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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. Contact me

Frog Pandemic (Audio)

Frog Pandemic (Audio)

Until COVID-19, few people alive today had experienced the chaos and destruction of a really bad pandemic, one that has at times ground businesses, schools and social lives to a near standstill and killed millions globally. But did you know that we aren't alone in being battered by a global infectious disease? Frogs are also struggling through their own pandemic that, according to biologist Kelly Zamudio, has several eerie parallels with COVID-19. Perhaps our own encounters with a pandemic will give us new sympathy for our slimy, bug-eyed friends.

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.

Sodium-based Material Yields Stable Alternative to Lithium-ion Batteries

Sodium-based Material Yields Stable Alternative to Lithium-ion Batteries

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new sodium metal anode for rechargeable batteries (left) that resists the formation of dendrites, a common problem with standard sodium metal anodes (right) that can lead to shorting and fires. Images were taken with a scanning electron microscope. Image credit: Yixian Wang/University of Texas at Austin.

University of Texas at Austin researchers have created a new sodium-based battery material that is highly stable, capable of recharging as quickly as a traditional lithium-ion battery and able to pave the way toward delivering more energy than current battery technologies.

Potential New Gene Editing Tools Uncovered

Potential New Gene Editing Tools Uncovered

Scientists have found over a thousand versions of a natural gene editor in bacteria, which could lead to better gene editing tools to treat diseases. Image courtesy: National Human Genome Research Institute.

Few developments have rocked the biotechnology world or generated as much buzz as the discovery of CRISPR-Cas systems, a breakthrough in gene editing recognized in 2020 with a Nobel Prize. But these systems that naturally occur in bacteria are limited because they can make only small tweaks to genes. In recent years, scientists discovered a different system in bacteria that might lead to even more powerful methods for gene editing, given its unique ability to insert genes or whole sections of DNA in a genome.

UT Austin Harnesses Power of Biology in Partnership with Army Research Laboratory

UT Austin Harnesses Power of Biology in Partnership with Army Research Laboratory

Jimmy Gollihar at work in the "biological foundry." Photo credit: Callie Richmond.

Early last year, Jimmy Gollihar was deep into building a unique facility on the Forty Acres, what he calls "the biological foundry" – a turbo-charged, biotech playground with a focus on rapid scientific discovery. The foundry was to be a key element of a partnership in synthetic biology research between The University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. military. Then, as fate would have it, COVID-19 would change everything.

Breakthrough in Fight on Tick-Borne CCHF Virus is Latest Use of New Strategy Against Diseases

Breakthrough in Fight on Tick-Borne CCHF Virus is Latest Use of New Strategy Against Diseases

A 3D atomic map, or structure, of the Gc protein (red and yellow) bound to two antibodies (green, blue and white) produced by a recovered patient. The Gc protein is a key molecule on the surface of the CCHF virus enabling it to infect cells. Credit: Akaash Mishra/University of Texas at Austin

Using the same approach they recently used to create effective vaccine candidates against COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), scientists are tackling another virus: the tick-borne Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF). It causes death in up to 40% of cases, and the World Health Organization identified the disease as one of its top priorities for research and development. The results appear today in the journal Science.

As We Develop, the Brain Connects Lessons Learned Differently

As We Develop, the Brain Connects Lessons Learned Differently

Members of Alison Preston’s research group study fMRI brain scans. Credit: Vivian Abagiu.

A new study of brain activity patterns in people doing a memory task finds that the way we make inferences — finding hidden connections between different experiences — changes dramatically as we age. The study's findings might one day lead to personalized learning strategies based on a person's cognitive and brain development.

Shacham Receives NSF Grant for Cybersecurity Research

Shacham Receives NSF Grant for Cybersecurity Research

Hovav Shacham

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced four new flagship funding awards through the Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) program, including for a project focused on securing web browser operations led by Hovav Shacham, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin.

New Gravitational Wave Catalog Reveals Black Holes of ‘All Shapes and Sizes’

New Gravitational Wave Catalog Reveals Black Holes of ‘All Shapes and Sizes’

Today, an international scientific collaboration released the largest catalog ever of collisions involving black holes and neutron stars, raising the total to 90 events. The results suggest that intermediate-mass black holes are more common than scientists previously thought. The catalog also includes the second discovery of an intriguing object that seems too small to be a black hole, yet too large to be a neutron star.

Weizmann Institute of Science Joins Giant Magellan Telescope Project

Weizmann Institute of Science Joins Giant Magellan Telescope Project

Giant Magellan Telescope primary mirror segment with people in silhouette. Credit: Damien Jemison, Giant Magellan Telescope - GMTO Corporation.

The University of Texas at Austin and other co-founders of the Giant Magellan Telescope project welcomed the Weizmann Institute of Science into their international consortium on September 14.