Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.
Between now and the general election, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections. That written, tonight's edition features the science, space, health, environment, and energy stories from universities in the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia (list from The Green Papers), and the cities of Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York, and Raleigh.
This week's featured story comes from The Economist.
Awards for fundamental physics, how cells transport chemicals, and ways of modelling on a computer how those chemicals react once they have arrived
Oct 12th 2013
WILL he or won’t he? That was the question on the mind of anyone with a passing interest in the topic as representatives of Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science prepared to announce the winner of this year’s Nobel physics prize. Well, he did. Half a century after predicting the existence of the particle which bears his name Peter Higgs, of Edinburgh University, was awarded science’s highest accolade. Another, even bigger mystery was who would share the honour—and the cheque for SKr8m ($1.2m). In the event, after postponing the announcement twice (rare for the punctual Swedes) the prize-givers plumped for François Englert of the Free University of Brussels.
Less predictably, and less controversially, the prize for physiology or medicine went to James Rothman of Yale, Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Südhof of Stanford University, for their work on vesicles. These are small, bubble-like structures, surrounded by fatty membranes, which ship hormones, enzymes and various other molecules around a cell, and sometimes export them to the outside world.
Familiarity from school cannot, however, have been the explanation of a similar lack of questions after the announcement of the chemistry prize. This went to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, a trio who have collectively helped tame the daunting mathematical complexity involved in simulating chemical reactions.
More stories, including announcements from U.S. universities involved in the discovery of the Higgs boson, after the jump.
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Discovery News: Nobel Prizes: Who Won & Who Got Snubbed
All of the 2013 Nobel prizes have been announced! This year's prizes went to people doing amazing work, but not everyone can be a winner. Trace looks at who won, who was snubbed, and which deserving scientists from the past never took home a medal.
Rutgers University: New Jersey Wine Industry Gets Rutgers Education
Wine enthusiasts from New Jersey may be surprised to hear that some of the top wines in the world are produced right here in the Garden State. As new vineyards and wineries pop up across the state, Rutgers experts are helping the industry grow by advising new grape growers on the varieties they should be growing, and offering up-to-date, scientific information they can use to control pests and optimize their production practices.
The results speak for themselves, especially at Unionville Vineyards winning a gold medal & governor's cup at the NJ wine competition, a gold medal in an international wine & spirits competition and received high marks from Gilbert & Gaillard.
Louisiana State University: LSU Researchers Discover How Microbes Survive in Freezing Conditions
by Paige Brown
October 10, 2013
Most microbial researchers grow their cells in petri-dishes to study how they respond to stress and damaging conditions. But, with the support of funding from NASA, researchers in LSU’s Department of Biological Sciences tried something almost unheard of: studying microbial survival in ice to understand how microorganisms could survive in ancient permafrost, or perhaps even buried in ice on Mars.
Brent Christner, associate professor of biological sciences, and colleagues at LSU including postdoctoral researcher Markus Dieser and Mary Lou Applewhite Professor John Battista, recently had results on DNA repair in ice-entrapped microbes accepted in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. To understand how microbes survive in frozen conditions, Christner and colleagues focused on analysis of DNA, the hereditary molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and function of all organisms.
“Microbes are made up of macromolecules that, even if frozen, are subject to decay,” Christner said. “We know of a range of spontaneous reactions that result in damage to DNA.”
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth: Prof Contributes to International Climate Change Report
Findings Blame Humans for Global Warming
By Edwin L. Aguirre
An expert on climate variability and change, Assoc. Prof. Mathew Barlow is among the nearly 260 researchers worldwide who contributed to the recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Barlow of the Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences contributed to Chapter 14 of the report, entitled “Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change.”
“My part was to provide input into a specific geographic region — the Middle East/West Asia — using my experience in looking at historical climate variability in that region to assess and provide context for the climate model projections,” he explains.
Based on all available data and the consensus of the experts involved, warming is very likely to continue in the region, and it appears that the dry areas will become drier, although there is less confidence in the latter, he says.
University of Virginia: U.Va. Architecture Professor Launches International Biophilic Cities Peer Network
October 10, 2013
The Biophilic Cities Project at the University of Virginia School of Architecture is a multiyear initiative engaging cities across the globe. From Oct. 17 to 20, it is hosting the launch of a “Biophilic Cities Peer Network” to advance the theory and practice of planning for cities that contain abundant nature.
Biophilic cities care about, seek to protect, restore and grow nature, and strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world, said Tim Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning and a self-described “biophilic urbanist.”
