Recent Science Diaries and Stories
The Daily Bucket: Get Outside Nowby mark Sumner
This week in scienceby DarkSyde
Japan’s nuclear troublesby onanyes
University of Michigan’s Montage Magazine: Colossal fossilMuseum’s new whale skeleton represents decades of research; watch video on exhibitFebruary, 2011By Nancy Ross-Flanigan
There’s a whale of a new display at the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History, a leviathan that represents a scientific saga of equally grand proportions.
A complete, 50-foot-long skeleton of the extinct whale Basilosaurus isis, which lived 37 million years ago, now is suspended from the ceiling of the museum’s second floor gallery and will reign over an updated whale evolution exhibit scheduled to open in April 2011.
“It’s a spectacular fossil,” said Exhibit Museum director Amy Harris. “Basilosaurus looks ferocious with its big teeth, and we hope people will spend a lot of time looking at it, studying it and reading about it. The Exhibit Museum tells the story of life on Earth, and when museum visitors see Basilosaurus, they’ll be able to see evidence for whale evolution, which is one of the more interesting stories in evolution.”
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University of Michigan: Mating mites trapped in amber reveal sex role reversal
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-In the mating game, some female mites are mightier than their mates, new research at the University of Michigan and the Russian Academy of Sciences suggests. The evidence comes, in part, from 40 million-year-old mating mites preserved in Baltic amber.
In a paper published March 1 in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, researchers Pavel Klimov and Ekaterina Sidorchuk describe an extinct mite species in which the traditional sex roles were reversed.
“In this species, it is the female who has partial or complete control of mating,” said Klimov, an associate research scientist at the U-M Museum of Zoology. “This is in contrast to the present-day reproductive behavior of many mite species where almost all aspects of copulation are controlled by males.”
Purdue University: Study shows how plants sort and eliminate genes over millenniaMarch 9, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Hybrid plants with multiple genome copies show evidence of preferential treatment of the genes from one ancient parent over the genes of the other parent, even to the point where some of the unfavored genes eventually are deleted.
Brian Dilkes, an assistant professor of genetics at Purdue University, worked with a team of scientists at the University of California Davis and University of Southern California to study the genome of Arabidopsis suecica, a hybrid species with four chromosome sets formed tens of thousands of years ago from a cross between Arabidopsis arenosa and Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant commonly used in laboratories for genetic research. Dilkes said the findings, published in the journal Genome Biology and featured as an editor’s choice article in the journal Science, give a glimpse into the evolutionary forces and ultimate fates of genes contributed by the two parents to a hybrid
“There often is no visible signature of these genes when we look at the plants with a microscope, but we can still observe those genes in the genome sequence,” Dilkes said. “Moreover, the ability to make crosses between Arabidopsis thaliana and Arabidopsis arenosa gives us the opportunity to compare laboratory-derived plants that were generated yesterday with naturally occurring species from the wild and compare the two kinds of species hybrids. This is essentially allowing us an opportunity to ‘replay the evolutionary tape,’ in the words of Stephen J. Gould.”
Purdue University: DNA better than eyes when counting endangered speciesMarch 7, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – using genetic methods to count endangered eagles, a group of scientists showed that traditional counting methods can lead to significantly incorrect totals that they believe could adversely affect conservation efforts.
Andrew DeWoody, a professor of genetics at Purdue University; Jamie Ivy, population manager at the San Diego Zoo; and Todd Katzner, a research assistant professor at the University of West Virginia, found that visual counts of imperial and white-tailed sea eagles in the Narzum National Nature Reserve of Kazakhstan significantly underestimated the imperial eagle population there. using DNA from eagle feathers gathered in the area, the researchers were able to identify individual DNA fingerprints for each bird.
The technique showed that there were 414 eagles, more than three times as many as had been visually observed, and more than two and a half times more than modeling suggested would be there.
University of Wisconsin: Aging rates, mortality gender gap similar across primates, study findsMarch 10, 2011
Humans aren’t the only ones who grow old gracefully, says a new study of primate aging patterns.
For a long time it was thought that humans, with our relatively long life spans and access to modern medicine, aged more slowly than other animals. Early comparisons with rats, mice, and other short-lived creatures confirmed the hunch. But now, the first-ever multi-species comparison of human aging patterns with those in chimps, gorillas, and other primates suggests the pace of human aging may not be so unique after all.
The findings appear in the March 11 issue of Science.
University of Michigan: New gene sites affecting nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) discoveredDiscoveries may help doctors to better diagnose, manage and treat NAFLD,explain why some people develop medical complications of obesity while others do not
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – five genetic variants in humans – four new – associate with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), according to a study published March 10 in PLoS Genetics.
NAFLD is a condition where fat accumulates in the liver (steatosis) and can lead to liver inflammation (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH) and permanent liver damage (fibrosis/cirrhosis). NAFLD affects anywhere from 11% to 45% of some populations and is associated with obesity, hypertension, and problems regulating serum lipids or glucose.
“These findings will help us to better diagnose, manage, and treat NAFLD in the future and help explain why some but not all people with obesity develop particular complications of obesity; some carry genetic variants that predispose them to some but not other metabolic diseases.” says lead author Elizabeth K. Speliotes, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., an Assistant Professor of Gastroenterology, Internal Medicine, and Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan.
