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  • richardmitnick 5:36 pm on January 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Autism Diagnosis Test Needs Improvement, , Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Rutgers Researchers Say", Rutgers University, Study finds inconsistencies in a broadly used autism test., The researchers digitized the test by attaching wearable technology like an Apple Watch to two clinicians and 52 children who came in four times and took two different versions of the test., The results showed that switching clinicians may change a child’s scores and consequently influences the diagnosis.   

    From Rutgers University: “Autism Diagnosis Test Needs Improvement, Rutgers Researchers Say” 

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    From Rutgers University

    January 27, 2020
    Megan Schumann
    848-445-1907
    MEGAN.SCHUMANN@rutgers.edu

    Study finds inconsistencies in a broadly used autism test.

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    Rutgers researchers have found that a test widely used to diagnose whether children have autism is less reliable than previously assumed.

    Rutgers researchers have found that a test widely used to diagnose whether children have autism is less reliable than previously assumed.

    The study is published in the journal Neural Computation.

    The standardized test, known as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), assesses communication skills, social interaction and play for children who may have autism or other developmental disorders.

    The researchers digitized the test by attaching wearable technology, like an Apple Watch, to two clinicians and 52 children who came in four times and took two different versions of the test.

    When researchers looked at the scores of the entire cohort, they found they did not distribute normally – which could mean a chance of false positives inflating the prevalence of autism, among other implications.

    The results showed that switching clinicians may change a child’s scores and consequently influences the diagnosis. The researchers found similar results when they analyzed open-access data of 1,324 people ages 5 to 65, said Elizabeth Torres, associate professor of psychology in Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences, and director of The New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence.

    “The ADOS test informs and steers much of the science of autism, and it has done great work thus far,” said Torres, whose expertise has brought emerging computer science technology to autism. “However, social interactions are much too complex and fast to be captured by the naked eye, particularly when the grader is biased to look for specific signs and to expect specific behaviors.”

    The researchers suggest combining clinical observations with data from wearable biosensors, such as smartwatches, smartphones and other off-the-shelf technology.

    By doing so, they argue, researchers may make data collection less invasive, lower the rate of false positives by using empirically derived statistics rather than assumed models, shorten the time to diagnosis, and make diagnoses more reliable, and more objective for all clinicians.

    Torres said autism researchers should aim for tests that capture the accelerated rate of change of neurodevelopment to help develop treatments that slow down the aging of the nervous system.

    “Autism affects one out of 34 children in New Jersey,” she said. “Reliance on observational tests that do not tackle the neurological conditions of the child from an early age could be dangerous. Clinical tests score a child based on expected aspects of behaviors. These data are useful, but subtle, spontaneous aspects of natural behaviors, which are more variable and less predictable, remain hidden. These hidden aspects of behavior may hold important keys for personalized treatments, like protecting nerve cells against damage, or impairment, which could delay or altogether stop progression.”

    The study was co-authored by Richa Rai, a graduate student in psychology at Rutgers University, Sejal Mistry, a former Rutgers Biomathematics student now at the University of Utah Medical School, and Brenda Gupta from Montclair State University.

    See the full article here .


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    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:32 pm on January 25, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "LED Lighting in Greenhouses Helps But Standards are Needed", , , , Rutgers University, White LED lamps are used to improve basil production in a greenhouse.   

    From Rutgers University: “LED Lighting in Greenhouses Helps But Standards are Needed” 

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    From Rutgers University

    January 21, 2020
    Office of Communications

    1
    White LED lamps are used to improve basil production in a greenhouse. Photo: A.J. Both/Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

    While LED lighting can enhance plant growth in greenhouses, standards are needed to determine the optimal intensity and colors of light, according to Rutgers research that could help improve the energy efficiency of horticultural lighting products.

    Many lighting companies market their LED (light-emitting diode) products with claims of delivering an optimal “light recipe” that often consists of a combination of wavelengths and color ratios, such as a 4-to-1 red to blue ratio on the spectrum (colors of a rainbow). Plant scientists often use this information to evaluate the potential effects of lamps on plant growth and development. But standardized procedures on how to calculate these ratios are lacking, according to a study soon to be published in the journal Acta Horticulturae.

    “The more efficient supplemental lighting sources are, the less electric power growers need to finish their crops,” said senior author A.J. Both, a professor and extension specialist in controlled environment engineering in the Department of Environmental Sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “We hope to help make indoor crop production more sustainable and affordable.”

    Increased energy efficiency can have a big impact on the bottom line, and information about new crop lighting strategies will help the burgeoning indoor farming industry, Both said.

    In greenhouses and controlled environments, electric lamps are used to supplement sunlight and extend lighting times to produce horticultural crops, such as vegetables, flowers and herbs, according to a previous study led by Both. Recent advances in energy-efficient LED technology provide the horticultural industry with multiple lighting options. But growers can’t easily compare technologies and LED options because of a lack of independent data on how lamps perform. That study led to a proposed standardized product label allowing for comparisons of lamps across manufacturers.

