UW News

Science


January 24, 2020

Tiny, ancient meteorites suggest early Earth’s atmosphere was rich in carbon dioxide

shiny black balls on red background

Tiny meteorites that fell to Earth 2.7 billion years ago suggest that the atmosphere at that time was high in carbon dioxide, which agrees with current understanding of how our planet’s atmospheric gases changed over time.


January 22, 2020

What’s in Puget Sound? New technique casts a wide net for concerning chemicals

A researcher works in a chemical hood

Using a new “non-targeted” approach, UW and UW Tacoma researchers screened samples from multiple regions of Puget Sound to look for potentially harmful compounds that might be present.


January 21, 2020

Mosquitoes are drawn to flowers as much as people — and now scientists know why

Despite their reputation as blood-suckers, mosquitoes actually spend most of their time drinking nectar from flowers. Scientists have identified the chemical cues in flowers that stimulate mosquitoes’ sense of smell and draw them in. Their findings show how cues from flowers can stimulate the mosquito brain as much as a warm-blooded host — information that could help develop less toxic repellents and better traps.


January 16, 2020

Mobile protected areas needed to preserve biodiversity in the high seas

black bird with blue sky

Leaders are updating the laws for international waters that apply to most of the world’s ocean environment. This provides a unique opportunity, argues a UW Bothell marine scientist, to anticipate new techniques that allow protected zones to shift as species move under climate change.


January 15, 2020

‘The blob,’ food supply squeeze to blame for largest seabird die-off

dead common murre

When nearly one million common murres died at sea and washed ashore from California to Alaska in 2015 and 2016, it was unprecedented. Scientists from the University of Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey and others blame an unexpected squeeze on the ecosystem’s food supply, brought on by a severe and long-lasting marine heat wave known as “the blob.”


January 14, 2020

Faculty/staff honors: Consulting assignment in Africa, honorary doctorate in Bern, conservation leadership award

Recent honors to UW faculty and staff include an honorary doctorate from the University of Bern, an award for biodiversity conservation and a consulting assignment for the World Health Organization.


January 13, 2020

Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows

a fishing vessel in california

Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance. Effective management appears to be the main reason these stocks are at sustainable levels or successfully rebuilding, according to a new study led by the University of Washington.


December 30, 2019

Life could have emerged from lakes with high phosphorus

A lake in Africa with flamingoes and zebras along its shore.

Life as we know it requires phosphorus, which is scarce. So, how did a lifeless environment on the early Earth supply this key ingredient? A new UW study, published Dec. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds an answer to this problem in certain types of carbonate-rich lakes.


December 16, 2019

New study seeks to improve the way dentists measure children’s pain during appointments

Child in dentist chair during procedure

If you fear a trip to the dentist, you are among a majority of adults that report moderate to high levels of anxiety related to dental care, according to a review of research. And, if you’re afraid of getting into a dental chair, you are more likely to avoid going and are at risk of…


Resident orcas’ appetite likely reason for decline of big Chinook salmon

orca chasing chinook salmon

Large, old Chinook salmon have mostly disappeared from the West Coast. A new University of Washington and NOAA study points to the recent rise of resident killer whales, and their insatiable appetite for large Chinook salmon, as the main driver behind the decline of the big fish.


December 12, 2019

Barrels of ancient Antarctic air aim to track history of rare gas

snow and tents

An Antarctic field campaign last winter led by the U.S. and Australia has successfully extracted some of the largest samples of air dating from the 1870s until today. Researchers will use the samples to look for changes in the molecules that scrub the atmosphere of methane and other gases.


December 10, 2019

UW scientist to lead NASA field study of East Coast snowstorms

professor in office

To better understand large, disruptive snowstorms, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist will lead a NASA field campaign this winter to fly through major snowstorms along the East Coast. The multi-institutional team will observe snow as it forms in clouds to help with satellite monitoring of snowfall and ultimately improve forecasts.


December 6, 2019

Astronomy fellowship demonstrates effective measures to dismantle bias, increase diversity in STEM

a person smiling and looking at the camera

Joyce Yen — director of the University of Washington’s ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change, an NSF-funded body to promote female STEM faculty on campus — recently worked with the Heising-Simons Foundation to dismantle bias and promote diversity in a prominent grant that the Foundation awards to postdoctoral researchers in planetary science. In this Q&A, Yen shares the many, sometimes counterintuitive ways bias can work against goals toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM fields.


