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2011 Research Press Releases

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Decades-Old Conclusion about Energy-Making Pathway of Cyanobacteria is Corrected
Decades-Old Conclusion about Energy-Making Pathway of Cyanobacteria is Corrected 15 December 2011Research that is expected to help scientists discover new ways of genetically engineering bacteria to manufacture biofuels will be published in the journal Science on 16 December 2011 by a Penn State team led by Donald Bryant, the Ernest C. Pollard Professor of Biotechnology. The research overturns a generally accepted 44-year-old assumption about how certain kinds of bacteria make energy and synthesize cell materials. "Now that we understand better how cyanobacteria make energy, it might be possible to genetically engineer a cyanobacterial strain to synthesize 1,3-butanediol -- an organic compound that is the precursor for making not just biofuels but also plastics," Bryant said.
First Electronic Optical Fibers with Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon are Developed
First Electronic Optical Fibers with Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon are Developed 13 December 2011A new chemical technique for depositing a non-crystalline form of silicon into the long, ultra-thin pores of optical fibers has been developed by an international team of scientists in the United States and the United Kingdom. The technique, which is the first of its kind to use high-pressure chemistry for making well-developed films and wires of this particular kind of silicon semiconductor, will help scientists to make more-efficient and more-flexible optical fibers.
Satellite Images of Nighttime Lights Help Track Disease Outbreaks
Satellite Images of Nighttime Lights Help Track Disease Outbreaks 10 December 2011Satellite images of nighttime lights, which normally are used to detect where clusters of people live, also can help keep tabs on diseases in developing nations, according to new research. An international research team that includes Matthew Ferrari, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, found that the new technique accurately indicates fluctuations in population density -- and thus the corresponding risk of epidemic that can elude current methods of monitoring outbreaks.
Evidence Is Found that Our Milky Way Galaxy is Destroying Its Dwarf-Galaxy Neighbors
Evidence Is Found that Our Milky Way Galaxy is Destroying Its Dwarf-Galaxy Neighbors 02 December 2011Our Milky Way Galaxy continues to devour its small neighboring dwarf galaxies, reports a research team that includes a Penn State astronomer. The scientists have found evidence of the stellar snacking spread out across the sky. "Our study gives further striking evidence that we live in a galaxy that is constantly changing its structure via cannibalism of its smaller neighbors," said Donald Schneider, Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and a coauthor of the paper describing the discovery.
Penn State University's Eberly College of Science and Its Forensic Science Program Establish Partnership with the University of Split in Croatia
Penn State University's Eberly College of Science and Its Forensic Science Program Establish Partnership with the University of Split in Croatia 01 December 2011The Eberly College of Science at Penn State University, in conjunction with its Forensic Science Program, has established a partnership program with the University of Split in Croatia to expand educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and to encourage relationships between the faculties of the two universities. The new partnership will facilitate student exchange programs; faculty exchanges; joint research projects; educational programs in forensic science and other scientific disciplines; faculty development; and the exchange of scientific materials, publications, and information.
Peculiar Cosmic Explosion on Christmas 2010 Continues to Intrigue Astronomers
Peculiar Cosmic Explosion on Christmas 2010 Continues to Intrigue Astronomers 30 November 2011Why a peculiar cosmic explosion occurred on Christmas Day 2010 remains an intriguing question without a clear answer. The cause of the explosion, a gamma-ray burst that first was detected by NASA's Swift observatory, either was a novel type of supernova located billions of light-years from Earth or an unusual collision much closer to home inside our own galaxy, report astronomers in papers that will be published in the 1 December 2011 issue of Nature.
Asteroid Video Captured by NASA's Swift Satellite
Asteroid Video Captured by NASA's Swift Satellite 11 November 2011As an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier streaked past Earth during the early-morning hours this week, a team of astronomers at Penn State University and other institutions using NASA's Swift satellite monitored the fast-moving space rock, as did other professional and amateur astronomers using other instruments around the globe.
Penn State Science is Among the Best Programs in the United States, New National Research Council Study Shows
Penn State Science is Among the Best Programs in the United States, New National Research Council Study Shows 09 November 2011Research and education programs in the basic sciences at Penn State are among the top programs in the United States, according to a comprehensive National Research Council study, updated in the spring of 2011, titled "A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States." The study uses a broad range of measurements to rank the performance of over 5,000 graduate programs in 62 fields at 212 U.S. universities, including all the major research universities.
Galaxy DNA-Analysis Software is Now Available "in the Cloud"
Galaxy DNA-Analysis Software is Now Available "in the Cloud" 08 November 2011Galaxy -- an open-source, web-based platform for data-intensive biomedical and genetic research -- is now available as a "cloud computing" resource. A team of researchers including Anton Nekrutenko, an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University; Kateryna Makova, an associate professor of biology at Penn State; and James Taylor from Emory University, developed the new technology, which will help scientists and biomedical researchers to harness such tools as DNA-sequencing and analysis software, as well as storage capacity for large quantities of scientific data.
Humans and Climate Contributed to Extinctions of Large Ice-Age Mammals, New Study Finds
Humans and Climate Contributed to Extinctions of Large Ice-Age Mammals, New Study Finds 02 November 2011The genetic history of six large herbivores -- the woolly rhinoceros, woolly mammoth, wild horse, reindeer, bison, and musk ox -- has shown that both climate change and humans were responsible for the extinction or near extinction of large mammal populations within the last 10,000 years. The study, which is the first to use genetic, archeological, and climatic data together to infer the population history of large-bodied Ice-Age mammals, will be published in the journal Nature.
