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From the College of Natural Sciences
Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious

Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious

The number of virus strains present in each zip code in Houston during the second wave of COVID-19 cases in summer 2020. Number of strains is represented by a spectrum of colors from blue (0 strains) to red (50 strains). Credit: Houston Methodist/University of Texas at Austin.

A study involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston finds that the virus that causes the disease is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. According to the paper published in the peer-reviewed journal mBIO, that mutation, called D614G, is located in the spike protein that pries open our cells for viral entry. It's the largest peer-reviewed study of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences in one metropolitan region of the U.S. to date.

A Cornucopia of Newly Confirmed Gravitational Wave Detections

A Cornucopia of Newly Confirmed Gravitational Wave Detections

After months of thorough analysis, two international scientific teams, including scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, have released an updated catalog of gravitational wave detections, more than tripling the number of confirmed events. Each detection of a gravitational wave represents the discovery of a pair of extremely massive objects—black holes or neutron stars—far out in the universe smashing into each other, shaking the very fabric of space and time so much that sensitive detectors on Earth could feel them, sometimes more than a billion years later. 

Curbing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Requires Attention to Construction Workers

Curbing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Requires Attention to Construction Workers

Construction workers have a much higher risk of becoming hospitalized with the novel coronavirus than non-construction workers, according to a new study from researchers with The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

UT Scientists Use AI to Find Tourist Movement Patterns in Cuzco, Peru

UT Scientists Use AI to Find Tourist Movement Patterns in Cuzco, Peru

We live in an increasingly digital era. Research shows that the average American checks their phone about 58 times daily, and spends an average of 4.5 hours a day on their phone. Without a doubt the amount of time the modern-day person spends on their phones has changed many aspects of how our society functions. For example, in the past decade we have seen a dramatic shift in forms of advertising. Companies are able to take note of people's patterns online and create personalized ads through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Invasive Cactus Moth Likely to Spread and Destroy Native Prickly Pear

Invasive Cactus Moth Likely to Spread and Destroy Native Prickly Pear

The cactus moth has a wingspan of only about an inch, but this invasive insect has the potential to cause largescale agricultural and ecological devastation in Texas, according to the first study of cactus moths in Texas.

Neuroscientist Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

Neuroscientist Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award

Kristen Harris, professor of neuroscience, has been awarded the prestigious Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Neuroscience. The award recognizes neuroscientists with outstanding achievements in research who have significantly promoted the professional advancement of women in neuroscience.

Department of Energy Invests in High-power Laser Network, including UT Austin

Department of Energy Invests in High-power Laser Network, including UT Austin

The University of Texas at Austin with support from the U.S. Department of Energy will expand capabilities of the Texas Petawatt Laser, one of the highest-powered lasers in the world, with a broad range of applications for basic research, advanced manufacturing and medicine.

Graduate Student Receives Prestigious Jess Hay Fellowship

Graduate Student Receives Prestigious Jess Hay Fellowship

Derek Bolser, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute was recently awarded a prestigious Jess Hay Chancellor’s Graduate Student Research Fellowship award from The University of Texas System for 2020-2021.

A prestigious Jess Hay Chancellor's Graduate Student Research Fellowship award from The University of Texas System will be given this year to Derek Bolser, a fifth-year doctoral student studying marine science at The University of Texas at Austin.

7 Emerging Scientific Leaders Among Recipients of Stengl-Wyer Research Support

7 Emerging Scientific Leaders Among Recipients of Stengl-Wyer Research Support

The College of Natural Sciences has recently recruited and supported top leaders among a new generation of scientists through the Stengl-Wyer Endowment – the largest endowment in the college's history. These postdoctoral scholars and graduate students are working on research projects that will promote a deeper understanding of climate change, protect natural habitats and maintain biodiversity in Texas and beyond.

Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock (Audio)

Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock (Audio)

Evolutionary biologists never have enough time. Some of the most mysterious behaviors in the animal kingdom—like parenting—evolved over thousands of years, if not longer. Human lifespans are just too short to sit and observe such complex behaviors evolve. But computer scientists are beginning to offer clues by using artificial intelligence to simulate the life and death of thousands of generations of animals in a matter of hours or days. It's called computational evolution.