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Scientists Sequence Endangered Tasmanian Devil's Genome
27 June 2011A revolutionary species-preservation approach based on whole-genome analyses of two Tasmanian devils -- one that had died of a contagious cancer known as Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) and one healthy animal -- has been used to develop a theoretical model to predict which individuals would need to be kept in captivity to maximize chances of preserving enough genetic diversity for the species to survive. The research helps to formulate one possible plan of action to prevent the extinction of the Tasmanian devil -- a marsupial found in the wild exclusively in the Australian island-state of Tasmania. The research model also may be extended to other endangered species.
Hammes-Schiffer Receives National Institutes of Health MERIT Award
17 June 2011Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, a professor of chemistry and the Eberly Professor of Biotechnology at Penn State University, has been awarded a prestigious National Institutes of Health "Method to Extend Research in Time" (MERIT) award, a 10-year research grant to support her work. Hammes-Schiffer is an acknowledged world leader in biophysics whose research spans the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, and computer science.
Life-History Traits May Affect DNA Mutation Rates in Males More Than in Females
13 June 2011For the first time, scientists have used large-scale DNA sequencing data to investigate a long-standing evolutionary assumption: DNA mutation rates are influenced by a set of species-specific life-history traits. These traits include metabolic rate and the interval of time between an individual's birth and the birth of its offspring, known as generation time.
Research in Arabian Peninsula Will Help Scientists Understand Coral Diversity and Adaptation to Climate Change
10 June 2011Todd LaJeunesse, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State, and Drew Wham, a graduate student in LaJeunesse’s lab, recently traveled to Saudi Arabia for two weeks to conduct research with collaborators from King Abdulla University of Science and Technology (KAUST). KAUST is an international, graduate-level research university situated on the Red Sea. The research is part of a world-wide project to describe the biodiversity and ecology of symbiotic algae that live in reef-building corals.
Phagehunter Lab Has Undergraduates Searching for Tuberculosis Cure
08 June 2011This spring, the Eberly College of Science introduced a new biology lab course, BIO 220W: Biology Populations and Communities, which gives undergraduates the opportunity to do pioneering, real-world research. The course, funded by a grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is part of a multi-university effort to bring true research into the undergraduate classroom.
Norman Freed Retires After 46 Years of Service to Penn State
07 June 2011Norman Freed, professor of physics and associate dean of the Eberly College of Science at Penn State University, will retire after 46 years of service to the University. In addition to initiating many of the college's most innovative academic programs, Freed is known for his extensive research in theoretical nuclear physics, high-energy electromagnetic interactions in pion physics, and nuclear systems.
Baum Receives Honorary Degree from the University of Colorado
03 June 2011Paul Frank Baum, Evan Pugh Professor of Mathematics at Penn State University, has received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the Board of Regents at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Baum has been given this award "in recognition of his powerful, elegant, and lasting contributions to the field of mathematics."
Cosmic Explosion is New Candidate for Most Distant Object in the Universe
25 May 2011A gamma-ray burst detected by NASA's Swift satellite in April 2009 has been newly unveiled as a candidate for the most distant object in the universe. At an estimated distance of 13.14 billion light years, the burst lies far beyond any known quasar and could be more distant than any previously known galaxy or gamma-ray burst. Multiple lines of evidence in favor of a record-breaking distance for this burst, known as GRB 090429B for the 29 April 2009 date when it was discovered, are presented in a paper by an international team of astronomers led by former Penn State University graduate student Antonino Cucchiara, now at the University of California, Berkeley.
Packaging Process for Genes Discovered in New Research
19 May 2011Scientists at Penn State University have achieved a major milestone in the attempt to assemble, in a test tube, entire chromosomes from their component parts. The achievement reveals the process a cell uses to package the basic building blocks of an organism's entire genetic code -- its genome. The evidence provided by early research with the new procedure overturns three previous theories of the genome-packaging process and opens the door to a new era of genome-wide biochemistry research.
New Technique Sheds Light on the Mysterious Process of Cell Division
18 May 2011Using a new technique in which models of primitive cells are constructed from the bottom up, scientists have demonstrated that the structure of a cell's membrane and cytoplasm may be as important to cell division as the specialized machinery -- such as enzymes, DNA or RNA -- which are found within living cells. Christine Keating, an associate professor of chemistry at Penn State University, and Meghan Andes-Koback, a graduate student in the Penn State Department of Chemistry, generated simple, non-living model "cells" with which they established that asymmetric division -- the process by which a cell splits to become two distinct daughter cells -- is possible even in the absence of complex cellular components, such as genes.
