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  • richardmitnick 9:43 am on June 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Why Scientists Want to Solve an Underground Mystery about Where Microbes Live", , , , Boston University (US), Building a framework for forecasting the soil microbiome at sites across the US will improve the understanding of seasonal and interannual change., , It’s typical to see several hundred different types of fungi and bacteria in a single pinch of soil off the ground., Microbiology, phylogenetic scale-a system that classifies organisms based on evolutionary relatedness., , The more scientists learn the more they realize how important soil microbes are for agriculture; public health; and climate change., The soil under our feet is very much alive., Women in STEM-Jennifer Bhatnagar and Zoey Werbin   

    From Boston University (US) :Women in STEM-Jennifer Bhatnagar and Zoey Werbin “Why Scientists Want to Solve an Underground Mystery about Where Microbes Live” 

    From Boston University (US)

    May 7, 2021
    Jessica Colarossi

    Boston University researchers develop first-of-its-kind model to predict which species of soil organisms live in different environments, with huge implications for agriculture, climate change, and public health. Credit: Florian van Duyn on Unsplash.

    Though it might seem inanimate, the soil under our feet is very much alive. It’s filled with countless microorganisms actively breaking down organic matter, like fallen leaves and plants, and performing a host of other functions that maintain the natural balance of carbon and nutrients stored in the ground beneath us.

    “Soil is mostly microorganisms, both alive and dead,” says Jennifer Bhatnagar, soil microbiologist and Boston University College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of biology. It’s typical to see several hundred different types of fungi and bacteria in a single pinch of soil off the ground, she says, making it one of the most diverse ecosystems that exist.

    Because there’s still so much unknown about soil organisms, until now scientists have not attempted to predict where certain species or groups of soil microbes live around the world. But having that knowledge about these organisms—too small to see with the naked eye—is key to better understanding the soil microbiome, which is made up of the communities of different microbes that live together.

    A team of BU biologists, including Bhatnagar, took on that challenge—and their research reveals, for the first time, that it is possible to accurately predict the abundance of different species of soil microbes in different parts of the world. The team recently published their findings in a new paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

    “If we know where organisms are on earth, and we know how they change through space and time due to different environmental forces, and something about what different species are doing, then we can much better predict how the function of these communities will change in terms of carbon and nutrient cycling,” Bhatnagar says. That kind of knowledge would have huge implications for agriculture, climate change, and public health.

    “The health of the soils is so tied to the soil microbes,” says Michael Dietze, senior author on the study and a BU College of Arts & Sciences professor of earth and environment. Dietze, Bhatnagar, and researchers from their labs joined forces to work on this project, which involved analyzing hundreds of soil samples collected by National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) (US) research sites. Bhatnagar and her lab members brought to the team their soil expertise, while Dietze and his lab offered their unique ability to develop precise ecological forecasts and near-term environmental predictions.

    The team learned that microbe predictability increases as spatial area increases, so the bigger the piece of land their model makes forecasts about, the more likely the predictions about what types of microbes live there will be accurate.

    Dietze says the ability to accurately predict which microbes would likely be found in a given soil sample also increased as the researchers looked at organism groupings higher up on the phylogenetic scale, a system that classifies organisms based on evolutionary relatedness. On the smallest end of the scale, a “species” represents the finest level of classification; on the other end, a “phylum” makes up the largest and most diverse groupings of organisms. They were surprised to find that they were better able to predict the presence of a whole phylum, as opposed to individual species.

    After receiving the genomic data of the soil samples from NEON, the research team’s forecasting models take into account environmental factors specific to the place where the soil came from—what plants live there, the soil acidity (pH), temperature, climate, and many others. They found their model was best able to predict the presence of microorganisms based on their symbiotic relationship with local plant species. Mycorrhizal fungi, for example, is a very common soil microbe that about 90 percent of plant families associate with, including pines and oak trees in New England.

    In contrast, the team found it was more difficult to predict large groups of organisms based on their relationship with soil acidity. Despite knowing soil acidity levels, and what types of bacteria would typically like to live in that environment, their model couldn’t accurately predict the amount of bacteria that were actually present in the soil sample, Bhatnagar says. “That means there is something else beyond the relationship with [acidity], beyond the relationship with any other environmental factor that we typically measure in our ecosystems,” she says.

    Now, Dietze and Bhatnagar’s team are expanding their forecasts beyond predicting microbes based on only their location, to also include specific times of the year.

    “Building a framework for forecasting the soil microbiome at sites across the US will improve our understanding of seasonal and interannual change,” says Zoey Werbin, a PhD student working in Bhatnagar’s lab and an author on the paper. “This could help us anticipate how climate change could affect microbial processes like decomposition or nitrogen cycling.”

    With her dissertation project, Werbin hopes to answer fundamental questions about how and why the soil microbiome varies over time and space.

    “The more we learn the more we realize how important soil microbes are for agriculture; public health; and climate change. It’s really exciting to investigate how microscopic organisms can have such large-scale effects,” Werbin says. “We know certain factors, like temperature and moisture, affect microbial communities. But we don’t know how important those factors are compared to natural variability, or interactions between microbes. My PhD project will help identify the driving forces of the soil microbiome, as well as the biggest sources of uncertainty.”

    This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (US) and the Swiss National Science Foundation [Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung] [Fonds national suisse de la recherche scientifique] (CH).

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Boston University is a private research university in Boston, Massachusetts. The university is nonsectarian but has a historical affiliation with the United Methodist Church. It was founded in 1839 by Methodists with its original campus in Newbury, Vermont, before moving to Boston in 1867.

    The university now has more than 4,000 faculty members and nearly 34,000 students, and is one of Boston’s largest employers. It offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctorates, and medical, dental, business, and law degrees through 17 schools and colleges on three urban campuses. The main campus is situated along the Charles River in Boston’s Fenway-Kenmore and Allston neighborhoods, while the Boston University Medical Campus is located in Boston’s South End neighborhood. The Fenway campus houses the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development, formerly Wheelock College, which merged with BU in 2018.

    BU is a member of the Boston Consortium for Higher Education (US) and the Association of American Universities (US). It is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity”.

    Among its alumni and current or past faculty, the university counts eight Nobel Laureates, 23 Pulitzer Prize winners, 10 Rhodes Scholars, six Marshall Scholars, nine Academy Award winners, and several Emmy and Tony Award winners. BU also has MacArthur, Fulbright, and Truman Scholars, as well as American Academy of Arts and Sciences (US) and National Academy of Sciences (US) members, among its past and present graduates and faculty. In 1876, BU professor Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in a BU lab.

    The Boston University Terriers compete in the NCAA Division I. BU athletic teams compete in the Patriot League, and Hockey East conferences, and their mascot is Rhett the Boston Terrier. Boston University is well known for men’s hockey, in which it has won five national championships, most recently in 2009.


    In FY2016, the University reported in $368.9 million in sponsored research, comprising 1,896 awards to 722 faculty investigators. Funding sources included the National Science Foundation (US), the National Institutes of Health (US), the Department of Defense (US), the European Commission of the European Union, the Susan G. Komen Foundation (US), and the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (US). The University’s research enterprise encompasses dozens of fields, but its primary focus currently lies in seven areas: Data Science, Engineering Biology, Global Health, Infectious Diseases, Neuroscience, Photonics, and Urban Health.

    The University’s strategic plan calls for the removal of barriers between previously siloed departments, schools, and fields. The result has been an increasing emphasis by the University on interdisciplinary work and the creation of multidisciplinary centers such as the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering, a $140 million, nine-story research facility that has brought together life scientists, engineers, and physicians from the Medical and Charles River Campuses; the Institute for Health Systems Innovation & Policy, a cross-campus initiative combining business, health law, medicine, and public policy; a neurophotonics center that combines photonics and neuroscience to study the brain; and the Software and Application Innovation Lab, where technologists work with colleagues in the arts and humanities and together develop digital research tools. The University also made a large investment in an emerging field, when it created a new university-wide academic unit called the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences in 2019 and began construction of the nineteen-story Center for Computing & Data Sciences, slated to open in 2022.

    In 2003, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded Boston University a grant to build one of two National Biocontainment Laboratories. The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) was created to study emerging infectious diseases that pose a significant threat to public health. NEIDL has biosafety level 2, 3, and 4 (BSL-2, BSL-3, and BSL-4, respectively) labs that enable researchers to work safely with the pathogens. BSL-4 labs are the highest level of biosafety labs and work with diseases with a high risk of aerosol transmission.

    The strategic plan also encouraged research collaborations with industry and government partners. In 2016, as part of a broadbased effort to solve the critical problem of antibiotic resistance, the US Department of Health & Human Services selected the Boston University School of Law (LAW)—and Kevin Outterson, a BU professor of law—to lead a $350 million trans-Atlantic public-private partnership called CARB-X to foster the preclinical development of new antibiotics and antimicrobial rapid diagnostics and vaccines.

    That same year, BU researcher Avrum Spira joined forces with Janssen Research & Development and its Disease Interception Accelerator group. Spira—a professor of medicine, pathology and laboratory medicine, and bioinformatics—has spent his career at BU pursuing a better, and earlier, way to diagnose pulmonary disorders and cancers, primarily using biomarkers and genomic testing. In 2015, under a $13.7 million Defense Department grant, Spira’s efforts to identify which members of the military will develop lung cancer and COPD caught the attention of Janssen, part Johnson & Johnson. They are investing $10.1 million to collaborate with Spira’s lab with the hope that his discoveries—and potential therapies—could then apply to the population at large.

    In its effort to increase diversity and inclusion, Boston University appointed Ibram X. Kendi in July 2020 as a history professor and the director and founder of its newly established Center for Antiracist Research. The university also appointed alumna Andrea Taylor as its first senior diversity officer.

  • richardmitnick 10:43 am on May 16, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New clues to ancient life from billion-year-old lake fossils", , , Boston College (US), , In April 2021 scientists led by Paul Strother of Boston College reported on the discovery of new microfossils in ancient Scottish lake sediments ., Microbiology, Newly discovered microscopic “ball” fossils – found in ancient lake sediments in Scotland – suggest that evolution from single-celled to multicellular organisms might have occurred in lakes., , The one-billion-year-old multicellular microfossils "Bicellum brasieri"., There are gaps or missing links in life’s timeline as it’s known to science., These fossils appear as tiny microscopic balls., These fossils are extremely tiny-measuring only 0.001 inches (0.03 mm) in diameter., University of Sheffield (UK)   

    From Boston College (US) and From University of Sheffield (UK) via EarthSky : “New clues to ancient life from billion-year-old lake fossils” 

    From Boston College (US)


    From University of Sheffield (UK)




    May 16, 2021
    Paul Scott Anderson

    We think of earthly life as evolving from the sea. But newly discovered microscopic “ball” fossils – found in ancient lake sediments in Scotland – suggest that evolution from single-celled to multicellular organisms might have occurred in lakes.

    Loch Torridan in Scotland’s northwest highlands. Loch is the Scottish word for lake. The newly discovered microfossils – Bicellum brasieri – were found in ancient sediments of this lake. Image via University of Sheffield (UK).