University of Michigan: Scientists target aggressive prostate cancerU-M researchers show targeted therapy shrank tumors up to 74% in cells, mice
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have identified a potential target to treat an aggressive type of prostate cancer. The target, a gene called SPINK1, could be to prostate cancer what HER2 has become for breast cancer.
Like HER2, SPINK1 occurs in only a small subset of prostate cancers – about 10 percent. But the gene is an ideal target for a monoclonal antibody, the same type of drug as Herceptin, which is aimed at HER2 and has dramatically improved treatment for this aggressive type of breast cancer.
“Since SPINK1 can be made on the surface of cells, it attracted our attention as a therapeutic target. here we show that a ‘blocking’ antibody to SPINK1 could slow the growth of prostate tumors in mice that were positive for the SPINK protein,” says study author Arul Chinnaiyan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
The study appears in the March 2 issue of Science Translational Medicine.
Michigan State University: Dog walkers more likely to reach exercise benchmarks
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Man’s best friend may provide more than just faithful companionship: a new study led by a Michigan State University researcher shows people who owned and walked their dogs were 34 percent more likely to meet federal benchmarks on physical activity.
The results, said epidemiologist Mathew Reeves, show that promoting dog ownership and dog walking could help many Americans – of which fewer than half meet recommended levels of leisure-time physical activity – become healthier.
“Walking is the most accessible form of physical activity available to people,” Reeves said. “What we wanted to know was if dog owners who walked their dogs were getting more physical activity or if the dog-walking was simply a substitute for other forms of activity.”
The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
Michigan State University: Researchers pinpoint genetic pathways involved in breast cancer
EAST LANSING, Mich. – using recent advances in genomics, researchers have uncovered a genetic pathway that affects the development of breast cancer, work that could help predict which patients are at risk of relapse for the disease.
Specifically, Andrechek’s team found the activation of the specific gene E2F2 was associated with a higher probability of breast cancer relapse in humans. The research team, using rodent models, also found that removing the E2F2 gene significantly decreased the likelihood of a tumor.
The findings, to be published in the journal Cancer Research, are available online now.
Wayne State University: Wayne State University researcher receives grant to understand how nature compensates gene imbalance between males and femalesMarch 4, 2011
DETROIT-Many multi-cellular animals use sex chromosomes to determine sex. in fruit flies and in humans, this produces XX for females and XY for males. Cellular mechanisms then kick into gear to compensate the two-to-one imbalance of X-linked genes in females and males.
Victoria Meller, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences and resident of Huntington Woods, Mich., received $301,392 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health to investigate the role of a type of RNA in the X chromosome dosage compensation of Drosophila, or fruit flies. The findings are likely to improve the understanding of gene regulation in humans, which employ similar cellular tools to regulate their complex genome.
Uncovering clues in genetic regulation in humans is instrumental in understanding a wide range of pathologies, including cancer, developmental abnormalities and some birth defects. The misregulation of large groups of genes is characteristic of these diseases.
There are significant differences in the way humans and fruit flies achieve X chromosome dosage compensation. “Humans double the expression of genes on the X chromosome, then deactivate one X chromosome in the female,” Meller said. “Taking a much simpler approach, fruit flies double the X-expression from the male X chromosome and keep the female level the same.”
Wayne State University: WSU researcher creates patented personalized therapy that causes cancer cells to kill themselvesMarch 3, 2011
A Wayne State University School of Medicine physician-researcher has developed a personalized therapy to treat a wide range of cancers. The treatment is based on a naturally occurring human enzyme that has been genetically modified to fool cancer cells into killing themselves.
The unique concept, patented by Wayne State University, was successfully demonstrated on melanoma cells that are resistant to routine treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Melanoma is a perfect model for testing this new therapy because it is considered the most aggressive form of human cancer due to its many defense mechanisms against available treatments. The success of the therapy in killing melanoma suggests a similar outcome in treating other cancers.
Developed by Karli Rosner, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor and director of research in the Department of Dermatology, the method uses genetic constructs that contain a genetically modified enzyme — DNase1 protein — to seek out and destroy cancer cells. The novel technology was published in the article “Engineering a waste management enzyme to overcome cancer resistance to apoptosis: adding DNase1 to the anti-cancer toolbox” in the Jan. 14 online edition of Cancer Gene Therapy, a Nature Publishing Group journal.
University of Wisconsin: New perspective diminishes racial bias in pain treatmentMarch 7, 2011by Chris Barncard
Years of research show black patients getting less treatment in the American health care system than their white counterparts, but a new study suggests that a quick dose of empathy helps close racial gaps in pain treatment.
College students and nurses went to greater lengths to ease the pain of members of their own race in a study led by Brian Drwecki, a psychology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I want to be very clear about this: We’re not saying health care professionals are racist,” Drwecki says. “This is not racism. Racism is a conscious act of hate. We find it very unlikely that health care professionals are aware that they are making these biases, let alone trying to actively hurt black patients.”
