News from the Director, March 2014 – “Seeding Our Future”

Dear Friends of CITRIS:

CITRIS Director Costas Spanos

First, I want to thank my friend and colleague Paul Wright, and the excellent faculty and staff he has assembled in his years as Director, for making my transition into a new role at CITRIS such a smooth and hopeful one. Paul has done a stellar job strengthening CITRIS and advancing its mission of  creating IT solutions to our most pressing social, environmental, and healthcare challenges. He has handed off an organization poised to continue doing great things in the world and it is reassuring to know Paul will be only one floor up in Sutardja Dai Hall, where he now leads the new Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute (BECI). I also particularly want to thank Camille Crittenden who kept CITRIS at the top of its game during the transition by taking on the role of Deputy Director; I look forward to coordinating our efforts.

Read >>”Q&A with Director Spanos”

Evidence of CITRIS’s vibrant research across our four campuses may be seen in the recent announcement of the latest round of projects awarded CITRIS seed funding. The projects are all multi-campus and multi-disciplinary, reflecting our commitment to transcend both institutional and academic boundaries. Of the 44 proposals submitted, eleven will receive funding. These range from a Merced/Davis project that will employ drones and novel DNA sampling techniques to survey hard-to-access aquatic ecosystems, to a Davis/Santa Cruz project developing wearable, non-invasive heart sensors that can help predict heart failure outside the clinic, to a Berkeley/Davis collaboration using integrated electrostatic precipitators and sensors with engineered semiconductor nanotips for the super-efficient monitoring of pollutants. Congratulations to the eleven winners, and thanks to all those who submitted proposals.

In addition to an introductory interview Gordy Slack conducted with me, this month’s newsletter includes an article about our Data and Democracy Initiative’s collaboration with Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom on the California Report Card. This elegant application stemmed from an encounter here at CITRIS between Ken Goldberg and Newsom back in September 2013. An advocate of using IT to bridge the communication gap between constituents and their representatives, Newsom encouraged Goldberg and his team to develop an online platform for the public grading the state on its performance in various categories and offer suggestions for issues the state should address. It is another promising example of technology employing a big idea to address a huge challenge.

Read >> “Grading the State”

Lieutenant Governor Newsom returned to CITRIS on Thursday, March 20, for a public forum, “The California Report Card: Learning from a New Platform for Civic Engagement,” which also featured Ken Goldberg; Henry E. Brady, Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy; and Marina Gorbis of the Institute for the Future. I hope you can watch the event at your convenience on our YouTube Channel.

It is an honor and a pleasure for me to be moving into the center of action here at CITRIS. I am grateful for the opportunity to help deploy our University’s resources to address some of California’s—and the world’s—most pressing challenges.


Costas J. Spanos

Director, CITRIS

Banatao Institute@CITRIS Berkeley