UW News

Science


September 20, 2019

Two UW ice researchers to participate in year-long drift across Arctic Ocean

ship surrounded by sea ice and dark skies

Two UW researchers — Bonnie Light, a principal physicist at the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory and an affiliate associate professor of atmospheric sciences, and Madison Smith, a recent UW graduate who is now doing her postdoctoral research at the UW — will join for the fifth of the six two-month legs, in summer 2020.


September 19, 2019

Introducing VPLanet: A virtual planet simulator for modeling distant worlds across time

Image is illustration of several possibly habitable worlds

UW astrobiologist Rory Barnes and co-authors have created software that simulates multiple aspects of planetary evolution across billions of years, with an eye toward finding and studying potentially habitable worlds.


Plasma flow near sun’s surface explains sunspots, other solar phenomena

orange sun with spots

A new model for plasma flow within the sun provides novel explanations for sunspots, the 11-year sunspot cycle, solar magnetic reversals and other previously unexplained solar phenomena.


September 16, 2019

KATRIN cuts the mass estimate for the elusive neutrino in half

A large piece of scientific equipment being moved through a town

An international team of scientists has announced a breakthrough in its quest to measure the mass of the neutrino, one of the most abundant, yet elusive, elementary particles in our universe. At the 2019 Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics conference in Toyama, Japan, leaders from the KATRIN experiment reported Sept. 13 that the estimated range for the rest mass of the neutrino is no larger than 1 electron volt, or eV.


September 10, 2019

Tides don’t always flush water out to sea, study shows

Dawn in Willapa Bay in 2015, showing oysters on a tidal flat.

Researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Strathclyde report that, in Willapa Bay in Washington state, the water washing over the tidal flats during high tides is largely the same water that washed over the flats during the previous high tide. This “old” water has not been mixed in with “new” water from deeper parts of the bay or the open Pacific Ocean, and has different chemical and biological properties, such as lower levels of food for creatures within the tide flats.


September 9, 2019

Breakthrough Foundation honors UW researcher studying ‘exotic’ states of matter

Picture of Lukasz Fidkowski, assistant professor of physics at the University of Washington.

Lukasz Fidkowski, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Washington, is one of the winners of a 2020 New Horizons in Physics Prize from the Breakthrough Foundation. The prize to early-career scientists, announced Sept. 5, recognizes Fidkowski and his three co-recipients “for incisive contributions to the understanding of topological states of matter and the relationships between them.”


Lightning ‘superbolts’ form over oceans from November to February

Flash of lightning on black background

A study of superbolts, which release a thousand times more electrical energy in the low-frequency range than regular lightning bolts, finds they occur at very different times and places than regular lightning. Superbolts tend to strike over particular parts of the oceans, while regular lightning strikes over land.


September 4, 2019

New study tracks sulfur-based metabolism in the open ocean

researchers on ship

UW oceanographers used lab experiments and seawater samples to learn how photosynthetic microbes and ocean bacteria use sulfur, a plentiful marine nutrient.


August 27, 2019

Pregnant women of color experience disempowerment by health care providers

Study finds health care providers need more training in power differentials, informed consent and providing respectful care.

A new study finds that women of color perceive their interactions with doctors, nurses and midwives as being misleading, with information being “packaged” in such a way as to disempower them by limiting maternity health care choices for themselves and their children.


August 21, 2019

3 UW graduate students earn NASA fellowships, continue legacy of success

rainier vista

Three University of Washington graduate students are among this year’s recipients of a prestigious NASA fellowship that funds student research projects in the fields of Earth and planetary sciences and astrophysics.


August 19, 2019

USGS awards $10.4M to ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system in the Pacific Northwest

The U.S. Geological Survey announced $10.4 million in funding to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at University of Washington, to support the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system. Some $7.3 million of the two-year funding total will go to the UW.


‘Hidden’ data exacerbates rural public health inequities

The SHARE-NW project is a five-year effort to identify, gather and visualize data in four Northwest states to help rural communities more effectively address health disparities and achieve health equity.


August 13, 2019

James Webb Space Telescope could begin learning about TRAPPIST-1 atmospheres in a single year, study indicates

New research from UW astronomers models how telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope, will be able to study the planets of the intriguing TRAPPIST-1 system.

New research from astronomers at the UW uses the intriguing TRAPPIST-1 planetary system as a kind of laboratory to model not the planets themselves, but how the coming James Webb Space Telescope might detect and study their atmospheres, on the path toward looking for life beyond Earth.


