Button to scroll to the top of the page.


From the College of Natural Sciences
Font size: +

18 Notable and Newsworthy Texas Science Stories from 2018

18 Notable and Newsworthy Texas Science Stories from 2018

It's been a big year for Texas Science, with news about research, new discoveries, technological advancements and awards making headlines around the world. Here are a few UT Austin science stories that made the news in 2018.

A bacterial SLAYer

Biologists, led by UT Austin's Bryan Davies, have developed a new method for rapidly screening hundreds of thousands of potential drugs for fighting bacterial infections, an innovation that holds promise for combating the growing scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The method, named SLAY (Surface Localized Antimicrobial Display), involves engineering bacteria to produce and test molecules that are potentially toxic to themselves. And, yes, it was named in honor of Beyoncé.

Eight like us

The discovery of an eighth planet circling the distant star Kepler-90 by University of Texas at Austin astronomer Andrew Vanderburg overturns our solar system's status as having the highest number of known planets. We're now in a tie. Vanderburg teamed up with a Google machine learning researcher and used artificial intelligence to aid in the search for the new world.

How to train your robot

Computer science researchers have developed new techniques for robots or computer programs to learn how to perform tasks by interacting with a human instructor. UT professor Peter Stone worked with the U.S. Army research laboratory to come up with a deep learning algorithm that enables a human to give real-time feedback to a robot.

What's in a name?

In one of the largest and most diverse studies of transgender youths to date, researchers led by Stephen Russell in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences found that when transgender youths are allowed to use their chosen name in places such as work, school and at home, their risk of depression and suicide drops.

MasSpec Pen wins at SXSW

Chemist Livia Eberlin and her team were honored with a prestigious SXSW Interactive Innovation Award for the MasSpec Pen, a device that will allow surgeons to identify cancerous tissue in seconds and with greater accuracy than current technology.

Coral survivors

Using genetic samples and computer simulations, evolutionary biologist Misha Matz and colleagues have made a glass-half-full forecast: Corals in the Great Barrier Reef have enough genetic variation to adapt to and survive rising ocean temperatures for at least another century, or more than 50 years longer than previous estimates have suggested.

Battling alcoholism

Scientists including chemists James Sahn and Stephen Martin and neuroscientist Jon Pierce have successfully tested in animals a drug that, they say, may one day help block the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that incessantly coax people with alcoholism to drink. If eventually brought to market, it could help the more than 15 million Americans, and many more around the world who suffer from alcoholism stay sober.

Take a bow

Scientists and mathematicians in the Texas Science community were honored with some of the biggest awards in their fields this year. For example, professor Luis Caffarelli was awarded the Shaw Prize in mathematics. Assistant chemistry professor Livia Eberlin was named a Moore Inventor Fellow and a MacArthur Foundation Fellow for her work on the MasSpec Pen. Former faculty member Alessio Figalli won mathematics' Fields Medal for work he did here at UT Austin, and Jim Allison, UT alumnus and chair of immunology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology.

Birth of a black hole

The spectacular merger of two neutron stars that generated gravitational waves announced last fall likely did something else: birthed a black hole, according to a team of researchers, including Pawan Kumar and Craig Wheeler. This newly spawned black hole would be the lowest mass black hole ever found.

Lego nerve gas detector

UT scientists working with chemist Eric Anslyn have designed a way to sense dangerous chemicals using, in part, a simple rig consisting of a smartphone and a box made from Lego bricks, which could help first responders and scientists in the field identify deadly and difficult-to-detect nerve agents such as VX and sarin.

Making CRISPR better

Among the most significant scientific advances in recent years are the discovery and development of new ways to genetically modify living things using a fast and affordable technology called CRISPR. Now a team led by Rick Russell and Ilya Finkelstein in the Department of Molecular Biosciences say they've identified an easy upgrade for the technology that would lead to more accurate gene editing with increased safety.

Sniffing out bad bugs

A new diagnostic tool has been developed by researcher Sanchita Bhadra and her colleagues, that can easily, quickly and cheaply identify whether a mosquito belongs to the species that carries dangerous diseases such as Zika virus, dengue, chikungunya or yellow fever. It can also determine whether the bug has come into contact with a mosquito-control strategy known as Wolbachia. (Update: In a paper just out in December, Bhadra and colleagues also showed the tool can determine if a specific mosquito carried Zika.)

Weed killer may be bee killer

The world's most widely used weed killer may also be indirectly killing bees. New research from Nancy Moran and colleagues shows that honey bees exposed to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, lose some of the beneficial bacteria in their guts and are more susceptible to infection and death from harmful bacteria.

Biggest bird was likely blind

The largest bird known to science, the extinct Elephant Bird, stood over ten feet tall. Scientists now believe it was likely nocturnal and blind. Evolution, ecology and behavior graduate student Christopher Torres authored the paper with researchers from the Jackson School of Geosciences.

Pediatricians recommend against spanking

Based in part on a large body of research by human development and family sciences professor Elizabeth Gershoff, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new recommendations against spanking children and instead recommended alternative forms of discipline. Gershoff has spent years demonstrating the negative effects of spanking children.

Fish keep spawning in a hurricane

In new research out of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, graduate student Chris Biggs and a team found that seatrout, a popular Gulf game fish, kept spawning right through Hurricane Harvey. The finding has implications for the multi-billion dollar recreational fishing industry.

Fighting Hepatitis C

Chris Sullivan and colleagues were studying a bovine leukemia virus that killed Bevo XIV when they identified a protein that the virus uses to help it replicate. While testing that protein on the human virus hepatitis C, the team discovered that the same protein restricted the virus from replicating and could shed light on how the human immune system fights the virus.

A bird's eye view

Anyone with an Internet connection can catch a glimpse of the city's only year-round resident peregrine falcon, thanks to a new webcam installed by the Biodiversity Center. Tower Girl, as she's known around campus, is seen regularly in her nesting box and the camera offers insight into her behaviors, diet and habits. 

UT Scientists, Mathematicians and High Schoolers P...
Two UT Scientists Part of Project to Detect ‘Life ...


No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
Saturday, 18 September 2021

Captcha Image