professor Alan Hofmann and his team of scientists. UC San Diego’s intense study of this complex molecule, including examining bile samples from animals from the San Diego Zoo, paved the way for the practical-applications work Intercept is forging. If all goes well, patients across the world with liver disease will soon benefit from therapies created in San Diego.

“So often this is the case,” Shapiro said. “Biotechs here are building on the extraordinary basic science performed at UC San Diego and San Diego’s robust nonprofit research organizations.”

Indeed, UC San Diego Extension has partnerships that expose students to international research leaders, such as the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

“Our students spent a week at Utrecht as part of our summer intensive workshop,” Miller explained. “But more and more, students interested in our program want to come to San Diego for their classroom work, both for our weather and for the introduction to our international biotech hub.”

Having made her jump from basic to translation research, Leary said she keeps the binder from her Extension studies in her office at Teva and still calls upon it occasionally.

“Teva is an Israeli company with a very global perspective. For my work, I must know what the EMA does and keep up with the research in Europe and elsewhere,” she said. “I knew this day one because of the Extension program: all the agencies, how they differ, and how to look up all their regulations, not to mention the host of pharmaceutical abbreviations and terminology, which are not things you just Google and find.”

Having transitioned from academia to the private sector, Leary said she marvels at the considerable salary and benefits bumps she enjoys and the facets of her personality and interests she now indulges. “In the lab, my work was focused on going very deep. It was tough to find time to read the journals and get the big picture in medicine,” Leary said. “Today, I’m paid to do that—to read about scientific and medical developments and attend conferences to stay abreast of innovation. I consult and troubleshoot about clinical trials. I fly across the region, counseling doctors and answering questions for insurers and payers about the applications of Teva’s therapies. And I’m getting to see the results: the impact we are making around the world on the lives of patients who benefit.”

UC San Diego sees Downtown as innovation’s next frontier


Since its inception more than 50 years ago, UC San Diego has been an agent of change in the region. But its transformative role was hardly by chance. Rather, it was the stated goal of civic leaders in the 1950s and 1960s. They envisioned a world-class research university that would serve the needs of innovative defense companies after World War II as well as enable and energize a growing cluster of life science and technology firms on the Torrey Pines Mesa.

That vision has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Today, San Diego is home to one of the world’s largest research and development clusters in the world, which, according to the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, has an economic impact of almost $14 billion annually.

But while innovation continues to flourish on and around the UC San Diego campus, there is growing recognition that technological advancement is not—nor should it be—the sole province of the Torrey Pines Mesa, said Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor of public programs and dean of UC San Diego Extension.

“Just as the growth of the research institutions on the Torrey Pines Mesa has been transformative for the city and the region,” Walshok said, “we realize there is an opportunity to be part of the next great transformation, and we believe that means UC San Diego needs to have a vital presence in the urban core.”

To that end, UC San Diego Extension recently announced its intention to build an Innovative Cultural and Education Hub in downtown San Diego. The four-story, 66,000-square-foot facility, which is slated to open in 2020, will sit at the corner of Park Boulevard and Market Street and deliver a wide range of programs to the growing downtown innovation community and the diverse neighborhoods throughout San Diego’s urban core.

“This facility will open up doors to our students and our faculty to be more embedded in the rich tapestry of our community,” Walshok said. “We hope it will attract others to the mission of an inclusive innovation economy that is so critical for San Diego’s ongoing success.”

UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla said the new facility is designed to deliver on the core tenets of the university’s Strategic Plan to ensure equity and excellence.

“Our establishment of an urban innovation and educational hub demonstrates our commitment to be bold and build a better university, a better community, and a better world,” Khosla said. “This new hub will support economic development downtown while delivering new educational opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff, and provide a greater connection to the communities throughout San Diego.”

UC San Diego Extension will provide leadership for the center, which the Holland Partner Group is developing as part of a larger residential project at the location. The UC San Diego center will offer educational and cultural programs and will include an outdoor amphitheater. The center will be home to:
•    Academic and outreach programs for middle school and high school students from surrounding communities
•    Business incubation and entrepreneurship resources for entrepreneurs throughout the urban core
•    A venue for arts events and exhibits to showcase the university’s and the larger community’s cultural offerings
•    A hub for civic engagement, including applied research and volunteer opportunities
•    Courses, workshops, and seminars relevant to downtown’s growing workforce.

Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer applauded UC San Diego for its commitment to the city’s ongoing efforts in education and economic development.

“Landing a university presence in downtown San Diego is a game changer and the result of years of hard work to make it a reality,” Faulconer said. “This new project will continue the revitalization of the East Village neighborhood and, with UC San Diego’s top-notch reputation, provide countless opportunities for collaboration as we prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.”

No state funds will be used to finance the construction of the project, and ongoing financing will come from a combination of program underwriting, contracts and grants, fees for services, and lease revenues all of which UC San Diego Extension will manage.

Walshok said rapid advances in technology and changing demographics demand that UC San Diego move beyond its main campus and find ways to engage a wide array of constituencies at the new downtown facility.

For one, if San Diego is to maintain its leadership role as a global hub for innovation, the region needs to invest in its downtown because millennials, who make up the largest generation in U.S. history, crave an urban lifestyle. The Nielsen Company, a national market research firm, found in a recent survey that 62 percent of millennials would prefer to live in the type of mixed-use communities found in urban centers, where they can be close to shops, restaurants, and offices. This demographic trend parallels the increasing importance of software, data analytics, and computers to all industries—retail, health, services, manufacturing, and entertainment.

Downtown San Diego echoes the national trends. Of the 34,550 people living in downtown, millennials are the largest demographic group, making up a third of the population.


An urban environment is even important to millennials who work in the innovation sector, Walshok said. Increasingly, UC San Diego graduates in computer science are moving to cities such as San Francisco because they offer a wide variety of job opportunities and an urban lifestyle.

“We’d naturally much rather they live and work here,” she said.

This desire for an urban environment is evident in downtown San Diego’s growing innovation cluster. Already, downtown is home to more than 110 startups, which translates into 15.34 startups for every 10,000 people. By way of comparison, there are just 1.35 startups per 10,000 people countywide.

Walshok emphasized that much of what is driving the innovation economy is the growing importance of software to all fields—from healthcare to transportation to telecommunications. Because of its collaborative nature, software development demands density to foster connections and spur new advances—something that urban environments are uniquely able to offer.

But UC San Diego’s urban innovation initiative is about more than growing downtown’s tech scene, Walshok said. It is about engaging the surrounding communities to ensure they have access to the training and educational resources they need so they can be part of a growing and constantly changing innovation sector.

One of the main reasons the university selected the Park and Market site is because it is located next to the extension of the trolley’s UC San Diego Blue Line, which will run from San Ysidro to University City and connect the campus in La Jolla with the greater San Diego region.

“These transportation links that connect the university with the larger community are critical as the city comes of age,” Walshok said. “We want to build this facility to demonstrate that no matter where you come from, there is a place for you in the innovation economy.”

Walshok said the exact programs the facility will house will be determined over the coming year through conversations and collaborations with a wide array of community stakeholders. Nonetheless, she added, it is clear this new hub will help redefine the role of a research university in the 21st century by offering unique educational experiences and research opportunities as well as arts and cultural activities.

“With the diverse neighborhoods surrounding the urban core, including Barrio Logan, the Diamond District, and Golden Hill, this project reinforces UC San Diego’s role as a key partner in spurring economic prosperity and inclusion through engaging events and educational offerings of interest to all San Diegans,” Walshok said. “In the decade ahead, I think the downtown facility will yield real economic benefits for the citizens of San Diego. It is an extraordinary time for our region.”


New partnership brings Extension’s clinical trials expertise to Mexican students

shutterstock_162106943Investment in clinical research in Mexico is predicted to triple in upcoming years, with a potential to reach $500 million USD, according to the Mexican Association of Pharmaceutical Research Industries. To prepare professionals for the rigors of global scientific studies and the growth in this industry, UC San Diego Extension is partnering anew with a private university in central Mexico, Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP).

The new partnership will enable UDLAP students to pursue UC San Diego Extension’s Clinical Trials in Latin America Certificate, taught by experts from San Diego, a worldwide hub for the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. The certificate is designed to expose principal investigators, nurses, study coordinators, and others to the guidelines and protocols that promote safe, successful clinical research, as dictated by international regulatory bodies.