    Both and colleagues continue to focus on independently assessing performance metrics such as power consumption, efficiency, light intensity and the light distribution pattern and relaying that information to commercial growers. Recent advancements have provided opportunities to precisely control the light from LED lamps and study their impacts on plant growth and development, according to Both’s research. Both and his team work closely with plant scientists who study the impact of light on plants grown for food or ornamental crops.

    The new study recommends using a spectroradiometer, an instrument that measures light output across a specific range of wavelengths. Using such an instrument, various light ratios can be calculated. The researchers reported substantial differences in light ratios comparing sunlight with common lamps, including LED, high-pressure sodium, incandescent and fluorescent lamps used for plant lighting. The researchers hope that their work will contribute to the development of standard definitions for specific wavebands (ranges of wavelengths) that are important for plant growth and development.

    The lead author of the new study is Timothy Shelford, a part-time research specialist at Rutgers who also works at Cornell University. Claude Wallace, a Rutgers graduate and part-time employee, also contributed to the study.

    ditor’s Note: this article originally appeared in Rutgers Today.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:11 pm on January 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Influential electrons? Physicists uncover a quantum relationship", How electron energies vary from region to region in a particular quantum state, , , , , Quantum hybridization in the relationships between moving electrons, Rutgers University, Spectromicroscopy   

    From New York University, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Rutgers University, and MIT via phys.org: “Influential electrons? Physicists uncover a quantum relationship” 

    From

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    phys.org

    A team of physicists has mapped how electron energies vary from region to region in a particular quantum state with unprecedented clarity. This understanding reveals an underlying mechanism by which electrons influence one another, termed quantum “hybridization,” that had been invisible in previous experiments.

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    Credit: CC0 Public Domain

    The findings, the work of scientists at New York University, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Rutgers University, and MIT, are reported in the journal Nature Physics.

    “This sort of relationship is essential to understanding a quantum electron system—and the foundation of all movement—but had often been studied from a theoretical standpoint and not thought of as observable through experiments,” explains Andrew Wray, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Physics and one of the paper’s co-authors. “Remarkably, this work reveals a diversity of energetic environments inside the same material, allowing for comparisons that let us spot how electrons shift between states.”

    The scientists focused their work on bismuth selenide, or Bi2Se3, a material that has been under intense investigation for the last decade as the basis of advanced information and quantum computing technologies. Research in 2008 and 2009 identified bismuth selenide to host a rare “topological insulator” quantum state that changes the way electrons at its surface interact with and store information.

    Studies since then have confirmed a number of theoretically inspired ideas about topological insulator surface electrons. However, because these particles are on a material’s surface, they are exposed to environmental factors not present in the bulk of the material, causing them to manifest and move in different ways from region to region.

    The resulting knowledge gap, together with similar challenges for other material classes, has motivated scientists to develop techniques for measuring electrons with micron- or nanometer- scale spatial resolution, allowing researchers to examine electron interaction without external interference.

    The Nature Physics research is one of the first studies to use this new generation of experimental tools, termed “”—and the first spectromicroscopy investigation of Bi2Se3. This procedure can track how the motion of surface electrons differs from region to region within a material. Rather than focusing on average electron activity over a single large region on a sample surface, the scientists collected data from nearly 1,000 smaller regions.

    By broadening the terrain through this approach, they could observe signatures of quantum hybridization in the relationships between moving electrons, such as a repulsion between electronic states that come close to one another in energy. Measurements from this method illuminated the variation of electronic quasiparticles across the material surface.

    “Looking at how the electronic states vary in tandem with one another across the sample surface reveals conditional relationships between different kinds of electrons, and it’s really a new way of studying a material,” explains Erica Kotta, an NYU graduate student and first author on the paper. “The results provide new insight into the physics of topological insulators by providing the first direct measurement of quantum hybridization between electrons near the surface.”

    See the full article here .

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    About Science X in 100 words

    Science X™ is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004 (Physorg.com), Science X’s readership has grown steadily to include 5 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Science X publishes approximately 200 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Science X community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.
    Mission 12 reasons for reading daily news on Science X Organization Key editors and writersinclude 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:34 pm on January 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Rutgers Leads $1.5 Million Project for Ocean Acidification Monitoring on the U.S. Northeast Shelf", , , , Rutgers University   

    From Rutgers University: “Rutgers Leads $1.5 Million Project for Ocean Acidification Monitoring on the U.S. Northeast Shelf” 

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    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    January 6, 2020

    1
    Grace Saba, assistant professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences.

    Grace Saba, assistant professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences (DMCS), is the lead principal investigator and John Wilkin, professor in DMCS, is co-principal investigator of $1,499,895 million project observing ocean acidification on the U.S. Northeast Shelf, from the Mid-Atlantic to the Gulf of Maine.

    The project, “Optimizing Ocean Acidification Observations for Model Parameterization in the Coupled Slope Water System of the U.S. Northeast Large Marine Ecosystem,” is funded by the NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program (OAP), which has teamed up with the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) to fund a total of four projects aimed at improving the observing system design for characterizing ocean acidification.

