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2010 Research Press Releases

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Analysis of the Chocolate Genome Could Lead to Improved Crops and Products
Analysis of the Chocolate Genome Could Lead to Improved Crops and Products 17 September 2010The sequencing and analysis of the genome for the Criollo variety of the cacao tree, generally considered to produce the world's finest chocolate, was completed by an international team led by Claire Lanaud of CIRAD in France, with Mark Guiltinan of Penn State University, along with scientists from 18 other institutions. "The large amount of information generated by this project dramatically changes the status of this tropical plant and its potential interest for the scientific community," said Guiltinan, professor of plant molecular biology.
Winners of Plant-Biology Video Contest Announced by ChloroFilms Project at Penn State University
07 September 2010Winners of an international competition organized at Penn State University for new plant-biology videos on YouTube are being announced today. The winners, whose awards include a share of over $5,000 in cash prizes, are the second group of awardees in a series of competitions organized by the nonprofit collaborative project ChloroFilms, which was started by Daniel Cosgrove, the Eberly Chair of Biology at Penn State. ChloroFilms has awarded $13,600 in prizes since the competitions began in 2009. "ChloroFilms promotes the creation of fresh, attention-getting, and informative videos about plant life," Cosgrove said. The winning videos, as well as all the contest entries, are on the ChloroFilms web site at http://www.chlorofilms.org/
Evolution of a Scientist: An interview with Beth Shapiro
Evolution of a Scientist: An interview with Beth Shapiro 31 August 2010If there is a sweet spot at the intersection of talent, hard work, drive and luck, Beth Shapiro has found it. At thirty-four years old, Shapiro—an evolutionary molecular biologist who came to Penn State in 2007 as the Shaffer Career Development assistant professor in biology—has already received more awards and honors than many scientists do in a lifetime.
Atmosphere of Far Worlds Probed with New Technique and Large Telescope
Atmosphere of Far Worlds Probed with New Technique and Large Telescope 31 August 2010Astronomers on two research teams, including an astronomer at Penn State University, have demonstrated the power of a new technique to determine the chemical composition of the atmospheres of planets far outside our solar system. Using the technique -- called narrow-band transit spectrophotometry, -- the teams discovered the element potassium in the atmospheres of giant planets similar in size to Jupiter.
Scientists Develop the First Atomic View of Key Genetic Processes
Scientists Develop the First Atomic View  of Key Genetic Processes  25 August 2010In a landmark study to be published in the journal Nature, scientists have been able to create the first picture of genetic processes that happen inside every cell of our bodies. Using a 3-D visualization method called X-ray crystallography, Song Tan, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University, has built the first-ever image of a protein interacting with the nucleosome — DNA packed tightly into space-saving bundles organized around a protein core. The research is expected to aid future investigations into diseases such as cancer
Penn State is Partner in Large Telescope Awarded Top U.S. Priority
Penn State is Partner in Large Telescope Awarded Top U.S. Priority 13 August 2010A report released this morning for the National Academy of Sciences by a committee of the National Research Council ranked the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) as its top priority for the next large ground-based astronomical facility. The "Astro2010" report states that, of all the competing astronomy projects, the LSST achieved the top rank for its compelling science objectives and because "the committee judged that LSST was the most ready-to-go."
To the Point: Astronomer discusses NASA's future
To the Point: Astronomer discusses NASA's future 12 August 2010After more than a half-century of involvement sending humans into space, the United States is now preparing for the shut down of NASA's human space flight programs. Findings from the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee, known as the Augustine Commission, report that the current human space program, the Constellation program, was underfunded, behind schedule and over budget. Because of these findings the program was not included in the 2010 U.S. budget and the program is winding down. Chris Palma, senior lecturer in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, whose specialty is education and outreach in astronomy, explains the implications of the end of this NASA program.
Lizards Show Stress Reactions to Fire Ant Neighbors
Lizards Show Stress Reactions to Fire Ant Neighbors 02 August 2010New research shows that when some fence lizards are attacked by fire ants they "stress out"-- a response that actually helps the species to survive by heightening the animal's awareness of imminent danger. Tracy Langkilde, assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, found that lizards living in areas of the southeastern United States, where large numbers of fire ants also live, have elevated levels of stress hormones, called glucocorticoids.
Epileptic Seizures May Be Linked to an Ancient Gene Family
Epileptic Seizures May Be Linked to an Ancient Gene Family 01 August 2010New research points to a genetic route to understanding and treating epilepsy. Timothy Jegla, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, has identified an ancient gene family that plays a role in regulating the excitability of nerves within the brain.
New Hypothesis for Human Evolution and Human Nature
New Hypothesis for Human Evolution and Human Nature 20 July 2010It's no secret to any dog-lover or cat-lover that humans have a special connection with animals. But in a new journal article and forthcoming book, paleoanthropologist Pat Shipman of Penn State University argues that this human-animal connection goes well beyond simple affection. Shipman proposes that the interdependency of ancestral humans with other animal species — "the animal connection" — played a crucial and beneficial role in human evolution over the last 2.6 million years.