UC San Diego Extension has engaged in clinical trials education for nearly 20 years and has offered Spanish courses for the last six years. “More and more, companies are pursuing clinical research in Latin America, both to control costs and to recruit more diverse patient populations. We are excited to expand the professional education available in Mexico and to contribute to the rising standard of clinical research being conducted globally,” said program director Dr. Leonel Villa-Caballero, MD, PhD.

“A good foundation in clinical trials management will enable practitioners to optimally incorporate scientific advances and state-of-the-art health technologies,” said Dr. Lucila

Castro-Pastrana, a professor at UDLAP. Castro-Pastrana says the market for clinical studies is extremely competitive in Latin America and that the training is critical. The partnership also comes at a time when UDLAP is improving its research realm and adding a PhD program in molecular biomedicine among other strategic initiatives.

udlap-consultores1The program will offer UDLAP students clinical trials courses online and in Spanish – at an affordable rate and via a Mexican invoice, which many employers require for tuition reimbursement. Candidates can also obtain grants and make payment plan arrangements through UDLAP. Students graduate with a diploma from UDLAP and with a Clinical Trials Administration certificate from UC San Diego, offering them the prestige of both organizations.

Both Drs. Villa-Caballero and Castro-Pastrana hope the forging of the partnership is just the first step in the relationship. “We look forward to UDLAP students joining us in San Diego for our intensive workshop in May 2017, for example, where even more advanced instruction is offered and networking is facilitated,” said Villa-Caballero. “We hope eventually to have our instructors teach courses alongside UC San Diego’s,” said Castro-Pastrana, citing a “new bridge” between scholars and students across the Americas.

Lean Six Sigma produces results for UC San Diego

img_1160As a global leader in higher education, UC San Diego strives for excellence in all aspects of campus life – from offering world-class educational opportunities to leading the industry in research accomplishments – that ambition transcends to employees as well. In order to become better, UC San Diego has partnered with UC San Diego Extension to provide employees the opportunity to gain valuable problem solving tools through the Lean Six Sigma program.

Lean Six Sigma’s process improvement methodologies teach participants how to eliminate steps and activities that don’t add value to a process, ensuring the employee’s skills are being used to the best of their potential. Because people are the most valuable asset of any organization, this is an important component to the program’s goals.

pierre_ouilletPierre Ouillet, vice chancellor and CFO of UC San Diego, believes in the necessity of constantly improving and is a strong advocate of the Lean Six Sigma program.

“Our Strategic Plan gives us an imperative to challenge ourselves to constantly increase both the efficiency of our operations and the quality of the services we provide in support of teaching, research and public service” said Ouillet. “The Lean Six Sigma continuous improvement methodology enables us to do so. It has a long history of success not only in its traditional manufacturing industries, but also across service industries, higher education and health care.”

Having the opportunity to gain effective skills is paramount to always improving, which is why Ouillet allocated funds for 26 scholarships for participants in the most recent Lean Six Sigma course.

“Through our Office of Operational Strategic Initiatives and in partnership with UC San Diego Extension, we are building and supporting a culture of continuous improvement through targeted projects, education and collaboration,” said Ouillet “A great importance is the ongoing positive impact on service quality and our collaborative culture.”

A number of UC San Diego staff have completed UC San Diego Extension’s Lean Six Sigma program, earning a green belt and implementing the methodologies in the workplace to achieve results.

Lisa Thai Schlossman, principal human resources analyst at UC San Diego, said the Lean Six Sigma program taught her to look beyond the surface of a problem to understand the underlying issues.

“What Lean Six Sigma teaches you is to explore the root cause of a problem and to measure it with data,” she said.

A principle methodology is teaching participants how to step outside the process in order to see what is painful about going through the process and then making improvements.

“One of the best things that Lean Six Sigma did for me was help me understand the process for the customer,” Schlossman said. “It taught me to expand my perspective and understand how the customer is experiencing the process.”

Rosemarie Marino Del-Mar, IT project manager at UC San Diego, appreciated the emphasis of real-world learning in which participants could immediately apply their new knowledge.