George Andrews Awarded Honorary Professorship at Nankai University
18 May 2011George Andrews, Evan Pugh Professor of Mathematics at Penn State University, has been has been awarded an honorary professorship at Nankai University in China. Andrews receives this honor in recognition of his many important contributions to research fields including number theory and combinatorics. In addition, he is recognized for solving a number of well-known long-standing problems in these fields. Andrews has expressed that, as an honorary professor of Nankai University, he would do his best to support the teaching and research projects at the Nankai University's Center for Combinatorics -- one of the leading national academic institutions for mathematical research.
Lin Receives Don Owen Award from the American Statistical Association
17 May 2011Dennis Lin, Distinguished Professor of Statistics at Penn State University, has been awarded the 2011 Don Owen Award from the American Statistical Association's San Antonio chapter. The president of the chapter, John Schoolfield, presented Lin with the award at the 2011 Conference of Texas Statisticians at Texas A&M University. Lin is recognized for his groundbreaking work in designing statistical experiments called supersaturated designs. These designs provide a major tool for practical use in industry and allow investigation of a large number of variables. He also is well known for his research on statistical data mining.
Zombie Ants Have Fungus on the Brain, New Research Reveals
09 May 2011New research has revealed how infection by a parasitic fungus dramatically changes the behavior of tropical carpenter ants (species Camponotus leonardi), causing them to become zombie-like and to die at a spot that has optimal reproduction conditions for the fungus. The multinational research team studied ants living high up in the rainforest canopy in Thailand. A paper describing the research will be published in the BioMed Central open-access journal BMC Ecology on 9 May 2011.
Graduating Senior Studies the Shadows of Galaxies
05 May 2011Most of the universe is empty space -- galaxies lie few and far between. Moreover, distant galaxies are difficult, if not impossible, to observe by their meager light. So, what if astronomers studied not the light of the galaxies themselves, but also their shadows?
Daniel Matasic Receives CEIA 2010 Co-op Student of the Year Award
04 May 2011Daniel Matasic, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, received the 2010 Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA) Co-op Student of the Year award. This national award recognizes students’ academic achievements and contributions to their co-op employers, the University, the community, and the field of cooperative education. The CEIA presented this award to Dan at their national conference in San Antonio, Texas in April 2011.
Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Have Evolved a Unique Chemical Mechanism, New Discovery Reveals
28 April 2011For the first time, scientists have been able to paint a detailed chemical picture of how a particular strain of bacteria has evolved to become resistant to antibiotics. The research is a key step toward designing compounds to prevent infections by recently evolved, drug-resistant "superbugs" that often are found in hospitals, as well as in the general population. A paper describing the research, by a team led by Squire Booker, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State University, was posted by the journal Science on its early-online Science Express site on 28 April. This paper is a continuation of research led by Booker published in another paper in Science earlier this month.
Jinchao Xu Named a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
25 April 2011Jinchao Xu, the Francis R. and Helen M. Pentz Professor of Science and the director of the Center for Computational Mathematics and Applications at Penn State University, has been honored as a 2011 Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) for his outstanding contributions to the theory and applications of multilevel and adaptive numerical methods. He will be recognized later this year at the 7th International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM 2011) in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Scientists Recreate Brain Cells from Skin Cells to Study Schizophrenia Safely
13 April 2011A team of scientists at Penn State University, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and other institutions have developed a method for recreating a schizophrenic patient's own brain cells, which then can be studied safely and effectively in a Petri dish. The method brings researchers a step closer to understanding the biological underpinnings of schizophrenia.
Alberto Bressan Receives the Fichera Prize from the Italian Mathematical Union
06 April 2011Alberto Bressan, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Mathematics at Penn State University, will be awarded the Fichera prize from the Italian Mathematical Union (IMU). The prize, which will be awarded during the general congress of the IMU in Bologna, Italy later this year, is assigned once every four years to the author of a paper of great significance in the field of mathematical analysis and applications.
Search for Advanced Materials Aided by Discovery of Hidden Symmetries in Nature
03 April 2011A new way of understanding the structure of proteins, polymers, minerals, and engineered materials will be published in the May 2011 issue of the journal Nature Materials. The discovery by two Penn State University researchers is a new type of symmetry in the structure of materials, which the researchers say greatly expands the possibilities for discovering or designing materials with desired properties.

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