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From the College of Natural Sciences
Texas Science Stories that Wowed Us in 2021

Texas Science Stories that Wowed Us in 2021

While for many 2021 may have felt like it lasted a few years, it was in fact just 12 months—and University of Texas at Austin scientists and researchers managed to pack a ton of new discoveries into that time. From the furthest reaches of the cosmos to the depths of the ocean and from the tiniest microbes to the most massive black holes, research in Texas Science covered a lot of ground, as researchers pushed boundaries, answered big questions and offered solutions to the world's problems. Here are 16 examples of how UT Austin scientists, mathematicians and technologists used 2021 to usher in new knowledge and innovations to help change the world.

Getting Math and Physics on the Same Page

Getting Math and Physics on the Same Page

In this illustration, three exotic particles called “anyons” circle around each other in a process called braiding. Mathematicians use a method called generalized symmetry to study such interactions.

When physicists want to explain how subatomic particles—such as electrons, photons, quarks and neutrinos—behave and interact, they use a framework called quantum field theory (QFT). QFT might be the most successful physical theory ever invented. It was used to predict the existence of the Higgs boson, antimatter and neutrinos. And it has predicted the results of particle physics experiments accurately to the highest number of decimal places ever recorded.

Math for Poets: Postdoc Heather Wilber Wins AWM Dissertation Prize

Math for Poets: Postdoc Heather Wilber Wins AWM Dissertation Prize

Heather Wilber, an NSF postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Mathematics who joined the Oden Institute in May 2021, received the 2022 Association of Women in Mathematics (AWM) Dissertation Prize for a study entitled, Computing numerically with rational functions. Although only published earlier this year, it has resulted in multiple papers in scientific journals already, appearing in the SIAM Journal of Scientific Computing, Linear Algebra and its Applications, and Constructive Approximation (to appear).

Eleven Faculty Members Honored with College Teaching Excellence Award

Eleven Faculty Members Honored with College Teaching Excellence Award

CNS teaching excellence award winners Aaron Zimmerman, Ann Thijs, Ariel Taylor, Ladia Hernandez, Shinko Harper, Keith Hawkins, Soo Hyun Yang, Sarah Abraham, Kathryn Dabbs, KyongJoo Hong and Fatima Varner

​The Teaching Excellence Award in the College of Natural Sciences seeks to promote and recognize outstanding teaching in the College of Natural Sciences by honoring faculty members who have had a positive influence on the educational experience of our students. In a year marked by having to adapt to teaching during a pandemic, each award winner went above and beyond to deliver their best in the classroom.

An Algorithm for EMS Response

An Algorithm for EMS Response

David Kulpanowski has an important job. As an IT business systems analyst with Austin-Travis County EMS, he's responsible for tracking ambulance response times in the City of Austin and then conducting simulation models to see how they can be improved.

Getting ambulances where they need to be and fast enough is a life-or-death matter.

CNS Welcomes 16 New Faculty Members

CNS Welcomes 16 New Faculty Members

The College of Natural Sciences welcomed 16 new faculty members since April. They bring expertise in health, artificial intelligence, biochemistry, data science, coral reefs and much more. 

Mathematician Seeks to Bring Quantum Field Theory into Mainstream Math

Mathematician Seeks to Bring Quantum Field Theory into Mainstream Math

Quantum field theory, a framework for explaining how subatomic particles behave, among other things, is one of the most successful areas of physics, but it's still incomplete — it's poorly described in terms of mathematics, so neither physicists nor mathematicians know what defines a quantum field theory. David Ben-Zvi, a mathematics professor at the University of Texas at Austin, described his intent to help solve this problem in a recent WIRED article.

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Graduating Senior Finds Passions in Exoplanets and Outreach

Graduating Senior Finds Passions in Exoplanets and Outreach

When Zoe de Beurs arrived at UT Austin, she wasn't sure of what she wanted to do. Now, at the end of her fifth year, she's graduating from the Dean's Scholars honors program as a physics, astronomy and math triple major with an African and African Diaspora Studies minor.

Meet the 2021 Dean's Honored Graduates

Meet the 2021 Dean's Honored Graduates

Each year, the College of Natural Sciences bestows its highest honors for graduating seniors on a select group of students. These students, known as Dean's Honored Graduates demonstrate excellence across multiple domains, achieving not only academically but in scientific research, independent intellectual pursuits, leadership, service, entrepreneurship and community building. Here are biographies of the 33 outstanding students selected by College of Natural Sciences faculty for this distinction in 2021.

Black and Latinx Advocacy Council and CNS Announce Aspire Award Winners

Black and Latinx Advocacy Council and CNS Announce Aspire Award Winners

For more than a decade, the Aspire Awards have provided an occasion for faculty, staff and students to recognize undergraduate leaders in the College of Natural Sciences. The event celebrates undergraduate students from underrepresented groups in the sciences, recognizing their achievements in research, service and leadership. This year, 25 students were given Aspire awards in several categories. The event is a collaboration between the college's Office of Undergraduate Education and the student-led Black and Latinx Advocacy Council.