UW News

Science


May 28, 2024

In the Field: UW researcher headed to Alaska to study factors that lead to permafrost thaw and to educate foster care youth

In the foreground is a section of a tree with pinecones on it. The tree and pinecones are covered in frost. Behind the tree is a forest. There's a boardwalk going straight through the middle of the picture. The sun is shining in the background.

UW doctoral student Joel Eklof has been investigating which environmental factors contribute to permafrost thaw and the release of methane into the atmosphere. For years, Eklof has traveled to a field site southwest of Fairbanks, Alaska.


May 17, 2024

UW atmospheric scientist participating in field campaign to improve Western snowfall, drought forecasts

Wooden building with snow and blue skies

A UW atmospheric scientist will participate in a campaign to study winter storms and snowfall in northwestern Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Like Seattle, this area depends on winter snow for its summer water supplies, so improving mountain snow forecasts will improve projections for summer drought and wildfire risks.


May 15, 2024

Scientists want to know how the smells of nature benefit our health

A tree canopy in a tropical rainforest.

Spending time in nature is good for us. And knowing more about nature’s effects on our bodies could not only help our well-being, but could also improve how we care for land, preserve ecosystems and design cities, homes and parks. Many studies have focused on how seeing nature affects us. A team of scientists from around the world wants to understand what the nose knows. They are calling for more research into how odors and scents from natural settings impact our health and well-being.


May 14, 2024

UW-led project to study ozone, atmospheric layers a finalist for next-generation NASA satellite

horizon with horizontal layers of black, red, black and blue

A project led by the University of Washington to better understand our atmosphere’s complexity is a finalist for NASA’s next generation of Earth-observing satellites. STRIVE will receive $5 million to conduct a one-year concept study, and then will hear whether it is selected for launch.


May 9, 2024

Navy Growler jet noise over Whidbey Island could impact 74,000 people’s health

Two men facing away from the camera watch a blurred jet land on an airstrip. The men are both wearing over-ear headphones.

As often as four days a week, Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island fly loops overhead as pilots practice touch-and-go landings. The noise is immense. New research from the University of Washington shows that the noise isn’t just disruptive — it presents a substantial risk to public health.


May 2, 2024

Qiang Fu, Raymond Huey elected to National Academy of Sciences

Two University of Washington researchers are among the newly elected members of the National Academy of Sciences. Qiang Fu, professor of atmospheric sciences, and Raymond Huey, professor emeritus of biology, are among those recognized with one of the highest honors a scientist can achieve.


April 30, 2024

Scientists solve chemical mystery at the interface of biology and technology

A University of Washington-led study has solved a mystery about organic electrochemical transistors: Why there is a lag when they are switched on. In the process paved the way to custom-tailored OECTs for a growing list of applications in biosensing, brain-inspired computation and beyond.


April 17, 2024

Ice age climate analysis reduces worst-case warming expected from rising CO2

four woolly mammoths on frozen ground

A detailed reconstruction of climate during the most recent ice age, when a large swath of North America was covered in ice, provides information on the relationship between CO2 and global temperature. Results show that while most future warming estimates remain unchanged, the absolute worst-case scenario is unlikely.


April 4, 2024

Q&A: Eclipses aren’t just good for jaw-dropping views — they’re also opportunities for stellar science, says UW astronomer

white circle on black background

Eclipses past and present aren’t just opportunities for incredible sights. Generations of researchers have used them to study phenomena ranging from the sun itself to the fabric of the universe. UW News intervewed Emily Levesque, author and associate professor of astronomy, about what scientists past and present have learned by studying eclipses.


In the Field: UW researchers traveling to capture total solar eclipse

orange orb on black background

Baptiste Journaux, a UW faculty member in Earth and space sciences, and four graduate students will travel to Arkansas on Monday to view the total solar eclipse. They will use a special telescope to capture images of solar features that can be viewed most clearly during an eclipse. 


March 22, 2024

Signs of life detectable in single ice grain emitted from extraterrestrial moons

illustration of gray planet spewing white mist on black background

Could life be found in frozen sea spray emitted from moons orbiting Saturn or Jupiter? New research finds that life can be detected in a single ice grain containing one bacterial cell or portions of a cell. The results suggest that if life similar to that on Earth exists on these planetary bodies, this life should be detectable by instruments launching in the fall.


March 19, 2024

Citizen scientist group finds 15 rare ‘active asteroids’

In 2021, Colin Orion Chandler started Active Asteroids Citizen Science, a partnership between NASA, Zooniverse, astronomers and thousands of citizen scientist volunteers. The initiative is searching for so-called “active asteroids,” which have comet-like tails and could hold clues to the formation of our solar system, among other cosmic mysteries. Chandler, now a University of Washington researcher, and his team recently announced they have discovered 15 active asteroids, and are continuing the search for more of these unusual and rare objects.


March 13, 2024

Q&A: UW expert on the rising rates of immunosuppression among U.S. adults

A woman with long dark hair adjusting a white face mask.

