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2019 Spotlights

Steven Wilhelm

Microbiology, or the study of microorganisms, has been a growing field since microscopes revealed the existence of these tiny organisms. Microbes have been shown to have far reaching impacts, including in a number of functions of the human body, plant and animal waste decomposition, and more. Microbes are widely recognized as important parts of life on this planet, despite being previously unknown.

Steven Wilhelm, Kenneth and Blaire Mossman Professor of microbiology, believes there may be another community that plays an important role on the planet but is overlooked as microbes once were; viruses. Continue reading

Claudia Rawn and student

Experimental research is dynamic. Sometimes everything happens just as it was modeled or predicted. Sometimes experiments have surprising outcomes or complications. However, these complications can lead to new competencies and stronger outcomes.

Claudia Rawn, associate professor of materials science and director of the Center for Materials Processing, encountered one such issue while working on her current JDRD project. Continue reading

As technology and modern medicine continue to advance, the human microbiome is becoming less mysterious. Most people now understand that their bodies are populated by a variety of different bacteria, many of which support bodily functions like digestion. In recent years this microbiome has been linked to any number of conditions including arthritis and obesity. Attempts at managing this microbiome, including the use of probiotic supplements, have also seen increases despite an incomplete understanding of how or whether they are effective.

Like humans, plants also play host to a microbial community of their own. Similarly, this microbiome is believed to impact plant health in any number of ways. Some agriculture companies have noted the similarity and begun producing and selling products designed to encourage the growth of so-called good microbes. However, these products are not always effective. Continue reading

Mark Dean

As long as there have been computers, they have been compared to the human brain. The brain has enormous computational power, with some estimates suggesting the equivalent of billions of calculations per second.

Modern high-performance computing systems – often called supercomputers – have caught up to the brain in terms of speed and storage capacity. However, the brain remains a more efficient machine, with very little energy cost to the body, while high-performance computing systems require a tremendous amount of energy to operate. The brain also maintains an edge in terms of flexibility and the ability to learn. Enter neuromorphic computing. Continue reading

Jamie Coble

In 2011, when Japan experienced a massive tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, renewed attention to nuclear safety swept the globe. There are more than 450 nuclear reactors on the planet – many of them built more than 40 years ago, before the discovery of some of the potential environmental dangers that are known today. Many of Japan’s nuclear reactors, for example, were built in the 1970’s and are perched on the coast.

With an increased focus on nuclear safety, research has turned toward the development of accident tolerant nuclear fuels. Testing these fuels, however, is difficult. Current methods put a fuel into a test reactor, irradiate it for a period of time, take it out, and evaluate it, providing a limited amount of data exclusively from the end points of the experiment. Continue reading