“In 2012, we began in earnest our Biophilic Cities Project based in the U.Va. School of Architecture with significant funding from the Summit Foundation and the George Mitchell Foundation,” he said. “The project aims to better understand what biophilic cities are; what metrics we might use in defining and monitoring them; and what the current best practice is in supporting and expanding nature in U.S. cities and the world.”
The Peer Network launch will connect leaders working on initiatives that increase the abundance, quality and access to nature in their cities, creating a worldwide network for innovations and strategies.
North Carolina State University: Slow Burn: Fall Foliage Taking Its Time
Release Date: 10.03.13
It may take a bit longer for North Carolina’s fall foliage to reach full color this year, thanks to ideal growing conditions for hardwood trees. Photo of Linn Cove Viaduct courtesy of Grandfather Mountain.
No, it’s not another sign of the federal government shutdown. North Carolina’s hardwood trees are taking their time to change colors this fall because of a low-stress growing season that included plenty of moisture and mild temperatures, a North Carolina State University expert says.
“Growing conditions have been good, so trees have postponed shutting down the food factories in their leaves,” says Dr. Robert Bardon, forestry and environmental resources professor. “I expect the fall colors will arrive a little bit later than usual.”
While the federal closures mean that leaf peepers won’t be able to check National Park Service websites or use the visitor centers on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Bardon says it’s still possible to map out a spectacular fall foliage tour.
The Record via NorthJersey.com: Stink bug season arrives in New Jersey, but census stifled by government shutdown
BY SCOTT FALLON
Saturday, October 5, 2013
They’re just looking for a place to crash this winter. All that’s required is a little heat and a tiny space to hang their antennas. They’re not even asking for one lousy meal.
Yes, it’s October, which means stink bugs are looking to get out of the field and into your home, where their unpleasant odor may occasionally waft through your house.
A large number of stink bugs were reported this summer infesting farms in South Jersey, according to a Rutgers scientist. Whether there will be an overwhelming home invasion of the little critters this autumn in North Jersey is still being determined. A warmer-than-usual spring this year may have contributed to the high numbers expected in coming months.
Due to the federal government shutdown this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Great Stink Bug Count of 2013 is on hiatus. The survey’s participants, who record how many stink bugs are camping on the homes’ exteriors, have no place to send their results because the USDA website has been dark since Tuesday.
Rutgers University: Knocking Out Spinal Cord Injury: Neuroscientist and Professional Boxer Team Up
Rutgers' Wise Young and Army Capt. Boyd Melson fight to bring clinical trials to the United States
By Robin Lally
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
What would one of the world’s leading researchers in spinal cord injury and a professional boxer have in common? Under normal circumstances not much.
But Wise Young, a Rutgers neuroscience professor who is searching for a cure for spinal cord injury, and Boyd Melson, a West Point graduate and Army captain who is dedicating his life and boxing prize money to help make this dream happen, are two men on the same mission.
“Wise is such a believer,” says Melson, who met Young in 2005 with his then girlfriend and “forever soul mate” Christan Zaccagnino who became a quadriplegic at just 10-years-old after a backyard swimming pool diving accident. “I think I can help deliver this message and inspire a lot of different people to get involved in this fight.”
Rutgers University: Improving Health Care, Controlling Costs – Rutgers Launches New Initiative
One key factor sets Robert Wood Johnson Partners apart from other attempts at reform – the Accountable Care Organization has the power of a major research university behind it
By Andrea Alexander
Monday, October 7, 2013
During nearly three decades as a primary care physician, Alfred Tallia has identified a daunting list of flaws with the nation’s health care.
Specialists rarely coordinate care for patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure – which can lead to repetitive, expensive tests.
In most doctors’ offices, no one is responsible for developing plans with patients to lose weight, exercise and change their diet – or for following up with those patients to help them meet their goals.
But Tallia, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School – now part of Rutgers – is getting ready to launch a solution he believes will deliver more effective care at a lower cost.
Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech researchers and Blacksburg firm, FitNet, to develop advanced cyber fitness tool
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 10, 2013 – Virginia Tech networking researchers and local technology entrepreneurs are working on a groundbreaking broadband-enabled health and fitness tool called FitGENI that is unlike anything currently on the market.
FitGENI pairs FitNet’s software, which allows exercisers to attend classes from any device, via a rich, interactive videoconference, with Virginia Tech’s link to the Global Environment for Network Innovations (GENI). GENI is a federally funded virtual laboratory for high-speed computer networking that will be used to resolve connectivity concerns experienced when FitNet is used over low-bandwidth networks. The goal is to create a virtual exercise experience where participants can reliably get real-time feedback from their instructor and interact with their peers, the same way they might if they had traveled to the class location.