Air pollution can accelerate lung disease as much as a pack a day of cigarettes

Air pollution over Los Angeles.

Air pollution—especially ozone air pollution which is increasing with climate change—accelerates the progression of emphysema of the lung, according to a new study led by the University of Washington, Columbia University and the University at Buffalo.


August 12, 2019

First cells on ancient Earth may have emerged because building blocks of proteins stabilized membranes

Scientists have discovered that the building blocks of proteins can stabilize cell membranes. This finding may explain how the first cells emerged from the primordial soup billions of years ago: The protein building blocks could have stabilized cell membranes against salt and ions that were present in ancient oceans. In addition, membranes may have been a site for these precursor molecules to co-localize, a potential mechanism to explain what brought together the ingredients for life.


First evidence of human-caused climate change melting the West Antarctic Ice Sheet

white snow and ocean

A new study by U.S. and U.K. scientists finds that in addition to natural variations in winds that drive warmer water to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which last about a decade, there has been a longer-term change in the winds that can be linked with human activities.


August 9, 2019

Scientists can now control thermal profiles at the nanoscale

Scientists have designed and tested an experimental system that uses a near-infrared laser to actively heat two gold nanorod antennae — metal rods designed and built at the nanoscale — to different temperatures. The nanorods are so close together that they are both electromagnetically and thermally coupled. Yet the team measured temperature differences between the rods as high as 20 degrees Celsius and could change which nanorod was cooler and which was warmer, even though the rods were made of the same material.


Artificial intelligence could yield more accurate breast cancer diagnoses

Researchers at UW and UCLA have developed an artificial intelligence system that could help pathologists read biopsies more accurately, and lead to better detection and diagnosis of breast cancer.


August 8, 2019

UW, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley receive $5M NSF award to simplify researcher access to public clouds

The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $5 million grant to the University of California, San Diego, the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley to develop CloudBank, a suite of managed services to simplify public cloud access for computer science research and education.


More than 100 years of Arctic sea ice volume reconstructed with help from historic ships’ logbooks

black and white photo of ship

A new study provides a 110-year record of the total volume of Arctic sea ice, using early U.S. ships’ voyages to verify the earlier part of the record. The longer record puts the recent loss into perspective.


August 6, 2019

How the Pacific Ocean influences long-term drought in the Southwestern U.S.

paw print on cracked mud

Analyzing the full life cycle of long-term droughts and how they relate to El Niño and La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean could eventually lead to better prediction of damaging, multiyear droughts in the Southwestern U.S.


July 24, 2019

How to consider nature’s impact on mental health in city plans

two children in park

An international team led by the UW and Stanford has created a framework for how city planners and municipalities around the world can start to measure the mental health benefits of nature and incorporate those into plans and policies for cities and their residents.


July 23, 2019

What motivates people to join — and stick with — citizen science projects?

bird and measuring tape on sand

After more than 20 years, the UW’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, or COASST, is itself the subject of scientific study. Social scientists are studying the program’s success to extract lessons for all citizen science efforts.


July 18, 2019

Scientists discover how the mosquito brain integrates diverse sensory cues to locate a host to bite

A close-up image of a mosquito

A team, led by researchers at the University of Washington, has discovered how the female mosquito brain integrates visual and olfactory signals to identify, track and hone in on a potential host for her next blood meal: After the mosquito’s olfactory system detects certain chemical cues, the mosquito uses her visual system to scan her surroundings for certain shapes and fly toward them, presumably associating those shapes with potential hosts.


July 17, 2019

UW hosts student robotics challenge Friday to mark 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing

three girls with drone

This Friday, teams of 5th- through 12th-grade students from across Washington state will complete a challenge in Kane Hall to mimic the 1969 Apollo moon landing, using drones and Lego robots.


First-ever visualizations of electrical gating effects on electronic structure could lead to longer-lasting devices

Image of a 2D material

Scientists have visualized the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely tuned, high-performance electronic devices. Physicists from the University of Washington and the University of Warwick developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in operating microelectronic devices made of atomically thin — so-called 2D — materials.


July 16, 2019

8 UW professors elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences in 2019

Suzzallo Library at night

Eight scientists and engineers from the University of Washington have been elected this year to the Washington State Academy of Sciences.


July 11, 2019

Super salty, subzero Arctic water provides peek at possible life on other planets

ice crystals on roof of cave

A UW team has discovered thriving communities of bacteria in Alaskan “cryopegs,” trapped layers of sediment with water so salty that it remains liquid at below-freezing temperatures. The setting may be similar to environments on Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, or other bodies farther from the sun.