University of Wisconsin: Doing more with less: Efficient experiments for bacterial engineeringMarch 11, 2011by Sandra Knisely
Shewanella oneidensis is a bacterium known for its ability to break down heavy metals and make them less soluble in groundwater. if scientists could engineer the organism in certain ways, it could be used in a variety of environmental and biofuel applications, such as microbial fuel cells.
However, like many bacteria that are fairly recent discoveries, Shewanella‘s genome has been sequenced, but its actual metabolic behaviors are not well understood. This information is critical to engineer the organism for biotechnology applications, but doing so via traditional experimental approaches would take a very long time.
Chemical and biological engineering assistant professor Jennifer Reed has received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) grant to design and conduct new experiments that will more quickly reveal answers about the metabolism of organisms like Shewanella.
University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison researcher’s Collaboration Award boosts cystic fibrosis researchMarch 10, 2011by Chris DuPre
The quality of life for children with cystic fibrosis has been improving over the years, in part through earlier diagnosis and clinical intervention.
Thanks to a $300,000 Collaboration Award from The Hartwell Foundation, researcher Sean Fain of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Dr. Talissa Altes at the University of Virginia will explore 4-D imaging of the lungs in young children in connection with cystic fibrosis. The hope is that research will allow examination and treatment of children at younger ages than has been possible.
The project grew out of Fain’s research that was made possible in part by an earlier Hartwell Investigator Award. “That was for investigating childhood asthma with magnetic resonance imaging, doing what we call 4-D imaging, which is three-dimensional plus time,” says Fain, an associate professor of medical physics.
Purdue University: Purdue receives $2.7 million grant to study patient-physician communicationMarch 10, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University has received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study patient and physician communication to improve interactions during physician visits and empower patients to participate actively in their care.
“The time between patients and physicians is precious, and each interaction is different, so this study will explore how communication affects clinical decisions, testing, prescribing and patient outcomes,” said Cleveland Shields, associate professor of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “Patient-centered communication emphasizes understanding each patient’s individual illness experience, needs and preferences, and helps patients participate in decision-making regarding care. our goal is to improve patient-centered communication and clinical decisions by examining how clinicians can communicate better with patients who may differ according to age, sex, ethnicity and personality characteristics.”
Ohio State University: NEW MODEL SHOWS IMPORTANCE OF FEET, TOES IN BODY BALANCE
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Researchers are using a new model to learn more about how toe strength can determine how far people can lean while keeping their balance.
The results could help in building robotic body parts that will closely imitate human movement, and might lead to a new generation of advanced prosthetics.
Michigan State University: Air pollution plays role in cardiac, metabolic diseases
EAST LANSING, Mich. – To explore one of the most critical health/environment intersections – how the very air we breathe can cause heart disease and diabetes and contribute to the problems of obesity – Michigan State University has been named a clean Air Research Center by the Environmental Protection Agency.
A five-year, $8 million grant – led by MSU’s Jack Harkema, a University Distinguished Professor of pathobiology and diagnostic investigation in the College of Veterinary Medicine – will fund three major research projects with the creation of the great Lakes Air Center for Integrative Environmental Research. The research team will study the exact role air pollutants, most notably fine particles and ozone, have on cardiometabolic syndrome, a collection of interrelated risk factors leading to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases that affect about one third of adult Americans.
Signs of cardiometabolic syndrome include high blood pressure and sugar levels, abnormal triglycerides and cholesterol as well as obesity; all warning signs for the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis, Harkema said.
Michigan State University: Mapping food deserts
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Maps are great for showing where things are. They’re also good for showing where things aren’t.
Two Michigan State University professors have developed interactive maps that offer a visual perspective of urban food deserts. By using GIS (geographic information systems) technology, they are showing, rather than simply telling, how urban residents are losing access to fresh produce and balanced nutrition.
Phil Howard, assistant professor of community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies, and Kirk Goldsberry, assistant professor of geography, conducted their research in Lansing. They found that many supermarkets have closed their stores that serve urban areas and have moved to the suburbs. They also showed that Michigan’s state capital is a model for what’s happening to food environments around the country.
“The change in food environments is recurring all over the nation,” said Howard, whose research is supported by MSU’s AgBioResearch. “The best selection of produce and the lowest prices have moved to the suburbs. So if you want lettuce in Lansing, or in most U.S. cities, you’re going to have to drive to get it.”
EAST LANSING, Mich. – a new scientific field will use sound as a way to understand the ecological characteristics of a landscape and to reconnect people with the importance of natural sounds.
Soundscape ecology, a field being spearheaded by a team of researchers at Michigan State University and Purdue University, will focus on what sounds can tell people about an area. The team’s results can be found in BioScience. in short, natural sound could be used as a critical first indicator of environmental changes, such as shifts in climate, weather patterns, the presence of pollution or other alterations to a landscape.
“Over the years, I’ve realized how important sound is as a metric to examine the health and integrity of ecosystems,” said Stuart Gage, director of MSU’s Remote Environmental Assessment Laboratory. “Being able to publish this paper with my colleagues and former students, is truly a rewarding culmination of my rather long journey into the soundscape.”
This is the other half of a story from Purdue University: New scientific field will study ecological importance of sounds covered in last week’s Science Saturday.
