News Archives: August, 2017

NSF EPSCoR Awards New Track-2 Projects to Help Understand Connections Between Genes and Organisms' Characteristics

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made eight awards totaling $41.7 million for projects aimed at building capacity to research a national priority area: understanding the relationship in organisms between genetic material, or genotype, and physical characteristics due to gene expression and environmental influences, or phenotype.

The genotype-to-phenotype relationship has significant societal and economic implications across scientific fields and areas of industry, including but not limited to medicine, agriculture, biotechnology and ecology. An enhanced understanding of this relationship holds the potential for improved food crop yields, better prediction of human disease risk and new drug therapies. Through these investments, NSF aims to provide the scientific community with new tools and resources for future discoveries.

The awards are made through NSF EPSCoR as part of its Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-2 investment strategy. RII Track-2 is intended to build national research strength by initiating research collaborations across institutions in two or more EPSCoR jurisdictions. The four-year awards involve 21 institutions in 16 eligible jurisdictions.


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OU Team Details Foreshock Activities Leading Up to Pawnee Earthquake

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A University of Oklahoma geophysics professor, Xiaowei Chen, details the foreshock activities leading up to the Pawnee earthquake, and highlights the complicated relationship between seismicity and wastewater injection rates in a research study published this week in Scientific Reports. The study details the precursory earthquake (foreshock) sequences that culminated in the September 3, 2016, 5.8 magnitude earthquake near Pawnee, Oklahoma, which ruptured along the previously unmapped Sooner Lake Fault.

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University of Wyoming and Duke University Study on Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining

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Mountaintop-removal coal mining causes many streams and rivers in Appalachia to run consistently saltier for up to 80 percent of the year, a new study by researchers at the University of Wyoming and Duke University finds.

The scientists examined water quality in four watersheds that flow into southern West Virginia’s Mud River basin, the site of extensive mountaintop mining in recent years. In mountaintop-removal mining, underground coal seams are exposed by blasting away summits or ridges above them. Any leftover debris and crushed rocks are deposited in neighboring valleys, creating “valley fills” that can stretch for long distances and bury entire streambeds.

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Clemson Researchers Illuminate the Field of Microscopy with Invention of Nanoparticle ‘Buckyswitch’

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Visualizing biological cells under a microscope was just made clearer, thanks to research conducted by graduate student Yifei Jiang and principal investigator Jason McNeill of Clemson University’s department of chemistry.

With the help of Rhonda Powell and Terri Bruce of Clemson’s Light Imaging Facility, the team was able to develop a nanoparticle “switch” that fluoresces to sharpen the resolution of microscopic images that depict small cellular structures. As recently published in Nano Letters, this switch improves upon an imaging method that won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Because cellular structures emit light at wavelengths smaller than 400-700 nanometers on the electromagnetic spectrum, they often appear blurred through a light microscope. This constraint is referred to as the diffraction limit, and it occurs because of the wave properties of light. As light passes around structures within biological cells, it diffracts, or bends, to a point that light microscopes cannot clearly resolve. The 2014 prize-winning imaging method – single molecule localization microscopy – was invented to surpass this limitation.

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NASA Awards Grants for Research, Flight Opportunities to 22 Universities

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EPSCoR helps develop partnerships among NASA research missions and programs, academic institutions and industry. EPSCoR is managed by NASA's Office of Education in Washington, and in each participating jurisdiction by a program director who oversees the process of submitting grant proposals and the work performed with the grant funding.

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln Physicists Change How Light Behaves

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By focusing laser light to a brightness 1 billion times greater than the surface of the sun — the brightest light ever produced on Earth — the physicists have observed changes in a vision-enabling interaction between light and matter.

Those changes yielded unique X-ray pulses with the potential to generate extremely high-resolution imagery useful for medical, engineering, scientific and security purposes. The team’s findings, detailed June 26 in the journal Nature Photonics, should also help inform future experiments involving high-intensity lasers.

Donald Umstadter and colleagues at the university’s Extreme Light Laboratory fired their Diocles Laser at a beam of electrons to measure how the laser’s photons — considered both particles and waves of light — scattered from a single electron after striking it.

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