Featured Cyanobacterium Found in UT Algae Collection Holds Biotech Promise
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A fast-growing bacterial strain found on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin in the 1950s might ultimately prove useful for carbon sequestration, biofuel production, biosynthesis of valuable chemicals and the search for novel pharmaceuticals, scientists announced in newly published paper.

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Below are a few of the upcoming public lectures and events for February. All of these presentations are free and open to the public.

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With the arrival of the spring semester, hundreds of first-year undergraduates in the College of Natural Sciences will join one of 27 research streams in the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI), searching for answers to some of modern science's most pressing questions, and gathering important research experience along the way.

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With the most recent Fields Medal, the major award for math, going to a woman for the first time, more attention than usual has been on the under-representation of women in math graduate programs. The American Mathematical Society found that on average 22.5 percent of Ph.D. math students in Group I (top-tier) math departments are women. However, at UT Austin, which has a Group I department, an increasing share of the math graduate students are women. They include Maja Taskovic, a fifth-year graduate student, and her sister Milica Taskovic, a first-year graduate student. Today, 32 percent of all UT Austin math graduate students are women, and in the new 2014 cohort that Milica belongs to, women make up 43 percent of Ph.D. candidates.

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A team of scientists including The University of Texas at Austin’s Dr. William Cochran has discovered a solar system similar to our own dating back to the dawn of our Milky Way galaxy. They are reporting the find of five planets with sizes between Mercury and Venus orbiting the Sun-like star Kepler-444 in today’s issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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Scientists at one of the world’s top computer science programs at UT Austin say artificial intelligence is enabling breakthroughs that will improve everyday life. This week many are involved in the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) 2015 conference, taking place this week in Austin.

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A five-year analysis of an event captured by a tiny telescope at McDonald Observatory and followed up by telescopes on the ground and in space has led astronomers to believe they witnessed a giant black hole tear apart a star. The work is published this month in The Astrophysical Journal.

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Kidnappings. Guerillas. Impenetrable jungle. The Darien Gap is famous for many things. This 60-mile-wide swath of rainforest straddling the Panama-Colombia border has long been the stomping ground of drug traffickers and guerillas, most notably the left-wing FARC, who until 10 years ago were still conducting high-profile kidnappings of foreign travellers seeking to tackle this notoriously dangerous part of the world. Flash forward a decade and scientists working just outside the gap discovered that, while there were still occasional reports of violence, things were now relatively peaceful in the gap.

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As classes start back for the spring semester, hundreds of first-year students are embarking on hands-on research projects as part of the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI). This year, FRI will celebrate its 10th anniversary. In honor of that milestone, we visit with some of the alumni of the FRI program, like Human Development and Family Sciences senior Elvira Marquez.

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Students from The University of Texas at Austin won $100,000 in seed funding for developing an idea for a smart phone app that would use artificial intelligence to help Texas residents get information about health care, food assistance and other social services in partnership with the United Way for Greater Austin’s 2-1-1 Navigation Center.