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From the College of Natural Sciences

This is the Point of Discovery Podcast brought to you by the College of Natural Sciences Communications Office.

A Score to Settle with Cancer (Audio)

Jonathan Sessler was a college student when he was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Fortunately, he was also a chemistry major. After surviving radiation therapy, relapsing and then surviving extremely high doses of what he calls "rat poison" (a.k.a. chemotherapy), his oncologist challenged him: "You're a chemist. Find new cancer drugs."

Tackling Science and Engineering’s Diversity Problem (Audio)

The STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – have real work to do in terms of diversity. Right now, women make up only about 30 percent of the STEM workforce – and people identifying as black or Hispanic make up just 11 percent.

The Language Brokers (Audio)

Millions of children in the U.S. play a vital, but often overlooked, role in their families. These children of immigrants, known as "language brokers," help their parents translate job applications, medical documents and bills into their native language. They also help them navigate a completely alien culture. Researchers like Su Yeong Kim, in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, are debating whether being a language broker is good for children, or not.

Eyewitness to a Cosmic Car Wreck (Audio)

Astronomers have long been able to watch the universe's blockbuster special effects unfold in dazzling 3D Technicolor. But until now, it's been like watching a silent movie. Today that all changes. Scientists announced this morning that they have for the first time ever detected both light and gravitational waves from a massive explosion in space caused by the collision of two super-dense neutron stars. On today's show, we talk to astrophysicist Pawan Kumar about what this breakthrough means for his field.

Scientists: New Device Accurately Identifies Cancer in Seconds (Updated)

A team of scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin has invented a powerful tool that rapidly and accurately identifies cancerous tissue during surgery, delivering results in about 10 seconds—more than 150 times as fast as existing technology. The MasSpec Pen is an innovative handheld instrument that gives surgeons precise diagnostic information about what tissue to cut or preserve, helping improve treatment and reduce the chances of cancer recurrence.

When Will We Have Quantum Computers? (Audio)

Quantum computers might sound like science fiction. A fully functioning quantum computer could complete calculations in a matter of seconds that would take a conventional computer millions of years to process.

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.

Keeps Us on Our Toes (Audio)

Worried that smart robots are taking over the world? You'll be relieved to know they still have a long way to go. That is unless you're an artificial intelligence researcher like Peter Stone. One big challenge facing robots that walk and run is that they fall over a lot.

The Science of Relationships (Audio)

In honor of Valentine's Day, we're speaking with Lisa Neff, a researcher studying what makes happy, healthy romantic relationships tick. Neff is an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. She answers several burning questions, including: What are the health benefits of romantic relationships? How can newlyweds avoid communication breakdowns that result from external stress? and, Do optimists make better partners?

Resetting the Alcoholic Brain (Audio)

Adron Harris, director of the Waggoner Center for Alcoho and Addiction Research, and his team mapped the differences in gene expression between an alcoholic's brain and a non-alcoholic's brain. They found that, as a person becomes dependent on alcohol, thousands of genes in their brains are turned up or down, like a dimmer switch on a lightbulb, compared to the same genes in a healthy person's brain.

The Mighty Copepod (Audio)

These teeny shrimp-like critters at the bottom of the ocean food web seem totally unimportant. But throw in an oil spill and some well-intentioned human intervention and they can have a huge impact, right up to the top of the food web, including sea turtles, dolphins and humans. Meet the mighty copepod.

Evolution Inspires Anthrax Cure (Audio)

This fall marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S. anthrax letter attacks that sickened dozens of people and killed five. At the time, there was no effective treatment for a late stage infection. The attacks accelerated work already underway at the University of Texas at Austin. Brent Iverson, George Georgiou and Jennifer Maynard borrowed a page from Mother Nature's playbook to develop the world's first treatment for late stage inhalation anthrax.

The Last First Planetary Mission (Audio)

​The New Horizons spacecraft brought humanity face to face with the last unexplored planet in our solar system: Pluto. What we're learning is amazing. But, time and again, the mission almost didn't happen. University of Texas at Austin alumnus Alan Stern describes the challenges, and the joys, of the last first mission to a planet.

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.

Looking Forward ... and Back: Podcast Updates

This summer, we're celebrating a milestone: one year of telling you science stories from the frontlines here at the University of Texas at Austin on the Point of Discovery Podcast. Tell us how we're doing in our listener survey: CLICK HERE



Behind every scientific discovery is a scientist (or 12) and a story. “Point of Discovery” takes you on a journey beyond WHAT we know to HOW we know it. Along the way, listeners will meet the sometimes quirky, always passionate people whose curiosity unlocks hidden worlds.


Marc Airhart


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Point of Discovery is part of the Texas Podcast Network, brought to you by The University of Texas at Austin. Podcasts are produced by faculty members and staffers at UT Austin who work with University Communications to craft content that adheres to journalistic best practices. The University of Texas at Austin offers these podcasts at no charge. Podcasts appearing on the network and this webpage represent the views of the hosts, not of The University of Texas at Austin.