A new UW study places the prevalence of immunosuppression at around 6.6% of American adults — more than twice as high as previously understood. That rise could have broad implications for how we navigate the late stages of COVID-19 and prepare for future pandemics.  


March 12, 2024

AI analysis of historical satellite images show USSR collapse in 1990s increased methane emissions, despite lower oil and gas production

buildings with mountains in background

An AI-powered analysis of 25 years of satellite images yields the surprising finding that methane emissions in Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic and major oil-producing region, actually increased in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.


March 6, 2024

Scientists CT-scanned thousands of natural history specimens, which you can access for free

Natural history museums have entered a new stage of discovery and accessibility — one where scientists around the globe and curious folks at home can access valuable museum specimens to study, learn or just be amazed. This new era follows the completion of openVertebrate, or oVert, a five-year collaborative project among 18 institutions to create 3D reconstructions of vertebrate specimens and make them freely available online. The team behind this endeavor, which includes scientists at the University of Washington and its Burke Museum of Natural History & Culture, published a summary of the project March 6 in the journal BioScience, offering a glimpse of how the data can be used to ask new questions and spur the development of innovative technology.


February 29, 2024

Q&A: How a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease could also work for Type 2 diabetes

Alzheimer’s disease and Type 2 diabetes are part of a family of amyloid diseases that are characterized by having proteins that cluster together. UW researchers have demonstrated more similarities between the two diseases.


February 28, 2024

80 mph speed record for glacier fracture helps reveal the physics of ice sheet collapse

drawing of glacier partly above and partly below water

New research documents the fastest-known large-scale breakage along an Antarctic ice shelf. In 2012, a 6.5-mile crack formed in about 5 and a half minutes, showing that ice shelves can effectively shatter, though the speed of breakage is reduced by seawater rushing in. These results can help improve ice-sheet models and projections for future sea level rise.


February 16, 2024

Video: Bringing stars back to the sea 

A clear box suspended deep in the water holds a few sea stars and mussel shells.

Scientists at Friday Harbor Laboratories, a University of Washington facility in the San Juan Islands, are working to help sunflower stars — a type of sea star — grow and thrive once again after their populations along the West Coast were devastated by a mysterious disease called sea star wasting syndrome.


February 15, 2024

First-ever atomic freeze-frame of liquid water

In an experiment akin to stop-motion photography, an international team co-led by University of Washington scientists has isolated the energetic movement of an electron in a sample of liquid water — while “freezing” the motion of the much larger atom it orbits.


February 8, 2024

Foul fumes pose pollinator problems

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered that nighttime air pollution — coming primarily from car exhaust and power plant emissions — is responsible for a major drop in nighttime pollinator activity. Nitrate radicals (NO3) in the air degrade the scent chemicals released by a common wildflower, drastically reducing the scent-based cues that its chief pollinators rely on to locate the flower. The findings, published Feb. 9 in Science, are the first to show how nighttime pollution creates a chain of chemical reactions that degrades scent cues, leaving flowers undetectable by smell. The researchers also determined that pollution likely has worldwide impacts on pollination.


February 6, 2024

Nancy Allbritton elected to National Academy of Engineering

Nancy Allbritton, the dean of the University of Washington College of Engineering and a UW professor of bioengineering, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering.


January 30, 2024

Using computers to design proteins allows researchers to make tunable hydrogels that can form both inside and outside of cells

New research led by the UW demonstrates a new class of hydrogels that can form not just outside cells, but also inside of them. These hydrogels exhibited similar mechanical properties both inside and outside of cells, providing researchers with a new tool to group proteins together inside of cells.


January 29, 2024

Q&A: How ‘slow slip’ earthquakes may be driven by deep hydraulic fracturing

gray rock with lines through it

New research confirms the cause of slow slip along the Cascadia Subduction Zone and other faults that is accompanied by intermittent tremors or “pops” at the surface. Co-authors Marine Denolle and Joan Gomberg discuss the role of fluid-driven fracturing deep underground.


January 22, 2024

Shallow soda lakes show promise as cradles of life on Earth

people walking across large white surface

Field observations from an unusual lake show that in environments known as “soda lakes” phosphate can concentrate at the very high levels needed for the basic molecules of life to emerge. A shallow, salty lake in western Canada gives new support to Charles Darwin’s idea that life could have emerged in a “warm little pond.”


January 16, 2024

UW research helps California forest managers assess smoke hazards from prescribed burns

Forest on fire with smoke billowing, as seen from a helicopter

An international team led by researchers at the University of Washington built a framework to help land managers assess the air quality implications of land management scenarios with different levels of prescribed burning.


January 2, 2024

Video: UW Rorrer Lab seeks new life for plastic waste

Close up of woman wearing protective eyewear and a lab coat looking at a small square of clear plastic film she's holding.

At the University of Washington Rorrer Lab, Julie Rorrer, assistant professor of chemical engineering, is teaching students to explore ways to transform plastics into useful chemicals to make new plastic or fuel, shifting away from fossil fuel consumption and reducing waste plastics.