Small Fish Exploits Forbidding Environment
15 July 2010Jellyfish moved into the oceans off the coast of southwest Africa when the sardine population crashed. Now another small fish is living in the oxygen-depleted zone part-time and turning the once ecologically dead-end jellyfish into dinner, according to an international team of scientists including Penn State Professor of Fisheries and Biology Victoria A. Braithwaite.
Record-Breaking X-ray Blast Briefly Blinds Space Observatory
Record-Breaking X-ray Blast Briefly Blinds Space Observatory 14 July 2010A blast of the brightest X-rays ever detected from beyond our Milky Way galaxy's neighborhood temporarily blinded the X-ray eye on NASA's Swift space observatory earlier this summer, astronomers now report. The X-rays traveled through space for 5-billion years before slamming into and overwhelming Swift's X-ray Telescope on 21 June.
Newborn Stars Discovered in Dark Cosmic Cloud
Newborn Stars Discovered in Dark Cosmic Cloud 07 July 2010A wave of massive star formation appears poised to begin within a mysterious, dark cloud in the Milky Way. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed a secluded birthplace for stars within a wispy, dark cloud named named M17 SWex. The dark cloud is part of the larger, parent nebula known as M17, a vast region of our galaxy with a bright, central star cluster. "We believe we've managed to observe this dark cloud in a very early phase of star formation before its most massive stars have ignited," said Penn State astronomer Matthew Povich, a postdoctoral fellow and the lead author of a study published recently in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The new research could shed light on the question of how and when massive stars form.
Depressed Mice Could Aid Research on Drug-Resistant Depression in Humans
Depressed Mice Could Aid Research on Drug-Resistant Depression in Humans 29 June 201029 June 2010 -- New research shows that a unique strain of laboratory mice characterized at Penn State University has behavioral, hormonal, and neurochemical characteristics that are similar to those of human patients with drug-resistant forms of depression. The mice -- which have a defect in a gene -- are expected to be useful as a new model organism in the effort to develop more effective medications for specific forms of depression. The research, led by Bernhard Luscher, a professor of biology at Penn State, will be published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
Discovery of How Coral Reefs Adapt to Global Warming Could Aid Reef Restoration
Discovery of How Coral Reefs Adapt to Global Warming Could Aid Reef Restoration 23 June 2010Discoveries about tropical coral reefs are expected to be invaluable in efforts to restore the corals, which are succumbing to bleaching and other diseases at an unprecedented rate as ocean temperatures rise worldwide. The research gives new insights into how the scientists can help to preserve or restore the coral reefs that protect coastlines, foster tourism, and nurture many species of fish. The research, which will be published in the journal PLoS One, was accomplished by an international team whose leaders include Iliana Baums, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University.
Video: Researcher Studies Warming Oceans' Effects on Coral Reef Life
Video: Researcher Studies Warming Oceans' Effects on Coral Reef Life 15 June 2010Iliana Baums, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State, dons scuba gear for work. She studies coral reef ecosystems, the "forests of the oceans," diverse habitats that are vital to many species of ocean life. Warming ocean temperatures disrupt that ecosystem and cause episodes of coral bleaching, which, over time, can kill coral and the life supported by it. Watch the video as Baums explains her research conducted under the sea.
Survey Reveals Many Thousands of Supermassive Black Holes
Survey Reveals Many Thousands of Supermassive Black Holes 07 June 2010An international team of scientists, led by Penn State Distinguished Professor Donald Schneider, has announced its completion of a massive census in which they identified the quasars in one quarter of the sky. The team's work is part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), a nearly decade-long discovery-and-research effort using a 2.5-meter telescope located at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. The completed catalog of quasars, which will be published in the June 2010 issue of the Astronomical Journal, includes 105,783 quasars, over 96 percent of which were discovered by the SDSS.
Stellar Shrapnel Seen in Aftermath of Explosion: Chandra image released by team including Penn State astronomer
Stellar Shrapnel Seen in Aftermath of Explosion: Chandra image released by team including Penn State astronomer 26 May 2010This beautiful composite image shows N49, the aftermath of a supernova explosion in the Large Magellanic Cloud. A new long observation from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, shown in blue, reveals evidence for a bullet-shaped object being blown out of a debris field left over from an exploded star. In order to detect this bullet, a team of researchers led by Sangwook Park of Penn State University used Chandra to observe N49 for over 30 hours. This bullet can be seen in the bottom right hand corner of the image (roll your mouse over the image above) and is rich in silicon, sulphur and neon. The detection of this bullet shows that the explosion that destroyed the star was highly asymmetric.
New Type of Exploding Star Discovered: May Reveal a Source of Calcium and Positrons
New Type of Exploding Star Discovered: May Reveal a Source of Calcium and Positrons 19 May 201019 May 2010 -- A new type of exploding star has been discovered by an international team of scientists that includes Penn State University astronomer Derek Fox, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics. Until now, scientists had observed only two basic kinds of exploding stars, known as supernovae. But now the team's discovery has revealed a third type of supernova that, if common, could reveal a previously unknown source of the calcium in our bodies and of the positron particles observed near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Research Feature: The Secrets of Cellulose
18 May 2010A new energy center aims to penetrate the mystery of plant cell walls. The Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation is co-directed by Eberly Professor of Biology Daniel Cosgrove and Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering Jeffrey Catchmark.

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