July 9, 2019

UW professors to receive 2019 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Six University of Washington professors are to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, according to an announcement July 2 from the White House. The award, also known as the PECASE, is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to early-career scientists and engineers “who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.”


Coral reefs shifting away from equator, new study finds

coral reef

Coral reefs are retreating from equatorial waters and establishing new reefs in more temperate regions, according to new research by the University of Washington and other institutions.


July 1, 2019

How you and your friends can play a video game together using only your minds

UW researchers created a method for two people help a third person solve a task using only their minds.


Study shows that management and evolution give hope to coral reefs facing the effects of climate change

green sea turtle

A new study released July 1 in Nature Climate Change gives hope for coral reefs. Launched by the nonprofit Coral Reef Alliance, with lead and senior authors at the University of Washington, the study is one of the first to demonstrate that management that takes evolution and adaptation into account can help rescue coral reefs from the effects of climate change.


June 27, 2019

Astrobiology outreach: UW’s mobile planetarium lands at space conference

UW astronomy professor Rory Barnes with the astronomy department's mobile planetarium at the astrobiology conference AbSciCon2019 Wednesday.

UW astronomy professor Rory Barnes shows off the astronomy department’s Mobile Planetarium to colleagues at AbSciCon2019, the national conference on astrobiology in Bellevue. He takes it to schools with a presentation on astrobiology for K12 students.


June 21, 2019

New awards for UW research to probe solar cell defects, develop energy-boosting coatings

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office selected two University of Washington professors in the Department of Chemistry and the Clean Energy Institute to receive nearly $1.5 million in funding for two separate endeavors in solar photovoltaic research. The projects are led by Daniel Gamelin, director of the UW-based Molecular Engineering Materials Center, and David Ginger, chief scientist at the CEI and co-director of the Northwest Institute for Materials Physics, Chemistry and Technology, a partnership between the UW and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.


June 20, 2019

Looking for life: UW researchers, presentations abound at 2019 astrobiology conference in Bellevue

A roundup of UW talents and presentations in AbSciCon2019, the national conference on astrobiology — the search for life in the universe — to be held in Bellevue, June 24-28.


Video: Surprising discoveries in coral reefs found in low-light waters

It uses a pincher like hand to grasp a piece of fan shaped coral.

Jacqueline Padilla-Gamiño, an assistant professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, spent up to eight hours at a time in the cramped quarters of a submersible watercraft, studying the largest known coral reef in the mesophotic zone, located in the Hawaiian Archipelago.


Mammals and their relatives thrived, diversified during so-called ‘Age of Dinosaurs,’ researchers show

Illustration of an extinct marsupial.

Old myths state that, during the time of the dinosaurs, mammals and their relatives were small and primitive. But new research shows that, during the time of the dinosaurs, mammals and their relatives actually underwent two large ecological radiations, diversifying into climbing, gliding and burrowing forms with a variety of diets.


June 19, 2019

Partnerships for Impact: NSF Awards an additional $4M to the West Big Data Innovation Hub co-led by the UW eScience Institute

The National Science Foundation is awarding a second round of funding for the Regional Big Data Innovation Hubs — organizations launched in 2015 to build and strengthen data science partnerships across industry, academia, nonprofits and government to address scientific and societal challenges. The University of Washington, in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Diego, will continue to coordinate the West Big Data Innovation Hub.


Abundance of gases in Enceladus’s ocean are a potential fuel — if life is there to consume it

This illustration shows NASA's Cassini spacecraft diving through the plume of Saturn's moon Enceladus, in 2015. New research from the University of Washington, to be presented at the coming AbSciCon2019 conference, indicates that the moon's subsurface ocean of probably has higher than previously known concentrations of carbon dioxide and hydrogen and a more Earthlike pH level, possibly providing conditions favorable to life.

The subsurface ocean of Saturn’s moon Enceladus probably has higher than previously known concentrations of carbon dioxide and hydrogen and a more Earthlike pH level, possibly providing conditions favorable to life, according to new research from planetary scientists at the UW.


Deep submersible dives shed light on rarely explored coral reefs

corals in the mesophotic zone

  Just beyond where conventional scuba divers can go is an area of the ocean that still is largely unexplored. In waters this deep — about 100 to at least 500 feet below the surface — little to no light breaks through. Researchers must rely on submersible watercraft or sophisticated diving equipment to be able…



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