December 19, 2023

Scientists reveal superconductor with on/off switches

Researchers led by Jiun-Haw Chu, a University of Washington associate professor of physics, and Philip Ryan, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, have found a superconducting material that is uniquely sensitive to outside stimuli, enabling the superconducting properties to be enhanced or suppressed at will. This discovery could enable new opportunities for switchable, energy-efficient superconducting circuits.


December 11, 2023

Beluga whales’ calls may get drowned out by shipping noise in Alaska’s Cook Inlet

pod of beluga whales with shoreline in background

Around Anchorage, communications among the critically endangered population of Cook Inlet beluga whales may be masked by ship noise in their core critical habitat, accordingly to the first repertoire of their calls.


November 28, 2023

UW research finds that mailing HPV test kits directly to patients increases cervical cancer screening rates

Currently, more than half of all cervical cancers diagnosed in the United States are in people who are overdue for screening or have never been screened. In a new study, researchers report that mailing HPV test kits significantly increased cervical cancer screening rates.


November 27, 2023

Breathing highway air increases blood pressure, UW research finds 

A new study from the UW found that unfiltered air from rush-hour traffic significantly increased passengers’ blood pressure, both while in the car and up to 24 hours later. 


November 16, 2023

In the Field: Tracking seismic clues in one of the driest places on Earth

researcher bends over using rock hammer with desert in background

Two University of Washington geophysicists will travel to the Atacama Desert in Chile this month to study a fault system that’s similar to the Seattle Fault in Puget Sound, but in a much different climate that makes it easier to monitor its effects on the landscape.


November 15, 2023

WhaleVis turns more than a century of whaling data into an interactive map

A humpback whale breaches in the Pacific Ocean.

A team at the University of Washington has created an interactive dashboard called WhaleVis, which lets users map data on global whale catches and whaling routes from 1880 to 1986. Scientists can compare this historical data and its trends with current information to better understand whale populations over time.


November 14, 2023

5th National Climate Assessment authors include UW climate experts

Three UW experts are among the authors of the newly released Fifth National Climate Assessment, an overview of climate trends, impacts and efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change across the nation.


November 13, 2023

North Atlantic’s marine productivity may not be declining, according to new study of older ice cores

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of declining phytoplankton in the North Atlantic may have been greatly exaggerated. Analysis of a Greenland ice core going back 800 years shows that atmospheric chemistry, not dwindling phytoplankton populations, explains the recent ice core trends.


November 9, 2023

New York Climate Exchange, on which UW is a core partner, names first CEO

illustration of building on Governors Island with Manhattan in the distance

The New York Climate Exchange, a first-of-its-kind organization working to implement innovative climate solutions in New York City and across the globe, on Nov. 9 announced Stephen Hammer as its founding chief executive officer. The University of Washington is a core member of the exchange.


October 26, 2023

Fruit, nectar, bugs and blood: How bat teeth and jaws evolved for a diverse dinnertime

There are more than 200 species of noctilionoid bats, mostly in the American tropics. And despite being close relatives, their jaws evolved in wildly divergent shapes and sizes to exploit different food sources. A paper published Aug. 22 in Nature Communications shows those adaptations include dramatic, but also consistent, modifications to tooth number, size, shape and position. For example, bats with short snouts lack certain teeth, presumably due to a lack of space. Species with longer jaws have room for more teeth — and, like humans, their total tooth complement is closer to what the ancestor of placental mammals had.


October 18, 2023

DNA shows where Washington culvert replacements helped spawning salmon

Two researchers by a stream seen from inside a culvert

A project led by the UW used genetic sleuthing to study how salmon were affected by two major culvert replacements near the city of Bellingham. One project, a major upgrade under Interstate-5, had a big impact, while the other old culvert may have been less of a barrier to fish. Authors from the UW and NOAA are studying the use of eDNA in future environmental impact reporting.


October 17, 2023

Closing in on the elusive neutrino

In a paper published Sept. 6 in Physical Review Letters, an international team of researchers in the United States, Germany and France reported that a distinctive strategy they have used shows real promise to be the first approach to measure the mass of the neutrino. Once fully scaled up, their collaboration — Project 8 — could also reveal how neutrinos influenced the early evolution of the universe as we know it.


UW’s Briana Abrahms chosen as a Packard Fellow for 2023

Briana Abrahms, a University of Washington assistant professor of biology and researcher with the UW Center for Ecosystem Sentinels, has been named a 2023 Packard Fellow for Science and Engineering, according to an Oct. 16 announcement from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. As one of 20 new fellows across the country, Abrahms, who holds the Boersma Endowed Chair in Natural History and Conservation, will receive $875,000 over five years for her research.


October 3, 2023

Group seeks to understand how a new type of satellite will impact Earth-based astronomy

Astronomers with the International Astronomical Union are trying to understand how the brightness and transmissions of the BlueWalker3 satellite will interfere with Earth-based observations of the universe — and what can be done to minimize these effects as more of these satellites are launched.



Next page