UCLA Campus Report: School on List of Most Reputable Universities

A look at some of the non-sports stories making headlines around campus

An occasional report from around campus that recognizes that UCLA is a school with a world-class reputation for research and innovation and whose people make real impact on the real world:

We lead this week with a story from Forbes; the magazine republished a list of the world’s most reputable universities, put together by Times Higher Education (THE), a London magazine that tracks the higher education market. UCLA ranked #10.

This week’s news focuses on a true-crime mystery authored by a UCLA English professor, a UCLA engineering team increasing the power of computer processing and the harmful effects of smoking on young people.

The World's Most Reputable Universities In 2014

Harvard took the top spot. Three Pac 12 schools are in the Top Ten, including UCLA, Stanford and UC Berkeley. Cal Tech made it four California schools.

Harvard still sits on top. MIT comes in second. Stanford is in third place. Those are the three universities with the best reputations in the world, according to a ranking just released by Times Higher Education (THE), a London magazine that tracks the higher education market.

THE also releases a more established list, the World University Ranking, which it has been putting together for the past 10 years, where it uses 13 different metrics, from the number of academic citations schools receive to the percentage of their faculty members with Ph.D.s But THE rankings editor Phil Baty explains that four years ago, he and his colleagues realized that it could also be meaningful to look purely at reputation. So THE decided to poll senior, published professors at universities in more than 100 countries around the world. It asked them to do one thing: Nominate 15 or fewer institutions in their field which they considered to have the best departments in their area of study. (A company called IpsosMediaCT collected the poll data and gave it to ThomsonReuters, which tallied the numbers for THE.) Then THE took the data and divided it into six disciplines: social sciences, engineering, technology, physical sciences, medicine and life sciences, and arts and humanities, and did its tally from there.

UCLA Headines

'CSI: Middle Ages': True-crime mystery by UCLA medievalist illuminates 15th-century Paris

UCLA English professor Eric Jager has never played Dungeons and Dragons. He is not a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. He doesn't even understand the appeal of historically themed restaurants like Medieval Times.

"If you really want to reenact the Middle Ages, then you should drink contaminated water, contract the plague and die very quickly," Jager quips. "It wasn't a very pleasant time."

Yet Jager appears to enjoy sending others on the journey. With his scrupulously researched works of true-crime nonfiction, the author and 18-year veteran of UCLA's English department is gaining a reputation for his uncanny ability to transport readers to medieval France, warts and all. His books have drawn rave reviews, and at least one so far has inspired filmmakers. Not bad for dramas set during a conflict whose very name conveys interminable misery — the Hundred Years' War.

Jager's first foray into the genre, "The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France" (Broadway Books, 2004), recounted a 1386 duel to the death by two French noblemen, one of whom had accused the other of raping his wife.

"Jager's book succeeds brilliantly in combining page-turning intensity ... with eye-opening insights into the bizarre ritual of judicial combat in the Middle Ages," the London Times wrote upon the publication of "The Last Duel," which was translated into nine languages and shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association's nonfiction Gold Dagger award.

UCLA engineering team increases power efficiency for future computer processors

Have you ever wondered why your laptop or smartphone feels warm when you're using it? That heat is a byproduct of the microprocessors in your device using electric current to power computer processing functions — and it is actually wasted energy.

Now, a team led by researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has made major improvements in computer processing using an emerging class of magnetic materials called "multiferroics," and these advances could make future devices far more energy-efficient than current technologies.

With today's device microprocessors, electric current passes through transistors, which are essentially very small electronic switches. Because current involves the movement of electrons, this process produces heat — which makes devices warm to the touch. These switches can also "leak" electrons, making it difficult to completely turn them off. And as chips continue to get smaller, with more circuits packed into smaller spaces, the amount of wasted heat grows.

The UCLA Engineering team used multiferroic magnetic materials to reduce the amount of power consumed by "logic devices," a type of circuit on a computer chip dedicated to performing functions such as calculations. A multiferroic can be switched on or off by applying alternating voltage — the difference in electrical potential. It then carries power through the material in a cascading wave through the spins of electrons, a process referred to as a spin wave bus.

Cigarette smoking may cause physical changes in brains of young smokers, UCLA study shows

The young, it turns out, smoke more than any other age group in America. Unfortunately, the period of life ranging from late adolescence to early adulthood is also a time when the brain is still developing.

Now, a small study from UCLA suggests a disturbing effect: Young adult smokers may experience changes in the structures of their brains due to cigarette smoking, dependence and craving. Even worse, these changes can occur in those who have been smoking for relatively short time. Finally, the study suggests that neurobiological changes that may result from smoking during this critical period could explain why adults who began smoking at a young age stay hooked on cigarettes.

The study appears in the March 3 online edition of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

"Although we are not certain whether the findings represent the effects of smoking or a genetic risk factor for nicotine dependence, the results may reflect the initial effects of cigarette smoking on the brain," said senior author Edythe London, a professor of psychiatry and of molecular and medical pharmacology at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and David Geffen School of Medicine. "This work may also contribute to the understanding of why smoking during this developmental stage has such a profound impact on lifelong smoking behavior."

UCLA in the News

'Brain Gym' for Memory-Loss Patients

Tuesday's Washington Post highlighted a UCLA Longevity Center program that gives patients suffering from cognitive decline and their caretakers an opportunity to learn strategies and exercises for dealing with memory loss and to connect with others in similar circumstances. Dr. Gary Small, the center's director and UCLA's Parlow–Solomon Professor on Aging, was quoted.

Turning Google Glass Into Medical Lab

The development by Aydogan Ozcan, professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and colleagues of an app for Google Glass that allows users of the wearable, glasses-like computer to photograph and upload images of medical diagnostic tests for quick analysis was highlighted Thursday by United Press International, Friday by RedOrbit and India Today, and Sunday by the Imperial Valley News. Ozcan was quoted in the coverage.

Ruling on American Flags

Minnesota's Pioneer Press on Saturday featured an op-ed by Eugene Volokh, the Gary T. Schwartz Professor at the UCLA School of Law, about an appeals court ruling affirming a high school's decision to bar students from publicly displaying clothing with the American flag on Cinco de Mayo. Volokh was also quoted Saturday in a San Jose Mercury article on the subject.

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