“We came in with projects from our work environment that we needed to solve,” she said. “What I like is that there was a real goal.”

img_1076The impact of the Lean Six Sigma program is felt throughout campus and has already improved a number of processes including:

  • reducing the amount of time to recruit and hire staff;
  • shortening payment terms while ensuring UC San Diego’s commitment to consistently pay on time;
  • developing an objective measuring system to receive and understand patient experiences in the International Patients Program;
  • shortening compliance approval processes for recruiting faculty;
  • reducing errors in the HDH Hospitality Express Catering Orders;
  • identifying ways to expedite the UC San Diego’s Staff Volunteer Appointment Process;
  • and reducing cycle time for the job classification process.

As an active supporter of continuous improvement, Ouillet said he plans to offer additional scholarship funds for upcoming Lean Six Sigma courses through Extension to further UC San Diego’s efficiency and superb customer service.

For more information on UC San Diego Extension’s Lean Six Sigma programs, visit us online at

Coding boot camp to launch at UC San Diego Extension

55430675_mUC San Diego Extension’s first coding boot camp, where students train for careers as full-stack web developers in just 24 weeks, will begin this winter at Extension’s University City Center campus.

The Coding Boot Camp at UC San Diego Extension is an intensive, part-time program structured around the schedules of working professionals and full-time students. Two three-hour evening classes will be held during the week with a four-hour class set for each Saturday. The program will run from Jan. 24, 2017 through July 8, 2017.

“UC San Diego Extension is excited to bring this program to the San Diego market,” said Svetislav Maric, director of technology at UC San Diego Extension. “There is virtually no area of our lives that hasn’t been affected by the internet and because of this, the need for technology expertise will only continue to grow.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks web development among the world’s fastest-growing professions, with the job market on track to expand by as much as 27 percent through 2024. According to CBRE Group, San Diego ranks 16th among tech talent markets in the United States and Canada.

“Each year in the United States there are about 50,000 tech jobs that can’t be filled,” said Maric. “We are hoping to help shrink that number by offering this program to motivated and hardworking people in the San Diego community.”

In addition to discussion and collaboration in the classroom, students will also work on outside projects with participating area businesses. These projects will be part of their professional project portfolio and will serve as a powerful tool in helping participants land a job after the course.

While previous training or experience isn’t required, applicants should have some knowledge of coding basics.

The course covers coding and data structure fundamentals, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Node.js, jQuery, Java, MongoDB and more – all the skills they need to develop dynamic end-to-end web applications. Students also will have access to career-planning services, including portfolio reviews, demo days, recruiting assistance and extensive staff support.

“A career in web development puts you right in the middle of a digital revolution,” said Maric. “It is an in-demand career that is also filled with creative projects that help improve companies and communities. For the right person, The Coding Boot Camp at UC San Diego Extension can be the perfect starting point to an amazing path as a web developer.”

To learn more about The Coding Boot Camp at UC San Diego Extension, visit Students can apply online or by calling (858) 519-8997.

Launch pad: Taking successful product management to the next level

product-managementBy Andrea Siedsma

In today’s fast-paced, consumer-driven market, having the best product or technology doesn’t always equal success. In fact, companies are faced with mounting pressure to define, develop and launch the right products and services at the right time and in the right market. Product managers are at the forefront of this evolution, bringing together business and consumer needs while articulating strategy, defining requirements, and being involved in on-going delivery.

A new Product Management program through UC San Diego Extension addresses these challenges and changes by offering students a comprehensive look into the elements and skills necessary to transition into a product management role at their company. The Product Management program provides the real-world tools necessary to be a successful product manager, from learning the phase-gate process critical to product management success to the team and leadership skills necessary to lead a cross functional product management team. Coursework ranges from in-class lectures to field trips and guest speakers, as well as hands on cases, projects and market simulations. The program kicks off on Feb. 9, 2017 with an opening dinner, followed by the first module on Friday, Feb. 10.