Purdue University: Trio of factors pushing food prices higher, economist saysMarch 11, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Grain shortages, Middle East turmoil and extreme weather in critical crop-producing regions have combined to send retail food prices higher this year, said a Purdue University agricultural economist. Prices could climb further if commodities markets continue their upward march.
American consumers can expect to spend about 4 percent more for food this year than in 2010, said Corinne Alexander. Beef, pork and poultry products likely will see even greater price hikes, she said.
U.S. food price inflation reached 7.5 percent in September 2008 before falling 10.5 percent by November 2009. It’s been moving back up ever since.
“We’re returning to a period of food price inflation after coming off a period where we saw food price deflation,” Alexander said. “We don’t expect this to be a long-term, permanent higher food price period. We’ll see these higher food prices until we rebuild global stocks of the primary crops.”
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University of Michigan: It’s all in a name: ‘Global warming’ versus ‘climate change’
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-Many Americans are skeptical about whether the world’s weather is changing, but apparently the degree of skepticism varies systematically depending on what that change is called.
According to a University of Michigan study published in the forthcoming issue of Public Opinion Quarterly, more people believe in “climate change” than in “global warming.”
“Wording matters,” said Jonathon Schuldt, the lead author of the article about the study and a doctoral candidate in the U-M Department of Psychology.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-People who demonstrated a stronger brain response to certain brain regions when receiving individually tailored smoking cessation messages were more likely to quit smoking four months after, a new study found.
The new University of Michigan study underscores the importance of delivering individually tailored public health messages to curb unhealthy behaviors, said principal investigator Hannah Faye Chua, who led the study as a research assistant professor at the U-M School of Public Health. it also begins to uncover the underlying neural reasons why these individually tailored messages are so much more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach, said Chua, who now works in the private sector. The study is scheduled for advance online publication Feb. 27 in the journal Nature Neuroscience
Researchers have known for 15 years that tailored public health messages that account for a person’s individuality work better at curbing unhealthy behaviors but until now, they haven’t known why.
Michigan State University: Racial identity tied to happiness, study finds
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Black people who identify more strongly with their racial identity are generally happier, according to a study led by psychology researchers at Michigan State University.
The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, appears in the current issue of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, a research journal published by the American Psychological Association.
“This is the first empirical study we know of that shows a relationship between racial identity and happiness,” said Stevie C.Y. Yap, doctoral candidate in psychology at MSU and lead researcher on the project.
Previous research has found a relationship between racial identity and favorable outcomes such as self-esteem, Yap said, but none has made the link with happiness.
Michigan State University: Muslim mental health conference to focus on resiliency
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State University’s third annual Muslim Mental Health Conference will focus on the trauma of the past, the resilience of today and integration for the future for Muslim Americans in a post-Sept. 11 world.
The conference, “Accept: Learning the Art of Coexistence and Resilience in Conflicting Times,” begins at 8:30 a.m. March 26 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. it is being organized by Farha Abbasi, an assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Psychiatry, and Jose Herrera, a psychiatry resident and minority fellow.
“It has been a decade since 9/11, and we are attempting to look at the discrimination experienced within the Muslim community, how the community has responded and shown its resiliency and what can be done now to strengthen that community,” Abbasi said. “In the end, we want to discuss how we all move beyond the phobias attached to Islam and learn to co-exist peacefully.”
On a related note, here is another press release from Michigan State University.
An expert on U.S.-Muslim relations, Muslim Studies faculty member Salah Hassan can discuss U.S. Rep. Peter King’s, R-N.Y., congressional hearings on the perceived radicalization of Islam and American Muslims.Representative King could benefit from attending this conference, not that he will.
Now, back to science.
Wayne State University: Wayne State study links testosterone with men’s ability to “woo” potential matesMarch 10, 2011
DETROIT – Theories have long proposed that testosterone influences competition among males trying to attract females. Findings from a recent study at Wayne State University give a clearer understanding of the links between testosterone and human mating behavior, and how testosterone is associated with dominance and competitive success when men battle for the attention of an attractive woman.
The study engaged pairs of men in a seven-minute videotaped competition for the attention of an attractive female undergraduate. Pre-competition testosterone levels were positively associated with men’s dominance behaviors in the mate competition-including how assertive they were and how much they “took control” of the conversation-and with how much the woman indicated that she “clicked” with each of the men.
According to Richard Slatcher, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in WSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a resident of Birmingham, Mich., the effects of testosterone on dominance behaviors were especially pronounced among men who reported having a high need for social dominance….”We found that testosterone levels influenced men’s dominance behaviors during the competitions, how much they derogated (or ‘bashed’) their competitors afterward, and how much the woman said she ‘clicked’ with them,” said Slatcher. “Books, film and television often portray men who are bold and self-assured with women as being high in testosterone. our results suggest that there is a kernel of truth to this stereotype, that naturally circulating testosterone indeed is associated with men’s behaviors when they try to woo women.”
Ohio State University: EPILEPSY-LINKED MEMORY LOSS WORRIES MORE PATIENTS THAN DOCTORS
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Patients with epilepsy worry more than their physicians do about the patients’ potential memory loss accompanying their seizure disorder, according to a recent study.