    The beginnings of life on Earth billions of years ago, from simple single-celled organisms to more complex multicellular ones, is a widely accepted fact in science. But there are gaps or missing links in life’s timeline as it’s known to science. In April 2021 scientists led by Paul Strother of Boston College reported on the discovery of new microfossils in ancient Scottish lake sediments that could help fill in the gap between the earliest single-celled life and multicellular life. These scientists say these microscopic fossils could be the oldest example of complex multicellular life in the evolutionary lineage leading to animals. They say the fossils are also significant because they come – not from ocean sediments – but from sediments of an ancient freshwater lake.

    The peer-reviewed findings were published in the journal Current Biology on April 13, 2021.

    The one-billion-year-old multicellular microfossils – Bicellum brasieri – were found in sediments that used to be at the bottom of Loch Torridan in Scotland’s northwest highlands. Co-author Charles Wellman of the University of Sheffield in the U.K. commented in a statement:

    “The origins of complex multicellularity and the origin of animals are considered two of the most important events in the history of life on Earth.

    Our discovery sheds new light on both of these.”

    Image of the newly discovered ancient microfossil Bicellum brasieri, via Paul Strother/ University of Sheffield.

    A specimen of Bicellum brasieri. Image via Paul Strother/ University of Sheffield.

    Another view of a Bicellum brasieri specimen, showing the elongated sausage-shaped cells in the outer layer. Image via Paul Strother/ Live Science.

    About Bicellum brasieri. Bicellum means “two-celled,” and brasieri is used to honor the late paleontologist and study co-author, Martin Brasier.

    These fossils appear as tiny microscopic balls, each containing two different kinds of cells. The cells inside the ball are round and tightly-packed with thin cell walls. The outer layer or surface of the balls, however, are composed of longer, sausage-shaped cells that have thicker cell walls.

    These fossils are clearly of multicelled organisms, the scientists say, albeit simple ones. But there’s an interesting puzzle. The fossils were found in ancient lake sediments, but most scientists think that multicellular life first began to appear in Earth’s primordial oceans.

    The fossils were found in nodules of phosphate minerals. According to lead author Paul Strother, those nodules were:

    “…Like little black lenses in rock strata, about one centimeter [0.4 inches] in thickness. We take those and slice them with a diamond saw and make thin sections out of them.”

    Those very thin sections can then be studied under a microscope.

    The researchers found multiple clumps of the Bicellum brasieri fossils, which all showed the same structure and organization regardless of their stage of development.

    These fossils are extremely tiny-measuring only 0.001 inches (0.03 mm) in diameter. But when examined under powerful microscopes, the researchers noticed that the two kinds of cells in the balls differed both in shape and how and where they were positioned within the balls. Why is that significant? As Strother told LiveScience.com:

    “That’s something that doesn’t exist in normal unicellular organisms. That amount of structural complexity is something that we normally associate with complex multicellularity.”

    This raises more questions. What type of organism is Bicellum brasieri? The scientists still don’t know for sure, but they don’t think it is a kind of algae, since the round cells don’t have rigid walls. Bicellum brasieri might instead have been a type of Holozoa, which includes both multicellular animals and single-celled organisms. Holozoa can include animals and their closest single-celled relatives, but it excludes fungi.

    Due to constant geological processes on our active planet, there aren’t a lot of fossil records left from the very earliest life on Earth. The oldest known fossils of microbes are about 3.5 billion years old. That’s fossils of the microorganisms themselves; other fossils associated with microbes are known to be up to 3.7 billion years old. These include sediment ripples on an ancient seafloor in Greenland and hematite tubes in volcanic rock in Quebec, Canada.

    The locations in the Scottish Highlands where the fossils were found. Image via Paul K. Strother et al./ Current Biology (CC BY 4.0).

    Scientists have thought that the earliest microscopic life forms originated in the oceans because that is where most ancient fossils have been found, in marine sediments, as opposed to sediments in freshwater lakes. Strother explained:

    “There aren’t that many lake deposits of this antiquity, so there’s a bias in the rock record toward a marine fossil record rather than a freshwater record.”

    But the discovery of Bicellum brasieri now throws a wrench into that hypothesis. It shows that the transition from single-celled microbes to multicellular ones could also have occurred in lakes, despite the fact that lakes are more greatly affected by changes in temperature and alkalinity. According to the researchers, those factors may even have helped evolution to proceed more quickly in such freshwater habitats.

    The findings show that the emergence of multicellular organisms may have occurred in more than one kind of aquatic environment, not just oceans as previously thought. That may also be good news for the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers on Mars, both of which are currently exploring sediments and rocks that used to be at the bottom of lakes a few billion years ago. Perseverance in particular is specifically searching for evidence of ancient microbial life. If life on Earth evolved in both oceans and lakes, could the same thing have happened on Mars?

    Outcrop of the Diabaig Shale along the north shore of Loch Torridon at the town of Lower Diabaig in Scotland, showing the locality where the new fossil, Bicellum brasieri was first collected. Image via Paul Strother.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    University of Sheffield (UK) is a public research university in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. It received its royal charter in 1905 as successor to the University College of Sheffield, which was established in 1897 by the merger of Sheffield Medical School (founded in 1828), Firth College (1879) and Sheffield Technical School (1884).

    Sheffield is a multi-campus university predominantly over two campus areas: the Western Bank and the St George’s. The university is organised into five academic faculties composed of multiple departments. It had 20,005 undergraduate and 8,710 postgraduate students in 2016/17. The annual income of the institution for 2016–17 was £623.6 million of which £155.9 million was from research grants and contracts, with an expenditure of £633.0 million. Sheffield ranks among the top 10 of UK universities for research grant funding.

    Sheffield was placed 75th worldwide according to QS World University Rankings and 104th worldwide according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings. It was ranked 12th in the UK amongst multi-faculty institutions for the quality (GPA) of its research and for its Research Power in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. In 2011, Sheffield was named ‘University of the Year’ in the Times Higher Education awards. The Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2014 ranked the University of Sheffield 1st for student experience, social life, university facilities and accommodation, among other categories.

    It is one of the original red brick universities, a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, the Worldwide Universities Network, the N8 Group of the eight most research intensive universities in Northern England and the White Rose University Consortium. There are eight Nobel laureates affiliated with Sheffield and six of them are the alumni or former long-term staffs of the university.

    Boston College (US) is a private, Jesuit research university in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Founded in 1863, the university has more than 9,300 full-time undergraduates and nearly 5,000 graduate students. Although Boston College is classified as an R1 research university, it still uses the word “college” in its name to reflect its historical position as a small liberal arts college. Its main campus is a historic district and features some of the earliest examples of collegiate gothic architecture in North America.

    Boston College offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees through its eight colleges and schools: Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences, Carroll School of Management, Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Connell School of Nursing, Graduate School of Social Work, Boston College Law School, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Woods College of Advancing Studies.

    Boston College athletic teams are the Eagles. Their colors are maroon and gold and their and mascot is Baldwin the Eagle. The Eagles compete in NCAA Division I as members of the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports offered by the ACC. The men’s and women’s ice hockey teams compete in Hockey East. Boston College’s men’s ice hockey team has won five national championships.

    Alumni and affiliates of the university include governors, ambassadors, members of Congress, scholars, writers, medical researchers, Hollywood actors, and professional athletes. Boston College has graduated several Rhodes, Fulbright, and Goldwater scholars. Other notable alumni include a U.S. Speaker of the House, a U.S. Secretary of State, and chief executives of Fortune 500 companies.

    Schools and colleges

    As a research university, Boston College is made up of a total of eight constituent colleges and schools:[48]

    Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences
    Carroll School of Management
    Lynch School of Education and Human Development
    Connell School of Nursing
    Boston College School of Social Work
    Boston College Law School
    Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
    Woods College of Advancing Studies

    Research centers and institutes

    Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life
    Business Institute
    Center for Asset Management
    Center for Child, Family, and Community Partnerships (CCFCP)
    Center for Christian-Jewish Learning
    Center for Corporate Citizenship (CCC)
    Center for East Europe, Russia, and Asia
    Center for Human Rights and International Justice
    Center for Ignatian Spirituality
    Center for International Higher Education
    Center for Investment and Research Management
    Center for Irish Programs Dublin
    Center for Nursing Research
    Center for Retirement Research
    Center for the Study of Home and Community Life
    Center for Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy (CSTEEP)
    Center for Work and Family (CWF)
    Center on Aging & Work – Workplace Flexibility
    Center on Wealth and Philanthropy (CWP, formerly SWRI)
    Church in the 21st Century Center
    Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy
    EagleEyes Project
    Institute for Medieval Philosophy and Theology
    Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry (IREPM)
    Institute for Administrators in Catholic Higher Education
    Institute for Scientific Research
    Institute for the Study and Promotion of Race and Culture (ISPRC)
    International Study Center
    Irish Institute
    Jesuit Institute
    Lifelong Learning Institute
    Lonergan Institute
    Mathematics Institute
    Media Research and Action Project
    Presidential Scholars Program
    Sloan Work and Family Research Network
    Small Business Development Center
    Urban Ecology Institute
    Weston Observatory
    Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics
    Women’s Resource Center

  • richardmitnick 9:39 am on April 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A group of microbes which feed off chemical reactions triggered by radioactivity have been at an evolutionary standstill for millions of years., , , Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (US), , Microbiology, , The scientists hypothesize the standstill evolution they discovered is due to the microbe’s powerful protections against mutation., These microbes inhabit water-filled cavities inside rocks in a completely independent ecosystem free from reliance on sunlight or any other organisms.   

    From Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (US): “Microbe in Evolutionary Stasis for Millions of Years”: 

    From Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (US)

    April 8, 2021

    Equipment for subsurface sampling of microbes in Death Valley, California. New research led by Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences has revealed that a group of microbes, Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator, have been at an evolutionary standstill for millions of years. Credit: Duane Moser, Desert Research Institute

    It’s like something out of science fiction. Research led by Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences has revealed that a group of microbes which feed off chemical reactions triggered by radioactivity have been at an evolutionary standstill for millions of years. The discovery could have significant implications for biotechnology applications and scientific understanding of microbial evolution.

    “This discovery shows that we must be careful when making assumptions about the speed of evolution and how we interpret the tree of life,” said Eric Becraft, the lead author on the paper. “It is possible that some organisms go into an evolutionary full-sprint, while others slow to a crawl, challenging the establishment of reliable molecular timelines.”

    Becraft, now an assistant professor of biology at the University of Northern Alabama, completed the research as part of his postdoctoral work at Bigelow Laboratory and recently published it in the Nature publishing group’s ISME Journal.

    The microbe, Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator, was first discovered in 2008 by a team of scientists, led by Tullis Onstott, a co-author on the new study. Found in a South African gold mine almost two miles beneath the Earth’s surface, the microbes acquire the energy they need from chemical reactions caused by the natural radioactive decay in minerals. They inhabit water-filled cavities inside rocks in a completely independent ecosystem free from reliance on sunlight or any other organisms.

    Because of their unique biology and isolation, the authors of the new study wanted to understand how the microbes evolved. They searched other environmental samples from deep underground and discovered Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator in Siberia and California, as well as in several additional mines in South Africa. Since each environment was chemically different, these discoveries gave the researchers a unique opportunity to look for differences that have emerged between the populations over their millions of years of evolution.

