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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.
Scientists: New Device Accurately Identifies Cancer in Seconds (Updated)

Scientists: New Device Accurately Identifies Cancer in Seconds (Updated)

A team of scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin has invented a powerful tool that rapidly and accurately identifies cancerous tissue during surgery, delivering results in about 10 seconds—more than 150 times as fast as existing technology. The MasSpec Pen is an innovative handheld instrument that gives surgeons precise diagnostic information about what tissue to cut or preserve, helping improve treatment and reduce the chances of cancer recurrence.

Scientists Discover Powerful Potential Pain Reliever

Scientists Discover Powerful Potential Pain Reliever

Stephen Martin (left) and James Sahn have discovered a new pain reliever that acts on a previously unknown pain pathway. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stephen Martin.

A team of scientists led by chemists Stephen Martin and James Sahn at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered what they say is a powerful pain reliever that acts on a previously unknown pain pathway. The synthetic compound, known as UKH-1114, is as effective at relieving neuropathic pain in injured mice as a drug widely used for pain relief called gabapentin, but it works at a much lower dose, with longer duration of action.

Ancient Microbes Folded their DNA Similarly to Modern Life Forms

Ancient Microbes Folded their DNA Similarly to Modern Life Forms

Archaea wrap their DNA (yellow) around proteins called histones (blue). The wrapped structure bears an uncanny resemblance to the eukaryotic nucleosome, a bundle of eight histone proteins with DNA spooled around it. But unlike eukaryotes, archaea wind their DNA around just one histone protein, and form a long, twisting structure called a superhelix. Credit: Francesca Mattiroli

As life evolved on Earth, from simple one-celled microbes to complex plants, animals and humans, their DNA grew. And that created a problem: how do you pack more and more DNA into roughly the same-sized cellular compartment? Life's solution: fold it up into a ball. Reporting in the August 10 edition of the journal Science, researchers have discovered that microbes called archaea started folding their DNA in a way very similar to that of modern plants and animals, long before complex life evolved.

Quantum Computer Scientist Named Simons Foundation Investigator

Quantum Computer Scientist Named Simons Foundation Investigator

Scott Aaronson

Computer scientist Scott Aaronson of The University of Texas at Austin has been selected as a 2017 Simons Investigator in Theoretical Computer Science by the Simons Foundation for his work in quantum computation.

Construction Begins on International Neutrino Facility

Construction Begins on International Neutrino Facility

Ground is broken! Attending the underground ceremony today were, from left: Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer; Executive Director of Programmes Grahame Blair, Science and Technology Facilities Council; Professor Sergio Bertolucci, National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Italy; Director for International Relations Charlotte Warakaulle, CERN; Rep. Randy Hultgren, Illinois; Rep. Kristi Noem, South Dakota; Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota; Sen. John Thune, South Dakota; Associate Director of Science for High-Energy Research Jim Siegrist, U.S. Department of Energy; Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios; South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard; Project Manager Scott Lundgren, Kiewit/Alberici; Executive Director Mike Headley, Sanford Underground Research Facility; and Chair of the Board Casey Peterson, South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. Photo: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab.

With the turning of a shovelful of earth a mile underground, a new era in international particle physics research officially begins.

Oil Impairs Ability of Coral Reef Fish to Find Homes and Evade Predators

Oil Impairs Ability of Coral Reef Fish to Find Homes and Evade Predators

Damselfish, Chromis species. Photo credit: Jacob Johansen.

Just as one too many cocktails can lead a person to make bad choices, a few drops of oil can cause coral reef fish to make poor decisions, according to a paper published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution. A team of fisheries biologists led by Jacob Johansen and Andrew Esbaugh of The University of Texas Marine Science Institute have discovered that oil impacts the higher-order thinking of coral reef fish in a way that could prove dangerous for them—and for the coral reefs where they make their home.

Computer Science Students Win Best Paper Award

Computer Science Students Win Best Paper Award

By printing this bunny in two pieces, the need for printing and later removing support structures has been eliminated.

Two undergraduate students at the University of Texas at Austin and their faculty co-authors have won a best paper award from the Association for Computing Machinery. They presented their paper, which focuses on making 3D printing more efficient, at the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference on July 18. Their paper was one of two nominated in the Real World Applications category.

When Will We Have Quantum Computers? (Audio)

When Will We Have Quantum Computers? (Audio)

Quantum computers might sound like science fiction. A fully functioning quantum computer could complete calculations in a matter of seconds that would take a conventional computer millions of years to process.

Former Preschoolers Return to Lab School After Seven Decades

Former Preschoolers Return to Lab School After Seven Decades

​Seven former preschool students of Dr. Phyllis Richards met for a reunion at the Priscilla Pond Flawn Child and Family Laboratory on Friday, June 30. That might not seem so unusual, except that Dr. Richards is 97 years old and her former students are in their 70s. They've known Dr. Richards since they were two or three years old. She was a freshly minted teacher when she came to teach preschool at the lab school in 1948.

Frogs Illustrate the Creative Destruction of Mass Extinctions

Frogs Illustrate the Creative Destruction of Mass Extinctions

A tree frog (genus Boophis) found on Madagascar and Mayotte Island, off the Southeast coast of Africa. Credit: Brian Freiermuth/Univ. of Florida

Until now, biologists have struggled to reconstruct an accurate family tree for frogs. Based on fossils and limited genetic data, it appeared that most modern frog species popped up at a slow and steady pace from about 150 million to 66 million years ago. New research shows that a mass extinction 66 million years ago sparked an explosion of new frog species.