    The U.S. Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem supports some of the nation’s most economically valuable coastal fisheries, and most of this revenue comes from shellfish that are sensitive to ocean acidification.

    Additional co-PIs on the Rutgers-led project include Charles Flagg and Janet Nye, Stony Brook University; Joe Salisbury and Doug Vandemark, University of New Hampshire; Neal Pettigrew, University of Maine; Gerhard Kuska, Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System; and John R. Morrison, Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems. The three-year project runs from September 2019 to August 2022.

    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of eyes on our changing ocean at any moment: Buoys, gliders, saildrones and ships measure carbonate chemistry and new ocean observing technologies are continually being created to monitor ocean acidification. As science and technology progress it is important to ensure that the most up-to-date knowledge is applied to the task at hand.

    This work will evaluate the capability of existing observations to characterize the magnitude and extent of acidification and explore alternative regional ocean acidification observing approaches. Ultimately this work will minimize errors in measurements, better integrate existing observations, and minimize costs of monitoring ocean acidification.

    The research team, led by Saba, plans to add seasonal deployments of underwater gliders equipped with sensors, including newly developed pH sensors, to understand how the ocean chemistry in this region varies on seasonal timescales relevant to organism ecologies and life histories. They also plan to improve existing regional sampling with additional carbonate chemistry measurements on other platforms in several key locations, and compiling and integrating this new information with existing OA assets.

    The researchers will then apply these data to an existing ocean ecosystem/biogeochemical (BGC) model to explore how carbonate chemistry is changing on the Northeast Shelf. The model will then be used to test hypotheses focused on what drives ocean acidification and identify locations for long term monitoring.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:24 pm on December 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "GODDESS detector sees the origins of elements", ATLAS-Argonne Tandem Linear Accelerator System, , Insight into astrophysical nuclear reactions that produce the elements heavier than hydrogen., , ORRUBA-Oak Ridge Rutgers University Barrel Array, , Products of nuclear transmutations are spotted with unprecedented detail., Rutgers University   

    From Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Rutgers University: “GODDESS detector sees the origins of elements” 

    i1

    From Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    with

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    Rutgers University

    December 17, 2019
    Dawn M Levy
    levyd@ornl.gov
    865.576.6448

    1
    ORNL GODDESS Detector

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    GODDESS is shown coupled to GRETINA with experimenters, from left, Heather Garland, Chad Ummel and Gwen Seymour, all of Rutgers University, and Rajesh Ghimire of University of Tennessee–Knoxville and ORNL; and from left (back row), Josh Hooker of UTK and Steven Pain of ORNL. Credit: Andrew Ratkiewicz/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

    Products of nuclear transmutations are spotted with unprecedented detail.

    Ancient Greeks imagined that everything in the natural world came from their goddess Physis; her name is the source of the word physics. Present-day nuclear physicists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a GODDESS of their own—a detector providing insight into astrophysical nuclear reactions that produce the elements heavier than hydrogen (this lightest of elements was created right after the Big Bang).

    Researchers developed a state-of-the-art charged particle detector at ORNL called the Oak Ridge Rutgers University Barrel Array, or ORRUBA, to study reactions with beams of astrophysically important radioactive nuclei.

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    Schematic of how ORRUBA would be coupled to the 100-unit Gammasphere Compton-suppressed Ge detector array. The barrel array would be augmented by up to 4 annular strip detectors to be placed at forward and backward angles in the laboratory. All electronics signals and preamplifier boxes would be downstream of ORRUBA and before the quadrupole magnet of the Fragment Mass Analyzer. Provided by Ratkiewicz and Shand.

    Recently, its silicon detectors were upgraded and tightly packed to prepare it to work in concert with large germanium-based gamma-ray detectors, such as Gammasphere, and the next-generation gamma-ray tracking detector system, GRETINA. The result is GODDESS—Gammasphere/GRETINA ORRUBA: Dual Detectors for Experimental Structure Studies. [Watch a time-lapse video below of one day of work to couple GODDESS with Gammasphere for the first time.]


    GODDESS day 4 video

    With millimeter position resolution, GODDESS records emissions from reactions taking place as energetic beams of radioactive nuclei gain or lose protons and neutrons and emit gamma rays or charged particles, such as protons, deuterons, tritons, helium-3 or alpha particles.

    “The charged particles in the silicon detectors tell us how the nucleus was formed, and the gamma rays tell us how it decayed,” explained Steven Pain of ORNL’s Physics Division. “We merge the two sets of data and use them as if they were one detector for a complete picture of the reaction.”

    Earlier this year, Pain led more than 50 scientists from 12 institutions in GODDESS experiments to understand the cosmic origins of the elements. He is principal investigator of two experiments and co-principal investigator of a third. Data analysis of the complex experiments is expected to take two years.

    “Almost all heavy stable nuclei in the universe are created through unstable nuclei reacting and then coming back to stability,” Pain said.

