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Letter From the Deans - Issue 15

Larry, Pierre and David

In the last issue of Convergence we featured the work of UC Santa Barbara scientists who study the natural oil and gas seeps off the coast of Santa Barbara (“Goo and Gas,” issue 14). These seeps—among the most prolific on the planet—are a convenient natural laboratory for researchers to study the fate and effects of oil and gases like methane—a potent greenhouse gas—that are released into the ocean.

The importance of that work was brought into tragic focus this past summer, when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig led to the largest accidental oil spill in history. For 86 days, oil and gas gushed into the Gulf of Mexico.

As a massive cleanup effort was mounted, and controversy swelled, UCSB scientists stepped up to contribute their considerable expertise. Their tireless work helped the federal agencies leading the response understand how much oil and gas was spewing into the gulf and how it would spread and dissipate. For the researchers, it was also an opportunity to add to our understanding of, and ability to respond to, catastrophic spills—which are certain to occur again.

In this issue, we hear from three UCSB researchers who were involved in the Deepwater Horizon response. They talk about their experiences at the scene of the spill and about the frustrations, complications and rewards of research in a catastrophe.

Disasters like the Deepwater Horizon spill serve as reminders of the tremendous value of the work of scientists and engineers at UCSB.

Elsewhere in this issue we highlight UCSB’s leading role in two exciting fields that promise revolutionary real-world applications: photonics and cloud computing. We feature research on an “artificial pancreas system” that could make life much easier and healthier for people with diabetes, and explore the university’s extensive collections of plants, animals and fossils, which are yielding valuable insights into important issues like climate change.

We are very grateful for your continued support of engineering and the sciences at UCSB. With your help, the work done here can truly make a difference.

Larry, Pierre and David