While developing new products and managing them through their life cycle is the lifeblood of companies, especially those in technology and science, new product development is risky and most new products ultimately fail. The goal of the in-depth UC San Diego Extension program is to improve a company’s ability to bring successful products to market and maintain that success throughout their lifecycle.

carlton“Product management is in greater demand than it’s ever been because the pressure on companies to be innovative, especially technology companies, is as high as it’s ever been – somebody sitting at home watching a football game can impact a whole industry by creating an innovative app,” said Carlton C. O’Neal, program director of the UC San Diego Extension Product Management program. “The only way for a company to be systemically innovative is to have quality product managers following a world class product management process.”

O’Neal (pictured here) said successful product management also includes knowing how to fail quickly and efficiently.

“Product management, especially in smaller companies and even some bigger companies, is typically not managed as a separate function with an iterative phase-gate process – a series of phases separated by approval gates. It’s necessary to balance a bunch of different priorities, from trying to innovate or fail quickly, to using limited resources, and getting buy-in from all different departments,” he said.

The program has been designed to benefit a wide range of employees, whether in engineering, marketing, sales, finance, operations, customer service, or manufacturing, who might want to move into a product management role, as well as current product managers who want to sharpen their skills and learn the latest product management techniques. Throughout the course, students learn how to collect new ideas, and launch and manage products throughout their lifecycle. The comprehensive program covers product management for the full life cycle of products including overall fit with the company strategy, as well as new technological developments. Students are even introduced to various product management tools, such as innovative product roadmap tools.

Hand drawn product management circular conceptWhile this is a holistic approach to looking at a company’s strategy and product development, O’Neal said it’s critical that organizations also be flexible in the creative process.

“The challenge is that senior executives and companies are under increasing pressure to be more innovative and more rapidly create a new product every two years instead of five years or a new software release every six months. But if you are too efficient, you won’t be as innovative,” said O’Neal, who has 25 years of product management and marketing experience and designed the program based on industry best practices across a wide range of world-class companies. “The challenge is how to maximize creativity and innovation while at the same time being efficient and successful with new products.”

For vibrant tech regions like San Diego, such a program could give local companies the boost they need to remain competitive. In fact, the UC San Diego Extension program was designed based on input from several local CEOs.

“San Diego as a growing city is constantly upgrading its professional community. One of the fastest and best ways to enhance the San Diego business community is to have companies be more innovative and more successful with their new products,” O’Neal said. “UC San Diego Extension’s mission is to help businesses very quickly improve their new product development approaches and to be more innovative and more successful in growing their companies. We are a local resource; for only a few hours a month, we can greatly impact the success of local businesses in terms of innovation and launching new products.”

The easy way to share ideasThe UC San Diego Extension Product Management program includes six training modules, including: Product Management, Planning and Innovation; Team Building and Decision Making; Financial Considerations for Product Managers, Marketing and Sales; New Product Process including Phase Gate; and Product Portfolio Management and End of Life. For more information about the program, call (858) 534-9148 or visit


50 Voices of the Future: Margaret Leinen on advances in oceanography

leinen50voiceIn honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

As much as we know about our planet’s ocean, it contains countless mysteries we have yet to solve, countless secrets we have yet to decipher. Dr. Margaret Leinen, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, notes that “we have more images of Mars than we do of the bottom of the ocean.” Advances in technology, she says, will allow us to peer into the ocean’s distant past in order to forecast its future changes and the implications of those changes for the planet as a whole. “That ability to really see the ocean, and what’s in the ocean, and to see it changing in front of us, is probably the most exciting development in our field,” she says.

 Why is the work you do important?

I’m an oceanographer. The ocean covers 70 percent of the planet. It is the absolute driver of global climate. The ocean moderates the climate and keeps us from having really great temperature extremes. All of the precipitation originally comes from the ocean. The ocean is a huge food source for everyone and a major food source for 2 billion of the poorest people on the planet. Virtually all the goods that we think of as the basis for trade – big things like lumber and cars, small things like electronics — are transported over the ocean. Then of course there’s national defense – the Navy is a major player in defense. Then there are other things like the quality of the environment that makes swimming, diving, surfing, and sailing possible. Oceanographers look at all of those aspects. They look at how the ocean works, they look at the ecosystems within it, they look at techniques to be able to determine how the ocean is changing, they look at fisheries, they look at coastal issues like water quality, sea-level rise, etc. So it’s the sum of all those very important roles that oceanographers play.