    A century of nuclear transmutation

    In 1911 Ernest Rutherford was astounded to observe that alpha particles—heavy and positively charged—sometimes bounced backward. He concluded they must have hit something extremely dense and positively charged—possible only if almost all an atom’s mass were concentrated in its center. He had discovered the atomic nucleus. He went on to study the nucleons—protons and neutrons—that make up the nucleus and that are surrounded by shells of orbiting electrons.

    One element can turn into another when nucleons are captured, exchanged or expelled. When this happens in stars, it’s called nucleosynthesis. Rutherford stumbled upon this process in the lab through an anomalous result in a series of particle-scattering experiments. The first artificial nuclear transmutation reacted nitrogen-14 with an alpha particle to create oxygen-17 and a proton. The feat was published in 1919, seeding advances in the newly invented cloud chamber, discoveries about short-lived nuclei (which make up 90% of nuclei), and experiments that continue to this day as a top priority for physics.

    “A century ago, the first nuclear reaction of stable isotopes was inferred by human observers counting flashes of light with a microscope,” noted Pain, who is Rutherford’s “great-great-grandson” in an academic sense: his PhD thesis advisor was Wilton Catford, whose advisor was Kenneth Allen, whose advisor was William Burcham, whose advisor was Rutherford. “Today, advanced detectors like GODDESS allow us to explore, with great sensitivity, reactions of the difficult-to-access unstable radioactive nuclei that drive the astrophysical explosions generating many of the stable elements around us.”

    Understanding thermonuclear runaway

    One experiment Pain led focused on phosphorus-30, which is important for understanding certain thermonuclear runaways. “We’re looking to understand nucleosynthesis in nova explosions—the most common stellar explosions,” he said. A nova occurs in a binary system in which a white dwarf gravitationally pulls hydrogen-rich material from a nearby “companion” star until thermonuclear runaway occurs and the white dwarf’s surface layer explodes. The ashes of these explosions change the chemical composition of the galaxy.

    University of Tennessee graduate student Rajesh Ghimire is analyzing the data from the phosphorus experiment, which transferred a neutron from deuterium in a target onto an intense beam of the short-lived radioactive isotope phosphorus-30. The particle and gamma-ray detectors spotted what emerged, correlating times, places and energies of proton and gamma ray production.

    The phosphorus-30 nucleus strongly affects the ratios of most of the heavier elements produced during a nova explosion. If the phosphorus-30 reactions are understood, the elemental ratios can be used to measure the peak temperature that the nova reached. “That’s an observable that somebody with a telescope could see,” Pain said.

    Illuminating heavy-element creation

    The second experiment Pain led transmuted a much heavier isotope, tellurium-134. “This nucleus is involved in the rapid neutron capture process, or r process, which is the way that half the elements heavier than iron are formed in the universe,” Pain related. It occurs in an environment with many free neutrons—perhaps supernovae or neutron star mergers. “We know it happens, because we see the elements around us, but we still don’t know exactly where and how it occurs.”

    Understanding r-process nucleosynthesis will be a major activity at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), a DOE Office of Science user facility scheduled to open at Michigan State University (MSU) in 2022. FRIB will enable discoveries about rare isotopes, nuclear astrophysics and fundamental interactions, and applications in medicine, homeland security and industry.

    “The r process is a very, very complicated network of reactions; many, many pieces go into it,” Pain emphasized. “You can’t do one experiment and have the answer.”

    The tellurium-134 experiment starts with radioactive californium made at ORNL and installed at the Argonne Tandem Linear Accelerator System (ATLAS), a DOE Office of Science user facility at Argonne National Laboratory.

    4
    Argonne Tandem Linear Accelerator System (ATLAS)

    The californium fissions spontaneously, with tellurium-134 among the products. A beam of tellurium-134 is accelerated into a deuterium target and absorbs a neutron, spitting out a proton in the process. “Tellurium-134 comes in, but tellurium-135 goes out,” Pain summed up.

    “We detect that proton in the silicon detectors of GODDESS. The tellurium-135 continues down the beam line. The energy and angle of the proton tell us about the tellurium-135 we’ve created—it could be in its ground state or in any one of a number of excited states. The excited states decay by emitting a gamma ray.” The germanium detectors reveal the energy of the gamma rays with unprecedented resolution to show how the nucleus decayed. Then the nucleus enters a gas detector, creating a track of ionized gas from which the removed electrons are collected. Measuring the energy deposited in different regions of the detector allows researchers to definitively identify the nucleus.

    Rutgers graduate student Chad Ummel is focusing on the experiment’s analysis. Said Pain, “We’re trying to understand the role of this tellurium-134 nucleus in the r process in different potential astrophysical sites. The reaction flow in this network of neutron capture reactions affects the abundances of the elements created. We need to understand this network to understand the origin of the heavy elements.”

    Future of the GODDESS

    The researchers will continue developing equipment and techniques for current use of GODDESS at Argonne and MSU and future use at FRIB, which will give unprecedented access to many unstable nuclei currently out of reach. Future experiments will employ two strategies.

