07/12/2014 2:55 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

Sparking Ideas That Revolutionize Our World

FILE- In this Oct. 17, 2014, file photo, a thick blanket of smoke is seen against the setting sun as young ragpickers search for reusable material at a garbage dump in New Delhi, India. India launched the Air Quality Index Friday to measure air quality across the nation that is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world. A groundbreaking agreement struck Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, by the United States and China puts the world's two worst polluters on a faster track to curbing the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

It all begins with one spark. One idea. One discovery. In fact, it was a literal spark that changed the course of human history. A spark that led to fire, which provided warmth, light, protection and the ability to cook food. Fire has been called the foundation of human civilization. It revolutionized our world. Our ability to control fire has enabled us to generate electricity and drive machines. But it has also created problems for civilization -- problems such as global warming, air pollution and threats to public health.

UC San Diego is working to mitigate these negative impacts. One prime example is the work of Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a native of India and Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He is co-leading Project Surya to provide cleaner-burning cookstoves to people in South Asia, thus reducing a major source of black carbon soot. His goal: replace stoves in 10,000 homes with the aid of a multi-national team of scientists, engineers, health professionals and village leaders. This will slow global warming and prevent millions of deaths from people inhaling indoor air filled with pollutants. Ramanathan has also collaborated with his colleagues to initiate a World Bank-sponsored project to reduce soot emissions from the transportation sector in India.

This work continues the groundbreaking research of UC San Diego's founder, Roger Revelle, and Charles David Keeling, creator of the Keeling Curve. They were among the first to alert the world's attention to the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Just as their research revolutionized our climate change research and solutions, Ramanathan's work is changing how we think about and address the issue of global warming today. His investigations have drawn international attention and praise.

Ramanathan is one of thousands of UC San Diego researchers, students and alumni who are at the forefront of their fields, improving our world through their work and discoveries. I look forward to sharing more UC San Diego research, ideas and stories with our global community through HuffPost India, including the contributions of our many faculty, staff and students from India and our collaborations with India. This is an excellent new avenue to gather our world's experts and extraordinary minds to spark conversations and collaboratively seek solutions to societal challenges, particularly those that affect India. The only way we are going to solve global challenges -- like climate change, food and water shortages, and health issues -- is by working together, sharing our resources and diverse expertise, and innovatively translating our discoveries into real-world applications.

Our goal at UC San Diego is to transform lives, shape new disciplines and advance the frontiers of knowledge in a multitude of disciplines -- from the physical and social sciences, to arts and humanities. We push boundaries, we work across disciplines, and we seek new information and understanding, so we can find that one spark, one idea, one discovery that will once again revolutionize our world.

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