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From the College of Natural Sciences
Marc Airhart is the Communications Coordinator for the College of Natural Sciences. A long time member of the National Association of Science Writers, he has written for national publications including Scientific American, Mercury, The Earth Scientist, Environmental Engineer & Scientist, and StarDate Magazine. He also spent 11 years as a writer and producer for the Earth & Sky radio series.
DNA Barcodes That Reliably Work: A Game-Changer for Biomedical Research

DNA Barcodes That Reliably Work: A Game-Changer for Biomedical Research

This illustration shows the most common structure of DNA found in a cell, called B-DNA. Credit: Richard Wheeler (Zephyris). Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license.

In the same way that barcodes on your groceries help stores know what's in your cart, DNA barcodes help biologists attach genetic labels to biological molecules to do their own tracking during research, including of how a cancerous tumor evolves, how organs develop or which drug candidates actually work. Unfortunately with current methods, many DNA barcodes have a reliability problem much worse than your corner grocer's. They contain errors about 10 percent of the time, making interpreting data tricky and limiting the kinds of experiments that can be reliably done.

A Change in Bacteria’s Genetic Code Holds Promise of Longer-Lasting Drugs

A Change in Bacteria’s Genetic Code Holds Promise of Longer-Lasting Drugs

An alteration in the genetic code of bacteria holds promise for protein therapeutics. Credit: University of Texas at Austin.

By altering the genetic code in bacteria, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have demonstrated a method to make therapeutic proteins more stable, an advance that would improve the drugs' effectiveness and convenience, leading to smaller and less frequent doses of medicine, lower health care costs and fewer side effects for patients with cancer and other diseases.

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.

A Look at How A.I. is Helping the Human Race

A Look at How A.I. is Helping the Human Race

Artificial intelligence is quickly creeping into our lives, from smart phone apps that help us find the quickest path through rush hour traffic to voice assistants that serve up lasagna recipes on command. In their new book AIQ: How People and Machines Are Smarter Together, James Scott and Nick Polson lay out an optimistic vision for how AI can help us overcome our cognitive weaknesses and live happier, healthier lives. The book is already attracting attention from media outlets including the Wall Street Journal and PBS.

James Allison Eases Off the Brakes (Audio)

James Allison Eases Off the Brakes (Audio)

Forty years ago, when James Allison had just gotten his PhD in biochemistry, he was intrigued by this far-out idea that was floating around about a new way to treat cancer. The idea—dubbed cancer immunotherapy—was to train the body's immune system to attack cancer cells—the same way this system already goes after bacteria and viruses. He was one of the few people who actually believed it could work.

UT Austin Mourns Passing of George Sudarshan, Titan of 20th Century Physics

UT Austin Mourns Passing of George Sudarshan, Titan of 20th Century Physics

World-renowned physicist E.C. George Sudarshan died of natural causes this week at the age of 86. A professor of physics at The University of Texas at Austin from 1969 to 2016, he made many important contributions to theoretical physics. Ennackal Chandy George Sudarshan was born in Kottayam, Kerala, India on Sep. 16, 1931. He received his Ph.D. de...
Caffarelli Receives 2018 Shaw Prize in Mathematics

Caffarelli Receives 2018 Shaw Prize in Mathematics

Luis Caffarelli. Photo credit: University of Texas at Austin.

Luis Caffarelli, the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Mathematics #1 at The University of Texas at Austin, is a recipient of one of the world's biggest prizes for mathematics, the 2018 Shaw Prize in Mathematical Sciences, which comes with a monetary award of $1.2 million. Awarded by the Hong Kong-based Shaw Foundation, the Shaw Prize honors recent breakthroughs by researchers in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, and life science and medicine.

Anti-Alcoholism Drug Shows Promise in Animal Models

Anti-Alcoholism Drug Shows Promise in Animal Models

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin 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. Photo credit: iStock

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin 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.

The Physics of Rapidly Spreading Cancer

The Physics of Rapidly Spreading Cancer

Using a computer simulation that models the physical and chemical interactions of cancerous cells (colored dots), researchers discovered that over time, tumors develop a distinctive two-part structure: slow moving cells moving randomly in a dense core (blue and purple), surrounded by a band of cells moving faster and more directly outward (green, yellow, red). Arrows indicate direction of motion. The image at right is the same tumor cut in half to reveal the inner structure. Image credit: Anne Bowen, Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Scientists have recently discovered a method in cancer's madness. Before now, they've been perplexed by how cancer cells, growing alongside healthy cells, often spread much faster into surrounding tissue than randomness would dictate. It's as if cancerous cells are intentionally moving directly outward, invading healthy tissue.

Great Barrier Reef Corals Can Survive Global Warming for Another Century

Great Barrier Reef Corals Can Survive Global Warming for Another Century

The red coral in the middle of this image is a staghorn coral, or A. millepora. Photo taken near Palau. Photo credit: Mikhail Matz, University of Texas at Austin.

Using genetic samples and computer simulations, evolutionary biologists 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.