Gellman Elected to 2014 Class of the National Academy of Sciences

Written on April  28, 2015.

Sam Gellman, Ralph F. Hirschmann Professor of Chemistry, was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in research.  Members are elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. The NAS membership totals approximately 2,250 members and nearly 440 foreign associates, of whom approximately 200 have received Nobel prizes.

Romnes Faculty Fellowships Awarded to 2 NSEC Professors

Written by Chris Barncard on March 5, 2015

Romnes awards recognize exceptional faculty members who have earned tenure within the last six years. The award is named for the late H. I. Romnes, former chairman of the board of AT&T and former president of the WARF Board of Trustees.  This year’s awardees are:

Dominique Brossard, professor of life sciences communication, is an expert on science communication dynamics in new media environments and public opinion dynamics related to controversial scientific issues such as genetically engineered crops. Her work has been published in Science, Science Communication, the International Journal of Public Opinion and Public Understanding of Science. She teaches courses in strategic communication theory and research, with a focus on new media, science and risk communication.

Padma Gopalan, professor of materials science and engineering, focuses on the synthesis and assembly of polymers to fabricate nanoscale features for semiconductor electronics. Her work with polymer synthesis and surface functionalization has led to advances in materials for optical communications, biomaterials that influence the differentiation of stem cells, and ultrasensitive carbon nanotube hybrids that mimic human vision.

Chemical Dial Controls Attraction Between Water-repelling Molecules

Written by Chris Barncard on January 14, 2015

Abbott, Gellman and a group of University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers have provided new insights on hydrophobic interactions within complex systems. In a study published today in the journal Nature, the researchers show how the nearby presence of polar (water-attracted, or hydrophilic) substances can change the way the nonpolar hydrophobic groups want to stick to each other.
The collaborators’ work, which was supported by the National Science Foundation and sparked by a partnership made possible through UW–Madison’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, may also sharpen the way biologists view changes in proteins.

Carbon Nanotube Finding Could Lead to Flexible Electronics with Longer Battery Life

Written on January 14, 2015

University of Wisconsin-Madison materials engineers have made a significant leap toward creating higher-performance electronics with improved battery life — and the ability to flex and stretch. Led by materials science Associate Professor Michael Arnold and Professor Padma Gopalan, the team has reported the highest-performing carbon nanotube transistors ever demonstrated. In addition to paving the way for improved consumer electronics, this technology could also have specific uses in industrial and military applications.  In a paper published recently in the journal ACS NanoArnold, Gopalan and their students reported transistors with an on-off ratio that’s 1,000 times better and a conductance that’s 100 times better than previous state-of-the-art carbon nanotube transistors.

Abbott Awarded UW Hilldale Professor

Written on June 17, 2014

Nicholas Abbott, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering was awarded a Hilldale Professorship.  The Hilldale Professorships are given to faculty who excel in scholarly activity, have records of outstanding research or creative work, and show promise of continued productivity. The five-year appointments may be renewed until the individual leaves the university or retires. New Hilldale appointees will receive $15,000 per year for research support.

Scheufele Receives UW Kellett Mid-Career Award

Written by Kelly April Tyrrell on April 17, 2014

Dietram Scheufele, John E. Ross professor in the department of life sciences communication, is currently focused on the impact of social media and other new forms of communication. He is one of the top most-cited communications researchers in the world, an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an honorary professor of communication at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany.  The award recognizes outstanding faculty who are seven to 20 years past their promotion to a tenured position.

Lynn Receives Romnes Faculty Fellowship

Written on June 3, 2014

Romnes awards recognize exceptional faculty members who have earned tenure within the last six years. Selected by a Graduate School committee, winners receive an unrestricted $50,000 award for research, supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.  David M. Lynn, professor of chemical and biological engineering, whose research focuses on the synthesis of soft materials and the fabrication of nanostructured surfaces and interfaces. His work has advanced the design of reactive and responsive organic thin films, with applications in the areas of drug delivery and gene therapy, biomolecular sensing and the design of new non-wetting surfaces.

