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2010 News (in reverse chronological order)

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Ashtekar Receives Honorary Doctorate from France
17 December 2010Penn State University Professor of Physics Abhay Ashtekar, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Physics and director of the Penn State Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos, has received an honorary doctoral degree from the Universite Mediterranee in Aix-Marseille, France. The presentation took place on 18 November 2010.
88-Year-Old Clarence Kasales Receives B.S. Degree
14 December 2010Clarence J. Kasales, a retired physician who attended Penn State University's School of Chemistry and Physics from 1940 to 1942, will be awarded a Premedicine B.S. degree at the fall commencement ceremony on 18 December 2010 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Kasales is one of many students who left Penn State during World War II, when it was possible to enter medical school without an undergraduate degree. Many of these individuals, including Kasales, went on to receive M.D. degrees and had rewarding careers in the medical profession.
Penn State Joins Major Astronomical Survey
14 December 2010Penn State University has become a participant in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS-III), a six-year project that will expand our knowledge in fields ranging from the planets outside our solar system to the large-scale structure and evolution of the universe. "The SDSS-III is investigating some of the currently most compelling scientific questions," said Lawrence Ramsey, head of Penn State's Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. "This is a great opportunity for Penn State faculty and students."
New Research Sheds Light on How Contagious Diseases Spread through Communities
13 December 2010Any parent knows that colds spread like wildfire, especially through schools. New research using human-networking theory may give a clearer picture of just how, exactly, infectious diseases such as the common cold, influenza, whooping cough, and SARS can spread through a closed group of people, and even through populations at large. With the help of 788 volunteers at a high school, Marcel Salathé, a faculty member in the Department of Biology at Penn State University, developed a new technique to count the number of possible disease-spreading events that occur in a typical day.
Bruce Lindsay Receives the 2010 Fisher Lecture Award
13 December 2010Bruce Lindsay, Willaman Professor of Statistics and head of the Department of Statistics, has been honored as the recipient of the 2010 Fisher Lecture award, presented by the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies and sponsored by the American Statistical Association, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the International Biometric Society, and the Statistical Society of Canada. Lindsay delivered the 2010 Fisher Lecture, "Likelihood: Efficiency and Deficiency -- and the Special Role of Hidden Variables," in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
A Key Protein Allows Nerve Cells to Repair Themselves
09 December 2010A team of scientists led by Melissa Rolls, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University, has peered inside neurons to discover an unexpected process that is required for regeneration after severe neuron injury. The process was discovered during Rolls's studies aimed at deciphering the inner workings of dendrites -- the part of the neuron that receives information from other cells and from the outside world.
Buckley to Represent Penn State's Eberly College of Science as Student Marshal at Fall Commencement 2010
08 December 2010Patrick J. Buckley of Reading, Pennsylvania, will be honored as the student marshal for the Eberly College of Science during Penn State University's fall commencement ceremonies on 18 December 2010 at the University Park campus. Buckley has selected Paul A. Bartell of the Department of Poultry Sciences to be his faculty escort for the commencement exercises.
Team Receives Grant for Data-Privacy Research
08 December 2010A team of researchers led by Aleksandra Slavkovic, associate professor of statistics, and Adam Smith and Sofya Raskhodnikova, faculty members in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, has been awarded a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation Cyber-Enabled Innovation and Discovery program. The team will use a multidisciplinary approach combining statistics and computer science to study how research data in the social and heath sciences can be made more widely available without compromising privacy.
Research Website Takes Viewers Deep into the Gulf of Mexico
07 December 2010Researchers on an expedition in the Gulf of Mexico to view first-hand the possible effects of the oil spill on the sea floor are posting daily reports of their explorations on the web. Charles Fisher, a biological oceanographer from Penn State University, is the Chief Scientist on this research expedition. The research team's daily updates, photos, and videos will be added to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's (WHOI) "Dive and Discover" website until 14 December.
Rainforest Conservation Needs a New Direction to Address Climate Change
01 December 2010Conservation and international aid groups may be on the wrong course to address the havoc wreaked by climate change on tropical rainforests, according to a commentary appearing in the journal Nature on 2 December 2010.
Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Dies
30 November 2010Philip Skell, Evan Pugh professor of chemistry at Penn State University, died on 21 November 2010 of age-related causes. He was 91.
Obama Bestows National Medal of Science on Benkovic
18 November 2010Several hundred people gathered in the East Room of the White House Wednesday evening (Nov. 17) to witness the awarding of National Medals of Science to 10 individuals, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to three individuals and one team. Among those honored with the National Medal of Science was Stephen J. Benkovic, Evan Pugh professor of chemistry and holder of the Eberly family chair in chemistry at Penn State.
Rescue Missions Underway to Save Haiti's Species from Mass Extinctions
16 November 2010Haiti is on the brink of an era of mass extinctions similar to the time when dinosaurs and many other species suddenly disappeared from the Earth, reports a biologist at Penn State University, who is announcing today the establishment of a species-rescue program for Haiti's threatened frogs and other species, including captive-breeding and gene-preservation efforts. "During the next few decades, many Haitian species of plants and animals will become extinct because the forests where they live, which originally covered the entire country, are nearly gone," reports Blair Hedges, a professor of biology at Penn State and leader of the rescue missions in Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean.
Benkovic to Receive National Medal of Science: Live Webcast at 5:20 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 November 2010
15 November 2010Stephen J. Benkovic, an Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry at Penn State, is one of ten scientists who will receive the 2009 National Medal of Science from President Obama during a White House ceremony on 17 November 2010. The award is the nation's highest honor for lifetime achievement in scientific research. A live webcast will begin at 5:20 p.m. on the White House web site: <http://www.whitehouse.gov>.
Scientists Demystify an Enzyme Responsible for Drug and Food Metabolism
11 November 2010For the first time, scientists have been able to "freeze in time" a mysterious process by which a critical enzyme metabolizes drugs and chemicals in food. By recreating this process in the lab, a team of researchers has solved a 40-year-old puzzle about changes in a family of enzymes produced by the liver that break down common drugs such as Tylenol, caffeine, and opiates, as well as nutrients in many foods. The breakthrough discovery may help future researchers develop a wide range of more efficient and less-expensive drugs, household products, and other chemicals. The scientists' findings are published in the journal Science on 12 November 2010.
Scientists Use Skin Cells to Study Autism in a Petri Dish
11 November 2010A team of researchers has used stem cells taken from the skin of patients with Rett syndrome — the most physically disabling of the autism disorders — to replicate autism in the lab and to study how the disease affects brain cells. The team's findings reveal disease-specific cellular defects, such as fewer functional connections between particular neurons, and demonstrate these defects are reversible. The results raise the hope that, one day, autism maybe become a treatable condition.
Scientists Discover How the Songbird's Brain Controls Timing During Singing
08 November 2010A team of scientists has observed the activity of nerve cells in a songbird's brain as it is singing a particular song. Dezhe Jin, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at Penn State University and one of the study's authors, explained that understanding how birds string together sets of syllables -- or notes in a song-- may provide some insight into how the human brain learns language and produces speech. The research will be published in the journal Nature.
Scientists Discover Dying Corals and Creatures Near Deep Water Horizon Oil-Spill Site in the Gulf
05 November 2010On a research ship in the Gulf of Mexico on Election Day this week, seven miles south-west of the site of the Deep Water Horizon oil-spill, a team of scientists discovered a community of corals that includes many recently dead colonies and others that clearly are dying. "We discovered a community of coral that has been impacted fairly recently by something very toxic," said the chief scientist on the cruise, Charles Fisher, who is a professor of biology at Penn State University and a member of the research team that selected the site for study.
Penn State Mathematics Places High in National Rankings
05 November 2010Penn State's Department of Mathematics is one of the most productive in the United States, according to a multi-year study released by the National Research Council.
Flowering Plants Have Evolved Multiple Genes to Prevent Inbreeding
28 October 2010A research team led by Teh-hui Kao, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University, in collaboration with a team led by Professor Seiji Takayama at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan, has discovered a large suite of genes in the petunia plant that acts to prevent it from breeding with itself or with its close relatives, and to promote breeding with unrelated individuals.

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