    “We wanted to use that information to understand how they evolved and what kind of environmental conditions lead to what kind of genetic adaptations,” said Bigelow Laboratory Senior Research Scientist Ramunas Stepanauskas, the corresponding author on the paper and Becraft’s postdoctoral advisor. “We thought of the microbes as though they were inhabitants of isolated islands, like the finches that Darwin studied in the Galapagos.”

    Using advanced tools that allow scientists to read the genetic blueprints of individual cells, the researchers examined the genomes of 126 microbes obtained from three continents. Surprisingly, they all turned out to be almost identical.

    “It was shocking,” Stepanauskas said. “They had the same makeup, and so we started scratching our heads.”

    Scientists found no evidence that the microbes can travel long distances, survive on the surface, or live long in the presence of oxygen. So, once researchers determined that there was no possibility the samples were cross-contaminated during research, plausible explanations dwindled.

    “The best explanation we have at the moment is that these microbes did not change much since their physical locations separated during the breakup of supercontinent Pangaea, about 175 million years ago,” Stepanauskas said. “They appear to be living fossils from those days. That sounds quite crazy and goes against the contemporary understanding of microbial evolution.”

    What this means for the pace of microbial evolution, which often happens at a much more accelerated rate, is surprising. Many well-studied bacteria, such as E. coli, have been found to evolve in only a few years in response to environmental changes, such as exposure to antibiotics.

    Stepanauskas and his colleagues hypothesize the standstill evolution they discovered is due to the microbe’s powerful protections against mutation, which have essentially locked their genetic code. If the researchers are correct, this would be a rare feature with potentially valuable benefits.

    Microbial enzymes that create copies of DNA molecules, called DNA polymerases, are widely used in biotechnology. Enzymes with high fidelity, or the ability to recreate themselves with little differences between the copy and the original, are especially valuable.

    “There’s a high demand for DNA polymerases that don’t make many mistakes,” Stepanauskas said. “Such enzymes may be useful for DNA sequencing, diagnostic tests, and gene therapy.”

    Beyond potential applications, the results of this study could have far-reaching implications and change the way scientists think about microbial genetics and the pace of their evolution.

    “These findings are a powerful reminder that the various microbial branches we observe on the tree of life may differ vastly in the time since their last common ancestor,” Becraft said. “Understanding this is critical to understanding the history of life on Earth.”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences (US), founded in 1974, is an independent, non-profit oceanography research institute. The Laboratory’s research ranges from microbial oceanography to the large-scale biogeochemical processes that drive ocean ecosystems and health of the entire planet.

    The institute’s LEED Platinum laboratory is located on its research and education campus in East Boothbay, Maine. Bigelow Laboratory supports the work of about 100 scientists and staff. The majority of the institute’s funding comes from federal and state grants and contracts, philanthropic support, and licenses and contracts with the private sector.


    The Laboratory was established by Charles and Clarice Yentsch in 1974 as a private, non-profit research institution named for the oceanographer Henry Bryant Bigelow, founding director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (US). Bigelow’s extensive investigations in the early part of the twentieth century are recognized as the foundation of modern oceanography. His multi-year expeditions in the Gulf of Maine, where he collected water samples and data on phytoplankton, fish populations, and hydrography, established a new paradigm of intensive, ecologically-based oceanographic research in the United States and made this region one of the most thoroughly studied bodies of water, for its size, in the world.

    Since its founding, the Laboratory has attracted federal grants for research projects by winning competitive, peer reviewed awards from all of the principal federal research granting agencies. The Laboratory’s total operating revenue (including philanthropy) has grown to more than $10 million dollars a year. Federal research grants have supported most of the Laboratory’s research operations. Education and outreach programs rely on other sources of support, primarily contributions from individuals and private philanthropic foundations.

    In February 2018, Deborah Bronk became the president and CEO of Bigelow Laboratory. Prior to joining the Laboratory, Bronk was the Moses D. Nunnally Distinguished Professor of Marine Sciences and department chair at Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. She previously served as division director for the National Science Foundation’s (US) Division of Ocean Science and as president of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

  • richardmitnick 9:23 am on April 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Shaking the foundations of life", , , , , , Evolution never stops – and disruptions can speed up the process. Now ETH researchers are delving deeper into the secrets of evolutionary change., It’s now clear that microbes far from being isolated loners are actually highly social 
organisms., Microbes cooperate with deceive and fight other microbes., Microbiology, Success through cooperation   

    From ETH Zürich [Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich] (CH): “Shaking the foundations of life” 

    From ETH Zürich [Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich] (CH)

    Peter Rüegg

    Evolution never stops – and disruptions can speed up the process. Now ETH researchers are delving deeper into the secrets of evolutionary change.

    Soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus Credit: Gregory J. Velicer.

    The evolution of life on Earth has taken a long, long time. Protocells – the precursors of today’s unicellular organisms – formed around four billion years ago, eventually evolving into bacteria and 
archaea. The first eukaryotes emerged two billion years ago, providing the basis for more complex, multicellular organisms. As life evolved, it faced numerous disruptions in the form of meteorites, volcanic eruptions, ice ages and periods of great heat. Our planet has experienced at least five mass extinction events over its long history – yet still life has continued, undaunted.

    Change is one of the driving forces behind evolution: all organisms, from bacteria to elephants, must constantly change and adapt to deal with challenges such as increasing competition for food and space, food scarcity, environmental changes and climate change. Failure to adapt means extinction.

    Success through cooperation

    Bacteria are ideal for investigating evolutionary processes because they are small and have very short generation times. ETH professor Greg Velicer opted for the soil bacterium Myxococcus xanthus as a model organism because it forms cooperative groups and hunts other microorganisms. When food becomes scarce, thousands of Myxococcus cells aggregate into a fruiting body and produce spores, which can survive in the soil for long periods of time under stressful conditions.

    “It’s now clear that microbes far from being isolated loners are actually highly social 
organisms. Microbes cooperate with deceive and fight other microbes, both within their own 
intra-​specific social groups and within extremely complex multi-​species communities,” says Velicer, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the Institute of Integrative Biology. These findings also apply to pathogens. For example, cells of the dreaded hospital bug Pseudomonas aeruginosa or the cholera pathogen Vibrio cholerae communicate with one another in order to form resistant biofilms and in producing cytotoxic agents.

    “One of the key questions for evolutionary biologists is how cooperation evolves over time, and especially how it persists in the face of selfish, non-​cooperative behaviour,” says Velicer.

    A while back, he and his colleagues were able to show that some individual bacteria in groups of Myxococcus cells exhibit cheating behaviour towards other cells in the same group: these mutant cells – or cheats – do not themselves produce fruiting bodies or spores. Mix these cheats with cooperative, spore-​forming cells, however, and they benefit from this work without making any contribution of their own – in other words, without providing the required energy in the form of chemical messengers and enzymes. This enables the cheats to increase their frequency in a population at virtually no cost to themselves, thus threatening the survival of the cooperative system. “We’ve even seen cases of cheating that have driven entire populations of cooperators and cheats to extinction,” says Velicer.

    Nevertheless, cooperation continues to be a successful evolutionary strategy that has proven to be evolutionarily stable against such cheating across many biological systems. For example, cooperative Myxococcus bacteria can quickly give rise to social adaptations, as Velicer discovered in a further study. He observed how a strain that began by exhibiting cooperative behaviours evolved first to become a cheat and then later evolved back into a cooperating strain – in fact, a new, better-​adapted form of cooperating strain that was highly resistant to its own progenitors’ attempts at cheating. A subsequent study by one of Velicer’s colleagues showed that cooperation was restored thanks to a single mutation in a previously unknown small RNA (sRNA). It emerged that this sRNA plays an essential role in the regulation of fruiting-​body formation.

    Dramatic doubling of the genome

    Mutations in DNA occur spontaneously and randomly, yet they are fundamental to evolution. While most are inconsequential and have no effect on the organism, some genetic changes are more profound and affect the entire genome. One example of such a sudden and dramatic event is the duplication of the entire set of chromosomes. During meiosis – the cell division of germ cells – the chromosomes do not split into the daughter cells evenly. Chromosomes are threads of DNA wrapped around a protein scaffold. A normal human cell has 46 chromosomes: two sex chromosomes and 22 pairs of non-​sex chromosomes.

    When meiosis goes wrong, one of the daughter cells gets all the chromosomes and thus all the genetic material of the parent cell. It remains diploid, while the other cell receives nothing and dies. If two diploid germ cells then fuse, this produces an organism with cells that have four sets of chromosomes. The organism is now polyploid, which poses significant challenges in regard to cell biology and the organism’s physiology.

    Kirsten Bomblies, Professor of Plant Evolutionary Genetics at ETH Zürich’s Department of Biology, has been investigating this phenomenon: “Polyploidy can occur randomly or due to environmental changes such as drought, cold or salt stress.” It is common among plants, though less frequent in fish and amphibians. There is only one example of a polyploid mammal – though even this case is heavily disputed. Most polyploids are evolutionary dead ends but some acquire an advantage. “Plants with multiple sets of chromosomes are far more resistant to drought and salt than their predecessors,” she explains. Polyploid plants also have larger fruits and seeds, which makes them an interesting model for breeding new varieties of crops with higher yields and resilience. In fact, many important food crops have already been bred to be polyploid: wheat, potatoes, maize and coffee all have multiple sets of chromosomes.

    In one of her projects, Bomblies is investigating why polyploid plants are so stress-​tolerant. One reason is cell size. Polyploid cells are larger than diploid cells, and this affects their interactions with the environment, such as the exchange of gases and water. “For an evolutionary biologist, polyploidy is as an absolutely fascinating example of disruption,” Bomblies says. “It’s a profound evolutionary force because it changes everything in an organism’s biology.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    ETH Zurich campus
    ETH Zürich [Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich] (CH) is a public research university in the city of Zürich, Switzerland. Founded by the Swiss Federal Government in 1854 with the stated mission to educate engineers and scientists, the school focuses exclusively on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Like its sister institution EPFL[École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne](CH), it is part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain), part of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.
    The university is an attractive destination for international students thanks to low tuition fees of 809 CHF per semester, PhD and graduate salaries that are amongst the world’s highest, and a world-class reputation in academia and industry. There are currently 22,200 students from over 120 countries, of which 4,180 are pursuing doctoral degrees. In the 2021 edition of the QS World University Rankings ETH Zürich is ranked 6th in the world and 8th by the Times Higher Education World Rankings 2020. In the 2020 QS World University Rankings by subject it is ranked 4th in the world for engineering and technology (2nd in Europe) and 1st for earth & marine science.

    As of November 2019, 21 Nobel laureates, 2 Fields Medalists, 2 Pritzker Prize winners, and 1 Turing Award winner have been affiliated with the Institute, including Albert Einstein. Other notable alumni include John von Neumann and Santiago Calatrava. It is a founding member of the IDEA League and the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) and a member of the CESAER network.

    ETH Zürich was founded on 7 February 1854 by the Swiss Confederation and began giving its first lectures on 16 October 1855 as a polytechnic institute (eidgenössische polytechnische Schule) at various sites throughout the city of Zurich. It was initially composed of six faculties: architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, forestry, and an integrated department for the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, literature, and social and political sciences.

