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From the College of Natural Sciences
Visualizing Science 2022: Illuminating the Intrinsic Beauty in Academic Research

Visualizing Science 2022: Illuminating the Intrinsic Beauty in Academic Research

This past spring, the College of Natural Sciences invited our University of Texas at Austin faculty, staff and students to send in the top images from their research for our Visualizing Science competition. The images they produced nourish both the mind and the soul, offering not only food for thought but a feast for the eyes as well.

New Research Advances Fight Against Human Metapneumovirus

New Research Advances Fight Against Human Metapneumovirus

Human metapneumovirus (hMPV), a virus that infects the upper and lower respiratory systems—leading to bronchitis and pneumonia in some patients—could soon meet its medical match. A scientific team in Texas, in collaboration with biotech companies, has made recent breakthroughs in understanding the virus, and their efforts could lead to everything from the first-ever vaccines against hMPV to new, highly effective therapeutics.

Potential New Drug Target Could Boost Effectiveness of Chemotherapy Drugs

Potential New Drug Target Could Boost Effectiveness of Chemotherapy Drugs

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered that a large family of reverse transcriptases (RTs)—enzymes that are found in all organisms and have been extensively studied for more than 50 years—have the previously unsuspected ability to repair DNA damage. The discovery makes them a potential new drug target that might be exploited to block cancer cells from developing resistance to radiation and chemotherapy drugs. The findings were published today in the journal Cell.

Enzymes in a large family called group II intron-like RTs have 3D structures that are remarkably similar, which suggests they share the ability to help repair double-strand DNA breaks. This image is a superposition of two of these enzymes: G2L4 and GsI-IIC RT. Their shared (or conserved) structures are in alternating green and gray. Credit: University of Texas at Austin.
New Era at UT Austin Begins for Famous Long-Term Evolution Experiment

New Era at UT Austin Begins for Famous Long-Term Evolution Experiment

Jeff Barrick, director of the Long-Term Evolution Experiment, examines a dish of E.coli bacteria from the LTEE. Credit: Nolan Zunk/University of Texas at Austin.
The Long-Term Evolution Experiment began back when a dozen eggs cost 65 cents, the film Rain Man topped the box office and George Michael's song "Faith" ruled the pop charts. The bacteria central to this long-running experiment—descendants of E. coli that were plucked from the wild and have spent some 75,000 generations in captivity—now live on the University of Texas at Austin campus.
UT Austin Leads in New Summary of Top "Degrees of the Future"

UT Austin Leads in New Summary of Top "Degrees of the Future"

A dozen offerings from The University of Texas at Austin were ranked among the nation's best "Degrees of the Future 2022" by Gizmodo. The ranking came in a new special report from the technology, science and culture publication dedicated to "honoring the universities preparing students for tomorrow."

Scientists Hijack Bacteria To Ease Drug Manufacturing

Scientists Hijack Bacteria To Ease Drug Manufacturing

For more affordable, sustainable drug options than we have today, the medication we take to treat high blood pressure, pain or memory loss may one day come from engineered bacteria, cultured in a vat like yogurt. And thanks to a new bacterial tool developed by scientists at The University of Texas at Austin, the process of improving drug manufacturing in bacterial cells may be coming sooner than we thought.

Plastic-eating Enzyme Could Eliminate Billions of Tons of Landfill Waste

Plastic-eating Enzyme Could Eliminate Billions of Tons of Landfill Waste

An enzyme variant created by engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin can break down environment-throttling plastics that typically take centuries to degrade in just a matter of hours to days.

Live Cell Imaging Reveals New Clues About Processes Linked to Birth Defects

Live Cell Imaging Reveals New Clues About Processes Linked to Birth Defects

John Wallingford, professor of molecular biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, and his team used a process called live cell imaging to make observations about how a developing embryo transforms from its early ball shape into a more elongated shape with a distinct head and rear. Disruptions to this process in human embryos can lead to birth defects.