Regular exercise, particularly in group settings with the support of a teacher or coach, has been shown to improve health, increase lifespans, and maintain mobility and quality of life, while reducing the overall cost of healthcare. Despite this knowledge, only a small percentage of the overall population currently participates in these types of programs. FitNet seeks to lower the barriers to participation by providing convenient access to group fitness classes via any consumer device over the Internet, making it possible for people to join a class and receive instruction from any location.
University of Alabama, Birmingham: PARP inhibitors may hold key to better HER2-positive breast cancer treatment
By Beena Thannickal
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Shih-Hsin (Eddy) Yang, M.D., Ph.D., the ROAR Southeast Cancer Foundation Endowed Chair in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Radiation Oncology, has received a $450,000 grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure to further investigate HER2-positive breast tumor susceptibility to PARP inhibitors.
Eddy_Yang_sHER2-positive breast cancer tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer.
Once a tumor is determined as HER2-positive, women are treated with very specific therapies. However, many women with this form of cancer either fail to respond to these targeted therapies or initially respond but then become resistant to these treatments.
Yang’s research focuses on a highly publicized new class of drug known as PARP (Poly ADP ribose polymerase) inhibitors that interfere with a cancer cell’s ability to repair DNA damage, hastening cell death. PARP inhibitors are in clinical trials to treat breast and ovarian cancers linked with inherited mutations in the BRCA genes, which are particularly prone to DNA damage.
University of Alabama, Birmingham: UAB study could lead to revisiting of non-cardiac surgery stent guidelines
By Tyler Greer
Monday, October 07, 2013
In a finding contrary to current treatment guidelines, patients with drug-eluting coronary stents face no greater risk of heart attack than those with bare-metal stents if they have a non-cardiac surgery, according to a study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
mary_hawn_sCurrent American College of Cardiology guidelines recommend delaying non-cardiac surgery in patients after coronary stent procedures for one year after implanting a drug-eluting stent (DES) and for six weeks after implanting a bare-metal stent (BMS). Undergoing a second surgery after having a stent implanted has been linked by past studies to the formation of blood clots around a stent, with the potential to block the coronary artery and cause a heart attack.
The delays set down in the current guidelines were meant to reduce that risk. The rationale for why patients should wait a year after DES implant, versus just six weeks with a BMS, is that the risk of heart attack has been greater.
The UAB study showed, however, that major adverse cardiac events were associated with whether a patient had recent, emergency surgery or advanced cardiac disease (e.g., heart failure), not with stent type or timing of surgery. The study focused on patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery within two years of coronary stent placement.
Auburn University: Food safety expert: Athens outbreak underscores importance of safeguarding against Salmonella
October 11, 2013
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – An Alabama Cooperative Extension System food safety specialist says that the recent salmonella outbreak that resulted in dozens of people reporting to the Athens-Limestone Hospital, in Athens, Ala., last weekend complaining of diarrhea, vomiting, cramps and fever is not only a reminder of the insidious nature of the potentially deadly pathogen, but also why people should take proactive steps to protect themselves from exposure.
Food safety specialist Jean Weese, an Auburn University professor of poultry science who heads Alabama Extension’s food safety team, said salmonella is insidious in terms of how readily it can infect food and ultimately people.
One of the common sources of foodborne illness in the United States, salmonella is the name of a group of bacteria found in the intestines of animals. However, when the excreta of the animals get in the soil, bacteria can be carried to almost any food, Weese said.
University of Cincinnati: HEALTH LINE: Avoid Heat When Wearing Pain Patches
CINCINNATI–When used appropriately, prescription pain patches are a safe and effective way of dispensing pain medications transdermally, or through the skin and into the bloodstream.
However, wearing a pain patch and simultaneously exposing the body to heat creates the potential for overdosing, say University of Cincinnati (UC) experts.
"People will lie on a heating pad, or turn on the electric blanket, or sit out in the sun, not even thinking about the pain patch they have on,” says Gerald Kasting, PhD, professor of pharmaceutics and chair of the division of pharmaceutical sciences at UC’s James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy.
By doing this, says Kasting, they are unknowingly cranking up a potentially fatal dose of pain medication.
Louisiana State University: LSU Researchers Awarded Nearly $1 Million for Big Data Research
by Paige Brown
October 10, 2013
“Big Data is a very hot term right now,” Park said. “Genome sequencing is one of the major drivers for Big Data research. It is not unusual to produce many terabytes of data in sequencing the human genome, or trillions of digital information bytes. But processing terabytes of data has been a headache for researchers using their own equipment.”