    One uses fast beams of nuclei that have been fragmented into other nuclei. Pain likens the diverse nuclear products to a whole zoo hurtling down the beam line in chaos. The fast-moving nuclei pass through a series of magnets that select desired “zebras” and discard unwanted “giraffes,” “gnus” and “hippos.”

    The other approach stops the ions with a material, re-ionizes them, then reaccelerates them before they can radioactively decay. Explained Pain, “It allows you to corral all zebras, calm them down, then orderly bring them out in the direction, rate and speed that you want.”

    Taming the elements that make planets and people possible—that’s indeed the domain of a physics GODDESS.

    DOE’s Office of Science supports Pain’s research. DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration funded some past detector research.

    See the full article here .


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    ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

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  • richardmitnick 11:33 am on November 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Nathan Yee, Rutgers University   

    From Rutgers University: “Are We Alone in the Universe? Rutgers Professor Explores Possibility of Life on Mars and Beyond” 

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    From Rutgers University

    November 25, 2019
    Cynthia Medina
    c.medina@rutgers.edu

    Rutgers’ first astrobiology course explores possibility of alien microbes on other planets and moons.

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    Nathan Yee, a professor of geomicrobiology and geochemistry and a co-investigator at Rutgers ENIGMA, co-created and teaches Rutgers’ first course on astrobiology. (In his hand is a fossilized trilobite, a hard-shelled, segmented arthropod that existed over 520 million years ago in Earth’s ancient seas.) Photo: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University.

    People have spent centuries wondering whether life exists beyond Earth, but only recently have scientists developed the tools to find out.

    One of them is Nathan Yee, a Rutgers University–New Brunswick professor of geomicrobiology and geochemistry and a co-investigator at Rutgers ENIGMA, a NASA-funded research team focused on discovering how proteins evolved to become the catalysts of life on Earth. Yee co-created and teaches Rutgers’ first course on astrobiology, an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand whether life arose elsewhere and whether we can detect it.

    Yee discussed his theories on extraterrestrial life, how NASA inspired him to create the astrobiology course and how Earth’s evolution holds the key to finding evidence of life on Mars and beyond.

    Is it possible to prove whether aliens exist?

    When I was a kid, I asked my science teacher if we were alone in the universe. My teacher said there may be no way of knowing, but I think that is changing.

    In the past few decades, scientists have developed new tools to answer whether life exists on other planets or moons. We are transforming this field of study from sci-fi to a hard science where we can test hypotheses with these tools. Two of the biggest game-changers are the Curiosity rover, which is analyzing rocks on Mars to seek evidence of past or current life, and the new space telescopes discovering strange new exoplanets that orbit other stars.

    The next generation of telescopes will study the atmospheres of these planets. We know that most oxygen on Earth is made by photosynthetic bacteria. So, if we find oxygen in exoplanets, that might mean there had been plants and maybe even animals that breathe oxygen. None of this was possible when I was a kid.

    How did working with NASA help you launch Rutgers’ new astrobiology course?

    Since 2014, NASA has been inviting me to participate in workshops and panels involving special regions on Mars and the Mars 2020 mission. They wanted someone with expertise about microbes interacting with minerals and the biosignatures that ancient Earth microbes left behind in rocks after they died and went extinct, which happens to be my area of expertise at Rutgers’ Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

    If we find signs of life on Mars, then it will be microbial. Curiosity’s mission is to determine whether Mars ever was, or is still, habitable to microbial life. The rover will collect samples and bring them back to Earth, so we can analyze Martian rocks to answer these questions.

    To bring what I learned at these NASA panels back to Rutgers, I created a seminar on the topic of life on Mars. It was right when the film The Martian came out with Matt Damon, and it was really popular and revealed a great depth of student interest in these topics. Paul Falkowski, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and a principal investigator of ENIGMA, and I then proposed creating this course and an astrobiology minor that is still in the works.

    The course, which is currently in its first semester at the School of Arts and Sciences, covers the origins of life on Earth and what this has to do with life on other planets.

    In time, I hope the course and minor grow into undergraduate and graduate programs of astrobiology because I predict astrobiology will become one of the most important fields of science in the future.

    What can Earth’s natural history teach us about the possibilities for extraterrestrial life?

    Earth is 4.5 billion years old, yet one amazing discovery is that life evolved very quickly on Earth. In the beginning of Earth’s formation, the planet was really hot and liquid water wasn’t stable. Any water existed in the form of vapor. As it cooled, it rained and evaporated over and over, eventually leading to the formation of oceans. Once oceans were in place, life quickly emerged in the form of microorganisms.

    These microbes figured out how to perform DNA replication, metabolism, how to breathe and eat in a short amount of time, and they were the dominant life for billions of years. Complex life, like animals and humans, did not evolve until recently. It’s shocking how long it took for intelligent life to form.