What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

The ocean has been one of the most under-observed parts of the earth. We have more images of the surface of Mars than we do of the bottom of the ocean. But that’s changing. New systems are being developed that are autonomous and that have great capability of collecting and transmitting data. Even more important are new technologies for being able to get a global picture of the ocean itself – the interior of the ocean. We now have four thousand autonomous floats moving around the ocean every day, and every day about a fifth of those floats report back on profiles they’ve taken of the entire upper 6,500 feet of the ocean. We have a picture of the temperature, the salinity, the currents of the ocean that is so much more detailed than ever before as a result of ten years of these measurements. This new technology is completely revolutionizing oceanography. There are also new instruments for biology, enabling us to look at the genomics of the ocean, the microbiology of the ocean. The field is exploding so fast in capability that it’s hard to even keep track of. That ability to really see the ocean, and what’s in the ocean, and to see it changing in front of us, is probably the most exciting development in our field.

What’s the next big thing?

It’s hard to under-sell how important our new knowledge of the microbiology of the ocean is. In the last decade our understanding of microbes and viruses has completely changed our thinking. We now know that the genetic make-up of microbes holds keys to what the ocean was like in the past. Someone just described it this way: The earth’s history — since the time that there was an ocean — is written in the DNA of the microbes of the ocean in a language that we never knew and that we still don’t know how to speak.

How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

San Diego is a coastal town, has a huge economy related to the ocean – trade, tourism, fishing, Navy – and the region itself is very much a part of that. Even the biotech part of the San Diego economy has not yet profited by our understanding of all of this ocean biology. I think oceanography will play an incredible role in shaping the evolution of the biotech industry here, unveiling marine molecules related to new drugs or novel compounds that do interesting things that we need done. I think oceanography will also shape the future of San Diego in how we deal with sea-level rise and how we deal with pollution in our waters; oceanography is at the heart of that.

Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?

Oceanography will be even more interdisciplinary than it is now. This year we hired eight new faculty who have fully joint appointments with other parts of the university – the School of Medicine, the School of Engineering, the departments of anthropology, biology, and global policy and strategy. We need closer relationships with all of those fields to be able to attack the big questions and problems that we want to look at over the next decades. Also, our field will be saturated with technologies for observing the ocean that we don’t even know about now

Leinen is featured on UC San Diego’ Extension STEAM Channel as part of series The Constellation: Sally Ride Science Conversations. She discusses her career, leading the University of California’s delegation to the Paris Climate Conference and the impact of the new Research Vessel/Sally Ride.

50 Voices of the Future: Todd Hylton on the rise of robotics

50v_toddhyltonIn honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

San Diego has the potential to become what scientist Todd Hylton calls “Robot Valley.” Hylton, executive director of UC San Diego’s Contextual Robotics Institute, believes the region has all the ingredients to become the nation’s leader in robotic innovations: great universities, a critical mass of private researchers and a fantastic location. Hylton has been working in robotics and related technologies for many years – most recently at the San Diego startup Brain Corporation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) before that. He predicts dramatic near-term advances in the way robots impact our daily lives, from how we drive to how we maintain our health. One day, he says, there might even be a widespread demand for so-called “humanoids” – robots that look like people. How humans might respond to a world filled with humanoids is, of course, anyone’s guess. “If the robot is not too human, people like it,” Hylton says. “If the robot is very, very human, people like it. If it’s in-between, it seems creepy.”

Why is the work you do important?

There are lots of practical needs in which robots or intelligent machines could make a big difference. Consider just the example of health care. As people get older, we’d like to help prevent falls. Having a house that’s smart enough turn on the lights for you, a walker that’s smart enough to come to you and tell you when you’re about to step over something, a machine that can look at the way you’re walking and try to anticipate that you might be having problems and alert caregivers or medical personnel – all of these things seem within our grasp but they’re not yet available.