    It is locally still known as Polytechnikum, or simply as Poly, derived from the original name eidgenössische polytechnische Schule, which translates to “federal polytechnic school”.

    ETH Zürich is a federal institute (i.e., under direct administration by the Swiss government), whereas the University of Zürich is a cantonal institution. The decision for a new federal university was heavily disputed at the time; the liberals pressed for a “federal university”, while the conservative forces wanted all universities to remain under cantonal control, worried that the liberals would gain more political power than they already had. In the beginning, both universities were co-located in the buildings of the University of Zürich.

    From 1905 to 1908, under the presidency of Jérôme Franel, the course program of ETH Zürich was restructured to that of a real university and ETH Zürich was granted the right to award doctorates. In 1909 the first doctorates were awarded. In 1911, it was given its current name, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule. In 1924, another reorganization structured the university in 12 departments. However, it now has 16 departments.

    ETH Zürich, EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) [École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne](CH), and four associated research institutes form the “ETH Domain” with the aim of collaborating on scientific projects.

    Reputation and ranking

    ETH Zürich is ranked among the top universities in the world. Typically, popular rankings place the institution as the best university in continental Europe and ETH Zürich is consistently ranked among the top 1-5 universities in Europe, and among the top 3-10 best universities of the world.

    Historically, ETH Zürich has achieved its reputation particularly in the fields of chemistry, mathematics and physics. There are 32 Nobel laureates who are associated with ETH Zürich, the most recent of whom is Richard F. Heck, awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2010. Albert Einstein is perhaps its most famous alumnus.

    In 2018, the QS World University Rankingsplaced ETH Zürich at 7th overall in the world. In 2015, ETH Zürich was ranked 5th in the world in Engineering, Science and Technology, just behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US), Stanford University(US) and University of Cambridge(UK). In 2015, ETH Zürich also ranked 6th in the world in Natural Sciences, and in 2016 ranked 1st in the world for Earth & Marine Sciences for the second consecutive year.

    In 2016, Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked ETH Zürich 9th overall in the world and 8th in the world in the field of Engineering & Technology, just behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US), Stanford University(US), California Institute of Technology(US), Princeton University(US), University of Cambridge(UK), Imperial College London(UK) and

  • richardmitnick 9:09 pm on March 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Photosynthesis could be as old as life itself", , , , , Microbiology, On Earth it took more than a billion years for bacteria to perfect the process leading to the evolution of cyanobacteria., ,   

    From Imperial College London(UK): “Photosynthesis could be as old as life itself” 

    From Imperial College London(UK)

    16 March 2021 [Just now in social media.]
    Hayley Dunning

    An image of Cyanobacteria, Tolypothrix.

    Researchers find that the earliest bacteria had the tools to perform a crucial step in photosynthesis, changing how we think life evolved on Earth.

    The finding also challenges expectations for how life might have evolved on other planets. The evolution of photosynthesis that produces oxygen is thought to be the key factor in the eventual emergence of complex life. This was thought to take several billion years to evolve, but if in fact the earliest life could do it, then other planets may have evolved complex life much earlier than previously thought.

    The research team, led by scientists from Imperial College London, traced the evolution of key proteins needed for photosynthesis back to possibly the origin of bacterial life on Earth. Their results are published and freely accessible in BBA – Bioenergetics.

    Lead researcher Dr Tanai Cardona, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “We had previously shown that the biological system for performing oxygen-production, known as Photosystem II, was extremely old, but until now we hadn’t been able to place it on the timeline of life’s history.

    “Now, we know that Photosystem II shows patterns of evolution that are usually only attributed to the oldest known enzymes, which were crucial for life itself to evolve.”

    Early oxygen production

    Photosynthesis, which converts sunlight into energy, can come in two forms: one that produces oxygen, and one that doesn’t. The oxygen-producing form is usually assumed to have evolved later, particularly with the emergence of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, around 2.5 billion years ago.

    While some research has suggested pockets of oxygen-producing (oxygenic) photosynthesis may have been around before this, it was still considered to be an innovation that took at least a couple of billion years to evolve on Earth.

    The new research finds that enzymes capable of performing the key process in oxygenic photosynthesis – splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen – could actually have been present in some of the earliest bacteria. The earliest evidence for life on Earth is over 3.4 billion years old and some studies have suggested that the earliest life could well be older than 4.0 billion years old.

    Colonies of cyanobacteria under the microscope. Credit: Ye.Maltsev/Shutterstock.

    Like the evolution of the eye, the first version of oxygenic photosynthesis may have been very simple and inefficient; as the earliest eyes sensed only light, the earliest photosynthesis may have been very inefficient and slow.

    On Earth it took more than a billion years for bacteria to perfect the process leading to the evolution of cyanobacteria, and two billion years more for animals and plants to conquer the land. However, that oxygen production was present at all so early on means in other environments, such as on other planets, the transition to complex life could have taken much less time.

    Measuring molecular clocks

    The team made their discovery by tracing the ‘molecular clock’ of key photosynthesis proteins responsible for splitting water. This method estimates the rate of evolution of proteins by looking at the time between known evolutionary moments, such as the emergence of different groups of cyanobacteria or land plants, which carry a version of these proteins today. The calculated rate of evolution is then extended back in time, to see when the proteins first evolved.

    They compared the evolution rate of these photosynthesis proteins to that of other key proteins in the evolution of life, including those that form energy storage molecules in the body and those that translate DNA sequences into RNA, which is thought to have originated before the ancestor of all cellular life on Earth. They also compared the rate to events known to have occurred more recently, when life was already varied and cyanobacteria had appeared.

    The photosynthesis proteins showed nearly identical patterns of evolution to the oldest enzymes, stretching far back in time, suggesting they evolved in a similar way.

    First author of the study Thomas Oliver, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, said: “We used a technique called Ancestral Sequence Reconstruction to predict the protein sequences of ancestral photosynthetic proteins.

    “These sequences give us information about how the ancestral Photosystem II would have worked and we were able to show that many of the key components required for oxygen evolution in Photosystem II can be traced to the earliest stages in the evolution of the enzyme.”

    Directing evolution

    Knowing how these key photosynthesis proteins evolve is not only relevant for the search for life on other planets, but could also help researchers find strategies to use photosynthesis in new ways through synthetic biology.

    Dr Cardona, who is leading such a project as part of his UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, said: “Now we have a good sense of how photosynthesis proteins evolve, adapting to a changing world, we can use ‘directed evolution’ to learn how to change them to produce new kinds of chemistry.

    “We could develop photosystems that could carry out complex new green and sustainable chemical reactions entirely powered by light.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London (UK) is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

    Imperial College London (legally Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine) is a public research university in London. Imperial grew out of Prince Albert’s vision of an area for culture, including the Royal Albert Hall; Imperial Institute; numerous museums and the Royal Colleges that would go on to form the college. In 1907, Imperial College was established by Royal Charter, merging the Royal College of Science; Royal School of Mines; and City and Guilds College. In 1988, the Imperial College School of Medicine was formed by combining with St Mary’s Hospital Medical School. In 2004, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Imperial College Business School.

    The college focuses exclusively on science; technology; medicine; and business. The college’s main campus is located in South Kensington, and it has an innovation campus in White City; a research field station at Silwood Park; and teaching hospitals throughout London. The college was a member of the University of London(UK) from 1908, becoming independent on its centenary in 2007. Imperial has an international community, with more than 59% of students from outside the UK and 140 countries represented on campus. Student, staff, and researcher affiliations include 14 Nobel laureates; 3 Fields Medalists; 2 Breakthrough Prize winners; 1 Turing Award winner; 74 Fellows of the Royal Society; 87 Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering; and 85 Fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences.


    19th century

    The earliest college that led to the formation of Imperial was the Royal College of Chemistry founded in 1845 with the support of Prince Albert and parliament. This was merged in 1853 into what became known as the Royal School of Mines. The medical school has roots in many different schools across London, the oldest of which being Charing Cross Hospital Medical School which can be traced back to 1823 followed by teaching starting at Westminster Hospital in 1834 and St Mary’s Hospital in 1851.

    In 1851 the Great Exhibition was organised as an exhibition of culture and industry by Henry Cole and by Prince Albert- husband of the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom Queen Victoria. An enormously popular and financial success proceeds from the Great Exhibition were designated to develop an area for cultural and scientific advancement in South Kensington. Within the next 6 years the Victoria and Albert Museum and Science Museum had opened joined by new facilities in 1871 for the Royal College of Chemistry and in 1881 for the Royal School of Mines; the opening of the Natural History Museum in 1881; and in 1888 the Imperial Institute.

    In 1881 the Normal School of Science was established in South Kensington under the leadership of Thomas Huxley taking over responsibility for the teaching of the natural sciences and agriculture from the Royal School of Mines. The school was renamed the Royal College of Science by royal consent in 1890. The Central Institution of the City and Guilds of London Institute was opened as a technical education school on Exhibition Road by the Prince of Wales in early 1885.

    20th century

    At the start of the 20th century, there was a concern that Britain was falling behind Germany in scientific and technical education. A departmental committee was set up at the Board of Education in 1904, to look into the future of the Royal College of Science. A report released in 1906 called for the establishment of an institution unifying the Royal College of Science and the Royal School of Mines, as well as – if an agreement could be reached with the City and Guilds of London Institute – their Central Technical College.

    On 8 July 1907 King Edward VII granted a Royal Charter establishing the Imperial College of Science and Technology. This incorporated the Royal School of Mines and the Royal College of Science. It also made provisions for the City and Guilds College to join once conditions regarding its governance were met as well as for Imperial to become a college of the University of London. The college joined the University of London on 22 July 1908 with the City and Guilds College joining in 1910. The main campus of Imperial College was constructed beside the buildings of the Imperial Institute- the new building for the Royal College of Science having opened across from it in 1906 and the foundation stone for the Royal School of Mines building being laid by King Edward VII in July 1909.

    As students at Imperial had to study separately for London degrees in January 1919 students and alumni voted for a petition to make Imperial a university with its own degree awarding powers independent of the University of London. In response the University of London changed its regulations in 1925 so that the courses taught only at Imperial would be examined by the university enabling students to gain a BSc.

    In October 1945 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Imperial to commemorate the centenary of the Royal College of Chemistry which was the oldest of the institutions that united to form Imperial College. “Commemoration Day” named after this visit is held every October as the university’s main graduation ceremony. The college also acquired a biology field station at Silwood Park near Ascot, Berkshire in 1947.

    Following the Second World War, there was again concern that Britain was falling behind in science – this time to the United States. The Percy Report of 1945 and Barlow Committee in 1946 called for a “British MIT”-equivalent backed by influential scientists as politicians of the time including Lord Cherwell; Sir Lawrence Bragg; and Sir Edward Appleton. The University Grants Committee strongly opposed however. So a compromise was reached in 1953 where Imperial would remain within the university but double in size over the next ten years. The expansion led to a number of new buildings being erected. These included the Hill building in 1957 and the Physics building in 1960 and the completion of the East Quadrangle built in four stages between 1959 and 1965. The building work also meant the demolition of the City and Guilds College building in 1962–63 and the Imperial Institute’s building by 1967. Opposition from the Royal Fine Arts Commission and others meant that Queen’s Tower was retained with work carried out between 1966 and 1968 to make it free standing. New laboratories for biochemistry established with the support of a £350,000 grant from the Wolfson Foundation were opened by the Queen in 1965.