Abbott named to National Academy of Engineering

Written on February 6, 2014 by Renee Meiller

The National Academy of Engineering has named two University of Wisconsin-Madison professors to its 2014 class of members. Nicholas Abbott, the John T. and Magdalen L. Sobota Professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison. NAE recognized Abbott for his innovations and applications in soft-matter surface science.  He is among 67 new members and 11 foreign associates elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Qiang Cui Wins Vilas Associate Award

Written on February 4, 2014 by Dennis Chaptman

The Graduate School has announced the 2014 faculty winners of the Vilas Associates Competition.  The Vilas Associates Competition recognizes new and ongoing research of the highest quality and significance. Recipients are chosen competitively by the divisional Graduate School Research Committees on the basis of a detailed proposal.  Qiang Cui, Chemistry Department, was one of 26 faculty winners.

Abbott presents the Inaugural Amundson Lecture at University of Minnesota

Written on January 24, 2014

Professor Nicholas Abbott was recognized by the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, as he presented the inaugural Amundson Lecture on Colloidal and Interfacial Phenomena in Liquid Crystalline Systems at the University of Minnesota.  The presentation highlighted fundamental and unresolved issues related to the behaviors of these LC-colloidal systems.

Abbott Provides Perspective in Science Magazine

Written on December 13, 2013

“Colloidal Science Collides with Liquid Crystals” perspective is featured in the December 13, 2013 issue of SCIENCE magazine.  The perspective discusses “a strikingly elegant study where Turiv, unmasks a new example of “anomalous diffusion: of colloids that involve a liquid crystal (LC), a liquid-like phase that has long-range orientational ordering.  Fluctuations in the solvent-molecule orientations cause MSDs of colloids to grown nonlinearly with time.”

Engineers among WARF Innovation Awards Finalists

Written by Scott Gordon on October 29, 2013

Materials Science and Engineering Associate Professor Padma Gopalan led a research team which placed among the finalists in the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation 2013 Innovation Award competition. A panel of judges chose the finalists and the two winners from among about 350 inventions submitted to WARF over the past year. Gopalan and grad students Daniel Sweat, Jonathan Choi and Myungwoong Kim were recognized for researching block co-polymer chemistry that enables smaller and more efficient integrated circuits.

Gellman Wins National American Chemical Society Award

Written by Hong Ngoc (Grace) Pharm on October 14, 2013

The American Chemical Society (ACS) announced its 2014 National Awards recipients in September at the 24th ACS National Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.  University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Samuel Gellman received an award recognizing his contributions to his field.  Gellman received the Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry.  This award was established in 2001 by friends and colleagues of Professor Ronald Breslow in honor of his 70th birthday.  Breslow is seen as a leader in using biology as inspiration for designing new molecules with interesting properties.

Societal Implications provides input to Popular Science

Written by Suzanne LaBarre on September 24, 2013

The societal implications group work has started a healthy debate on the moderation of online comments on websites reporting on science (the magazine “Popular Science” just closed its comments, and cited one of the Societal Implication’s studies as support).

Gellman Receives 2013 Makineni Lectureship from APS

Written by Hong Ngoc on September 09, 2013

In June, at the 23rd American Peptide Symposium in Hawaii, the Makineni Lectureship was awarded to Sam Gellman, the Ralph F. Hirschmann Professor of Chemistry at UW-Madison. The American Peptide Society awards the Makineni Lectureship biennially in honor of Rao Makineni, a long time proponent of peptide science and peptide scientists. The award recognizes an individual who is an accomplished speaker and has made a “recent contribution of unusual merit to research in the field of peptide science.” Major accomplishments in his research program include the development and application of unnatural polypeptides, “foldamers,” that mimic protein-like behavior and exhibit biologically active properties. His work has also provided fundamental insights into the interactions and conformational preferences of peptides and proteins.

Lynn earns American Chemical Society award

Written by Renee Miller on March 14, 2013

Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor David Lynn has received the Biomacromolecules/Macromolecules Young Investigator Award, an honor sponsored by the journals of the same names and the American Chemical Society.  The award honors Lynn, who will give an award lecture at the fall ACS meeting in Indianapolis, for his contributions to polymer science.

SCIENCoutnErs Adds Two New Site Partners!

Written by Andrew Greenberg on February 15, 2013

The Boys and Girls Club of El Paso and the University of Maryland-College Park are the two newest SCIENCoutnErs sites. Together they will be meeting at five additional Boys and Girls Clubs each week.

Mahanthappa 2013 John H. Dillon Medal Recipient

Written by APS on February 15, 2013

Professor Mahesh Mahanthappa, Department of Chemistry, was selected to receive the 2013 John H. Dillon Medal from the American Physical Society for fundamental studies of block copolymers with controlled dispersity. The John H. Dillon medal is awarded to recognize outstanding research accomplishments by young polymer physicists who have demonstrated exceptional research promise early in their careers.