    If I have to guess what extraterrestrial life would look like, it would probably be microbial life based on observations about the oldest and longest-surviving life-forms on Earth. Intelligent life is probably rare in our galaxy. I am skeptical about listening for communications and sending messages into space in search of other intelligent life because I think complex life capable of interpreting these signals is unlikely.

    Is Mars our best bet for finding life-forms, or should we focus on other parts of the solar system or beyond?

    Mars is a cold, dry planet, but it once was warm and wet, and what’s exciting is that we’ve recently discovered whiffs of methane, which on Earth is produced by microorganisms called methanogens. Scientists are curious as to whether such organisms exist on Mars, whether they migrated there via asteroids that came from Earth, whether methanogens have migrated to Mars and whether the planet’s subsurface could harbor microbial life today. This is one thing NASA hopes to find out during the 2020 mission.

    Also, everywhere there is liquid water on Earth, we’ve found microbial life. We are smart enough to know that if a world has oceans, then we should look there for alien microbes. Europa, which is one of Jupiter’s moons, has what appears to be global oceans under sheets of ice. Saturn’s moon Enceladus has geysers and hot springs spewing from its south pole. That points to the possibility of volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, which on Earth harbor ancient life-forms and may have contributed to the origin of life here.

    Now, do I think there’s going to be a whale on these moons? Likely not, but it is possible that alien microbes have evolved and continue to live there. That is the science we are in now.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:06 pm on November 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Rutgers Oceanographers Set Precedent for New Program in U.S. Ocean Coring", , , , Rutgers University   

    From Rutgers University: “Rutgers Oceanographers Set Precedent for New Program in U.S. Ocean Coring” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    November 21, 2019
    Office of Communications

    1
    Samantha Bova leading the team of scientists carrying a long sediment core aboard the vessel, JOIDES Resolution.

    2
    RV JOIDES Resolution William Crawford, IODP/TAMU

    This past summer, Samantha Bova, Rutgers post-doctoral researcher, and Yair Rosenthal, distinguished professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, led a team of 33 international scientists on a month-long ocean expedition to the Chilean Margin in the southeast Pacific aboard the JOIDES Resolution, a research vessel that drills into the ocean floor to collect and study core samples.

    Bova is the principal investigator while Rosenthal is co-PI on the NSF-funded project, “Extending high resolution paleoclimate records from the Chilean Margin to the Eemian.” The project is intended to study the oceanographic and hydrologic history of this part of the southeast Pacific, home to the Northern and Southern Patagonia Icefields–the largest temperate ice masses in the Southern Hemisphere–which contribute disproportionately to modern sea level rise relative to other mountain glaciers.

    The expedition, which sailed out of Punta Arenas, Chile, is the first in the new NSF-funded JR100 program. Its goal is to provide the U.S. paleoceanographic community with a new way of recovering long sediment records up to 100 meters below the sea floor. Eight sites along the southern Chilean Margin (36-46.5°S) were cored, recovering a total of 2232 m of sediment cores over the course of the expedition. The cores will enable the study of links between oceanographic change at the northern edge of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and climate change on the South American continent over one glacial-interglacial cycle and two glacial terminations.

    The next step in the research is to evaluate rapid, 100- to 1,000-year, changes in ocean water chemistry, composition and temperature. This process will help to reconstruct climate over the last 200,000 years and lead to important findings about how the Earth will respond to a warmer than current climate.

    3

    A number of young scientists affiliated with the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, were a key part of the expedition and included graduate students Hailey Riechelson, Mark Yu, Vincent Clementi, Anya Hess; post doc Laura Hayne; undergraduate William Biggs; and professor Jim Wright, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:02 am on November 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Better Biosensor Technology Created for Stem Cells", , , , Rutgers University   

    From Rutgers University: “Better Biosensor Technology Created for Stem Cells” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    November 10, 2019

    Todd Bates
    848-932-0550
    todd.bates@rutgers.edu

    Rutgers innovation may help guide treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases.

    1

    This unique biosensing platform consists of an array of ultrathin graphene layers and gold nanostructures. The platform, combined with high-tech imaging (Raman spectroscopy), detects genetic material (RNA) and characterizes different kinds of stem cells with greater reliability, selectivity and sensitivity than today’s biosensors. Image: Letao Yang, KiBum Lee, Jin-Ho Lee and Sy-Tsong (Dean) Chueng

    The technology, which features a unique graphene and gold-based platform and high-tech imaging, monitors the fate of stem cells by detecting genetic material (RNA) involved in turning such cells into brain cells (neurons), according to a study in the journal Nano Letters.

    Stem cells can become many different types of cells. As a result, stem cell therapy shows promise for regenerative treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke and spinal cord injury, with diseased cells needing replacement or repair. But characterizing stem cells and controlling their fate must be resolved before they could be used in treatments. The formation of tumors and uncontrolled transformation of stem cells remain key barriers.

    “A critical challenge is ensuring high sensitivity and accuracy in detecting biomarkers – indicators such as modified genes or proteins – within the complex stem cell microenvironment,” said senior author KiBum Lee, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Our technology, which took four years to develop, has demonstrated great potential for analyzing a variety of interactions in stem cells.”