    In 1988 Imperial merged with St Mary’s Hospital Medical School under the Imperial College Act 1988. Amendments to the royal charter changed the formal name of the institution to The Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine and made St Mary’s a constituent college. This was followed by mergers with the National Heart and Lung Institute in 1995 and the Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School; Royal Postgraduate Medical School; and the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1997 with the Imperial College Act 1997 formally establishing the Imperial College School of Medicine.

    21st century

    In 2003, Imperial was granted degree-awarding powers in its own right by the Privy Council. In 2004, the Imperial College Business School and a new main entrance on Exhibition Road were opened by Queen Elizabeth II. The UK Energy Research Centre was also established in 2004 and opened its headquarters at Imperial. On 9 December 2005, Imperial announced that it would commence negotiations to secede from the University of London. Imperial became fully independent of the University of London in July 2007.

    In April 2011 Imperial and King’s College London joined the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation as partners with a commitment of £40 million each to the project. The centre was later renamed the Francis Crick Institute and opened on 9 November 2016. It is the largest single biomedical laboratory in Europe. The college began moving into the new White City campus in 2016 with the launching of the Innovation Hub. This was followed by the opening of the Molecular Sciences Research Hub for the Department of Chemistry officially opened by Mayor of London- Sadiq Khan in 2019. The White City campus also includes another biomedical centre funded by a £40 million donation by alumnus Sir Michael Uren.


    Imperial submitted a total of 1,257 staff across 14 units of assessment to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment. This found that 91% of Imperial’s research is “world-leading” (46% achieved the highest possible 4* score) or “internationally excellent” (44% achieved 3*) giving an overall GPA of 3.36. In rankings produced by Times Higher Education based upon the REF results Imperial was ranked 2nd overall. Imperial is also widely known to have been a critical contributor of the discovery of penicillin; the invention of fiber optics; and the development of holography. The college promotes research commercialisation partly through its dedicated technology transfer company- Imperial Innovations- which has given rise to a large number of spin-out companies based on academic research. Imperial College has a long-term partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US) that dates back from World War II. The United States is the college’s top collaborating foreign country with more than 15,000 articles co-authored by Imperial and U.S.-based authors over the last 10 years.

    In January 2018 the mathematics department of Imperial and the CNRS-The National Center for Scientific Research[Centre national de la recherche scientifique](FR) launched UMI Abraham de Moivre at Imperial- a joint research laboratory of mathematics focused on unsolved problems and bridging British and French scientific communities. The Fields medallists Cédric Villani and Martin Hairer hosted the launch presentation. The CNRS-Imperial partnership started a joint PhD program in mathematics and further expanded in June 2020 to include other departments. In October 2018, Imperial College launched the Imperial Cancer Research UK Center- a research collaboration that aims to find innovative ways to improve the precision of cancer treatments inaugurated by former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden as part of his Biden Cancer Initiative.

    Imperial was one of the ten leading contributors to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US) InSight Mars lander which landed on planet Mars in November 2018, with the college logo appearing on the craft. InSight’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, developed at Imperial, measured the first likely marsquake reading in April 2019. In 2019 it was revealed that the Blackett Laboratory would be constructing an instrument for the European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne](EU) Solar Orbiter in a mission to study the Sun, which launched in February 2020. The laboratory is also designing part of the DUNE/LBNF Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment(US).

    In early 2020 immunology research at the Faculty of Medicine focused on SARS-CoV-2 under the leadership of Professor Robin Shattock as part of the college’s COVID-19 Response Team including the search of a cheap vaccine which started human trials on 15 June 2020. Professor Neil Ferguson’s 16 March report entitled Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID- 19 mortality and healthcare demand was described in a 17 March The New York Times article as the coronavirus “report that jarred the U.S. and the U.K. to action”. Since 18 May 2020 Imperial College’s Dr. Samir Bhatt has been advising the state of New York for its reopening plan. Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo said that “the Imperial College model- as we’ve been following this for weeks- was the best most accurate model.” The hospitals from the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust which have been caring for COVID-19 infected patients partnered with Microsoft to use their HoloLens when treating those patients reducing the amount of time spent by staff in high-risk areas by up to 83% as well as saving up to 700 items of PPE per ward, per week.

  • richardmitnick 4:54 pm on March 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Microbial Methane – New Fuel for Ocean Robots?", , , , Methane has a heat-trapping power 25 times greater than CO2. But fortunately very little of it ever leaves the ocean thanks to the expansive communities of marine microbes that eat it., Microbiology, , Once the methane is in gas form the system combusts the gas to drive an engine and generator., The need for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles to travel over longer distances—and longer time periods—without having to surface to charge up is very real., The new device is being developed by Maritime Applied Physics Corporation(US)(MAPC)., The system could be an answer to power-hungry robots that are being asked to explore increasingly larger swaths of the ocean., Using methane to give ocean robots a power boost may sound like sci-fi but it may be closer than you think.,   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “Microbial Methane – New Fuel for Ocean Robots?” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    Evan Lubofsky

    A seep of methane bubbles up from the seafloor. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(US) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

    Researchers at WHOI and Harvard University(US) are working on it. They’re collaborating with Maritime Applied Physics Corporation(US)(MAPC) — which is leading the effort with support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)(US) — on an energy harvesting platform that extracts methane produced by microbes and converts it to electricity. The system could be an answer to power-hungry robots that are being asked to explore increasingly larger swaths of the ocean.

    “Deep sea microbes make tons of methane each year” says WHOI adjunct scientist and Harvard professor Peter Girguis. “So, we’re developing these harvesting systems that can be deployed above methane seeps to see if we can generate electricity from this methane.”

    When it comes to powering AUVs—or other underwater ocean technologies for that matter—methane is an ideal choice given its abundance. It’s also free, and tends to hang around.

    “It’s a crazy stable molecule,” says Girguis. “You can put it in a glass vial, and thousands of years later it will still be methane.”

    WHOI adjunct scientist and Harvard professor Peter Girguis Credit: Harvard University.

    It is, however, a potent greenhouse gas—the Environmental Protection Agency(US) suggests that methane has a heat-trapping power 25 times greater than CO2. But fortunately very little of it ever leaves the ocean thanks to the expansive communities of marine microbes that eat it.

    Using methane to give ocean robots a power boost may sound like sci-fi but it may be closer than you think. A prototype of what the researchers refer to as a ‘seafloor generator’ is being built for testing later this year. It’s roughly the size of a large dorm room fridge, and when deployed, sits above methane seeps bubbling up from the seafloor. As the gas bubbles enter the system, a device recovers the methane through a membrane. The new device is being developed by MAPC, in conjunction with Girguis and WHOI scientist Anna Michel, who has been collaborating with Girguis since 2013.

    “We utilize similar approaches for in situ chemical sensing of methane and carbon dioxide,” says Michel. “We extract gases from seawater and then measure them using infrared spectroscopy or mass spectrometry. These instruments require much less gas than we aim to use here. In my own lab, we’re especially interested in finding ways to power sensors underwater. So, working with WHOI Engineer Jason Kapit, we are investigating ways to scale up our extraction processes.”

    Once the methane is in gas form the system combusts the gas to drive an engine and generator. This is a common approach to converting chemical energy from the gas to electrical energy, but this would be the first time it’s been done on the seafloor for re-charging vehicles and powering sensors.

    “The exhaust gases produced are cooled and recirculated back to the inlet of the generator,” explains Tom Bein, a principal engineer with MAPC. This novel approach, he says, minimizes the power required by the system which maximizes the energy available to recharge AUVs or to power sensor networks.

    The seafloor generator, depicted here, is designed to continuously generate one kilowatt of power from methane seeps—enough power to recharge AUVs on long-endurance missions without having to resurface. Credit: MAPC)

    From Girguis’ perspective, the new system will help address a key question that’s been lingering over the ocean science community for decades: How do we sustain our presence in the deep sea? The need for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles to travel over longer distances—and longer time periods—without having to surface to charge up is very real. Particularly in endurance-sapping applications like geologic surveys, search and rescue missions, and oil spill monitoring.

    Girguis sees value in the “cabled observatories we all clamored for” but says their capabilities are limited to the regions of the seafloor that they can reach. There have been advances in battery technologies, and in low-power instrument design, that have spurred the launch of new high-endurance vehicles. WHOI’s Long Range Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (LRAUVs), for example, are ultramarathoners: they can operate continuously for more than two weeks over a distance of 620 miles (1,000 kilometers).

    But Girguis says that for autonomous vehicles to reach their potential, they will ultimately need underwater charging capabilities. He refers to the concept as a “Supercharger Network”—a network of underwater charging ports that provides rapid charging for an AUV on a mission—ideally in remote and deep locations throughout the global ocean. These networks could also power underwater sensors and other instruments.

    “Today, we have vehicle charging stations that make it possible for us to drive cross-country with an electric car,” says Girguis. “If I had my druthers, we’d have a supercharger highway beneath the surface that helps keep AUVs going as far as they need to.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.

    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

    The Institution is organized into six departments, the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research, and a marine policy center. Its shore-based facilities are located in the village of Woods Hole, Massachusetts(US) and a mile and a half away on the Quissett Campus. The bulk of the Institution’s funding comes from grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation(US) and other government agencies, augmented by foundations and private donations.

    WHOI scientists, engineers, and students collaborate to develop theories, test ideas, build seagoing instruments, and collect data in diverse marine environments. Ships operated by WHOI carry research scientists throughout the world’s oceans. The WHOI fleet includes two large research vessels (R/V Atlantis and R/V Neil Armstrong); the coastal craft Tioga; small research craft such as the dive-operation work boat Echo; the deep-diving human-occupied submersible Alvin; the tethered, remotely operated vehicle Jason/Medea; and autonomous underwater vehicles such as the REMUS and SeaBED.

    WHOI offers graduate and post-doctoral studies in marine science. There are several fellowship and training programs, and graduate degrees are awarded through a joint program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(US). WHOI is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. WHOI also offers public outreach programs and informal education through its Exhibit Center and summer tours. The Institution has a volunteer program and a membership program, WHOI Associate.

    On October 1, 2020, Peter B. de Menocal became the institution’s eleventh president and director.


    In 1927, a National Academy of Sciences(US) committee concluded that it was time to “consider the share of the United States of America in a worldwide program of oceanographic research.” The committee’s recommendation for establishing a permanent independent research laboratory on the East Coast to “prosecute oceanography in all its branches” led to the founding in 1930 of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution(US).

    A $2.5 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation supported the summer work of a dozen scientists, construction of a laboratory building and commissioning of a research vessel, the 142-foot (43 m) ketch R/V Atlantis, whose profile still forms the Institution’s logo.

    WHOI grew substantially to support significant defense-related research during World War II, and later began a steady growth in staff, research fleet, and scientific stature. From 1950 to 1956, the director was Dr. Edward “Iceberg” Smith, an Arctic explorer, oceanographer and retired Coast Guard rear admiral.