SCIENCountErs Website Now Live!

Written by Andrew Greenberg on February 15, 2013

The NSEC led SCIENCountErs program has launched its new website:  The website will allow interested groups to join the SCIENCountErs team.  The site includes over 75 hands-on after school science activities for download.

ICE Receives Grant from Sigma-Aldrich

Written by Andrew Greenberg on February 15, 2013

The Institute for Chemical Education, home to the NSEC education group, received a three grant from the Sigma-Aldrich Foundation. The grant provides support for ICE programs including the NSEC led SCIENCoutnErs program. In addition to the financial support Sigma-Aldrich employees will volunteer in the SCIENCoutnErs program as well as present at the NSEC run REU programs.

Jin Receives UW-Madison Research Award

Written by Libby Dowall on February 14, 2013

Professor Song Jin received a notable UW-Madison research award – the Romnes Faculty Fellowship. This fellowship recognizes and supports faculty members who are still relatively early in their careers and have been promoted to tenured positions within the previous six years. The Graduate School Research Committee, which reviews nominees for the fellowship, looks for professors whose research is high quality, significant, and productive.

Preserving Science News In An Online World

Written on February 13, 2013

Professor Dominique Brossard was a recent guest on NPR’s Science Friday program discussing her paper, “Science, New Media and the Public”. The interview addressed some of the pitfalls of communicating science online and how to avoid and deal with them in the new normal about how science is published online. Click below for the full interview.

Brossard and Scheufele Provide Perspective for SCIENCE

Written on February 04, 2013

Brossard writes “A world in which one in seven people actively use Facebook (1), and more than 340 million tweets are being posted everyday (2) is not the future of science communication any more.  It is today’s reality.  Scientists and social scientists must explore outcomes of online interactions about science in much greater detail.” 1) Facebook inc., Key facts (2012); 2) Twitter Inc., Twitter Turns Six (2012)

“Science, New Media and the Public” by Dominique Brossard, Dietram A. Scheufele

Written on February 01, 2013

Nine in 10 internet users in the United States turn to search engines to find information (1), and 60% of the U.S. public seeking information about specific scientific issues lists the Internet as their primary source of information (2). This has created a new urgency for scientists to pay attention to these trends and to the emerging scholarly literature about communicating science in this brave new “online” world.

Brossard Participates in Science Friday on NPR

Written on February 01, 2013

NPR Science Friday hosted a panel of experts hosted by Ira Flatow on February 1 to discuss “Preserving Science News in an Online World.”  Questions from the show included: “How can journalists and bloggers avoid some of the pitfalls of communicating science in an online world?  Should a website’s comments section be moderated or removed altogether?  How has social media changed the blogosphere?”


ACS Nano Editorial “Open the Floodgates for Online Feedback on Scientific Papers? Not So Fast”

Written by Jillian Buraik on January 22, 2013

In response to an article prepared by Dominique Brossard and Detram Scheufele “Science, New Media and the Public” published in Science, has prompted others to take note of this work. An Editorial by Jullian Buraik in ACS Nano has created a lively debate!

Murphy appointed to Scientific Advisory Boards

Written on January 09, 2013

Professor William Murphy, Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been appointed to serve on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Morgridge Institute for Research in 2013.  Prof. Murphy has also been appointed to serve on the Scientific Advisory Committees of the International Stem Cell Engineering Conference (2014) and the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society Conference (2013)

Murphy Selected for Named Professorship

Written on January 03, 2013

Professor William L. Murphy, MS, PhD, has been selected to receive the Harvey D. Spangler Professor of Biomedical Engineering.

Ian Robertson named new UW-Madison Engineering Dean

Written on December 10, 2012

Ian Robertson, Donald B. Willett professor of engineering at the University of Illinois and director of the National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research, has been selected as the new dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Dietram A. Scheufele and Thomas F. Kuech honored by AAAS

Written on November 30, 2012

Professor Dietram A. Scheufele and Professor Thomas F. Kuech were recently added by American Association for the Advancement of Science into its rolls of elected fellows. This honor was given to professor Scheufele due to his distinguished contributions to the field of science communication. Professor Keuch was given this honor because of his outstanding research in the field of solid state materials synthesis and characterization.

