Research in 60 Seconds

As an elite research university, UC Santa Barbara is home to world-renowned faculty across the disciplines — from the hard sciences, to the social sciences, to the humanities and the arts. These esteemed scholars and scientists are conducting their research not only on campus, but all over the world. The award-winning video series "Research in 60 Seconds" highlights some of their pioneering advances and brilliant discoveries, in just about a minute. Watch the short yet engaging and informative segments housed here to learn more about the fascinating work coming out of UC Santa Barbara.

A Plastic Recycling Breakthrough

Probably the greatest barrier to recycling plastics is that the quality of the end product is far inferior to the quality of the original product, which disincentivizes would-be recyclers from investing time and resources into the process. But what if there was a way to create high-quality plastic from the original material? UC Santa Barbara chemical engineer Susannah Scott outlines a game-changing method of “upcycling” plastics, creating high-quality plastic molecules that would increase the appeal of recycling, allow us to repurpose existing plastic, and bring us closer to a circular economy.

The World's Highest Jumping Robot

UC Santa Barbara mechanical engineering professor Elliot Hawkes and his team examine potential for jumping as a way for machines to navigate and survey their environments. Using animals as an — ahem — jumping-off point, they optimize the mechanics of jumping for machines, in the process creating a jumper that achieves the tallest known height of any known jumper, machine or biological.

Measuring Bloch Waves

Electrons behave differently in materials than they do in free space, and understanding how is critical for scientists studying material properties and engineers looking to develop new technologies. Researchers in Professor Mark Sherwin’s lab are using UC Santa Barbara’s free-electron laser to experimentally reconstruct these wavefunctions for the first time.

Climate Change and Energy Politics

UC Santa Barbara associate professor of political science Leah Stokes works at the intersection of climate change and energy politics. Her research takes a deep look at the climate crisis and its solutions - aiming to inform both the public and politicians who make decisions that affect the health of people and our planet.

Developing a Soft Robot That Grows

Forget those outdated ideas of robots as stiff, metallic machines — there's a new class emerging, and Elliot Hawkes is at the forefront. An assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Hawkes and his colleagues are developing a soft robot that does what many other robots can’t: squeeze into small spaces, navigate tight angles and exert pressure on objects without damage. The applications are myriad, from construction and underground exploration to search and rescue operations and even medical uses in the human body. [This video includes additional video footage courtesy Kurt Hickman/Stanford University]

Understanding Factors in Coral Bleaching

Coral reefs play an important role in maintaining a diverse marine ecosystem. They are also critical to the climate of the planet because they help regulate ocean temperature and circulation. And some coral reefs are more in danger than others. Professor Deron Burkepile of the Ecology Evolution and Marine Biology Department shares how his research lab is trying to understand the human impact on coral bleaching — and, in turn, ocean temperature.

Turning Agricultural Waste into Energy

Could the study of grass-eating animals lead to the discovery of new sustainable fuels and chemicals? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Cows and other large herbivores, which evolved to graze on grasses and other woody forage, have the ability to “unlock” the energy contained in plant cellulose and convert it to sugar. An associate professor of chemical engineering, Michelle O’Malley works to understand and cultivate the microbes that these animals have in their digestive system to use similar processes to create fuels and chemicals from agricultural waste rather than fossil fuels.

Building Engagement to Create Social Change

Hahrie Han’s work explores the best methods for engaging people in the democratic process. Previously the Anton Vonk Professor of Political Science and Environmental Politics at UC Santa Barbara, she explains how by focusing on relationships, organizations can foster deeper involvement to build power for change.

Protecting Reef Sharks

Sharks shape ocean ecosystems, and overfishing has caused their numbers to crash in a lot of places around the world. So how well do ocean parks protect sharks? From tracking shark traffic around one island in the Pacific, ecologist Douglas McCauley and his team discovered that sharks wander much further into the open ocean than anyone previously thought — a key finding for the development of future marine parks.