In a survey, patients with epilepsy as a group ranked memory loss as their second-most important concern on a list of 20 potential medical or social concerns. Memory loss as a concern came in 12th in the frequency of responses among concerns recorded by physicians and nurse practitioners who completed the same survey.
Patients and practitioners agreed overall on three of the top five concerns: having a seizure unexpectedly, the legal right or ability to drive and seizures not being controlled. Practitioners ranked problems with medication side effects as their second-highest concern, and patients ranked being a burden to their family as their fifth-highest concern.
Ohio State University: STUDY: DRUG COULD HELP PRESERVE BRAIN FUNCTION AFTER CARDIAC ARREST
COLUMBUS, Ohio – an experimental drug that targets a brain system that controls inflammation might help preserve neurological function in people who survive sudden cardiac arrest, new research suggests.
Survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest are low, but recent medical advancements have improved the chances for recovery. Many people who do survive suffer a range of disorders that relate to neurological deficits caused by loss of blood flow to the brain when their heart stops.
The researchers, led by a team at Ohio State University, believe these neurological problems might relate to inflammation and brain-cell death. The study revealed how the brain is damaged during cardiac arrest, as well as how a drug might counter those effects.
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Science News: Tractor beams arrive two centuries earlyTrekkie devices developed on small scale by U.S. and Chinese physicistsBy Devin PowellThursday, March 10th, 2011
Another piece of Star Trek technology has become a reality. Captain Kirk would instantly recognize new blueprints developed by a team of Chinese scientists as plans for a tractor beam.
The proposed device hasn’t yet been built. But a similar one conceived by an American physicist was tested last year. Each device would fulfill the science fiction dream of reeling in objects using light — though neither could move anything bigger than a bacterium, much less a starship.
The Chinese plan, reported online February 24 at arXiv.org, would use a laser to produce what is called a Bessel beam. This beam, unusual because it remains focused over large distances, could induce electric and magnetic fields in an object in its path. The spray of light scattered forward by these fields could push the object backward, against the movement of the beam itself. “This analysis established that light can indeed pull a particle…. Under appropriate conditions a [Bessel beam] can act as an ‘optical tractor beam,’” write physicist Jun Chen of Fudan University in Shanghai and colleagues.
University of Michigan: Two chemists among last decade’s most influential researchers
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-Two of the most influential chemists of the last decade are University of Michigan professors, according to a new independent analysis based on the number of citations researchers’ papers received.
Professors Nicholas Kotov and Charles Brooks are included on the Thomson Reuters Science Watch list “Top 100 Chemists, 2000-2010.” Kotov is a faculty member in the departments of Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. Brooks is the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Chemistry and a faculty member in the biophysics program.
The list celebrates the achievements of chemists and chemical engineers whose papers made the highest impact in the discipline since January 2000. Kotov’s 78 papers have been cited more than 4,800 times and Brooks’ 67 were referenced 3,778 times.
University of Michigan: Silk moth’s antenna inspires new nanotech tool with applications in Alzheimer’s research
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-By mimicking the structure of the silk moth’s antenna, University of Michigan researchers led the development of a better nanopore-a tiny tunnel-shaped tool that could advance understanding of a class of neurodegenerative diseases that includes Alzheimer’s.
A paper on the work is newly published online in Nature Nanotechnology. This project is headed by Michael Mayer, an associate professor in the U-M departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering. also collaborating are Jerry Yang, an associate professor at the University of California, San Diego and Jiali Li, an associate professor at the University of Arkansas.
Nanopores-essentially holes drilled in a silicon chip-are miniscule measurement devices that enable the study of single molecules or proteins. even today’s best nanopores clog easily, so the technology hasn’t been widely adopted in the lab. Improved versions are expected to be major boons for faster, cheaper DNA sequencing and protein analysis.
Rutgers University: Rutgers Researchers Identify Materials that May Deliver More ‘Bounce’Springy nanostructured metals hold promise of making engines, medical equipment, security systems more efficient and effectiveMarch 09, 2011
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Rutgers researchers have identified a class of high-strength metal alloys that show potential to make springs, sensors and switches smaller and more responsive.
The alloys could be used in springier blood vessel stents, sensitive microphones, powerful loudspeakers, and components that boost the performance of medical imaging equipment, security systems and clean-burning gasoline and diesel engines.
While these nanostructured metal alloys are not new – they are used in turbine blades and other parts demanding strength under extreme conditions – the Rutgers researchers are pioneers at investigating these new properties.
Michigan State University: Overfertilizing corn undermines ethanol
EAST LANSING, Mich. – when growing corn crops for ethanol, more means less.
A team of researchers from Michigan State University and Rice University shows how farmers can save money on fertilizer while they improve their production of feedstock for ethanol and alleviate damage to the environment. The results are featured in the current issue of American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The research has implications for an industry that has grown dramatically in recent years to satisfy America’s need for energy while trying to cut the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels, according to Sieglinde Snapp, a crop and soil scientist at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station….The team discovered that corn grain, one source of ethanol, and the stalks and leaves, the source of cellulosic ethanol, respond differently to nitrogen fertilization. The researchers found that liberal use of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize grain yields from corn crops results in only marginally more usable cellulose from leaves and stems. and when the grain is used for food and the cellulose is processed for biofuel, pumping up the rate of nitrogen fertilization actually makes it more difficult to extract ethanol from corn leaves and stems.