Genome sequencing, which involves determining the exact sequence of an organism’s hereditary molecule known as DNA, has many applications in biological and medical research, including personalized medicine. However, genome sequencing and comparisons of genomes across organisms require large amounts of data processing. The human genome, for example, contains three billion molecular units, like three billion beads on a string arranged in a specific order. Assembling this amount of data, or even assembling shorter genome sequences like those of the West Nile or AIDS virus, for example, will require massive computational power and data storage capabilities.
“But that kind of problem can be solved with our solutions,” Park said. “Louisiana has a huge amount of computational power. We have supercomputers at LSU. We recently purchased Supermike-II, which might become a super-class supercomputer. With this project, we can help researchers bring their data to bigger machines, not just one or two computers.”
Virginia Commonwealth University: Study reveals information about the genetic architecture of brain’s grey matter
Findings may one day provide clues to understanding neuropsychiatric disorders
By Sathya Achia Abraham
Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013
An international research team studying the structure and organization of the brain has found that different genetic factors may affect the thickness of different parts of the cortex of the brain.
The findings of this basic neuroscience study provide clues to better understanding the complex structure of the human brain. Ultimately, knowledge of genetic factors that underlie brain structure may help to identify individuals at risk for neuropsychiatric disorders, such as autism, schizophrenia or dementia. However, further research is necessary and the road to preventing or treating these conditions based on this work remains a long one.
The team was led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and included scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University, Boston University, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Helsinki in Finland and the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.
University of Alabama: UA Leads Study on Emotional Effects of Natural Disasters on Children
Oct 7, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The psychological effects caused by a natural disaster can linger years into a child’s life, long after communities have been rebuilt and emotions have leveled.
The effects, both good and bad, can be shaped by a child’s support system, which can include counselors, teachers and caregivers.
Dr. John Lochman, professor and Saxon Chair of Clinical Psychology at The University of Alabama, is leading a nationwide team that will spend the next five years studying the effects of degree of exposure to the April 27, 2011 tornado in Tuscaloosa on 360 children and their families.
Boston University: Cooking Tips from the Ancient Maya
Clay balls were used to retain and distribute heat
Archaeologist Stephanie Simms was digging at the Escalera al Cielo site in a hilly region of rural Yucatán, Mexico, when she discovered a trove of clay balls the size of plums. There were hundreds of them, buried at the edge of what functioned as a Maya kitchen 1,000 years ago.
Ball-shaped artifacts are not uncommon, and Simms (GRS’13) likes to joke that male researchers tend to theorize that they are ammunition, while women envision domestic uses. In this case, the location and appearance of the balls—they were found with burn marks in what was presumably a cooking area—indicate that they were used for distributing and prolonging heat in pit ovens.
Months later, at the College of Arts & Sciences Laboratory of MicroStratigraphy, an analysis of the balls’ mineral composition strongly supported Simms’ theory. The ancient narrative etched into their material properties suggests that the balls, crafted from the local, clay-rich earth, were dried in the hot sun and then cooked, like reusable coals, again and again and again, at heat as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
annetteboardman is taking the night off.
North Carolina State University: Mosquitofish Genital Shape Linked to Presence of Predators
Release Date: 10.10.13
When predators lurk nearby, male Bahamas mosquitofish (Gambusia hubbsi) change mating strategies, rejecting elaborate courting rituals for more frequent and sometimes forceful encounters with females.
But as a recent North Carolina State University study shows, mating strategies aren’t the only things changing for G. hubbsi when predators abound. The shape and size of the male fish’s genitalia are also linked to the presence or absence of predators.
NC State Ph.D. student Justa Heinen-Kay and assistant professor of biological sciences R. Brian Langerhans show, in a paper published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, that fish coexisting with predators have longer, bonier and more elongated gonopodium tips than fish living without threat of predation. The gonopodium is the sperm-transferring organ in these livebearing fish.
Rutgers University: New Finding Shows Climate Change Can Happen in a Geological Instant
What happened 55 million years ago is happening today, geologists say
by Ken Branson
Sunday, October 6, 2013
“Rapid” and “instantaneous” are words geologists don’t use very often. But Rutgers geologists use these exact terms to describe a climate shift that occurred 55 million years ago.
In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Morgan Schaller and James Wright contend that following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years.
Scientists previously thought this process happened over 10,000 years.
Wright, a professor of earth and planetary sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences and Schaller, a research associate, say the finding is significant in considering modern-day climate change.
Virginia Tech: Nuclear engineers to develop protective shield material
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 9, 2013 – Virginia Tech's nuclear engineering program has received two awards valued at more than $1 million from the Department of Energy's Nuclear Energy University Program.
One is an $800,000, three-year award to develop an outer shield material for use in packaging spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste for prolonged storage. Leigh Winfrey, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and her colleague Mohamed Bourham, professor of nuclear engineering of N.C. State, received this research contract.
