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Fall 2019 incoming faculty and cooperative extension specialists

August 20, 2019

The College of Natural Resources welcomes three professors and two new cooperative extension specialists to the College this fall. Their research and outreach expertise spans a variety of topics including the cellular processes related to aging, forest management, nutrition-related illnesses, and plant cell biology, among others. Welcome to CNR! 

Yangnan Gu

Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

Yangnan Gu is a plant cell biologist who studies how plants regulate immune and stress responses at the molecular and cellular levels. His research focuses on the protein landscape of the plant nuclear membrane and the functional importance of nuclear membrane proteins in stress signal perception, transduction, and execution of anti-stress responses. Gu received his B.S. in Bioengineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China in 2007. He earned an M.S. in Applied Statistics and a Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from Indiana University, Bloomington in 2013. He undertook postdoctoral studies at Duke University’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he discovered a novel component of the nuclear pore complex and its role in plant immune responses. Currently, he is applying genome editing technology to crop species beyond Arabidopsis in order to engineer crop resistance against various environmental stresses.

Manuela Girotto smiling in front of pine leaves.

Manuela Girotto

Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Manuela Girotto is a civil and environmental engineer whose work merges cutting-edge space technology and remotely-sensed observations of the earth with state-of-the-art models for the purpose of improving our scientific knowledge about variability and change in hydrologic cycles. In particular, her research focuses on snow, soil moisture, and groundwater hydrology. Girotto has developed remote sensing data assimilation techniques to construct a snow reanalysis dataset that characterized the availability and magnitude of snow in the Sierra Nevada in California. She has also merged satellite observations from a NASA gravity mission (which is sensitive to groundwater levels) and soil moisture mission within land surface and climate models for the purpose of improving estimates of the soil moisture profile, which is a key variable for understanding and predicting weather, biogeochemical dynamics, and environmental and economical hazards such as droughts and floods. After earning her PhD in civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, she worked as a research scientist in the earth science division of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.

Susana Matias smiling in front of leaves.

Susana Matias

Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology

Susana Matias is a Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology (NST). Prior to joining NST, Matias was an Assistant Project Scientist in the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis, where she completed her Ph.D. in Epidemiology. Matias also holds a B.A. in Psychology from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Matias has several years of experience in public health nutrition and a training profile that blends nutrition, epidemiology and psychology. Her research promotes health through nutrition and the prevention of nutrition-related illnesses, focusing on mother-child dyads and other vulnerable groups. Populations she has studied in California include pregnant and postpartum women in Northern California and Latino farmworkers in the Central Valley. Matias uses research data to develop and implement interventions that aid the populations she studies. Her work aims to improve the nutritional education, diet, and physical activity of individuals in those communities.

Denis Titov smiling.

Denis Titov

Department of Nutritional Science and Toxicology

Denis Titov is a faculty member in the Department of Nutritional Science and Toxicology and Center for Computational Biology. The long-term goal of his laboratory is to understand the molecular basis of inactivation of cellular machinery during aging. He is interested in addressing the following broad questions: What are the cellular processes whose inactivation determines the lifespan of organisms? What molecular mechanisms cause age-associated damage to proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids? How do environmental and genetic factors modulate the rate of aging? To address these questions, Titov’s lab is using a combination of physiology, chemical biology, modeling, and novel tool development to study how changes in metabolism induced by diet and exercise regulate aging in model organisms. After earning his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Novosibirsk State University in Russia and his PhD in Pharmacology from Johns Hopkins University, Titov completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Rob York outside in a pine forest. He is wearing a hat and carrying tools on his belt.

Rob York

Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Rob York works at the intersection of forest science and management. His scientific work explores novel approaches for designing forest management treatments that are guided by ecosystems’ disturbance regimes. As an Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist and Adjunct Associate Professor of Forestry, he focuses on applying results of stand-level experiments to forest management, working specifically to encourage the application of active adaptive management in the face of climate change, altered fire regimes, and shifting values that society places on forests. He actively demonstrates traditional and new approaches to management to a wide variety of stakeholders including policy makers, landowners, practitioners, and environmental organizations. He earned his undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees from UC Berkley. Currently, York is working on developing the concept of “Pyrosilviculture,” which seeks to incorporate burning practices into standard forest management activities. He is also exploring the use of herbicide alternatives and new forest harvesting techniques that take forest restoration goals into account. Every summer he mentors forestry students and young professionals in field forestry. He is also a principal investigator on the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Experiment, a collaborative, large-scale study that explores forest management alternatives for California in the face of potentially drastic climate change impacts.