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Invaluable Partners: Baskin School of Engineering and Santa Cruz Tech Beat

By Abigail Kaun, Executive Advisor to the Dean
Baskin School of Engineering, UC Santa Cruz

June 4, 2021 — Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz Tech Beat has helped forge connections, raise awareness of new opportunities, and bring together a diverse community of innovators, business leaders, and entrepreneurs.

Since its founding in 2013, Santa Cruz Tech Beat (SCTB) has been an invaluable partner for the UCSC Baskin School of Engineering, helping tell the story of the remarkable work of its faculty and students to the Monterey Bay Area business and technology community.

Its eight years in publication have corresponded with an explosion in the Santa Cruz tech industry, and SCTB has arguably contributed to this growth by helping forge connections, raise awareness of new opportunities, and bring together a diverse community of innovators, business leaders, and entrepreneurs.

The expansion of the Santa Cruz biotech industry has accompanied an exciting evolution in engineering at UC Santa Cruz, and SCTB has consistently chronicled the school’s innovations and discoveries. Stories about start-ups and spin-offs led by the school’s faculty and graduate students have inspired readers, including a piece by founder/publisher Sara Isenberg on the emergence of Claret Bio, a biotech startup spun out of Ed Green and Beth Shapiro’s paleogenomics lab, and a recent story on the growth of Ontera, a company that offers single-molecule detection and genome analysis utilizing silicon nanopore chip-based sensors

These start-ups and spin-offs have as their foundation original and creative research, and SCTB has told the story of remarkable breakthroughs in research at Baskin Engineering.  It has told the story of Baskin Engineering research that uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology to create the next generation of fire detection and prediction, and Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty are developing an innovative all-electric power train that will help enable net-zero carbon emissions for commercial aircraft. And a recent story by UCSC writer Tim Stephens describes new research led by Baskin engineer Holger Schmidt to create a novel chip-based antigen test that can provide ultrasensitive detection of the viruses that cause COVID-19 and flu. This technology’s market transfer potential includes the possibility of point-of-care diagnostics, obviating the need to send samples off for laboratory testing.

Santa Cruz Tech Beat has shared the stories of innovative work by Baskin Engineering students, as well, such as the story of Social Impact Student Founders fellow Fatemeh Mirzaei. The mission of Mirzaei’s decentralized fact checking and exploration platform Wiseper is to keep the general public well informed about pressing issues like health, food, and climate change. Understanding the impact of technology on society is integral to the school’s research and teaching mission, and SCTB has consistently published stories on research efforts that are explicitly aimed at serving the public good, such as the development of a “smart” fidget spinner designed to help improve people’s attention, alertness and emotional regulation.

In addition, SCTB has given voice to emerging tech journalists and student writers, such as Tatum Whitehead, who wrote for SCTB as a high school writing intern and is now a Data Science student at Northwestern University. Whitehead covered a gathering of women in tech held at NextSpace in 2019. Then-CSUMB student Donald Brennan wrote about CruzFoam, a company founded by Baskin engineers to create a sustainable alternative to the polyurethane foam used in the productions of surfboards since the 1950s. And UCSC student Xochitl Rojas-Rocha, now a science writer at the Qualcomm Institute, wrote about new solar panel technology in an article that was picked up by the United Nations University.

Alexander Wolf notes that “during my five years as dean of the Baskin School of Engineering, one of my priorities has been to increase the impact of our work by raising the visibility of engineering at UC Santa Cruz. Sara Isenberg — who has a degree in computer science from UCSC — has been an important partner in this effort, and Baskin Engineering is grateful to her and to the entire SCTB team.”

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