News & Updates

Principal Investigators and Institutions from Maine, Kansas, South Carolina and South Dakota Awarded NSF Research Traineeship Awards

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship (NRT) program recently awarded 17 projects, totaling $51 million, to develop and implement graduate education traineeship models in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The awards will help train the next generation of scientific leaders to develop the skills necessary to tackle complex societal problems.

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New research from the University of Kansas suggests evolution might favor 'survival of the laziest'

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A new large-data study of fossil and extant bivalves and gastropods in the Atlantic Ocean suggests laziness might be a fruitful strategy for survival of individuals, species and even communities of species. The results have just been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by a research team based at the University of Kansas.

Looking at a period of roughly 5 million years from the mid-Pliocene to the present, the researchers analyzed 299 species’ metabolic rates — or, the amount of energy the organisms need to live their daily lives — and found higher metabolic rates were a reliable predictor of extinction likelihood.

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How Forests Improve Kids' Diets

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A first-of-its-kind global study shows that children in 27 developing countries have better nutrition--when they live near forests.

The results turn on its head the common assumption that improving nutrition in poorer countries requires clearing forests for more farmland--and, instead, suggest that forest conservation could be an important tool for aid agencies seeking to improve the nutrition of children.

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‘Abrupt thaw’ of permafrost beneath lakes could significantly affect climate change models

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Methane released by thawing permafrost from some Arctic lakes could significantly accelerate climate change, according to a new University of Alaska Fairbanks-led study.

The study, which was published Aug. 15 in the journal Nature Communications, focuses on the carbon released by thawing permafrost beneath thermokarst lakes. Such lakes develop when warming soil melts ground ice, causing the surface to collapse and form pools of water. Those pools accelerate permafrost thaw beneath the expanding lakes, providing food for microbes that produce the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.

Lead author Katey Walter Anthony and her colleagues studied hundreds of thermokarst lakes in Alaska and Siberia during a 12-year period, measuring their growth and how much methane was bubbling to their surface. By combining field work results with remote-sensing data of lake changes during the past two years, they determined the “abrupt thaw” beneath such lakes is likely to release large amounts of permafrost carbon into the atmosphere this century. The lake activity could potentially double the release from terrestrial landscapes by the 2050s.

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Automated detection of focal epileptic seizures in a sentinel area of the human brain

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Patients with focal epilepsy that does not respond to medications badly need alternative treatments.

In a first-in-humans pilot study, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have identified a sentinel area of the brain that may give an early warning before clinical seizure manifestations appear. They have also validated an algorithm that can automatically detect that early warning.

These two findings offer the possibility of squelching a focal epilepsy seizure — before the patient feels any symptoms — through neurostimulation of the sentinel area of the brain. This is somewhat akin to the way an implantable defibrillator in the heart can staunch heart arrhythmias before they injure the heart.

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URI chemistry professor develops new contaminant detection technique for blood thinner heparin

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In 2008, a contaminant eluded the quality safeguards in the pharmaceutical industry and infiltrated a large portion of the supply of the popular blood thinner heparin, sickening hundreds and killing about 100 in the U.S.

It took a team of researchers led by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to confirm the contaminant, a toxin structurally similar to heparin that was traced to a Chinese supplier. But detection of the impurity required “a tremendous effort by heavy hitters in the chemistry world,” said Jason Dwyer, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Rhode Island.

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IDeA Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hub Awards Announced

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Four new grants will help to move scientific discoveries and technologies out of the lab and into commercial products that improve patient care and enhance human health. Awards for Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hubs for Institutional Development Award (IDeA) states will total almost $2 million in the first year and potentially more than $13 million over three years, pending the availability of funds. The grants are managed by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The 23 IDeA states and Puerto Rico historically have had disproportionately few Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards. The STTR program funds research and development partnerships between small businesses and academic research institutions. Among other activities, the STTR program funds the systematic application of knowledge toward the production of useful materials, devices, and systems or methods. The new grants will support the creation of one shared STTR accelerator hub in each of the four IDeA regions (Central, Northeastern, Southeastern, and Western). The hubs will provide infrastructure and expertise, and will produce educational tools (e.g., curricula, texts, webinars) through the development and testing of models to accelerate technology transfer that are needed to promote commercialization of academic research and to build an entrepreneurial culture at IDeA institutions.

The accelerator hubs will partner with businesses to leverage existing IDeA programs by providing academic researchers and administrators with scientific entrepreneurial knowledge and skills. The hubs will also offer networking opportunities and business development strategies that can result in more successful SBIR and STTR applications and facilitate the creation of new startup companies.

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NSF EPSCoR Track-1 Awards Announced

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NSF has awarded nearly $140 million to seven jurisdictions through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which builds research and development capacity in jurisdictions that demonstrate a commitment to research but have thus far lacked the levels of investment seen in other parts of the country.

The new EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 awards will bolster science and engineering research infrastructure in Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire and New Mexico, each of which will receive five years of support.

EPSCoR is a program designed to fulfill the foundation's mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide. The program enhances research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions by strengthening their capacity for education, workforce training and innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). EPSCoR works with jurisdictions to identify and support projects with the greatest likelihood of success in those areas.

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University of Kansas scientists discover polyps will let unrelated 'others' fuse to them and share tissue

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University of Kansas scientists discovered that polyps have no qualms about treating a nonrelated individual like part of the family.

The polyps are plankton-eating Hydrozoa — relatives to jellyfish and sea anemones — that live in shallow waters, sharing precious space and scarce resources in a spot of the ocean that’s teeming with life, from barnacles and clams to other hydrozoans. Each individual polyp is about a centimeter long and bright pink. A colony fits in two cupped hands.

The findings appear in the journal Evolution Letters and were published by researchers at the University of Kansas: Paulyn Cartwright, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology; Maria Orive, associate professor of ecology & evolutionary biology; and doctoral candidate Sally Chang.

In previous research, Cartwright found that unlike their loner relatives, Ectopleura larynx form colonies of “baby” polyps that fuse to the “mother” and share a gastrovascular cavity — basically, a stomach.

“We just got our minds wrapped around the idea that moms and offspring are fusing and sharing resources and that they’re related, but this was very surprising,” Cartwright said of seeing nonrelated individuals as part of one, big happy family. “And they don’t seem to have a problem with it.”

“I collect them in Maine, and everybody knows what they are when you explain them,” Cartwright said. “They’re colorful, and they grow on docks. They’re very conspicuous.”

These particular polyp colonies are different from others in that they are not simply composed of a mother cloning itself. Rather, they reproduce sexually, and the offspring fuse to the parent.

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