Top UC Davis Research Stories of 2023

From Discovering Our Past to Charting Our Future

In a laboratory setting, an agricultural engineering student in a white lab coat works with their Professor, to their left, in a blue coat. They both are smiling and enjoying working together.
Researchers at UC Davis have created small balls of edible fungi that can be processed into products like boba and lab-grown caviar. Pictured are biological and agricultural engineering doctoral student Lin Cao and project lead and Professor Ruihong Zhang, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. (Jael Mackendorf/UC Davis)

Research drives the innovation, creativity and solutions developed at UC Davis. It’s why the American Council on Education ranks us as an R1 university, the most elite category of institutions conducting research at the highest level. Fewer than 200 institutions in the U.S. have this classification. 

Over 50% of UC Davis undergraduate students conduct research and creative projects beyond the classroom. A major new career initiative also aims to have all undergraduates participate in experiential learning, including research, before they graduate.

From innovations in artificial intelligence to tracing the origin of human life, we’ve compiled a list of this year’s top stories about discoveries made at UC Davis:


Sexing Chicken Eggs by Scent
The power of smell was realized when researchers at UC Davis and Sensit Ventures Inc., a startup in Davis, found that the sex of fertilized chicken eggs can be determined by “sniffing” volatile chemicals emitted through the shell. 

New UC Davis Research Using DNA Changes Origin of Human Species 
While many attribute humankind’s beginning in Africa, a new study disproves the theory that Homo sapiens arose from a single African population and demonstrates a new model of human evolution. See how the department of anthropology and the Genome Center  at UC Davis played a part in this innovative use of DNA testing. 

Can Golden Retrievers Live Longer? 
Learn how researchers at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine found gene variants in humans that informed gene treatments for golden retrievers, combating their proclivity to cancer.

Surprising Benefits of Using Sheep as Lawn Mowers
What started out as an experiment to test sheep’s mowing abilities became research on how the sheep make people feel peaceful. The research has important relevance, especially at a time when, nationwide since the 1980s, students of all ages have expressed that they struggle with stress and their mental and physical health. Haven Kiers, assistant professor of landscape architecture, co-authors and researchers surveyed about 200 students, staff, faculty, and community members about their experiences walking by, or even hanging out in Adirondack chairs studying, sketching and painting watercolors among the sheep. Researchers included public health experts and urban designers.


Coal Trains Increase Air Pollution in San Francisco Bay Area  
Read about an innovative and applicable use of AI with real impacts on a local community around a critical global environmental justice issue.

The Student Researchers at Bodega Marine Laboratory
UC Davis’ In Focus platform launched a new pillar – The Student Researcher – highlighting hands-on achievement in the field and lab. It kicked off with a story on marine research into eelgrass, mussels and anemone conducted by Summer Session participants and two inaugural Evolution and Ecology Scholars. 

In the Bodega Marine Laboratory, UC Davis’ esteemed faculty and passionate undergraduate students are uncovering the secrets of the marine world. 

Professor's Sustainability Startup Named One of Time's Best Inventions of 2023
Erika La Plante, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at UC Davis, earned Time’s “Best Inventions of 2023” for her company, Equatic. Her research helped form the basis of Equatic's carbon removal technology, and she currently leads the company's efforts to accurately measure carbon removal down to the gram.  

MORE 2023

Future of Food

Nearly 70% of Private Label Avocado Oil Rancid or Mixed With Other Oils
Consumers beware: Some “pure” avocado oils contain other oils or additives. Researchers at UC Davis analyzed samples of 36 private label avocado oil products and graded them based on quality and purity. Their findings, published in the journal Food Control, show that just 31% of the samples tested were pure, and 36% were of advertised quality. 

Getting the Most Health Benefits from Smoothies
Here’s how to make a good thing even better. Campus researchers suggest that blending certain ingredients in smoothies can help your body get a nutritional boost.

Farms to Fungi 
Learn about “myco-foods” — small balls of edible fungi that can be processed into products like boba and lab-grown caviar with a variety of textures, colors and flavors. Engineers at the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are growing these myco-foods from the nutrients of agricultural byproducts like coffee grounds and almond hulls to provide an important new source of protein that could help feed the world and combat hunger.

Media Resources

José Vadi is a writer for Dateline UC Davis, and can be reached by email.

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