Purdue University: Ultrafast laser ‘scribing’ technique to cut cost, hike efficiency of solar cellsMarch 8, 2011 Print Version
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Researchers are developing a technology that aims to help make solar cells more affordable and efficient by using a new manufacturing method that employs an ultrafast pulsing laser.
The innovation may help to overcome two major obstacles that hinder widespread adoption of solar cells: the need to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the efficiency of converting sunlight into an electric current, said Yung Shin, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of Purdue University’s Center for Laser-Based Manufacturing.
Critical to both are tiny “microchannels” needed to interconnect a series of solar panels into an array capable of generating useable amounts of power, he said. Conventional “scribing” methods, which create the channels mechanically with a stylus, are slow and expensive and produce imperfect channels, impeding solar cells’ performance.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
University of Michigan: U-M to save millions in health care costs on future retiree benefits
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-The University of Michigan has announced that it will accelerate changes to retiree health benefits that will save $9 million a year by 2020. Savings are projected to grow to $165 million a year by 2040.
Starting in 2013, some current retirees and all future retirees will pay more for health care in retirement. By full implementation in 2021, the university-paid percentage of retiree health care will shrink from 93 percent today to a maximum of 68 percent for future retirees who are hired after Jan 1, 2013.
The change is another step in the university’s ongoing efforts to cut expenses in areas that do not diminish the quality of the educational experience for students. University leaders emphasized that it is the faculty and staff who are implementing these cost-saving measures by increasing efficiency, adopting new technology and paying a bigger share of benefit costs.
At Wayne State University’s TechTown research and technology park, workers and retirees over 50 are the fastest growing group seeking business and technology training. The trend at TechTown reflects a broader national shift in post-recession U.S. workforce demographics. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, self-employed people 55 to 64 grew by 93,000 in 2009 and by 213,000 among people 65 and older. Self-employment for all other age groups declined.
Put simply, many older Americans are choosing to work for themselves, both for financial and emotional reasons. Ironically, they are proving as “entrepreneurial” in creating employment opportunities as their Generation Y counterparts….”As America’s population ages, it is essential that older Americans continue to enlist their skills and knowledge to bolster the U.S. economy,” said Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., director of Wayne State’s Institute of Gerontology, which recently joined TechTown in the submission of a grant application to receive state funding to support the Boom! The New Economy initiative. “Wayne State’s Institute of Gerontology conducts research on best practices that can help make TechTown a model for business incubators nationwide.”
Indiana University: UITS honored by state council for imagery technology supporting public, private sectorsMore than $1.75 billion in Indiana projects and government operations being supported by IndianaMap March 10, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — a picture may be worth a thousand words, but the new high-tech imagery being provided by Indiana University’s University Information Technology Services (UITS) for use by everyone from local historians to international researchers is also being translated into countless economic and educational opportunities for both the public and private sectors.
In recognizing the new online services provided through the Indiana Spatial Data Portal’s (ISDP) ArcGIS Server, the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC) has awarded UITS a 2011 Excellence in Geographic Information Systems Award.
The portal began with a single UITS grant in 1999 and has since become an access point to more than 20 terabytes of Indiana geographic data that includes everything from Indiana historic photographs to current aerial imagery. The system is designed to empower the role geographic information technologies can play in improving government services, economic growth, the environment, and health and safety.
Purdue University: State, national leaders to speak at Nanotechnology New Ventures event led by Purdue, Notre DameMarch 11, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – two leading nanotechnology industry experts and Indiana’s top economic development officer will highlight a daylong focus on entrepreneurship at Purdue University next month, culminating with the inaugural Nanotechnology New Ventures Competition.
Sean Murdock, executive chairman of NanoBusiness Alliance, will deliver the keynote address during the awards reception and dinner beginning at 6 p.m., March 25, in the Venture Café of Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.
University of Michigan: U-M professor wins fellowship for environmental research and leadership
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-University of Michigan professor Andy Hoffman is among 20 environmental researchers in North America selected as one of 20 Leopold Leadership Fellows for 2011.
Fellows are chosen for their outstanding qualifications as researchers, demonstrated leadership ability and strong interest in communicating beyond traditional academic audiences.
Based at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, the Leopold Leadership Program helps outstanding academic environmental scientists make their knowledge accessible to decision-makers and the public. Fellows receive intensive leadership and communications training to help them engage effectively with policymakers, journalists, business leaders and communities confronting complex decisions about sustainability and the environment.
Wayne State University: Medical students meet their matchMarch 10, 2011
Fourth-year medical students at Wayne State University and throughout the United States are waiting anxiously for Thursday, March 17, 2011. It’s known as Match Day, an annual event when students around the country simultaneously learn where they will train during their medical residencies. It’s a day that determines where they will spend the next three to seven years of their lives, therefore significantly impacting their careers and relationships….for many students, finding out where they match is the most important event since learning where they would be attending medical school.