Jawbone Found in England is from the Earliest Known Modern Human in Northwestern Europe
Jawbone Found in England is from the Earliest Known Modern Human in Northwestern Europe 02 November 2011A piece of jawbone excavated from a prehistoric cave in England is the earliest evidence for modern humans in Europe, according to an international team of scientists. The bone first was believed to be about 35,000 years old, but the new research study shows it to be significantly older -- between 44,000 and 41,000 years old, according to the findings that will be published in the journal Nature. The new dating of the bone is expected to help scientists pin down how quickly the modern humans spread across Europe during the last Ice Age. It also helps confirm the much-debated theory that early humans coexisted with Neanderthals.
Three New Planets and a Mystery Object Discovered Outside Our Solar System
Three New Planets and a Mystery Object Discovered Outside Our Solar System 26 October 2011Three planets -- each orbiting its own giant, dying star -- have been discovered by an international research team led by a Penn State University astronomer. Using the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, astronomers observed the planets' parent stars -- called HD 240237, BD +48 738, and HD 96127 -- tens of light years away from our solar system. One of the massive, dying stars has an additional mystery object orbiting it, according to team leader Alex Wolszczan, an Evan Pugh Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, who, in 1992, became the first astronomer ever to discover planets outside our solar system. The new research is expected to shed light on the evolution of planetary systems around dying stars. It also will help astronomers to understand how metal content influences the behavior of dying stars.
Now There's an App for NASA's Swift Observatory
Now There's an App for NASA's Swift Observatory 25 October 2011Interested in the latest discoveries of NASA's Swift satellite? The Swift team has released a free iPhone application that gives you the details of all the latest Gamma-Ray-Burst discoveries that the Swift observatory is making throughout the universe. The app also allows users to track, in real time, the location of Swift as it orbits the Earth, to see where Swift is pointed right now, and to view an informative gallery of beautiful images obtained by the Swift satellite.
Record-Breaking Photo Reveals a Planet-sized Object as Cool as the Earth
Record-Breaking Photo Reveals a Planet-sized Object as Cool as the Earth 19 October 2011The photo of a nearby star and its orbiting companion -- with a temperature like a hot summer day in Arizona -- will be revealed today by Penn State Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Kevin Luhman during a press briefing at the Signposts of Planets conference at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. A paper describing the discovery will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Los datos de Twitter son utilizados para analizar las tendencias sociales a favor y en contra de la vacuna
Los datos de Twitter son utilizados para analizar las tendencias sociales a favor y en contra de la vacuna 13 October 2011Un análisis único e innovador de cómo los medios sociales pueden afectar a la propagación de una enfermedad ha sido diseñado e implementado por un científico de Penn State para estudiar las actitudes hacia la vacuna contra el H1N1. Marcel Salathé, un profesor asistente de biología, estudió cómo los usuarios de Twitter -- un servicio popular de redes sociales basadas en microblogging -- expresaron sus sentimientos acerca de una nueva vacuna.
Twitter Data Used to Track Vaccination Rates and Attitudes
Twitter Data Used to Track Vaccination Rates and Attitudes 13 October 2011A unique and innovative analysis of how social media can affect the spread of a disease has been designed and implemented by a scientist at Penn State University studying attitudes toward the H1N1 vaccine. Marcel Salathé, an assistant professor of biology, studied how users of Twitter -- a popular microblogging and social-networking service -- expressed their sentiments about a new vaccine.
Molecular Depth Profiling Modeled Using Buckyballs and Low-Energy Argon
11 October 2011A team of scientists led by a Penn State University chemist has demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of an alternative method of molecular depth profiling -- a technique used to analyze the surface of ultra-thin materials such as human tissue, nanoparticles, and other substances. In the new study, the researchers used computer simulations and modeling to show the effectiveness and limitations of the alternative method, which is being used by a research group in Taiwan. The new computer-simulation findings may help future researchers to choose when to use the new method of analyzing how and where particular molecules are distributed throughout the surface layers of ultra-thin materials. The research will be published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.
Penn State Awarded $3.3 Million to Build Instrument for Finding Planets in Habitable Zones Around Nearby Stars
Penn State Awarded $3.3 Million to Build Instrument for Finding Planets in Habitable Zones Around Nearby Stars 29 September 2011A new state-of-the-art instrument -- a precision spectrograph for finding planets in habitable zones around cool, nearby stars -- is being developed at Penn State with support from a new $3.3-million grant from the National Science Foundation. "This new Habitable Zone Planet Finder instrument will allow us to detect the existence of planets that are similar in mass to Earth and also are in orbits that allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces," said Suvrath Mahadevan, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and a co-principal investigator of the project.
Record-breaking Solar Cell Announced by Multinational Research Team
Record-breaking Solar Cell Announced by Multinational Research Team 19 September 2011The most efficient colloidal-quantum-dot solar cell ever created will be described in a scientific paper to be published in a print edition of the journal Nature Materials by a team of scientists that includes John Asbury, assistant professor of chemistry at Penn State University. Other members of the research team are at the University of Toronto (U of T) in Canada and the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. The journal also will publish the team's achievement on its Advance Online Publication website at 1:00 p.m., U.S. Eastern Time, on Sunday, 18 September 2011.
Endangered Horse Has Ancient Origins and High Genetic Diversity, New Study Finds
Endangered Horse Has Ancient Origins and High Genetic Diversity, New Study Finds 07 September 2011An endangered species of horse -- known as Przewalski's horse -- is much more distantly related to the domestic horse than researchers had previously hypothesized, reports a team of investigators led by Kateryna Makova, a Penn State University associate professor of biology. The scientists tested the portion of the genome passed exclusively from mother to offspring -- the mitochondrial DNA -- of four Przewalski's horse lineages and compared the data to DNA from the domestic horse (Equus caballus).

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