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The Lead

New method helps map species’ genetic heritage

December 15, 2014 8:20 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Where did the songbird get its song? What branch of the bird family tree is closer to the flamingo: the heron or the sparrow? These questions seem simple, but are actually difficult for geneticists to answer. A new, sophisticated statistical technique developed by researchers can help researchers construct more accurate species trees detailing the lineage of genes and the relationships between species.

Molecules for the masses

December 10, 2014 2:28 pm | by Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois | Videos | Comments

Scientists have created an app that brings...

Researchers develop inexpensive hydrolysable polymer

December 2, 2014 4:50 pm | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have figured out how to reverse the...

Different species share a “genetic toolkit” for behavioral traits

December 2, 2014 8:44 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The house mouse, stickleback fish and honey bee appear to have little in common, but at the...

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Model evaluates where bioenergy crops grow best

November 24, 2014 7:59 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Farmers interested in bioenergy crops now have a resource to help them determine which kind of bioenergy crop would grow best in their regions and what kind of harvest to expect. Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have published a study identifying yield zones for three major bioenergy crops.

Some plants regenerate by duplicating their DNA

November 12, 2014 10:29 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When munched by grazing animals (or mauled by scientists in the laboratory), some herbaceous plants overcompensate, producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration. They report their findings in Molecular Ecology.

Microtubes create cozy space for neurons to grow

November 11, 2014 2:25 pm | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Tiny, thin microtubes could provide a scaffold for neuron cultures to grow so that researchers can study neural networks, their growth and repair, yielding insights into treatment for degenerative neurological conditions or restoring nerve connections after injury. Researchers created the microtube platform to study neuron growth.

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Teaching and research, a potent educational mix

November 4, 2014 8:20 am | by Craig Chamberlain, Social Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A common perception, especially outside the university classroom, is that teaching and research are two separate domains, with little overlap. That’s not the reality, however, for many Univ. of Illinois faculty. For these faculty members, “there is an active and dynamic link” between the two.

Climate change beliefs more influenced by long-term temperature fluctuations

October 31, 2014 8:14 am | by Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

In spite of the broad scientific consensus about its existence, global warming remains a contentious public policy issue. Yet it’s also an issue that requires a public consensus to support policies that might curb or counteract it. According to research, the task of educating the public about climate change might be made easier or more difficult depending on their perception of short-term versus long-term temperature changes.

Sculpting solar systems: Magnetic fields seen for first time

October 30, 2014 7:50 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Astronomers have caught their first glimpse of the invisible magnetic fields that sculpt solar systems. Looking at a bright, nearby baby star and the dust swirling in its cradle, astronomers from the Univ. of Illinois and six collaborating institutions were able to make out the shape of the magnetic field surrounding the star.

How microbes build a powerful antibiotic

October 27, 2014 10:32 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful. 

Rivers flow differently over gravel beds, study finds

October 16, 2014 11:00 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

River beds, where flowing water meets silt, sand and gravel, are critical ecological zones. Yet how water flows in a river with a gravel bed is very different from the traditional model of a sandy river bed, according to a new study that compares their fluid dynamics. The findings establish new parameters for river modeling that better represent reality, with implications for field researchers and water resource managers.

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Study reveals optimal particle size for anticancer nanomedicines

October 16, 2014 8:10 am | News | Comments

Nanomedicines consisting of nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery to specific tissues and cells offer new solutions for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Understanding the interdependency of physiochemical properties of nanomedicines, in correlation to their biological responses and functions, is crucial for their further development of as cancer-fighters.

Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics

October 10, 2014 8:12 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they didn’t know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics. Fast, accurate and affordable DNA sequencing is the first step toward personalized medicine.

All directions are not created equal for nanoscale heat sources

October 1, 2014 10:11 am | News | Comments

Thermal considerations are rapidly becoming one of the most serious design constraints in microelectronics, especially on submicron scale lengths. A study by researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has shown that standard thermal models will lead to the wrong answer in a 3-D heat-transfer problem if the dimensions of the heating element are on the order of one micron or smaller.

Search for better biofuels microbes leads to the human gut

September 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists have scoured cow rumens and termite guts for microbes that can efficiently break down plant cell walls for the production of next-generation biofuels, but some of the best microbial candidates actually may reside in the human lower intestine, researchers report. Their studyis the first to use biochemical approaches to confirm the hypothesis that microbes in the human gut can digest fiber.