The second award for $300,000 will allow the Virginia Tech nuclear program, housed in the mechanical engineering department, to purchase a neutron generator system to create a Neutron Irradiation Laboratory. Mark Pierson, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is the principal investigator on this grant, and Celine Hin, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineering, and Alireza Haghighat , director of the Virginia Tech Nuclear Science and Engineering Laboratory, part of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, are the co-investigators.
Rutgers University: Rutgers Scientists Join Thousands Worldwide in Celebrating the 2013 Nobel Physics Prize
Prize honors two European physicists who proposed concepts verified by last year’s Higgs boson discovery
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
When the announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was made for theories that led to last year’s discovery of the Higgs boson, Rutgers assistant professor John Paul Chou was at the location where that discovery took place – the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland.
“There was lots of applause, lots of cheering,” he said, describing a CERN staff gathering he attended to view a live broadcast of the Nobel announcement from Sweden.
Receiving the prize were two physicists who in 1964 proposed fundamental concepts that were verified by the Higgs discovery at CERN nearly a half century later: Peter Higgs of Scotland and Francois Englert of Belgium.
University of Virginia: U.Va. Physicists Celebrate Their Role in Nobel-Winning Higgs Discovery
October 8, 2013
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics to theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert to recognize their work in developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass. University of Virginia scientists played a significant role in advancing the theory and in discovering the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field – the Higgs boson.
Brad Cox, a professor of physics in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences, served for three years on a sequence of eight analysis review committees, each comprising four physicists, that oversaw analysis of Higgs discovery data from the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. He also was part of a four-person analysis review team that oversaw the discovery analysis for 2½ years to the point where it could be determined that the evidence was strong enough that the Higgs particle had been confirmed. The discovery was announced at the Large Hadron Collider in July 2012 and further supported in December.
U.Va. scientists also were involved for years in the CMS – Compact Muon Solenoid – experiment, one of the two experiments that announced the discovery of the Higgs at the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, which was activated in November 2009 after nearly two decades of planning and construction. Cox and other members of the U.Va. High Energy Physics Group built components for the CMS experiment at the facility.
“We were at the center of the action,” Cox said.
New York University: NYU physicists, part of Higgs boson discovery, available for comment on 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics
October 8, 2013
New York University physicists who played a significant role in the discovery of the Higgs boson are available for comment on the winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, Peter Higgs and François Englert, who received the award in recognition of their work in developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass.
NYU and other U.S. scientists made notable contributions in advancing the theory and in discovering the particle that proves the existence of the Higgs field, the Higgs boson.
NYU researchers formally joined the search in 2006, when they began collaborating on the A Toroidal LHC Apparatus, or ATLAS, one of the main detectors at the Large Hadron Collider, which was used to make the discovery of Higgs.
Wayne State University: Wayne State University part of scientific team celebrating Nobel Prize for Higgs Discovery
WSU researchers available for comment regarding Nobel Prize in physics
October 8, 2013
DETROIT — The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences today announced the Nobel Prize in physics to theorists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert to recognize their work developing the theory of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives elementary particles mass.
Scientists estimate that visible matter makes up no more than 4 percent of the total mass of the universe, and the long-sought Higgs boson particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96 percent that remains obscured. A team of Wayne State University researchers led by Paul Karchin, Ph.D., and Robert Harr, Ph.D., professors of physics, are members of the CMS experiment, and played a significant role in the experimental aspects of the discovery. Alexey Petrov, Ph.D., professor of physics, and Gil Paz, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, are particle theorists who studied theoretical aspects related to properties of standard and non-standard Higgs bosons.
New York University: Crystal mysteries spiral deeper, NYU chemists find
October 9, 2013
New York University chemists have discovered crystal growth complexities, which at first glance appeared to confound 50 years of theory and deepened the mystery of how organic crystals form. But, appearances can be deceiving.
Their findings, which appear in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have a range of implications—from the production of pharmaceuticals and new electronic materials to unraveling the pathways for kidney stone formation.
The researchers focused on L-cystine crystals, the chief component of a particularly nefarious kind of kidney stone. The authors hoped to improve their understanding of how these crystals form and grow in order to design therapeutic agents that inhibit stone formation.
While the interest in L-cystine crystals is limited to the biomedical arena, understanding the details of crystal growth, especially the role of defects—or imperfections in crystals—is critical to the advancement of emerging technologies that aim to use organic crystalline materials.