What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

Perhaps the most exciting one is the rebirth of artificial intelligence in some new forms. You can see it everywhere. Self-driving cars, for example. These cars are going to have all these artificial-intelligence abilities on board that will enable them to do the things they need to do to drive themselves. Sensors and computing hardware and a lot of pieces you need to build robots have gotten really cheap. Also, some of the advanced sensors, the laser sensors, are coming down in cost, too, as the volumes go up, driven by applications like cars and other things. So there’s a lot of cool stuff going on. Of course, we do worry about robots displacing humans in various jobs. In the Robotics Institute at UC San Diego, it’s not simply an engineering-driven institute; it’s a collaboration of engineering and the division of social sciences. We need to be conscious of how the robots are going to influence and interact with the humans. That’s where the social scientists live, that’s their work. There are challenges going forward if we are able to automate much of the work we do now, which is what technology essentially always does. Historically, people have always reorganized themselves in a way where the technology provides tools that make them more capable. One would, of course, like the disruption to be as modest and the transition as smooth as possible. We certainly worry about those things.

What’s the next big thing?

The next big thing in the field of robotics is robots that have a more complex understanding of their world and that develop a larger understanding of the context of the environment that they live in. And that includes things that happen over a long period of time. They don’t do that now. And that’s partly why we named the institute the Contextual Robotics Institute. The idea is that the robot needs to understand the context of the situation it’s in.

How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

We would like San Diego to become Robot Valley. We’re working very hard to engage people outside the university. A large fraction of my job is finding industry partners, creating research partnerships with them, and making sure that we are educating the kind of people that they’ll want to hire. There are quite a few companies in the area, small and large, working in the field, so a large part of what I’m trying to do is stitch those pieces together. We have all the parts here – we’ve got the great universities, we’ve got the intellectual capital, we’ve got the industry around it, we have a great location. So we have as good a shot of doing it as anybody.

Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?

We’ll have machines that work in the real world without humans having to tell them what to do all the time. We can have cars that talk to each other, that pick us up, that talk to the airplane to tell us when we can get on the airplane. We’ll have sensors that tell us, your blood pressure’s too high so you need to change your diet. There’s so much low-hanging fruit that it’s sometimes hard to figure out where to start.

Hylton recently shared his insights into the rise of robotics at the Game Changer lecture that was put on by Collaboratory for Downtown Innovation (CDI), which is a partnership between UC San Diego and the Downtown San Diego Partnership. The mission of CDI is to build stronger connections between tech entrepreneurs in Downtown San Diego and UC San Diego and other research institutions on the Torrey Pines Mesa. You can find out more here.

50 Voices of the Future: Ed Abeyta on preparing students for success in college and beyond

edabeyta50voiceIn honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

As the job market changes, so, too, must education. The impact of technology has an immense impact not only on our everyday lives but on learning and teaching as well. Innovation is pushing the idea of personalized education in order to support students’ individual talents and abilities. It’s a concept Ed Abeyta has supported for many years. As the assistant dean for community engagement and director of pre-collegiate programs at UC San Diego Extension, Abeyta has worked to provide students opportunities to prepare themselves for success in college – and beyond.

(1) Why is the work you do important?

Never before has it been so important to inspire the next generation to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist in the workforce. We used to ask children what they want to be when they grow up, but today we should be asking them what big problem they wish to solve and how we can provide the tools they will need to solve it. My work seeks to implement sustainable approaches to connect UC San Diego resources to the community we serve. Some examples include test preparation, STEAM, short for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, educational programs, lower division college courses, parent college preparation workshops and much more.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

More than ever, we are learning that each student has unique talents and abilities. Our job as educators is to unlock the genius in each student through assessment tools, like the Strengths Finder, which helps identify specific talents and skills. A funny thing happens when students learn about their own unique talents and then are able to connect those talents with a vision of what they’d like to do with their lives. Already San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten has taken the lead in making sure this approach is integrated into our local district. Our pre-college department has been a key partner in this effort by hosting training and development sessions for teachers and counselors.

 (3) What’s the next big thing?

So much effort has been put into providing Advanced Placement (AP) courses for high school students to elevate the level of their education. We believe there is an opportunity to provide more practical skills by offering students the ability to earn a professional or specialized certificate in emerging STEAM disciplines. This approach enables students to receive not only their diploma but also a certificate in an applied skill area. More than ever we need to provide transformational experiences for young adults to be inspired and create a sense of vision for their future.