Wayne State University: FIRST Robotics competition coming to Wayne StateEngineering March Madness comes unplugged March 18 and 19March 3, 2011
DETROIT – Robotics teams from 39 Southeast Michigan high schools will experience engineering and science come alive at the FIRST Robotics 2011 Detroit District competition. The event will be held at the Matthaei Physical Education Center at Wayne State University March 18 and 19, 2011.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an international phenomenon that evokes passion and fortitude in students exploring careers in science, engineering, math, medical technology and related fields.
“The experience of FIRST Robotic competitions can make the difference for a high school student thinking about a career in science and engineering, not to mention the camaraderie and collaboration they learn as a member of a robotics team,” said Darin Ellis, associate dean of academic affairs at the Wayne State University College of Engineering.
University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison to host Science Olympiad National Tournament on May 18-21March 8, 2011
More than 6,000 students, educators and parents from around the country will visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wednesday-Saturday, May 18-21, for the 27th annual Science Olympiad National Tournament, one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious competitions of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The event will bring together 120 winning middle school and high school teams that advance from state-level competitions this spring. Teams compete in more than two dozen scientific and engineering events on topics ranging from human health, ecology, chemistry, cell biology, geology and engineering. Awards are given for the best overall team score and individual scores in each event.
University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison students in Japan are safeCampus reacts to international tragedyMarch 11, 2011by John Lucas
In the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami, UW-Madison has confirmed the safety of all of its students studying in Japan.
International Academic Programs has a total of 14 students in programs based at four universities in Tokyo, Nagoya and Sapporo.
As of 5 p.m. Froday, March 11, all students have been reached. Communications were complicated by power and cellular outages. in addition, information about tsunami warnings has been communicated to students studying in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.
University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison’s reputation among top for world universitiesMarch 11, 2011by Stacy Forster
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is among the world’s top institutions when it comes to reputation for teaching and research, according to a new set of rankings from Times Higher Education.
UW-Madison ranked 25th, making it one of 17 U.S. universities in the top 25 and one of the six U.S public institutions in that same group. The top five institutions were Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Cambridge, the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.
For the complete top 100, read the story from The Guardian. Of the eight universities featured in tonight’s OND, seven ranked in the top 100 worldwide. in addition to Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, and Rutgers made the list.
Indiana University: North Carolina A&T joins IU and 11 other historically black colleges and universities in STEM effortMarch 7, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — North Carolina A&T State University has joined with Indiana University and 11 historically black colleges and universities in a partnership aimed at increasing the number of African Americans pursuing careers as researchers and scholars in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
Lagina Williams, of Xavier University of Louisiana, performs an experiment in 2008. North Carolina A&T State University has joined Xavier and 10 other historically black colleges and universities in the initiative.
Since 2007 the partnership has provided high-achieving African American students from HBCU institutions with opportunities and mentoring to help them find and succeed in graduate-level research programs in the STEM disciplines.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Michigan: U-M experts available to discuss Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactors
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-The University of Michigan has several experts available to discuss a variety of topics related to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Michigan State University: Experts available to discuss Japan earthquake, response
EAST LANSING, Mich. – As the nation of Japan deals with a devastating earthquake, Michigan State University faculty experts can discuss various aspects of the disaster, from the role technology plays in disaster response to the potential global economic fallout.
Michigan State University: Expert can discuss role of new media in responding to Japan earthquake
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Theresa Bernardo, who studies the role of technology and social media in responding to natural disasters and public health emergencies, is available to discuss the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison experts available to media to discuss Japan quake, tsunami
Hundreds are confirmed dead and thousands without shelter or power after an earthquake of 8.9 magnitude, and resulting tsunami, near the Japanese island of Honshu. these University of Wisconsin-Madison experts can provide context and analysis for interested media.
Purdue University: Purdue experts can discuss Japan earthquakeMarch 11, 2011
Note to Journalists: The Purdue University experts below can talk about topics related to the earthquake in Japan or the Pacific Ocean tsunami.
NEWARK, N.J. – a Rutgers University, Newark, geologist, an expert on earthquakes and tsunamis, can explain what caused the Japanese quake and the resulting tsunami.
Science is Cool
University of Michigan: Brilliant to deliver 10th annual Wege Lecture on Sustainability
ANN ARBOR, Mich.-He has been called a visionary, a guru, an iconoclast and a techno-philanthropist. Dr. Larry Brilliant’s career has spanned from a Himalayan monastery to the World Health Organization, Google’s philanthropic division and a series of nonprofits that have been remarkably effective at addressing public health problems around the world.
“What is ‘Sustainable Humanity’? it is not simply an economic construct. Human lives are more than double-entry bookkeeping and human progress is more than increases in GDP,” Brilliant said in describing his upcoming lecture. “Our generation should bequeath to the next a world where people live healthier, longer, better lives in a world of peace and fairness, what we often call a more humane world.”
Brilliant, who earned a Master of Public Health from U-M in 1977, will deliver the 10th annual Wege Lecture on Sustainability at U-M. The free lecture, titled “Sustaining Humanity,” will be his only speaking engagement this year. it begins at 3:30 p.m. March 16 in the Rackham Auditorium.