Louisiana State University: LSU Professor Awarded by American Chemical Society
by Paige Brown
October 7, 2013
Barry Dellinger, the Patrick F. Taylor Chair of LSU’s Department of Chemistry and LSU Superfund Research Center Director, was recently awarded the 2014 American Chemical Society, or ACS, Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology. The award, sponsored by the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry and the ACS journal Environmental Science and Technology, recognizes Dellinger for his pioneering research on the sources, origin and environmental chemistry of combustion generated pollutants. The award specifically recognizes Dellinger’s work on polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, or PCDD/F’s.
Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, often called “dioxins,” are produced during incineration and combustion of fossil fuels, wood, municipal and industrial waste. These chemicals, along with similar chemicals found in insecticides and coal tar products, are known to be extremely toxic to ecosystems and humans. Dioxins are unique pollutants in that they almost exclusively occur as products of human activity, and do not occur in high quantities naturally. The main source of PCDD/F is combustion – virtually any combustion process that includes chlorine in the fuel will produce dioxins.
“The extensive research performed by Dr. Dellinger laid the ground-word to a wider understanding of the mechanisms of dioxin formation,” said LSU’s Slawo Lomnicki, assistant professor of chemistry and LSU Superfund Research Materials Core leader. “With time, we have realized that a major contributor to dioxins emission is the surface-mediated cool zone of combustors. Dr. Dellinger was the first to propose the unified pathway of dioxin formation that encompassed both gas phase and surface reactions.”
Rutgers University: Flavor and Fragrance Event at Rutgers Highlights Innovative Research for Key New Jersey Industry
At Rutgers’ recent Second Annual Flavor, Fragrance, and Perception Symposium, a team of the university’s faculty members presented their research and discoveries in aroma, taste, and sensory sciences to nearly 400 people from industry and academia and shared their perspectives on the state of the associated industry.
More than 120 companies from across the country sent representatives to the symposium, including a wide array of leading flavorists, perfumers, and product and business developers. The event's Gold Sponsors were Chromocell Corporation and Q Research Solutions. Matthias Guentert, president of Symrise's Flavor and Nutrition Division NA, was the keynote speaker.
The flavors and fragrances industry is a significant element of the state’s economy, with more than 125 companies in the sector. About 34,000 people in New Jersey, which is 1% of the workforce, are employed by those companies, according to a recent study by Rutgers analysts. These jobs pay an average of $88,000, far above the statewide average. The companies in this sector contribute over $4.2 billion in economic activity to the state.
Science Crime Scenes
Rutgers University: Geekadelphia’s Scientist of the Year Distinction Goes to a Rutgers Professor
Forensic anthropologist takes pride in her quirky interests and passions
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
By Carrie Stetler
Kimberlee Sue Moran is no ordinary geek. As Geekadelphia’s Scientist of the Year, her crowning achievement was blowing up a bus filled with dead animals to help first responders learn how to identify bombing victims.
“They got an understanding of debris patterns and developed a protocol where they could reconstruct what happened and recover both biological and non-biological evidence,’’ explains Moran, a Rutgers-Camden forensic archaeology professor and grant facilitator.
Her forensic exercise was a success. But what was so geeky about it?
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
University of Virginia: From Intern to International Expert, U.Va. Undergrad Rachel Schwartz Weighs in on Syria
October 11, 2013
In September, as U.S. government leaders in Washington were considering limited military strikes on Syria, leading members of the global counterterrorism community gathered in Israel for the World Summit on Counterterrorism.
Each of the attendees was given a report on Syria’s chemical and biological weapons program and the use of those weapons in the civil war. The basis of that report was generated by University of Virginia third-year student Rachel Schwartz, a biology major who is also hoping to major in foreign affairs.
How did a 20-year-old from Oakton, Va., come to play a central role in a tense discussion with global military and political implications? Simple: Schwartz is smart, and she landed a great internship.
“I’ve always been interested in bioterrorism and biosecurity and it has always been something that I wanted to explore, so I decided to take this summer to see if I really liked the field,” she said recently at a coffee shop on The Corner.
The Advocate: Researchers studying coastal land values to aid preservation efforts
Researchers aiding preservation efforts
By AMY WOLD
October 11, 2013
It’s no surprise that some coastal wetlands are more valuable than others, but the question several researchers at LSU are trying to answer is how much more valuable.
Walter Keithly, associate professor and Richard Kazmierczak, professor with the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy, are surveying coastal landowners to see how they use their properties and what income they generate from it whether it’s duck hunting leases or alligator trapping.
“Private individuals will generally only value the land based on market values,” Kazmierczak said.
Keithly said generally two types of value can be attributed to wetlands — their value to society either through hurricane protection or as a fishery nursery and the private value that accounts for the income generated from these wetlands.
