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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.
Behind the Scenes of UT’s Vast Insect Collection, Plus March Bug Madness

Behind the Scenes of UT’s Vast Insect Collection, Plus March Bug Madness

Alex Wild manages the Biodiversity Center and Integrative Biology Department's Entomology Collection, which houses 2 million specimens of insects, including the world's largest collection of cave-dwelling invertebrates. The collections are focused on Texas and Mexico, with smaller holdings from Trinidad, the Galápagos Islands and elsewhere. A skilled photographer, Wild also oversees Insects Unlocked, a public domain photography project.

Manipulating Neurons

Manipulating Neurons

Illustrations: Jenna Luecke

With a flash of light, neuroscientists can now turn individual brain cells on or off. They do so using a set of tools, pioneered in part by UT Austin neuroscientist Boris Zemelman, called optogenetics.

Vital Statistics: The Potential of Math to Advance Medicine

Vital Statistics: The Potential of Math to Advance Medicine

Illustration: Jenna Luecke

From baseball to financial investing, from elections to oil drilling, analyzing data quickly to predict future outcomes is transforming industries and activities around the world.

A Score to Settle with Cancer (Audio)

A Score to Settle with Cancer (Audio)

Jonathan Sessler was a college student when he was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Fortunately, he was also a chemistry major. After surviving radiation therapy, relapsing and then surviving extremely high doses of what he calls "rat poison" (a.k.a. chemotherapy), his oncologist challenged him: "You're a chemist. Find new cancer drugs."

Learning Expands the Brain’s Capacity to Store Information

Learning Expands the Brain’s Capacity to Store Information

Kristen Harris and her team used an electron microscope to make 3D images of brain structures like this one to understand how learning alters the structures. They discovered that learning causes some synapses (red) to grow and others to shrink, leading to an increase in their capacity to store information. In this image, axons (green) carrying signals from multiple brain cells connect via synapses to the shaft-like input of a single brain cell, called a dendrite (yellow). Credit: Univ. of Texas at Austin.

The act of learning causes connections between brain cells, called synapses, to expand their capacity to store information, according to a new discovery from neuroscientists at The University of Texas at Austin, the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences and The University of Otago in New Zealand.

Researchers Demonstrate How to “Freeze” Sand

Researchers Demonstrate How to “Freeze” Sand

Using a novel imaging technique, a team of U.S. and German researchers found that wiggling the walls of a box packed with sand-sized glass spheres causes the spheres to form crystal structures similar to those formed when liquids freeze. By increasing the order among grains, the grains took up less space. One possible application would be to pack sand or other granular material more densely to save on shipping costs.

How Do You Solve Gerrymandering?

How Do You Solve Gerrymandering?

The US Supreme Court is considering whether Texas legislative districts are racially discriminatory. The high court is also hearing other high profile cases about partisan gerrymandering. Amid the increased national attention on the issue, the University of Texas at Austin hosted a conference focused in part on the mathematics of gerrymandering – how it's done, how to quantify it and ways to prevent it. Andrew Blumberg, associate professor of mathematics at UT Austin, co-organized the event with Moon Duchin, a Tufts University mathematician who runs the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group.

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Tackling Science and Engineering’s Diversity Problem (Audio)

Tackling Science and Engineering’s Diversity Problem (Audio)

The STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – have real work to do in terms of diversity. Right now, women make up only about 30 percent of the STEM workforce – and people identifying as black or Hispanic make up just 11 percent.

Promise of New Antibiotics Lies with Shackling Tiny Toxic Tetherballs to Bacteria

Promise of New Antibiotics Lies with Shackling Tiny Toxic Tetherballs to Bacteria

Biologists at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a method for rapidly screening hundreds of thousands of potential drugs for fighting infections, an innovation that holds promise for combating the growing scourge of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The method involves engineering bacteria to produce and test molecules that are potentially toxic to themselves.

Building a Solid Structure: A Q&A with Molecular Biosciences Chair Dan Leahy

Building a Solid Structure: A Q&A with Molecular Biosciences Chair Dan Leahy

The Department of Molecular Biosciences was established in 2013. With the help of a recruitment grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), Dan Leahy, a structural biologist from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, became the department's first permanent chair in 2016. We sat down with Leahy to talk about his vision for the college's largest department, how its researchers are working with the Dell Medical School, the department's new facility for cryo-electron microscopy (the technique celebrated by a 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry) and his own research on cancer.