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2009 News Items (in reverse chronological order)

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"Superatoms" Mimic Elements: Research Reveals New Perspective of Periodic Table
28 December 2009Transforming lead into gold is an impossible feat, but a similar type of "alchemy" is not only possible, but cost-effective too. Three Penn State researchers have shown that certain combinations of elemental atoms have electronic signatures that mimic the electronic signatures of other elements. According to the team's leader A. Welford Castleman Jr., Eberly Distinguished Chair in Science and Evan Pugh Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, "the findings could lead to much cheaper materials for widespread applications such as new sources of energy, methods of pollution abatement, and catalysts on which industrial nations depend heavily for chemical processing."
Brown Dwarf Pair Mystifies Astronomers
21 December 2009Two brown dwarf-sized objects orbiting a giant old star show that planets may assemble around stars more quickly and efficiently than anyone thought possible, according to an international team of astronomers.
Four College Faculty Named AAAS Fellows
17 December 2009  
Schultz Selected as Science Student Marshal for Penn State Fall Commencement
14 December 2009  
Penn State Honors Six with Outstanding Science Alumni Award
10 December 2009  
Probing Question: Is forensic science on TV accurate?
From the Edge of Darkness to the Black Abyss: Marine Scientists Census 17,500+ Species and Counting
Census of Marine Life scientists, including Penn State Professor of Biology Charles Fisher, have inventoried an astonishing abundance, diversity and distribution of deep sea species that have ever known sunlight – creatures that somehow manage a living in a frigid black world down to 5,000 meters (~3 miles) below the ocean waves. (22 November 2009)
New Research into the Mechanisms of Gene Regulation
19 November 2009A team led by Penn State’s Ross Hardison, T. Ming Chu Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has taken a large step toward unraveling how regulatory proteins control the production of gene products during development and growth. Working with collaborators including Drs. Mitchell Weiss and Gerd Blobel at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, they focused specifically on the complex process of producing red blood cells (erythrocytes). These cells contain large amounts of hemoglobin, a molecule essential for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Abnormalities in hemoglobin figure in many serious diseases, such as sickle-cell disease, and abnormalities in producing blood cells can lead to leukemias. The work will be published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Genome Research.
Long After Darwin: Evolution and Our Place in Nature
A conversation with Alan Walker, Evan Pugh Professor of Anthropology and Biology, and links to audio and video recordings of his November 2009 "Research Unplugged" lecture.
Castleman Receives 2010 Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics
02 November 2009A. Welford Castleman Jr., Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and Physics and Eberly Family Distinguished Chair in Science at Penn State, is the recipient of the 2010 Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics
Rare Space Experiment Gives Clues About the Fundamental Structure of the Universe
30 October 2009A physics experiment using a super-fast explosion in a galaxy 7.3 billion light-years away has given scientists rare experimental evidence about the fundamental structure of space and time.
Global Warming Cycles Threaten Endangered Primates
28 October 2009Two Penn State University researchers have carried out one of the first-ever analyses of the effects of global warming on endangered primates. This innovative work by Graduate Student Ruscena Wiederholt and Associate Professor of Biology Eric Post examined how El Niño warming affected the abundance of four New World monkeys over decades. The research will be published on 28 October 2009 in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, a fast-track journal of the Royal Society of London.
Blast from the Past Gives Clues About Early Universe
28 October 2009Tantalizing insights into the nature of the most distant object ever observed in the universe have been achieved by an international research team whose leaders include Derek Fox, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University. The team used the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope to observed the distant object — a gigantic stellar explosion known as a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB). A scientific report of the team's findings has been submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Time-Keeping Brain Neurons Discovered
21 October 2009Groups of neurons that precisely keep time have been discovered in the primate brain by a team of researchers that includes Dezhe Jin, assistant professor of physics at Penn State University and two neuroscientists from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "This research is the first time that precise time-keeping activities have been identified in recordings of neuron activity," Jin said. The time-keeping neurons are in two interconnected brain regions, the prefrontal cortex and the striatum, both of which are known to play critical roles in learning, movement, and thought control.
Shapiro Named 2009 Searle Scholar
15 October 2009Beth Shapiro, the Shaffer Career Development Assistant Professor of Biology at Penn State University, recently was named a Searle Scholar. The Searle Scholars Program was established at the Chicago Community Trust in 1980 in honor of John G. Searle, grandson of the founder of G.D. Searle & Company Pharmaceuticals, and his wife. The program annually recognizes fifteen exceptional young faculty members and supports independent research in medicine, chemistry, and the biological sciences.
A New Search for Dark Energy Begins
01 October 2009The most ambitious attempt yet to trace the history of the universe has seen "first light." Two Penn State scientists, Professors of Astronomy Niel Brandt and Donald Schneider, are members of the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), a part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III), which has begun a quest to collect electro-magnetic spectra for 1.4 million galaxies and 160,000 quasars by 2014. "These observations should provide quite accurate measurements of the expansion history of the universe, and thus should reveal the relative importance of ordinary matter, dark matter, and dark energy over a wide range of cosmic time," said Brandt.
Book on Ape Evolution Wins W. W. Howells Award
28 September 2009  
Stasto Receives Department of Energy's Outstanding Junior Investigator Award
24 September 2009  
Shapiro Receives MacArthur Fellow Award
22 September 2009  
Turning Up the Voltage Stops Opposites from Attracting, Study Finds
16 September 2009Whether gazing into lava lamps or watching balsamic vinegar mix with olive oil, people have long been transfixed by the seemingly mystical way that droplets of one liquid find each other within another liquid and join together. Conventional scientific wisdom has held that this merging of liquid droplets, a process called coalescence, is enhanced by applying an electrical field. But a new study, which will be published in the 17 September 2009 issue of the journal Nature, shows that an increased electrical field actually can prevent droplets from merging.

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