    The team’s unique biosensing platform consists of an array of ultrathin graphene layers and gold nanostructures. The platform, combined with high-tech imaging (Raman spectroscopy), detects genes and characterizes different kinds of stem cells with greater reliability, selectivity and sensitivity than today’s biosensors.

    The team believes the technology can benefit a range of applications. By developing simple, rapid and accurate sensing platforms, Lee’s group aims to facilitate treatment of neurological disorders through stem cell therapy.

    Stem cells may become a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases including macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, according to the National Institutes of Health.

    The study’s co-lead authors are Letao Yang and Jin-Ho Lee, postdoctoral researchers in Lee’s group. Rutgers co-authors include doctoral students Christopher Rathnam and Yannan Hou. A scientist at Sogang University in South Korea contributed to the study.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:52 am on November 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Protein Data Bank at Rutgers Awarded $34.5 Million Grant", , , , , Data files are downloaded every day by biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies., Nearly 2 million molecular structure data files are downloaded every day by researchers; educators; students; citizens; medical professionals; patients; and patient advocates., RCSB Protein Data Bank, Rutgers University, The data bank is growing by nearly 10 percent per year and is used by millions worldwide., The Protein Data Bank archive houses more than 150000 3D structures for proteins; DNA; and RNA that are freely available worldwide., Worldwide Protein Data Bank partnership   

    From Rutgers University: “Protein Data Bank at Rutgers Awarded $34.5 Million Grant” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    November 4, 2019

    Todd Bates
    848-932-0550
    todd.bates@rutgers.edu

    Data bank makes more than 150,000 3D biomolecular structures freely available to the public.

    1
    Six proteins in the measles virus work together to infect cells.
    Image: David S. Goodsell

    The RCSB Protein Data Bank headquartered at Rutgers University–New Brunswick has been awarded $34.5 million in grants over five years from three U.S. government agencies.

    The funding – an approximately 5 percent increase over the previous five-year period – covers ongoing operations and will expand the reach of the world’s only open-access, digital data resource for the 3D biomolecular structures of life.

    The data bank, housed at Rutgers since 1998, plans to use the increased new funding to enhance services available to researchers, academic institutions, for-profit companies and the public. The operating grants come from the National Science Foundation; U.S. Department of Energy; and the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and National Institute of General Medical Sciences within the National Institutes of Health.

    “These grants are vital and greatly appreciated because the Protein Data Bank plays a central role in the discovery of lifesaving drugs, basic and applied biological and medical research and patent applications by universities as well as biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies,” said principal investigator Stephen K. Burley, University Professor and Henry Rutgers Chair, who directs the data bank and the Institute for Quantitative Biomedicine. “It is a public good with far-reaching impacts, and with renewed funding we plan to help usher in a new golden age of structural biology.”

    The Protein Data Bank archive houses more than 150,000 3D structures for proteins, DNA and RNA that are freely available worldwide. The archive is jointly managed by the Worldwide Protein Data Bank partnership, involving data centers in the United States, Europe and Asia. U.S. operations are led by the RCSB Protein Data Bank at Rutgers, the University of California, San Diego-San Diego Supercomputer Center and the University of California, San Francisco.


    2

    Helen M. Berman, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Emerita of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers–New Brunswick, co-founded the data bank in 1971, brought it to Rutgers in 1998 and led the organization until 2014.

    2
    Proteins play vital roles in all living organisms. Their specific amino acid sequences give proteins their distinct shapes and chemical characteristics. Proteins rely on the recognition of specific 3D molecular shapes to function correctly for defense, transport, enzymes, structure, storage and communication. These protein shapes and functions are highlighted in this collage. Image: Maria Voigt

    The data bank is growing by nearly 10 percent per year and is used by millions worldwide. Nearly 2 million molecular structure data files are downloaded every day by researchers, educators, students, citizens, medical professionals, patients, patient advocates and biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

    Individuals working in agriculture, basic biology and zoology, biomedicine, computer science, math, physical sciences, materials science, biomedical engineering, bioenergy and renewable energy benefit from the freely available data. It would cost an estimated $15 billion to replicate the contents of the data bank archive.

    A Rutgers team of expert bio-curators reviews each new structure deposited to the data bank, and a bicoastal team of software developers builds tools. Planned enhancements include improving the quality of data bank structures and broadening their availability across the sciences.

    Rutgers also has an outreach/education team that develops award-winning illustrations and videos as well as curricula and other educational materials. More than 600,000 people a year visit the data bank’s education and outreach website.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:18 am on November 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alan Goldman-mentor, , , Organometallic chemistry, Rutgers University, Tariq Bhatti, The Goldman lab seeks to develop catalysts to produce important chemicals using less energy and less waste.   

    From Rutgers University: “Seeking Sustainable Solutions, a Young Scientist Finds his Calling in Rutgers Graduate Program” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    11.8.19
    John Chadwick

    “I was drawn to the potential for improving the quality of life for society and humanity.”