 (4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

Our efforts are strategically disruptive in an attempt to explore new approaches to support our school districts and industry partners in our community. A number of years ago we added the arts to STEM, which has already made an impact on education not only here but throughout the country. This effort has shaped how our teachers approach education in the classroom via project-based learning. In addition, a strategic pre-college strategic approach to learning enables us to provide access to many talented young adults – regardless of their economic situation or background.

 (5) Hop into your time machine … what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

Fifty years from now UC San Diego will continue to be the world command center and think tank for solving tomorrow’s problems and producing students who are not only intelligent but important members of our civic society.

To find out more about UC San Diego Extension’s pre-college programs, visit

50 Voices of the Future: Mike Stevenson on the craft of brewing

mikestevensonIn honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

Craft beer has been the fastest growing sector of alcoholic beverages in the nation, and with 130 breweries, San Diego County is considered a capital for beer connoisseurs. For many, brewing starts as an experiment in hopes of turning a passion into a quaffable product. A goal Mike Stevenson found himself achieving when he, and cofounder Ben Fairweather, opened Culver Beer Company in early 2015. Stevenson gained hands-on brewing experience through apprenticeships at brewpubs in Germany and Italy, received a Brewing certificate from UC San Diego Extension, and worked with Twisted Manzanita and White Labs where he gained valuable knowledge about yeast, fermentation and quality assurance.

(1) Why is the work you do important?

For one, craft beer has allowed for manufacturing jobs to exist in America again and people enjoy consuming local products. As an industry, we were fortunate to grow at the same time the farm-to-table movement really took off. People find value in knowing that what they are purchasing is helping support their local economy.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

With the craft beer boom, there has been a dramatic shift affecting every aspect of the brewing industry. We’ve moved out of the Budweiser-dominated beer world where there was a limited choice of raw materials and only a few buyers, to now, where we are close to reaching 5,000 small independent breweries nationwide. The landscape has clearly changed. Barley farmers have started growing flavor rich varieties, which we have not seen before, maltsters are producing all sorts of new types of malted barley to brew with and hop growers keep coming up with crazy new strains to help fuel the IPA craze. Most bars, restaurants and pubs have increased their tap real estate to allow for a larger variety of beers and a lot of them strive to keep local craft beer on tap.

(3) What’s the next big thing?

Good question. I think the big bitter IPAs are slowing down in popularity and people are starting to explore other styles. Sour beers have grown into a nice niche market and some breweries in town only cater to this style of beer. Vanilla Cream Ales, Peanut Butter Stouts and other flavor filled beers have helped put their respective breweries on the map and they have seen awesome growth because of them. Our lagers and Belgian styles do just as well as our IPAs in our tap room and we plan on continuing to produce these styles as we try our hand at new ones. We need to find that one beer that will pay the bills and hit the market hard, and we have a few good contenders. I think rapid growth year over year will also begin to slow down as smaller guys come into the marketplace and push pressure upwards.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

San Diego has become an epicenter of brewing worldwide. We get plenty of out-of-town visitors in our taproom and their itineraries include the normal tourist activities followed by stopovers at local breweries. There are over 130 breweries in San Diego County, so almost anywhere you go you’re a short drive away from a brewery. I know plenty of brewers who started their brewing career in San Diego and have had wonderful opportunities to work around the country and world because they had a San Diego brewery on their resume. The recent Great American Beer Festival further solidified San Diego’s status as a craft beer hub, bringing home 18 of the 68 medals awarded to California breweries.

(5) Hop into your time machine … what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

Beer has been around since civilization began. In 50 years, this craft beer phase will be another chapter in a brewing textbook. History has been repeating itself as of late with larger breweries starting to purchase smaller brands to add to their “craft portfolio.” I think we will see a lot more consolidation in the industry like we did in the 50s, 60s and 70s. However, I think we will see a large number of breweries remain small, catering to their local customer base. We are located in a business-dense area and serve as a pub for the local working-class people, who as they have always done, like to enjoy a beer after work. I think in the near future supply chains will get tighter and materials (hops) will be harder to source as the bigger guys lock down their contracts. The best advice I can give is to make good beer and get to know your regulars in the tasting room.

Interested in becoming a craft brewer? Learn more about UC San Diego Extension’s Brewing Certificate here.