News in brief

UCLA to begin innovative face transplantation program
The upcoming UCLA Face Transplantation Program will be the first of its kind in the western part of the United States. In partnership with Operation Mend, the reconstructive surgery is meant to improve the lives of those suffering from irreversible traumatic injuries and accidental disfiguration. The university is currently seeking patients to participate in the five-year trial program.
As of 2012, 19 patients worldwide have received facial transplants, five of which have been performed in the U.S., reports the Daily Bruin.

During the 8-20 hour procedure, the damaged part of a patient’s face is removed and replaced with the donated face of another individual through the attachment of nerves and blood vessels. Medical specialists from different areas of UCLA’s Medical Center will be involved with the program in order to address the complexity of each procedure.

Possible candidates are evaluated based on certain criteria for the clinical trial to determine the likelihood of whether a face transplant would be a feasible option. Participant must undergo approved exams to gauge physical and mental health, meet age requirements and be willing to commit to drug schedules and rehabilitation. As an experimental procedure, the face transplantation is not completely risk-free and will include the testing of innovative anti-rejection drugs that may improve the success rate of such procedures.

UCR selects new vice chancellor of research and economic development
Michael J. Pazzani of Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, has been named UCR Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development. Appointed by Chancellor Tim White, Pazzani is succeeding Charles Louis, who will be retiring from his position after eight years. “Michael Pazzani will take our research enterprise to a higher level, consistent with our strategic plan, which calls for an aggressive expansion of research and creative activity,” stated Chancellor White in an article by UCR Today.

Pazzani currently holds a similar administrative position at Rutgers, where he manages sponsored research, laboratory services and technological reassignment. Pazzani is also a fellow for the American Association of Artificial Intelligence, an author of numerous scientific syndicates and founder of AdaptiveInfo, a company that generates personalized mobile content delivery for companies such as the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union Tribune, as stated by UCR today.

With extensive knowledge in the areas of artificial intelligence and computer science, Pazzani hopes to carry on the UCR 2020 vision which involves promoting scientific advancement through greater corporate partnerships and federal funding. “In addition, he will be asked to help drive economic development and innovation, and to build and sustain a robust, service-oriented research infrastructure that spans UCR’s schools, colleges, and divisions,” stated Chancellor White in an article by UCR Today. Pazzani’s transition to UCR will begin in July of this year.

Assembly approves portion of the Middle Class Scholarship Act
In a 55-17 vote, the California Assembly approved AB 1501–otherwise known as one half of the Middle Class Scholarship Act–which aims to cut UC and CSU tuition by two-thirds for families making less than $150,000 a year. However, the success of the Speaker Perez’s (D-Los Angeles) proposal remains in limbo since the Assembly has yet to approve a companion bill that would establish the funding for the plan. The act’s companion bill, AB 1500, would derive funds by closing an alleged corporate tax loophole on out-of-state corporations that conduct business in California.

While AB 1501 gained bi-partisan support during the May 30 vote, AB 1500 will likely face more opposition from senators since it entails committing to higher taxes. “Any time you propose a new spending program, and that’s what this is, you have to find a way to pay for it. We can’t afford it,” stated Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly in an interview with CBS San Francisco. Donnelly was among the 23 Republican senators that voted against AB 1500. Other arguments against the Middle Class Scholarship Act criticized the allocation of funds being spent on financial aid (as opposed to being spent toward the UC’s general state fund) and the bill’s inability address rising tuition costs.

Meanwhile, supporters of the bill have praised the Middle Class Scholarship Act as a solution to a detrimental tax loophole and a necessary step towards upholding access to higher education. Tax-related arguments are based on the premise that the tax loophole unfairly benefits out-of-state corporations by giving them a larger tax break over their California competitors.
Speaker Perez has not yet announced when AB 1500 will be brought up for an Assembly vote.

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