    1
    Alan Goldman and Tariq Bhatti in the lab, which is located in the new chemistry and chemical biology building.

    Tariq Bhatti’s career was finally starting to take off.

    After graduating in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, he struggled through the Great Recession, working in retail and at his father’s gas station. But eventually he began landing jobs in the chemical industry, including W.R. Grace, the multi-billion dollar conglomerate, where he served as an analytical chemist.

    “My last position at Grace was really great,” says Bhatti, a University of Maryland graduate. “They trusted me with important problems while giving me generous support and mentoring.”

    Yet something was missing during the five years Bhatti spent in industry. He felt restless, though his passion for chemistry was as strong as ever. Some of the most intriguing questions he wanted to investigate were considered tangential because they were unrelated to business.

    An offhand comment by one of his supervisors got him thinking in a new direction.

    “He said that if those are the questions that interested me, then I ought to go to graduate school,” he says. “So I did.”

    Today, Bhatti is a Ph.D. candidate at the Rutgers University School of Graduate Studies, where he works on the research team of Alan Goldman, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. In Goldman’s lab, Bhatti is pursuing the questions that fascinate him, and conducting experiments that could have enormous impact on the environment and energy production.

    2
    The Goldman lab seeks to develop catalysts to produce important chemicals using less energy and less waste.

    “I was really drawn to Dr. Goldman’s lab for the potential for improving the quality of life for society and humanity,” Bhatti says.

    And with Goldman, a 30-year veteran at Rutgers and a Distinguished Professor, he has found the ideal mentor and collaborator.

    “When I walked into Alan’s office for the first time, there were papers everywhere and a chalkboard covered with formulas and drawings of molecules,” Bhatti recalls. “He was explaining something to me and had to take a moment to pause before deciding which ones he should erase.”

    The Goldman Group, comprised of eight graduate students and a post-doc, specializes in organometallic chemistry—using metal atoms and organic molecules to make chemical transformations. The lab seeks to develop catalysts to produce society’s most important chemicals using less energy and with less waste.

    Among those chemicals is ammonia, used to make fertilizer to grow the world’s food supply. Since the early 20th century, ammonia has been produced through the Haber-Bosch process, which combines nitrogen and hydrogen. This monumental breakthrough allowed fertilizer to be produced on an industrial scale. But the process, which requires high levels of heat and pressure, burns staggering quantities of natural gas and releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

    “It’s an important process, obviously, because it allows us to eat,” Goldman says. “But it would nice to do that without the environmental impact.”

    Toward that end, Goldman’s lab is collaborating with scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale University in a National Science Foundation-funded project to develop new chemistry that would produce ammonia without reliance on fossil fuels, in part by obtaining the hydrogen from water, and using renewable electricity.

    Another of the lab’s major projects could ultimately lead to the production of clean-burning synthetic diesel fuel through the development of a two-step catalytic process to convert simple hydrocarbon molecules.

    “We are focused on the basic chemistry and where it can take us,” says Goldman in describing the overall mission of his lab. “Whether it can take us to sustainable production of ammonia or to synthetic fuel, we look for important applications of the interesting, fundamental chemistry.”

    Bhatti has enjoyed the change from industry to academia. “I have more time to study a particular problem or question, and to really understand not just which reaction might work, but why it works and how it works,” he explains.

    He still keeps in close contact and has productive working relations with industry. Indeed, he received a one-year fellowship from BASF Corporation last year.

    Bhatti didn’t automatically gravitate to organometallic chemistry. As an undergraduate he was interested in the human health applications of chemistry, such as drug development. But he was wary of the economic woes affecting the pharmaceutical industry in the early 2000s.

    “Then around 2011 I saw a really cool paper on turning carbon dioxide into methanol by this triple catalyst system,” he says. “That piqued my interest in organometallic chemistry.”

    Goldman had a similar moment of discovery at around the same age. He was a graduate student at Columbia University when scientists discovered the potential for reactions between the type of organometallic complexes he had been working on and simple hydrocarbon molecules, known as alkanes, which are the major constituent of petroleum.

    “Alkanes are the simplest and most abundant organic molecules and were regarded as nearly impossible to use for controlled chemical reaction,” he explains. “The idea of doing transformations on the simplest molecules, and at the same having an understanding that they are the most important molecules, has always been compelling to me.”

    Beyond the potential benefits of their work, Bhatti and Goldman say there is an enduring beauty and mystery to their field. Bhatti recalls taking a class in art theory and learning about Emmanuel Kant and his understanding of beauty.

    “To Kant, beauty was not just something that looks nice, but something that arrests you and makes you feel humbled,” Bhatti says. “I think that is what organometallic chemistry is. You see things that are so striking, it seems that nature is sharing a secret.”

    Goldman agrees. “There is a very visual beauty in molecules, but it goes deeper than that. It’s the beauty of solving a puzzle where the solution is a deep understanding of how something works.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    rutgers-campus

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

     
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