University of Louisiana, Lafayette: State taps NIMSAT for storm, disaster management project
October 4, 2013
University of Louisiana at Lafayette researchers are developing a way to streamline information sharing related to hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks, chemical spills and other large-scale disasters.
“The Louisiana All-Hazard Information Portal will improve data collection efforts to enhance the State of Louisiana’s ability to quantify and communicate all-hazard risk. No such platform currently exists. The quantification of risk will enable disaster management officials to better understand the risks that various communities face, and also to educate the general public and businesses in an effort to enhance the community’s all-hazards disaster resiliency and community sustainability,” said Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, interim vice president for Research at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
The issue, which gained international attention during Hurricane Katrina, persists for one reason, Kolluru said: “Every agency speaks a different language, uses different terminology, and has different plans. It causes confusion and ineffectiveness.”
Rutgers University: Hackathon Participants Ready to Pull All-Nighters in Pursuit of the 'Next Big Thing'
Rutgers’ fifth HackRU anticipated to draw more than 350 programmers to Douglass Campus Center
By Tae J. Kim
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Twitter, GroupMe and Docracy are three very different innovations with one thing in common: All are well-known creations born from hackathon.
Organizers of HackRU, scheduled for October 12 to 13 at the Douglass Campus Center in New Brunswick, hope the next killer application will come from the minds and creative energies of Rutgers students.
A portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon,” the hackathon concept arose in 1999 during professional developer brainstorming sessions and spread rapidly all over the nation. Now primarily hosted by colleges, hackathons draw large numbers of people to engage in collaborative computer programming and create original applications within 24 to 48 hours.
'It is only a matter of time until another Facebook or Google comes out of a hackathon. These events draw the best talent from all over and the environment is ripe with innovation. -Sameen Jalal.
University of Virginia: Inaugural ‘Three-Minute’ Thesis Competition Challenges Grad Students to Explain Their Work
October 9, 2013
Graduate students spend years working on thought-provoking, complex research projects that can benefit society and develop their expertise in a field. But when it comes to explaining their work to people unfamiliar with their discipline, many students find themselves at a loss for words.
The University of Virginia hosted its first annual Universitas 21 Three Minute Thesis Competition – which, fittingly, was abbreviated as “3MT” – on Monday with an aim to turn the frustrating process of explaining complicated research accurately and quickly into an opportunity for U.Va. graduate students. Six finalists, selected from their three-minute online video submissions, presented a summary of their thesis projects to a live public audience and panel of faculty judges in the Nau Hall Auditorium.
Whether they are writing hundred-page dissertations or conducting years’ worth of laboratory experiments, graduate students become very comfortable with their own disciplinary jargon, said Phil Trella, U.Va.’s assistant vice president for graduate studies. But when students start applying for jobs out in the world, and even within academia, they aren’t used to expressing their research in the context of a short, concise way that is understandable to people who are not experts in their fields.
University of Alabama, Birmingham: UAB named to national list of 50 Advancing Women in STEM
By Kelli Hewett Taylor
Monday, October 07, 2013
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has been named one of 50 Colleges Advancing Women in STEM by The College Database, a leading not-for-profit resource for college-related data and rankings.
UAB earned distinction for its suite of programs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with a high level of female enrollment and an impressive yearly female graduation rate.
“UAB’s STEM programs are consistently recognized for excellence, and we are honored that our commitment to fostering participation from outstanding female students and graduates has received this recognition,” said UAB Provost Linda Lucas, Ph.D., who is an engineer. “Encouraging women in these vital areas will remain a priority for us.”
Boston University: From Bell Labs to BU, with a Passion for Engineering
New ENG mechanical engineering chair hopes to nurture collaboration, diversity
By Susan Seligson
Reflecting on the near-absence of engineering classes in public schools, Alice White recalls a recent conversation with a new neighbor, a kindergarten teacher who won a presidential award for teaching science. “I mentioned that I was joining the College of Engineering at BU,” says White, the new chair of the mechanical engineering department. “And the teacher asked, ‘What’s engineering?’”
A career scientist who is passionate about her field, White proceeded to describe some of the innumerable things engineers do. The teacher realized that many of her lessons, like encouraging her small charges to investigate why some objects sink and some float, are the essence of engineering. From tinkering under car hoods to digging moats for sandcastles, the science of engineering pervades our lives. So why—aside from the sexy field of robotics—does engineering continue to dwell at the monochromatic margins of the scientific and academic lexicon?
