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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.
Physicists Launch Experiment to Probe a Muon Mystery

Physicists Launch Experiment to Probe a Muon Mystery

The Muon g-2 magnet ring with instrumentation, awaiting muons. Credit: Fermilab.

Physicists have been puzzled ever since an experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the late 1990s found that muons, elementary particles produced when cosmic rays hit our atmosphere, have slightly different magnetic properties than predicted. If true, it could mean a shakeup is in store for the theoretical framework that physicists use to describe the universe.

Outnumbered and on Others’ Turf, Misfits Sometimes Thrive

Outnumbered and on Others’ Turf, Misfits Sometimes Thrive

Two male sticklebacks of the same age—one from a stream (top) and one from a lake (bottom)—are each highly adapted to their own local environment. According to Bolnick, apart from a dramatic difference in size, the fish also differ in immune traits, body shape, armor to defend against predators, and “basically anything we can think to measure.” Photo credit: Daniel Berner.

It's hard being a misfit: say, a Yankees fan in a room full of Red Sox fans or a vegetarian at a barbecue joint. Evolutionary biologists have long assumed that's pretty much how things work in nature too. Animals that wander into alien environments, surrounded by better-adapted locals, will struggle. But a team of researchers from The University of Texas at Austin was surprised to find that sometimes, misfits can thrive among their much more numerous native cousins.

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.

Biofilm Discovery Suggests New Way to Prevent Dangerous Infections

Biofilm Discovery Suggests New Way to Prevent Dangerous Infections

Microbial biofilms—dense, sticky mats of bacteria that are hard to treat and can lead to dangerous infections—often form in medical equipment, such as flexible plastic tubing used in catheters or in tubes used to help patients breathe. By some estimates, more than 1 million people contract infections from medical devices in U.S. hospitals each year, many of which are due to biofilms. A study from The University of Texas at Austin suggests a possible new way to prevent such biofilms from forming, which would sharply reduce incidents of related hospital-borne infection.

Alumnus Helped Usher in Age of Personal Computing and Guide Lunar Astronauts Home

Alumnus Helped Usher in Age of Personal Computing and Guide Lunar Astronauts Home

Bob O'Rear (M.S. '66) wrote computer code that helped guide Apollo astronauts safely home and led the team that developed software for the first IBM PC. Photo credit: Vivian Abagiu.

In the summer of 1980, Microsoft was a scrappy little company with about 40 employees known mostly for producing computer languages like BASIC and FORTRAN. Annual revenues were just a few million dollars a year. That was all about to change when they got a call from global computer giant IBM. Could they help with a top-secret project to build, in less than a year, an affordable personal computer for ordinary people?

Meet Oscar Madrid Padilla: First PhD Graduate from UT Austin’s Statistics Department

Meet Oscar Madrid Padilla: First PhD Graduate from UT Austin’s Statistics Department

Oscar Madrid Padilla. Photo credit: Vivian Abagiu.

Oscar Madrid Padilla will become the first person to receive a PhD by the University of Texas at Austin's Department of Statistics and Data Sciences (SDS) this May. The department was formed in August 2014 and replaced the Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation.

Surprising Property of Ferroelectrics Might Lead to Smaller, Lighter Electronics

Surprising Property of Ferroelectrics Might Lead to Smaller, Lighter Electronics

In this artist’s conception, a needle from a scanning impedance microscope touches a domain wall in a ferroelectric material. Image credit: Ella Maru Studio.

A research team led by physics professor Keji Lai at the University of Texas at Austin has discovered that a material he studies has an unusual property that could one day lead to cell phones and other electronic devices that are smaller, lighter and more energy efficient.

Computer Model Developed to Assess Risk of a Zika Epidemic in Real-time

Computer Model Developed to Assess Risk of a Zika Epidemic in Real-time

A new model for assessing real-time risk of a Zika virus epidemic in the United States is described in research published in the open access journal BMC Infectious Diseases. The computer simulation, based on data from Texas including population dynamics, historical infection rates, socioeconomics, and mosquito density, is designed to help policymakers gauge the underlying epidemic threat as cases first appear in US cities.

Can Sound Save a Fish? (Audio)

Can Sound Save a Fish? (Audio)

Gulf Corvina look pretty ordinary—they're a couple of feet long and silvery. Yet the sounds they make—when millions get together to spawn—are a kind of wonder of the natural world. It's also why they are in danger.

New Material Could Save Time and Money in Medical Imaging and Environmental Remediation

New Material Could Save Time and Money in Medical Imaging and Environmental Remediation

Chemists at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a material that holds the key to cheap, fast and portable new sensors for a wide range of chemicals that right now cost government and industries large sums to detect. The innovation could lead to major public health gains, as it holds the potential to drastically reduce the costs associated with cleaning-up accidental chemical spills, remediating old industrial sites, detecting radioactive contamination in drinking water, and operating medical and research imaging devices.