Study: Earth can sustain more terrestrial plant growth than previously thought

August 27, 2014 8:00 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A new analysis suggests the planet can produce much more land-plant biomass than previously thought. The study, reported in Environmental Science and Technology, recalculates the theoretical limit of terrestrial plant productivity, and finds that it is much higher than many current estimates allow.

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Symphony of nanoplasmonic and optical resonators leads to laser-like light emission

August 26, 2014 11:20 am | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | News | Comments

By combining plasmonics and optical microresonators, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created a new optical amplifier (or laser) design, paving the way for power-on-a-chip applications. The speed of currently available semiconductor electronics is limited to about 10 GHz due to heat generation and interconnects delay time issues.

A glucose meter of a different color provides continuous monitoring

August 26, 2014 7:53 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Univ. of Illinois engineers are bringing a touch of color to glucose monitoring. The researchers developed a new continuous glucose monitoring material that changes color as glucose levels fluctuate, and the wavelength shift is so precise that doctors and patients may be able to use it for automatic insulin dosing—something now possible using current point measurements like test strips.

New material could enhance fast, accurate DNA sequencing

August 14, 2014 7:41 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Gene-based personalized medicine has many possibilities for diagnosis and targeted therapy, but one big bottleneck: the expensive and time-consuming DNA sequencing process. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that nanopores in the material molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) could sequence DNA more accurately, quickly and inexpensively than anything yet available.

Decades-old amber collection offers new views of an ancient world

July 31, 2014 7:52 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists are searching through a massive collection of 20-million-year-old amber found in the Dominican Republic more than 50 years ago, and the effort is yielding fresh insights into ancient tropical insects and the world they inhabited. When the collection is fully curated, a task that will take many years, it will be the largest unbiased Dominican amber collection in the world, the researchers report.

RFID tags on honey bees reveal hive dynamics

July 23, 2014 7:56 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists attached radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to hundreds of individual honey bees and tracked them for several weeks. The effort yielded two discoveries: Some foraging bees are much busier than others; and if those busy bees disappear, others will take their place.

Nanocamera takes pictures at distances smaller than light’s wavelength

July 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated that an array of novel gold, pillar-bowtie nanoantennas (pBNAs) can be used like traditional photographic film to record light for distances that are much smaller than the wavelength of light (for example, distances less than ~600 nm for red light). A standard optical microscope acts as a “nanocamera” whereas the pBNAs are the analogous film.

Researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas

July 14, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

A research team in Illinois has built a new type of tunable nanoscale antenna that could facilitate optomechanical systems that actuate mechanical motion through plasmonic field enhancements. The team’s fabrication process shows for the first time an innovative way of fabricating plasmonic nanoantenna structures under a scanning electron microscope, which avoids complications from conventional lithography techniques.

Study pushes limits of ultra-fast nanodevices

July 10, 2014 9:17 am | by Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A recent study by researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides new insights on the physical mechanisms governing the interplay of spin and heat at the nanoscale, and addresses the fundamental limits of ultra-fast spintronic devices for data storage and information processing.

Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The design is inspired by the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in nature. They have a backbone of 3-D printed hydrogel, strong enough to give the bio-bot structure but flexible enough to bend like a joint.

The aeroacoustics of jets

June 30, 2014 9:22 am | News | Comments

Aerospace engineers from the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are using the National Science Foundation-supported Stampede supercomputer to explore how jets in general, like those on modern aircraft and inside the human body, generate noise. This is important because no simple explanation of how jets generate noise is currently available, and without this understanding making jets quieter is difficult.

People with tinnitus process emotions differently from peers

June 26, 2014 12:47 pm | by Chelsey Coombs, Life Sciences Intern, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Patients with persistent ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus, process emotions differently in the brain from those with normal hearing, researchers report in Brain Research. Tinnitus afflicts 50 million people in the U.S., and causes those with the condition to hear noises that aren’t really there. These phantom sounds are not speech, but rather whooshing noises, train whistles, cricket noises or whines.

Drones give farmers eyes in the sky to check on crop progress

June 5, 2014 8:03 am | by Sharita Forrest, News Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

This growing season, crop researchers at the Univ. of Illinois are experimenting with the use of drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—on the university’s South Farms. Dennis Bowman, a crop sciences educator with U. of I. Extension, is using two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on the farms.

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