    In 1977 the institution appointed the influential oceanographer John Steele as director, and he served until his retirement in 1989.

    On 1 September 1985, a joint French-American expedition led by Jean-Louis Michel of IFREMER and Robert Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution identified the location of the wreck of the RMS Titanic which sank off the coast of Newfoundland 15 April 1912.

    On 3 April 2011, within a week of resuming of the search operation for Air France Flight 447, a team led by WHOI, operating full ocean depth autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) owned by the Waitt Institute discovered, by means of sidescan sonar, a large portion of debris field from flight AF447.

    In March 2017 the institution effected an open-access policy to make its research publicly accessible online.

    The Institution has maintained a long and controversial business collaboration with the treasure hunter company Odyssey Marine. Likewise, WHOI has participated in the location of the San José galleon in Colombia for the commercial exploitation of the shipwreck by the Government of President Santos and a private company.

    In 2019, iDefense reported that China’s hackers had launched cyberattacks on dozens of academic institutions in an attempt to gain information on technology being developed for the United States Navy. Some of the targets included the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The attacks have been underway since at least April 2017.

  • richardmitnick 11:26 am on March 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Research shows we’re surprisingly similar to Earth’s first animals", , , Microbiology, ,   

    From UC Riverside: “Research shows we’re surprisingly similar to Earth’s first animals” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    March 8, 2021

    Jules L Bernstein
    Senior Public Information Officer
    (951) 827-4580

    Fossil of Dickinsonia, an Ediacaran-era animal. Credit: Mary Droser/UCR.

    The earliest multicellular organisms may have lacked heads, legs, or arms, but pieces of them remain inside of us today, new research shows.

    According to a UC Riverside study, 555-million-year-old oceanic creatures from the Ediacaran period share genes with today’s animals, including humans.

    “None of them had heads or skeletons. Many of them probably looked like three-dimensional bathmats on the sea floor, round discs that stuck up,” said Mary Droser, a geology professor at UCR. “These animals are so weird and so different, it’s difficult to assign them to modern categories of living organisms just by looking at them, and it’s not like we can extract their DNA — we can’t.”

    However, well-preserved fossil records have allowed Droser and the study’s first author, recent UCR doctoral graduate Scott Evans, to link the animals’ appearance and likely behaviors to genetic analysis of currently living things. Their research on these links has been recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

    For their analysis, the researchers considered four animals representative of the more than 40 recognized species that have been identified from the Ediacaran era. These creatures ranged in size from a few millimeters to nearly a meter in length.

    Kimberella were teardrop-shaped creatures with one broad, rounded end and one narrow end that likely scraped the sea floor for food with a proboscis. Further, they could move around using a “muscular foot” like snails today. The study included flat, oval-shaped Dickinsonia with a series of raised bands on their surface, and Tribrachidium, who spent their lives immobilized at the bottom of the sea.

    Paleontologist Scott Evans studying fossils in the Australian outback. Credit: Droser Lab/UCR.

    Also analyzed were Ikaria, animals recently discovered by a team including Evans and Droser. They were about the size and shape of a grain of rice, and represent the first bilaterians — organisms with a front, back, and openings at either end connected by a gut. Evans said it’s likely Ikaria had mouths, though those weren’t preserved in the fossil records, and they crawled through organic matter “eating as they went.”

    All four of the animals were multicellular, with cells of different types. Most had symmetry on their left and right sides, as well as noncentralized nervous systems and musculature.

    Additionally, they seem to have been able to repair damaged body parts through a process known as apoptosis. The same genes involved are key elements of human immune systems, which helps to eliminate virus-infected and pre-cancerous cells.

    These animals likely had the genetic parts responsible for heads and the sensory organs usually found there. However, the complexity of interaction between these genes that would give rise to such features hadn’t yet been achieved.

    “The fact that we can say these genes were operating in something that’s been extinct for half a billion years is fascinating to me,” Evans said.

    Also analyzed were Ikaria, animals recently discovered by a team including Evans and Droser. They were about the size and shape of a grain of rice, and represent the first bilaterians — organisms with a front, back, and openings at either end connected by a gut. Evans said it’s likely Ikaria had mouths, though those weren’t preserved in the fossil records, and they crawled through organic matter “eating as they went.”

    All four of the animals were multicellular, with cells of different types. Most had symmetry on their left and right sides, as well as noncentralized nervous systems and musculature.

    Additionally, they seem to have been able to repair damaged body parts through a process known as apoptosis. The same genes involved are key elements of human immune systems, which helps to eliminate virus-infected and pre-cancerous cells.

    These animals likely had the genetic parts responsible for heads and the sensory organs usually found there. However, the complexity of interaction between these genes that would give rise to such features hadn’t yet been achieved.

    “The fact that we can say these genes were operating in something that’s been extinct for half a billion years is fascinating to me,” Evans said.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

  • richardmitnick 12:50 pm on March 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Scientists use Doppler to peer inside cells leading to better faster diagnoses and treatments of infections", A potentially fatal condition called bacterial sepsis or septicemia., Another benefit is the ability to quickly and directly diagnose which bacteria respond to which antibiotics., , , If the cells are not pathogenic the Doppler signal doesn’t change. If they are the Doppler signal changes quite significantly., Immortalized cell lines-cells that will live forever unless you kill them., Letting bacteria come into close contact with antibiotics that do not kill them only makes them more resistant to that antibiotic and more difficult to fight next time., , Microbiology, , , The team isolated living immortalized cells in multi-well plates to study them with Doppler., The team used Doppler to sneak a peek inside cells and track their metabolic activity in real time without having to wait for cultures to grow., These living cells are called “sentinels” and observing their reactions is called a biodynamic assay., Unknown microbes, Unknown microorganisms   

    From Purdue University(US): “Scientists use Doppler to peer inside cells leading to better faster diagnoses and treatments of infections” 

    From Purdue University(US)

    February 24, 2021

    Brittany Steff, writer

    David Nolte

    David Nolte works with the Doppler apparatus to peer inside living cells, giving him insight into intracellular activity, metabolism, and pathogenicity. Credit: Rebecca McElhoe/Purdue University photo.

    Doppler radar improves lives by peeking inside air masses to predict the weather. A Purdue University team is using similar technology to look inside living cells, introducing a method to detect pathogens and treat infections in ways that scientists never have before.

    In a new study, the team used Doppler to sneak a peek inside cells and track their metabolic activity in real time without having to wait for cultures to grow. Using this ability, the researchers can test microbes found in food, water, and other environments to see if they are pathogens, or help them identify the right medicine to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

    David Nolte, Purdue’s Edward M. Purcell Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy; John Turek, professor of basic medical sciences; Eduardo Ximenes, research scientist in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; and Michael Ladisch, Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, adapted this technique from their previous study on cancer cells in a paper released this month in Communications Biology.

    The team isolated living immortalized cells in multi-well plates to study them with Doppler. Credit: Rebecca McElhoe/Purdue University.

    Using funding from the National Science Foundation as well as Purdue’s Discovery Park Big Idea Challenge, the team worked with immortalized cell lines — cells that will live forever unless you kill them. They exposed the cells to different known pathogens, in this case salmonella and E. coli. They then used the Doppler effect to spy out how the cells reacted. These living cells are called “sentinels” and observing their reactions is called a biodynamic assay.

    “First we did biodynamic imaging applied to cancer, and now we’re applying it to other kinds cells,” Nolte said. “This research is unique. No one else is doing anything like it. That’s why it’s so intriguing.”

    This strategy is broadly applicable when scientists have isolated an unknown microbe and want to know if it is pathogenic — harmful to living tissues — or not. Such cells may show up in food supply, water sources or even in recently melted glaciers.

    “This directly measures whether a cell is pathogenic,” Ladisch said. “If the cells are not pathogenic, the Doppler signal doesn’t change. If they are, the Doppler signal changes quite significantly. Then you can use other methods to identify what the pathogen is. This is a quick way to tell friend from foe.”

    Being able to quickly discern whether a cell is harmful is incredibly helpful in situations where people encounter a living unknown microorganism, allowing scientists to know what precautions to take. Once it is known that a microbe is harmful, they can begin established protocols that allow them to determine the specific identity of the cell and determine an effective antibiotic against the microorganism.

    Another benefit is the ability to quickly and directly diagnose which bacteria respond to which antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance can be a devastating problem in hospitals and other environments where individuals with already compromised bodies and immune systems may be exposed to and infected by increasingly high amounts of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Sometimes this results in a potentially fatal condition called bacterial sepsis or septicemia. This is different from the viral sepsis that has been discussed in connection with COVID-19, though the scientists say their next steps will include investigating viral sepsis.

    Treating sepsis is challenging. Giving the patient broad-spectrum antibiotics, which sounds like a good idea, might not help and could make the situation worse for the next patient. Letting bacteria come into close contact with antibiotics that do not kill them only makes them more resistant to that antibiotic and more difficult to fight next time.

    Culturing the patient’s tissues and homing in on the correct antibiotic to use can take time the patient does not have, usually eight to 10 hours. This new biodynamic process allows scientists to put the patient’s bacterial samples in an array of tiny petri dishes containing the tissue sentinels and treat each sample with a different antibiotic. Using Doppler, they can quickly notice which bacterial samples have dramatic metabolic changes. The samples that do are the ones that have reacted to the antibiotic — the bacteria are dying, being defeated and beaten back by antibiotics.

    “When we treat with antibiotics, the bacteria don’t have to multiply much before they start to affect the tissue sentinels,” Nolte explained. “There are still too few bacteria to see or to measure directly, but they start to affect how the tissues behaves, which we can detect with Doppler.”

    In less than half the time a traditional culture and diagnosis takes, doctors could tell which antibiotic to administer, bolstering the patient’s chances for recovery. The researchers worked closely with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent and license their technologies. They plan to further explore whether this method would work for tissue samples exposed to nonliving pathogenic cells or dried spores, and to test for and treat viral sepsis.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Purdue University(US) is a public land-grant research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the flagship campus of the Purdue University system. The university was founded in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology, and agriculture in his name. The first classes were held on September 16, 1874, with six instructors and 39 students.

    The main campus in West Lafayette offers more than 200 majors for undergraduates, over 69 masters and doctoral programs, and professional degrees in pharmacy and veterinary medicine. In addition, Purdue has 18 intercollegiate sports teams and more than 900 student organizations. Purdue is a member of the Big Ten Conference and enrolls the second largest student body of any university in Indiana, as well as the fourth largest foreign student population of any university in the United States.

    Purdue University is a member of the Association of American Universities and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. Purdue has 25 American astronauts as alumni and as of April 2019, the university has been associated with 13 Nobel Prizes.

    In 1865, the Indiana General Assembly voted to take advantage of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act of 1862 and began plans to establish an institution with a focus on agriculture and engineering. Communities throughout the state offered facilities and funding in bids for the location of the new college. Popular proposals included the addition of an agriculture department at Indiana State University, at what is now Butler University(US). By 1869, Tippecanoe County’s offer included $150,000 (equivalent to $2.9 million in 2019) from Lafayette business leader and philanthropist John Purdue; $50,000 from the county; and 100 acres (0.4 km^2) of land from local residents.

