News

From the College of Natural Sciences
Astronomers Discover Rocky Planet Orbiting Nearest Star, Proxima Centauri

Astronomers Discover Rocky Planet Orbiting Nearest Star, Proxima Centauri

An international team of astronomers including Michael Endl of The University of Texas at Austin have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun. The long-sought new world, called Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than Earth and is the closest known exoplanet to us — and may be the closest possible abode for life outside our solar system.

Low-Temp Production Could Mean Cheaper, Flexible Smart Windows

Low-Temp Production Could Mean Cheaper, Flexible Smart Windows

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have invented a new flexible smart window material that, when incorporated into windows, sunroofs, or even curved glass surfaces, will have the ability to control both heat and light from the sun. Their article about the new material will be published in the September issue of Nature Materials.

A darkened electrochromic film on plastic prepared by chemical condensation.
Creative Research Collaborations to Start with “Pop-Up Institutes”

Creative Research Collaborations to Start with “Pop-Up Institutes”

Faculty members in the College of Natural Sciences are leading new Pop-Up Institutes as part of a new interdisciplinary research initiative at The University of Texas at Austin. Three Pop-Up Institutes were announced this week, with two originating in Natural Sciences. These research efforts will assemble fresh collaborations to address the influence of individual variation on the health and fitness of populations and the impact of discrimination on health outcomes.

Some Bacteria Have Lived in the Human Gut Since Before We Were Human

Some Bacteria Have Lived in the Human Gut Since Before We Were Human

Some of the bacteria in our guts were passed down over millions of years, since before we were human, suggesting that evolution plays a larger role than previously known in people's intestinal-microbe makeup, according to a new study in the journal Science.

Bacteria Show Capacity for Rapid, Beneficial Mutations

Bacteria Show Capacity for Rapid, Beneficial Mutations

Scientists studying how microbes evolve have long assumed that nearly all new genetic mutations get passed down at a predictable pace and usually without either helping or hurting the microbe in adapting to its environment. In a new study published in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers studying tens of thousands of generations of E. coli bacteria report that most new genetic mutations that were passed down were actually beneficial and occurred at much more variable rates than previously thought.

From Cancer Research to Regulatory Affairs, Former Grad Student Takes on the World

From Cancer Research to Regulatory Affairs, Former Grad Student Takes on the World

Shameika Wilmington came to UT Austin with a passion for doing research that matters.

Neuroscientist Weighs How Realistic Bourne Character's Memory Loss Is

Neuroscientist Weighs How Realistic Bourne Character's Memory Loss Is

This week, Matt Damon returns to the big screen as Jason Bourne, a secret agent who has forgotten his entire life and is piecing it back together while confronting political and economic conflicts. We wondered how realistically the series depicts brain science.

Scientists Glimpse Inner Workings of Atomically Thin Transistors

Scientists Glimpse Inner Workings of Atomically Thin Transistors

With an eye to the next generation of tech gadgetry, a team of physicists at The University of Texas at Austin has had the first-ever glimpse into what happens inside an atomically thin semiconductor device. In doing so, they discovered that an essential function for computing may be possible within a space so small that it's effectively one-dimensional.

Research Sheds Light on Challenges of Interpreting Brain Activity

Research Sheds Light on Challenges of Interpreting Brain Activity

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Correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation. It's a warning that echoes throughout the halls of science, but is not always heeded. A new study in the journal Nature by associate professor Alex Huk and graduate students Leor Katz and Jacob Yates provides a perfect case study.

Supercomputers Fire Lasers to Shoot Gamma Ray Beam

Supercomputers Fire Lasers to Shoot Gamma Ray Beam

A team of scientists at UT Austin used computer simulations to find a possible new source of gamma rays generated from tabletop lasers. Pictured in front of the Stampede supercomputer left to right: Alex Arefiev, research scientist, Institute for Fusion Studies and at the Center for High Energy Density Science, UT Austin; Toma Toncian, assistant director, Center for High Energy Density Science, UT Austin; David Stark, recently completed PhD, UT Austin (now at Los Alamos National Laboratory).

Ever play with a magnifying lens as a kid? Imagine a lens as big as the Earth. Now focus sunlight down to a pencil tip. That still wouldn't be good enough for what some Texas scientists have in mind. They want to make light even 500 times more intense. And they say it could open the door to the most powerful radiation in the universe: gamma rays.