December 4, 2019

Outlook for the polar regions in a 2 degrees warmer world

four male bears eating a whale

With 2019 on pace as one of the warmest years on record, a new international study reveals how rapidly the Arctic is warming and examines global consequences of continued polar warming.


Warmer temperatures will increase arsenic levels in rice, study shows

closeup of rice grains on rice plants

UW researchers have found that warmer temperatures, at levels expected under most climate change projections, can lead to higher concentrations of arsenic in rice grains.


Better wildfire and smoke predictions with new vegetation database

ponderosa pine forest

Researchers from the University of Washington and Michigan Technological University have created the first comprehensive database of all the wildfire fuels that have been measured across North America. Ultimately, it can help scientists make more informed decisions about fire and smoke situations.


December 3, 2019

For some corals, meals can come with a side of microplastics

microplastics seen in a water tank

A new experiment by the University of Washington has found that some corals are more likely to eat microplastics when they are consuming other food, yet microplastics alone are undesirable.


November 27, 2019

A method with roots in AI uncovers how humans make choices in groups and social media

Woman holding a smart phone

Using a mathematical framework with roots in artificial intelligence and robotics, UW researchers were able to uncover the process of how a person makes choices in groups. And, they also found they were able to predict a person’s choice more often than more traditional descriptive methods.


November 26, 2019

Six UW faculty members named AAAS fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has named six faculty members from the University of Washington as AAAS Fellows, according to a Nov. 26 announcement. They are part of a cohort of 443 new fellows for 2019, all chosen by their peers for “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.”


November 20, 2019

Emissions from electricity generation lead to disproportionate number of premature deaths for some racial groups

A coal power plant in West Virginia.

UW researchers have found that air pollution from electricity generation emissions in 2014 led to about 16,000 premature deaths in the continental U.S. In many states, the majority of the health impacts came from emissions originating in other states.


November 15, 2019

UW aerospace engineer part of $1.7M grant to study corals

A healthy reef in Indonesia teems with life.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from multiple institutions — including the University of Washington — has received a two-year $1.7 million National Science Foundation grant to study coral growth.


November 12, 2019

New Weill Neurohub will unite UCSF, UC Berkeley, UW in race to find new treatments for brain diseases

An image of neurons under a microscope

With a $106 million gift from the Weill Family Foundation, UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and the University of Washington have launched the Weill Neurohub, an innovative research network that will forge and nurture new collaborations between neuroscientists and researchers working in an array of other disciplines — including engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry and mathematics — to speed the development of new therapies for diseases and disorders that affect the brain and nervous system.


November 7, 2019

Team uses golden ‘lollipop’ to observe elusive interference effect at the nanoscale

An image of small golden discs and rods used in an experiment

A team led by scientists from the University of Washington and the University of Notre Dame used recent advances in electron microscopy to observe Fano interferences — a form of quantum-mechanical interference by electrons — directly in a pair of metallic nanoparticles.


November 5, 2019

Fall storms, coastal erosion focus of northern Alaska research cruise

freight shipping container in foreground and research ship in background

A University of Washington team is leaving to study how fall storms, dwindling sea ice and vulnerable coastlines might combine in a changing Arctic.


November 4, 2019

Swordfish as oceanographers? Satellite tags allow research of ocean’s ‘twilight zone’ off Florida

closeup of swordfish

UW marine scientists are using high-tech tags to record the movements of swordfish — big, deep-water, migratory, open-ocean fish that are poorly studied — and get a window into the ocean depths they inhabit.


Light-based ‘tractor beam’ assembles materials at the nanoscale

A diagram of an optical trap

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that could make reproducible manufacturing at the nanoscale possible. The team adapted a light-based technology employed widely in biology — known as optical traps or optical tweezers — to operate in a water-free liquid environment of carbon-rich organic solvents, thereby enabling new potential applications.