    On May 6, 1869, the General Assembly established the institution in Tippecanoe County as Purdue University, in the name of the principal benefactor. Classes began at Purdue on September 16, 1874, with six instructors and 39 students. Professor John S. Hougham was Purdue’s first faculty member and served as acting president between the administrations of presidents Shortridge and White. A campus of five buildings was completed by the end of 1874. In 1875, Sarah A. Oren, the State Librarian of Indiana, was appointed Professor of Botany.

    Purdue issued its first degree, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, in 1875, and admitted its first female students that autumn.

    Emerson E. White, the university’s president, from 1876 to 1883, followed a strict interpretation of the Morrill Act. Rather than emulate the classical universities, White believed Purdue should be an “industrial college” and devote its resources toward providing a broad, liberal education with an emphasis on science, technology, and agriculture. He intended not only to prepare students for industrial work, but also to prepare them to be good citizens and family members.

    Part of White’s plan to distinguish Purdue from classical universities included a controversial attempt to ban fraternities, which was ultimately overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court, leading to White’s resignation. The next president, James H. Smart, is remembered for his call in 1894 to rebuild the original Heavilon Hall “one brick higher” after it had been destroyed by a fire.

    By the end of the nineteenth century, the university was organized into schools of agriculture, engineering (mechanical, civil, and electrical), and pharmacy; former U.S. President Benjamin Harrison served on the board of trustees. Purdue’s engineering laboratories included testing facilities for a locomotive, and for a Corliss steam engine—one of the most efficient engines of the time. The School of Agriculture shared its research with farmers throughout the state, with its cooperative extension services, and would undergo a period of growth over the following two decades. Programs in education and home economics were soon established, as well as a short-lived school of medicine. By 1925, Purdue had the largest undergraduate engineering enrollment in the country, a status it would keep for half a century.

    President Edward C. Elliott oversaw a campus building program between the world wars. Inventor, alumnus, and trustee David E. Ross coordinated several fundraisers, donated lands to the university, and was instrumental in establishing the Purdue Research Foundation. Ross’s gifts and fundraisers supported such projects as Ross–Ade Stadium, the Memorial Union, a civil engineering surveying camp, and Purdue University Airport. Purdue Airport was the country’s first university-owned airport and the site of the country’s first college-credit flight training courses.

    Amelia Earhart joined the Purdue faculty in 1935 as a consultant for these flight courses and as a counselor on women’s careers. In 1937, the Purdue Research Foundation provided the funds for the Lockheed Electra 10-E Earhart flew on her attempted round-the-world flight.

    Every school and department at the university was involved in some type of military research or training during World War II. During a project on radar receivers, Purdue physicists discovered properties of germanium that led to the making of the first transistor. The Army and the Navy conducted training programs at Purdue and more than 17,500 students, staff, and alumni served in the armed forces. Purdue set up about a hundred centers throughout Indiana to train skilled workers for defense industries. As veterans returned to the university under the G.I. Bill, first-year classes were taught at some of these sites to alleviate the demand for campus space. Four of these sites are now degree-granting regional campuses of the Purdue University system. On-campus housing became racially desegregated in 1947, following pressure from Purdue President Frederick L. Hovde and Indiana Governor Ralph F. Gates.

    After the war, Hovde worked to expand the academic opportunities at the university. A decade-long construction program emphasized science and research. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the university established programs in veterinary medicine, industrial management, and nursing, as well as the first computer science department in the United States. Undergraduate humanities courses were strengthened, although Hovde only reluctantly approved of graduate-level study in these areas. Purdue awarded its first Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1960. The programs in liberal arts and education, formerly administered by the School of Science, were soon split into an independent school.

    The official seal of Purdue was officially inaugurated during the university’s centennial in 1969.


    Consisting of elements from emblems that had been used unofficially for 73 years, the current seal depicts a griffin, symbolizing strength, and a three-part shield, representing education, research, and service.

    In recent years, Purdue’s leaders have continued to support high-tech research and international programs. In 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan visited the West Lafayette campus to give a speech about the influence of technological progress on job creation.

    In the 1990s, the university added more opportunities to study abroad and expanded its course offerings in world languages and cultures. The first buildings of the Discovery Park interdisciplinary research center were dedicated in 2004.

    Purdue launched a Global Policy Research Institute in 2010 to explore the potential impact of technical knowledge on public policy decisions.

    On April 27, 2017, Purdue University announced plans to acquire for-profit college Kaplan University and convert it to a public university in the state of Indiana, subject to multiple levels of approval. That school now operates as Purdue University Global, and aims to serve adult learners.


    Purdue’s campus is situated in the small city of West Lafayette, near the western bank of the Wabash River, across which sits the larger city of Lafayette. State Street, which is concurrent with State Road 26, divides the northern and southern portions of campus. Academic buildings are mostly concentrated on the eastern and southern parts of campus, with residence halls and intramural fields to the west, and athletic facilities to the north. The Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation (CityBus) operates eight campus loop bus routes on which students, faculty, and staff can ride free of charge with Purdue Identification.

    Organization and administration

    The university president, appointed by the board of trustees, is the chief administrative officer of the university. The office of the president oversees admission and registration, student conduct and counseling, the administration and scheduling of classes and space, the administration of student athletics and organized extracurricular activities, the libraries, the appointment of the faculty and conditions of their employment, the appointment of all non-faculty employees and the conditions of employment, the general organization of the university, and the planning and administration of the university budget.

    The Board of Trustees directly appoints other major officers of the university including a provost who serves as the chief academic officer for the university, several vice presidents with oversight over specific university operations, and the regional campus chancellors.

    Academic divisions

    Purdue is organized into thirteen major academic divisions.

    College of Agriculture

    The university’s College of Agriculture supports the university’s agricultural, food, life, and natural resource science programs. The college also supports the university’s charge as a land-grant university to support agriculture throughout the state; its agricultural extension program plays a key role in this.

    College of Education

    The College of Education offers undergraduate degrees in elementary education, social studies education, and special education, and graduate degrees in these and many other specialty areas of education. It has two departments: (a) Curriculum and Instruction and (b) Educational Studies.

    College of Engineering

    The Purdue University College of Engineering was established in 1874 with programs in Civil and Mechanical Engineering. The college now offers B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in more than a dozen disciplines. Purdue’s engineering program has also educated 24 of America’s astronauts, including Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan who were the first and last astronauts to have walked on the Moon, respectively. Many of Purdue’s engineering disciplines are recognized as top-ten programs in the U.S. The college as a whole is currently ranked 7th in the U.S. of all doctorate-granting engineering schools by U.S. News & World Report.

    Exploratory Studies

    The university’s Exploratory Studies program supports undergraduate students who enter the university without having a declared major. It was founded as a pilot program in 1995 and made a permanent program in 1999.

    College of Health and Human Sciences

    The College of Health and Human Sciences was established in 2010 and is the newest college. It offers B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in all 10 of its academic units.

    College of Liberal Arts

    Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts contains the arts, social sciences and humanities programs at the university. Liberal arts courses have been taught at Purdue since its founding in 1874. The School of Science, Education, and Humanities was formed in 1953. In 1963, the School of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education was established, although Bachelor of Arts degrees had begun to be conferred as early as 1959. In 1989, the School of Liberal Arts was created to encompass Purdue’s arts, humanities, and social sciences programs, while education programs were split off into the newly formed School of Education. The School of Liberal Arts was renamed the College of Liberal Arts in 2005.

    Krannert School of Management

    The Krannert School of Management offers management courses and programs at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels.

    College of Pharmacy

    The university’s College of Pharmacy was established in 1884 and is the 3rd oldest state-funded school of pharmacy in the United States. The school offers two undergraduate programs leading to the B.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences (BSPS) and the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) professional degree. Graduate programs leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are offered in three departments (Industrial and Physical Pharmacy, Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and Pharmacy Practice). Additionally, the school offers several non-degree certificate programs and post-graduate continuing education activities.

    Purdue Polytechnic Institute

    The Purdue Polytechnic Institute offers bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in a wide range of technology-related disciplines. With over 30,000 living alumni, it is one of the largest technology schools in the United States.

    College of Science

    The university’s College of Science houses the university’s science departments: Biological Sciences; Chemistry; Computer Science; Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences; Mathematics; Physics & Astronomy; and Statistics. The science courses offered by the college account for about one-fourth of Purdue’s one million student credit hours.

    College of Veterinary Medicine

    The College of Veterinary Medicine is accredited by the AVMA to offer the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in veterinary technology, master’s and Ph.D. degrees, and residency programs leading to specialty board certification. Within the state of Indiana, the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine is the only veterinary school, while the Indiana University School of Medicine is one of only two medical schools (the other being Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine). The two schools frequently collaborate on medical research projects.

    Honors College

    Purdue’s Honors College supports an honors program for undergraduate students at the university.

    The Graduate School

    The university’s Graduate School supports graduate students at the university.


    The university expended $622.814 million in support of research system-wide in 2017, using funds received from the state and federal governments, industry, foundations, and individual donors. The faculty and more than 400 research laboratories put Purdue University among the leading research institutions. Purdue University is considered by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education to have “very high research activity”. Purdue also was rated the nation’s fourth best place to work in academia, according to rankings released in November 2007 by The Scientist magazine. Purdue’s researchers provide insight, knowledge, assistance, and solutions in many crucial areas. These include, but are not limited to Agriculture; Business and Economy; Education; Engineering; Environment; Healthcare; Individuals, Society, Culture; Manufacturing; Science; Technology; Veterinary Medicine. The Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP), a global research consortium focused on global economic governance challenges (trade, climate, resource use) is also coordinated by the University. Purdue University generated a record $438 million in sponsored research funding during the 2009–10 fiscal year with participation from National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Health and Human Services. Purdue University was ranked fourth in Engineering research expenditures amongst all the colleges in the United States in 2017, with a research expenditure budget of 244.8 million.

    Purdue University established the Discovery Park to bring innovation through multidisciplinary action. In all of the eleven centers of Discovery Park, ranging from entrepreneurship to energy and advanced manufacturing, research projects reflect a large economic impact and address global challenges. Purdue University’s nanotechnology research program, built around the new Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park, ranks among the best in the nation.

    The Purdue Research Park which opened in 1961 was developed by Purdue Research Foundation which is a private, nonprofit foundation created to assist Purdue. The park is focused on companies operating in the arenas of life sciences, homeland security, engineering, advanced manufacturing and information technology. It provides an interactive environment for experienced Purdue researchers and for private business and high-tech industry. It currently employs more than 3,000 people in 155 companies, including 90 technology-based firms. The Purdue Research Park was ranked first by the Association of University Research Parks in 2004.