“You don’t really hear the word engineering in school unless your parents happen to be engineers,” says White, who comes to BU after three decades at communications research giant Bell Labs, where she rose from postdoctoral fellow to chief scientist. “Engineering is just not part of the vocabulary and is absent from the curricula of regular high schools,” she says. She wove awareness about the subject into the lexicons of her two grown daughters. White is an expert on photonic device technology, among many other subjects, so it’s especially fitting that part of her BU mission is to shine a light on engineering itself.
Nashua Telegraph via University of Massachusetts, Lowell: If Subways Can Sell iPhones, Why Can’t They Sell Science?
By David Brooks
Willie Sutton famously said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. David Lustick, of Nashua, has adopted a similar philosophy for getting the public to think about science, and particularly about climate change.
“Instead of expecting people to go to the museum, why not bring the learning opportunity to where the people are,” said Lustick, a professor of mathematics and science education in the graduate school of education at UMass-Lowell.
In this case, the people are riding the red and orange lines of the MBTA – roughly half a million people each weekday. They are the initial focus of ScienceToGo.org, a collaboration led by UMass Lowell and Lustick.
“We’re looking at it as an extension of the Boston Museum of Science, as a science exhibit that’s outside the walls of the museum,” said Lustick.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Alabama, Birmingham: UAB professor leading the charge in ethical conversations
By Marie Sutton
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
David Morrow, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham assistant professor of philosophy, is among only a handful of experts leading the national conversation about the ethics of geoengineering, the large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system to counteract climate change.
Morrow has made it his mission to inform people designing relevant institutions that any decisions regarding geoengineering should reflect ethical consideration. He recently co-wrote an opinion paper titled “Research Ethics and Geoengineering,” which appeared in the “Geoengineering Our Climate? Working Paper and Opinion Article Series.” It is part of one of the first series of papers dedicated to exploring the ethics, politics and governance of this provocative new issue. In it, Morrow and his colleagues addressed three principles they feel must be considered when making plans for field studies related to this area: respect, justice and minimization.
Wayne State University: Wayne Law Associate Professor Noah Hall writes book chapter about water issues
October 8, 2013
DETROIT – Wayne State University Law School Associate Professor Noah D. Hall is co-author of a chapter in a new book, Water Without Borders? Canada, the United States, and Shared Waters, published by University of Toronto Press.
Hall’s chapter, written with Professor Jamie Linton of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, is “The Great Lakes: A Model of Transboundary Cooperation.”
The book offers readers an overview of water issues along the 49th parallel, as well as commentaries by a variety of experts, including Hall, on sources of conflict between Canada and the United States over water issues.
Science is Cool
Virginia Commonwealth University: The surgeon as sculptor
By Erin Lucero
Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013
“All right, let’s move.”
The command breaks the silence, and the novice sculptors wheel their chest-high tripods counter-clockwise, circling the model posed on the stand.
The instruction comes from Morgan Yacoe, a 2011 graduate of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts’ nationally ranked sculpture program. Her students — plastic surgery residents from the VCU Medical Center — pause to absorb their new perspective on the model before turning again to their clay.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte:
Charlotte Teachers Institute Tackles ‘Sports by the Numbers’
Panel to discuss math and sports during 'Exploding Canons' speakers series
CHARLOTTE – Oct. 01, 2013 - Ever calculated the odds behind whether your favorite team should punt or go for it – or who’s really number one? Charlotte Teachers Institute will tackle these and other tough questions related to the intersection of sports and math in its “Exploding Canons” event on Tuesday, Oct. 22.
This next installment of CTI’s flagship speakers series will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at UNC Charlotte’s EPIC Building, next to the new Jerry Richardson Stadium, on the university’s main campus.
In “Exploding Canons: Sports by the Numbers,” faculty from Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and professional sports statisticians will offer perspectives on how athletes, coaches, teams, economists, teachers and others use numbers and data in sports performance, development, analysis and decision-making. Sponsored by Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation with additional support from the Charlotte Bobcats, the public event is free. All attendees also will receive special ticket offers from the Charlotte Bobcats and the Charlotte Checkers.
University of Alabama: UA Museum Event Features Fossils, 3D Printing
Oct 7, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The community is invited to explore a world of fossils during National Fossil Day at the Alabama Museum of Natural History at Smith Hall on The University of Alabama’s campus.
The event will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the grand gallery of Smith Hall, and it will feature demonstration tables with the department of geology and the evolutionary studies program, hands-on activities for children in the museum’s Discovery Lab and a wide variety of fossils on display.
The museum will also unveil the new Elasmosaur specimen collected this summer in Greene County by middle school students during an annual expedition.
“The event offers people in the community an opportunity to learn about the incredible fossil history that Alabama has,” said Todd Hester, museum naturalist. “It’s also a chance to see new technology in fossil research.”