UW News

Science


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.


Inspired by Northern clingfish, researchers make a better suction cup

clingfish in water

A University of Washington team inspired by the clingfish’s suction power set out to develop an artificial suction cup that borrows from nature’s design. Their prototype actually performed better than the clingfish.


September 26, 2019

Galaxy found to float in a tranquil sea of halo gas

A graphic showing a fast radio burst leaving its host galaxy and arriving at Earth.

An international team of astronomers has analyzed the signal from a fast radio burst — an enigmatic blast of cosmic radio waves lasting less than a millisecond — to characterize the diffuse gas in the halo of a massive galaxy.


September 25, 2019

Fish micronutrients ‘slipping through the hands’ of malnourished people

man selling fish

Millions of people are suffering from malnutrition despite some of the most nutritious fish species in the world being caught near their homes, according to new research published Sept. 25 in Nature.


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.



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