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From the College of Natural Sciences
How to Make the Gene-Editing Tool CRISPR Work Even Better

How to Make the Gene-Editing Tool CRISPR Work Even 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 scientists at The University of Texas at Austin say they've identified an easy upgrade for the technology that would lead to more accurate gene editing with increased safety that could open the door for gene editing safe enough for use in humans.

New Nerve Gas Detector Built with Legos and a Smartphone

New Nerve Gas Detector Built with Legos and a Smartphone

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin 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. The new methodology described in a paper published Wednesday in the open-access journal ACS Central Science combines a chemical sensor with photography to detect and identify different nerve agents — odorless, tasteless chemical weapons that can cause severe illness and death, sometimes within minutes.

Could a Digital Version of this Part of the Brain Be Coming Soon?

Could a Digital Version of this Part of the Brain Be Coming Soon?

The cerebellum (red) directs many of the movements we make often, yet don’t have to think about. Photo credit: Database Center for Life Science. Used via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.1 Japan license.

For decades, Michael Mauk, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Austin, has been developing a computer simulation of the part of our brains called the cerebellum that directs many of the movements we make often, yet don't have to think about, like walking or picking up a glass of water.

New ‘Nanotweezers’ Open Door to Innovations in Medicine, Mobile Tech

New ‘Nanotweezers’ Open Door to Innovations in Medicine, Mobile Tech

It's difficult to conceptualize a world where humans could casually manipulate nanoscale objects at will or even control their own biological matter at a cellular level with light.

A Century After 1918 Flu, A Virus that Still Surprises

A Century After 1918 Flu, A Virus that Still Surprises

This month marks the centennial of the first case of one of the world's deadliest flu outbreaks, which was reported on a Kansas army base. It is estimated that the 1918 flu infected 500 million people around the world and killed 50-100 million. With the 100th anniversary, we sat down with graduate student Spencer Fox, who studies the flu virus and flu pandemics.


Gut Microbiome Influenced Heavily by Social Circles in Lemurs, UT Study Says

Gut Microbiome Influenced Heavily by Social Circles in Lemurs, UT Study Says

Social group membership is the most important factor influencing the composition of a lemur's gut microbiome, according to research at The University of Texas at Austin.

Cracking the Code: Why Flu Pandemics Come At the End of Flu Season

Cracking the Code: Why Flu Pandemics Come At the End of Flu Season

You might expect that the risk of a new flu pandemic — or worldwide disease outbreak — is greatest at the peak of the flu season in winter, when viruses are most abundant and most likely to spread. Instead, all six flu pandemics that have occurred since 1889 emerged in spring and summer months. And that got some University of Texas at Austin scientists wondering, why is that?

Inaugural Symposium Encourages Up and Coming Researchers

Inaugural Symposium Encourages Up and Coming Researchers

The College of Natural Sciences will be hosting the inaugural Symposium for Undergraduate Research Exploration (SURE in CNS) this fall to bring bright upper-division undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds to The University of Texas at Austin to share their research and explore options to pursue advanced degrees in the sciences.

First Step Taken Toward Epigenetically Modified Cotton

First Step Taken Toward Epigenetically Modified Cotton

A partly harvested cotton field. This photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Photo credit: Kimberly Vardeman.

With prices down and weather patterns unpredictable, these are tough times for America's cotton farmers, but new research led by Z. Jeffrey Chen at The University of Texas at Austin might offer a break for the industry. He and a team have taken the first step toward a new way of breeding heartier, more productive cotton through a process called epigenetic modification.

Do Stars Fall Quietly into Black Holes, or Crash into Something Utterly Unknown?

Do Stars Fall Quietly into Black Holes, or Crash into Something Utterly Unknown?

This artist's impression shows a star crossing the event horizon of a supermassive black hole located in the center of a galaxy. Illustration credit: Mark A. Garlick/CfA.

Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University have put a basic principle of black holes to the test, showing that matter completely vanishes when pulled in. Their results constitute another successful test for Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.