October 31, 2019

Washington’s first student-built satellite preparing for launch

tall silver rectangle inside glass box that reads "flight hardware"

After years of preparation, a tiny satellite built by UW students is scheduled to launch early Saturday, Nov. 2, from a NASA flight facility in Virginia. The launch will be broadcast live on NASA TV.


New technique lets researchers map strain in next-gen solar cells

an image showing the surface of a solar cell, and which sections of the surface are susceptible to heat loss

Researchers from the University of Washington and the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in the Netherlands have developed a way to map strain in lead halide perovskite solar cells. Their approach shows that misorientation between microscopic perovskite crystals is the primary contributor to the buildup of strain within the solar cell, which creates small-scale defects in the grain structure, interrupts the transport of electrons within the solar cell, and ultimately leads to heat loss through a process known as non-radiative recombination.


October 28, 2019

Precision mapping with satellite, drone photos could help predict infections of a widespread tropical disease

overview of river in senegal

A team led by the University of Washington and Stanford University has discovered clues in the environment that help identify transmission hotspots for schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease that is second only to malaria in its global health impact.


Hubble captures galaxies’ ghostly gaze

An image of a galaxy in outer space

An image captured earlier this year by the Hubble Space Telescope may look like a ghostly apparition, but it is not. Hubble is looking at a titanic head-on collision between two galaxies.


October 24, 2019

NSF invests in cyberinfrastructure institute to harness cosmic data

the stars at night

The National Science Foundation awarded the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and nine collaborating organizations, including the University of Washington, $2.8 million for a two-year “conceptualization phase” of the Scalable Cyberinfrastructure Institute for Multi-Messenger Astrophysics.


New fossil trove documents recovery of life on Earth after dinosaur-killing asteroid impact

An image of an ancient mammal that is now extinct.

Scientists have discovered an extraordinary collection of fossils that reveal in detail how life recovered after a catastrophic event: the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period.


October 23, 2019

UW team sending autonomous surfboard to explore Antarctic waters

researchers on ship lowering large surfboard into water

This week a UW team is releasing a robotic surfboard to explore the surface ocean around Antarctica.


October 21, 2019

Humpback whale population on the rise after near miss with extinction

humpback whale

A new study finds that the western South Atlantic humpback population has grown to 25,000 whales. Researchers, including co-authors from the University of Washington, believe this new estimate is now close to pre-whaling numbers.


October 17, 2019

Old friends and new enemies: How evolutionary history can predict insect invader impacts

Dead trees

A team led by the University of Washington has developed a way to help foresters predict which nonnative insect invasions will be problematic, and help managers decide where to allocate resources to avoid widespread tree death.


October 15, 2019

UW’s Ashleigh Theberge receives Packard Fellowship for research on cell communication signals

Person looking at camera

Ashleigh Theberge, a University of Washington assistant professor of chemistry, has been named a 2019 Packard Fellow for her research on cell signaling. Every year since 1988, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation has awarded Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering to early-career scientists to pursue the types of innovative projects that often fall outside…


Piranha fish swap old teeth for new simultaneously

ct scan of a piranha fish

With the help of new technologies, a team led by the University of Washington has confirmed that piranhas — and their plant-eating cousins, pacus — lose and regrow all the teeth on one side of their face multiple times throughout their lives. How they do it may help explain why the fish go to such efforts to replace their teeth.


October 14, 2019

Fishing for the triple bottom line: profit, planet — and people

fish swimming

In a new study, an interdisciplinary group of researchers used Pacific herring in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, as a case study for modeling the implicit tradeoffs within the triple bottom line that result from various fisheries management decisions.


October 4, 2019

New metasurface design can control optical fields in three dimensions

An image showing how the optical element focuses light to a specific point in 3D space above the element's surface.

A team led by scientists at the University of Washington has designed and tested a 3D-printed metamaterial that can manipulate light with nanoscale precision. As they report in a paper published Oct. 4 in the journal Science Advances, their designed optical element focuses light to discrete points in a 3D helical pattern.


October 2, 2019

Abigail Swann on Science News’ list of 10 young scientists to watch

woman in blue dress by tree

The University of Washington’s Abigail Swann is honored by Science News on its list of 10 promising early- and mid-career scientists.



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