University of Michigan’s Montage Magazine: Provoking compassionOne-woman play portrays injustices of health-care system; performance March 31 at Rackham AuditoriumMarch, 2011By Laura Bailey
Tony Award-winning playwright and actor Sarah Jones (photo left) will give a free performance of her one-woman show, “A Right to Care,” 3:30-5 p.m. Thursday, March 31 at Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington.
Jones, based in New York, premiered “A Right to Care” in 2005 at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s 75th Anniversary Conference. Jones and the Kellogg Foundation partnered to develop the show as a dramatic and compelling way to address ethnic, racial, and economic disparities in health care.
In the play, Jones plays several characters of different ethnic backgrounds. The play is set at a congressional hearing where a group consisting mainly of immigrants testifies about their experiences in the U.S. health care system, according to the The Triangle.org, the website of a student publication at Drexel University. ”A Right to Care” has garnered critical acclaim, and has sold out off-Broadway and the Kennedy Center.
Michigan State University: Researchers develop method to match police sketches, mug shots
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The long-time practice of using police facial sketches to nab criminals has been, at best, an inexact art. But the process may soon be a little more exact thanks to the work of some Michigan State University researchers.
A team led by MSU University Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Anil Jain and doctoral student Brendan Klare has developed a set of algorithms and created software that will automatically match hand-drawn facial sketches to mug shots that are stored in law enforcement databases.
Once in use, Klare said, the implications are huge.
“We’re dealing with the worst of the worst here,” he said. “Police sketch artists aren’t called in because someone stole a pack of gum. a lot of time is spent generating these facial sketches so it only makes sense that they are matched with the available technology to catch these criminals.”
Michigan State University: MSU is among top schools to study video game design
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State University is among the best universities to study video game design in North America, according to a new ranking published this week.
MSU earned the no. 5 spot in North America in The Princeton Review’s list of “Top Schools for Video Game Design Study for 2011.”
Brian Winn, associate professor and undergraduate director of the game design and development specialization, said the honor is significant for current and future students.
“We are the only school in the Midwest and east of Utah to be listed in the top five, so this program is a real boost for students looking for this education outside of the western region of the U.S.,” he said. “We are honored to receive this recognition and excited about the future of video game education at MSU.”
Indiana University: School of Education researcher investigating how ‘Guitar Hero’ might produce the next prodigyWallace Foundation funding a review into how digital arts tools might best promote arts learning among youthMarch 10, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — You might wonder what kids who spend a lot of their time playing “Guitar Hero,” messing around in “Garage Band,” or painting a picture on a Wii game system might be getting out of it. an Indiana University School of Education professor wonders why they might not get a real passion for the arts.
The Wallace Foundation has funded a new review underway by Kylie Peppler, assistant professor in the Learning Sciences Program of the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, to examine how new technologies widely used by youth might better entice them to seriously pursue the arts. Peppler is conducting a study to review technology, discover the best research through workshops with leaders in the field, and produce a study featuring the most successful models and how educators might create innovative ways to promote arts with technology.
“Teenagers are consuming over 10 and a half hours of media a day but are generally not avid producers of it,” Peppler said. “Many technologies are now available designed to offer alternatives to direct arts instruction. Given decreasing funds for the arts, it’s worth exploring the potential for new technologies for self-directed arts learning.”
Michigan State University: Social network games even help grown-ups with their relationships
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Think social network games are just for kids? a recent Michigan State University study found that many adults are playing games such as Facebook’s “Farmville” to help initiate, develop and maintain relationships.
The MSU team of researchers interviewed a number of Facebook users between the ages of 25 and 55, said Yvette Wohn, a doctoral student in the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media who led the study.
“The interesting thing is that we were asking people how they use Facebook to manage their different relationships,” she said. “Surprisingly, all but one person talked about playing games as one of their relationship-management strategies.”
While the world burns, Farmville thrives.
Speaking of the world burning, here are two research research stories from Ohio State University about poor reporting and rumor propagation and the effects both have on public awareness.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Passive news reporting that doesn’t attempt to resolve factual disputes in politics may have detrimental effects on readers, new research suggests.
The study found that people are more likely to doubt their own ability to determine the truth in politics after reading an article that simply lists competing claims without offering any idea of which side is right.
“There are consequences to journalism that just reports what each side says with no fact checking,” said Raymond Pingree, author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University.
“It makes readers feel like they can’t figure out what the truth is. and I would speculate that this attitude may lead people to tune out politics entirely, or to be more accepting of dishonesty by politicians.”
COLUMBUS, Ohio – despite the fears of some, a new study suggests that use of the internet in general does not make people more likely to believe political rumors.
However, one form of internet communication – e-mail – does seem to have troubling consequences for the spread and belief of rumors.
“I think a lot of people will be surprised to learn that using the internet doesn’t necessarily promote belief in rumors. Many people seem to think that’s self-evident,” said R. Kelly Garrett, author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University.
“The internet does make it easier to circulate rumors, but going online doesn’t make us more gullible.”
However, e-mail is a special case. People are much more likely to believe false rumors that they receive in e-mails from friends and family.