    Purdue’s library system consists of fifteen locations throughout the campus, including an archives and special collections research center, an undergraduate library, and several subject-specific libraries. More than three million volumes, including one million electronic books, are held at these locations. The Library houses the Amelia Earhart Collection, a collection of notes and letters belonging to Earhart and her husband George Putnam along with records related to her disappearance and subsequent search efforts. An administrative unit of Purdue University Libraries, Purdue University Press has its roots in the 1960 founding of Purdue University Studies by President Frederick Hovde on a $12,000 grant from the Purdue Research Foundation. This was the result of a committee appointed by President Hovde after the Department of English lamented the lack of publishing venues in the humanities. Since the 1990s, the range of books published by the Press has grown to reflect the work from other colleges at Purdue University especially in the areas of agriculture, health, and engineering. Purdue University Press publishes print and ebook monograph series in a range of subject areas from literary and cultural studies to the study of the human-animal bond. In 1993 Purdue University Press was admitted to membership of the Association of American University Presses. Purdue University Press publishes around 25 books a year and 20 learned journals in print, in print & online, and online-only formats in collaboration with Purdue University Libraries.


    Purdue’s Sustainability Council, composed of University administrators and professors, meets monthly to discuss environmental issues and sustainability initiatives at Purdue. The University’s first LEED Certified building was an addition to the Mechanical Engineering Building, which was completed in Fall 2011. The school is also in the process of developing an arboretum on campus. In addition, a system has been set up to display live data detailing current energy production at the campus utility plant. The school holds an annual “Green Week” each fall, an effort to engage the Purdue community with issues relating to environmental sustainability.


    In its 2021 edition, U.S. News & World Report ranked Purdue University the 5th most innovative national university, tied for the 17th best public university in the United States, tied for 53rd overall, and 114th best globally. U.S. News & World Report also rated Purdue tied for 36th in “Best Undergraduate Teaching, 83rd in “Best Value Schools”, tied for 284th in “Top Performers on Social Mobility”, and the undergraduate engineering program tied for 9th at schools whose highest degree is a doctorate.

  • richardmitnick 10:37 pm on February 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Lakes isolated beneath Antarctic ice could be more amenable to life than thought", , As they have no access to sunlight microbes in these environments do not gain energy through photosynthesis but by processing chemicals., , , , , Microbiology, Our eyes now turn to predicting the physical conditions in liquid water reservoirs on icy moons and planets., The work could even provide insights into similar lakes beneath the surfaces of icy moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn and the southern ice cap on Mars., University of Lyon [Université de Lyon](FR)   

    From Imperial College London(UK) via phys.org: “Lakes isolated beneath Antarctic ice could be more amenable to life than thought” 

    From Imperial College London(UK)



    February 17, 2021

    Ellsworth Mountains, on transit to Subglacial Lake Ellsworth, December 2012. Credit: Peter Bucktrout, British Antarctic Survey.

    Lakes underneath the Antarctic ice sheet could be more hospitable than previously thought, allowing them to host more microbial life.

    This is the finding of a new study that could help researchers determine the best spots to search for microbes that could be unique to the region, having been isolated and evolving alone for millions of years. The work could even provide insights into similar lakes beneath the surfaces of icy moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn, and the southern ice cap on Mars.

    Lakes can form beneath the thick ice sheet of Antarctica where the weight of ice causes immense pressure at the base, lowering the melting point of ice. This, coupled with gentle heating from rocks below and the insulation provided by the ice from the cold air above, allows pools of liquid water to accumulate.

    More than 400 of these ‘subglacial’ lakes have been discovered beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, many of which have been isolated from each other and the atmosphere for millions of years.

    This means that any life in these lakes could be just as ancient, providing insights into how life might adapt and evolve under persistent extreme cold conditions, which have occurred previously in Earth’s history.

    Expeditions have successfully drilled into two small subglacial lakes at the edge of the ice sheet, where water can rapidly flow in or out. These investigations revealed microbial life beneath the ice, but whether larger lakes isolated beneath the central ice sheet contain and sustain life remains an open question.

    Now, in a study published today in Science Advances, researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Lyon [Université de Lyon](FR) and the British Antarctic Survey(UK) have shown subglacial lakes may be more hospitable than they first appear.

    As they have no access to sunlight, microbes in these environments do not gain energy through photosynthesis, but by processing chemicals. These are concentrated in sediments on the lake beds, where life is thought to be most likely.

    However, for life to be more widespread, and therefore easier to sample and detect, the water in the lake must be mixed—must move around—so that sediments, nutrients and oxygen can be more evenly distributed.

    In lakes on the surface of the Earth, this mixing is caused by the wind and by heating from the sun, causing convection currents. As neither of these can act on subglacial lakes, it could be assumed there is no mixing.

    However, the team behind the new study found that another source of heat is sufficient to cause convection currents in most subglacial lakes. The heat is geothermal: rising from the interior of the Earth and generated by the combination of heat left over from the formation of the planet and the decay of radioactive elements.

    The researchers calculated that this heat can stimulate convection currents in subglacial lakes that suspend small particles of sediment and move oxygen around, allowing more of the water body to be hospitable to life.

    Lead researcher Dr. Louis Couston, from the University of Lyon [Université de Lyon](FR) and the British Antarctic Survey(UK) said: “The water in lakes isolated under the Antarctic ice sheet for millions of years is not still and motionless; the flow of water is actually quite dynamic, enough to cause fine sediment to be suspended in the water. With dynamic flow of water, the entire body of water may be habitable, even if more life remains focused on the floors.”This changes our appreciation of how these habitats work, and how in future we might plan to sample them when their exploration takes place.”

    The researchers’ predictions may soon be tested, as a team from the UK and Chile plan to sample a lake called Lake CECs in the next few years. Samples taken throughout the depth of the lake water will show just where microbial life is found.

    The predictions could also be used to generate theories about life elsewhere in the Solar System, as co-author Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute—Climate Change and Environment at Imperial, explains: “Our eyes now turn to predicting the physical conditions in liquid water reservoirs on icy moons and planets. The physics of subglacial water pockets is similar on Earth and icy moons, but the geophysical setting is quite different, which means that we’re working on new models and theories.

    “With new missions targeting icy moons and increasing computing capabilities, it’s a great time for astrobiology and the search for life beyond the Earth.”

    See the full article here.

    See also From British Antarctic Survey via Science Alert (AU): “Mystery Lifeforms Have Been Found in The Hostile Darkness Beneath Antarctica” here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Imperial College London (UK) is a science-based university with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial is committed to developing the next generation of researchers, scientists and academics through collaboration across disciplines. Located in the heart of London, Imperial is a multidisciplinary space for education, research, translation and commercialisation, harnessing science and innovation to tackle global challenges.

  • richardmitnick 8:49 am on January 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Science Begins at Brookhaven Lab's New Cryo-EM Research Facility", , , , , , , Microbiology,   

    From DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory: “Science Begins at Brookhaven Lab’s New Cryo-EM Research Facility” 

    From DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory

    January 14, 2021
    Cara Laasch
    (631) 344-8458

    Peter Genzer
    (631) 344-3174

    Brookhaven Lab’s Laboratory for BioMolecular Structure is now open for experiments with visiting researchers using two NY State-funded cryo-electron microscopes.

    Brookhaven Lab Scientist Guobin Hu loaded the samples sent from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine into the new cryo-EM at LBMS.

    On January 8, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory welcomed the first virtually visiting researchers to the Laboratory for BioMolecular Structure (LBMS), a new cryo-electron microscopy facility. DOE’s Office of Science funds operations at this new national resource, while funding for the initial construction and instrument costs was provided by NY State. This state-of-the-art research center for life sciences imaging offers researchers access to advanced cryo-electron microscopes (cryo-EM) for studying complex proteins as well as the architecture of cells and tissues.

    Many modern advances in biology, medicine, and biotechnology were made possible by researchers learning how biological structures such as proteins, tissues, and cells interact with each other. But to truly reveal their function as well as the role they play in diseases, scientists need to visualize these structures at the atomic level. By creating high-resolution images of biological structure using cryo-EMs, researchers can accelerate advances in many fields including drug discovery, biofuel development, and medical treatments.

    This first group of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine used the high-end instruments at LBMS to investigate the structure of solute transporters. These transporters are proteins that help with many biological functions in humans, such as absorbing nutrients in the digestive system or maintaining excitability of neurons in the nervous system. This makes them critical for drug design since they are validated drug targets and many of them also mediate drug uptake or export. By revealing their structure, the researchers gain more understanding for the functions and mechanisms of the transporters, which can improve drug design. The Baylor College researchers gained access to the cryo-EMs at LBMS through a simple proposal process.

    “Our experience at LBMS has been excellent. The facility has been very considerate in minimizing user effort in submission of the applications, scheduling of microscope time, and data collection,” said Ming Zhou, Professor in the Department of Biochemistry of Molecular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine.

    All researchers from academia and industry can request free access to the LBMS instruments and collaborate with the LBMS’ expert staff.

    During the measurement of the samples, the LBMS team interacted with the scientists from Baylor College of Medicine through Zoom to coordinate the research.

    “By allowing science-driven use of our instruments, we will meet the urgent need to advance the molecular understanding of biological processes, enabling deeper insight for bio-engineering the properties of plants and microbes or for understanding disease,” said Liguo Wang, Scientific Operations Director of the LBMS. “We are very excited to welcome our first visiting researchers for their remote experiment time. The researchers received time at our instruments through a call for general research proposals at the end of August 2020. Since September, we have been running the instruments only for COVID-19-related work and commissioning.”

    LBMS has two cryo-electron microscopes—funded by $15 million from NY State’s Empire State Development—and the facility has space for additional microscopes to enhance its capabilities in the future. In recognition of NY State’s partnership on the project and to bring the spirit of New York to the center, each laboratory room is associated with a different iconic New York State landmark, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Stonewall National Monument, and the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.

    “By dedicating our different instruments to New York landmarks, we wanted to acknowledge the role the State played in this new national resource and its own unique identity within Brookhaven Lab,” said Sean McSweeney, LBMS Director. “Brookhaven Lab has a number of facilities offering scientific capabilities to researchers from both industry and academia. In our case, we purposefully built our center next to the National Synchrotron Light Source II, which also serves the life science research community. We hope that this co-location will promote interactions and synergy between scientists for exchanging ideas on improving performance of both facilities.”

    Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) [below] is a DOE Office of Science User Facility and one of the most advanced synchrotron light sources in the world. NSLS-II enables scientists from academia and industry to tackle the most important challenges in quantum materials, energy storage and conversion, condensed matter and materials physics, chemistry, life sciences, and more by offering extremely bright light, ranging from infrared light to x-rays. The vibrant structural biology and bio-imaging community at NSLS-II offers many complementary techniques for studying a wide variety of biological samples.

    “At NSLS-II, we build strong partnership with our sister facilities, and we are looking forward to working closely with our colleagues at LBMS. For our users, this partnership will offer them access to expert staff at both facilities as well as to a versatile set of complementary techniques,” said NSLS-II Director John Hill. “NSLS-II has a suite of highly automated x-ray crystallography and solution scattering beamlines as well as imaging beamlines with world-leading spatial resolution. All these beamlines offer comprehensive techniques to further our understanding of biological system. Looking to the future, we expect to combine other x-ray techniques with the cryo-EM data to provide unprecedented information on the structure and dynamics of the engines of life.”

    LBMS operations are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. NSLS-II is a DOE Office of Science user facility.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Brookhaven Campus.

    BNL Center for Functional Nanomaterials.



    BNL RHIC Campus.

    BNL/RHIC Star Detector.

    BNL/RHIC Phenix.

    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

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