UW REU Students Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Written on November 11, 2012

UW REU Students Jaritza Gomez and Joaquin Resasco were awarded a 2012 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Jaritza and Joaquin were participants in the 2010 UW REU Nanotechnology program. Joaquin’s proposal “Sorting of Carbon Nanotubes for use in Field Effect Transistors” will support his research at MIT. Jaritza will conduct her research at UW-Madison; her proposal “Development of semiconducting organic thin films with optimized molecular packing”.

Understanding Hydrophobic Interactions on the Nanoscale Using b-peptide Oligomers

Written on November 09, 2012

Thrust 2 has used the predictable, three-dimensional side chain patterns generated by β-peptides with single-molecule force spectroscopy to quantify how changes in nanometer-scale chemical patterns affect intermolecular interactions, with a particular focus on understanding hydrophobic interactions. In addition, and significantly, Thrust 2 used their findings to enable additional exciting discoveries regarding the way in which proximal charged groups influence hydrophobic interactions. Overall, these experiments performed by Thrust 2 elucidate two influences of proximal cationic groups on hydrophobic interactions, and broadly validate an experimental system that has the potential to substantially advance our understanding of intermolecular forces associated with hydrophobic domains on the molecular length scale.

Implementation of UW DSA Process at IMEC

Written on November 09, 2012

Imec announces the successful implementation of Self-Assembly (DSA) process line all-under-one-roof in academic lab-scale DSA process flow to fab-compatible Directed Self-Assembly (DSA) process line all-under-one-roof in Imec’s 300mm cleanroom fab.

The upgrade of an academic lab-scale DSA process flow to a fab-comparable flow was realized in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, AZ Electronic Materials and Tokyo Beccron Ltd. Imec’s DSA collaboration aims to address the critical hurdles to take DSA from the academic lab-scale environment into high volume manufacturing.

High Throughput Optical Mapping of Genomic DNA

Written on November 09, 2012

Thrust 3 has pioneered the use of optical mapping for high-throughput analysis of genomic DNA. An important step taken by the Thrust was the prediction and the corresponding demonstration that giant DNA “dumbbells” , produced by trapping the molecules in long nanoslits, enable stretching of genomic DNA well beyond previously possible (to nearly 100 % of the molecules’ contour length), thereby providing optical maps with single nucleotide resolution, and leading to the first demonstration of a full genome analysis by nanocoding.

Liquid Crystal Mediated Interaction Between Nanoparticles

Written on November 09, 2012

 Recent research by Thrust 3 has demonstrated that the interactions that arise between nanoparticles suspended in a liquid crystal can be manipulated over multiple orders of magnitude (ranging from 1 to 100 kBT) through control of the particles’ surface chemistry and their radius. Previous work with micron sized particles had established that particle-particle interactions are extremely strong and essentially irreversible. The Thrust’s results are significant in that they demonstrate that interactions between nanoparticles are fundamentally different from those between micro-particles, and they can in principle be controlled to yield reversible, equilibrium assemblies for potential applications in devices.

Shared Facilities: Progress in CryoTEM at UW-Madison

Written on November 09, 2012

NSEC continues to support the Materials Science Center (MSC) in the area of CryoTEM equipment, by replacement of the aging LEO 912 EFTEM, with a Tecnai T12 which has been upgraded for CryoTEM. For the first time on campus, a researcher in the Department of Neurology was able to use our NSEC funded equipment to prepare 70 plastic embedded sections with our ultramicrotome, and image them in the Tecnai T12 129KV TEM now in the Materials Science Center. The images were then processed in a extension if the ImageJ software called Fiji, being developed by the Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation at UW (supported by NIH) to produce an aligned 3-D model of the structure of a mouse motor neuron synaptic junction.

In addition, the NSEC supported a successful joint NSEC, Botany and BioChemistry NSF MRI proposal for an advanced 300KV FE(S)TEM that will bring automated EM tomography capability to UW-Madison.

Dietram Scheufele Co-organized Colloqium

Written on February 14, 2012

Societal Implications Group faculty member Dietram Scheufele is co-organizing the National Academy of Sciences’ upcoming Sackler Colloquium which will take place on May 21-22 in Washington D.C. The colloquium deals with “the science of science communication,” and is co-organized with NAS President Ralph Cicerone, AAAS CEO Alan Leshner, and three other organizers. Societal Implications Group Leader Dominique Brossard will be one of the presenters. The colloquium will also result in a special issue of PNAS, co-edited by Baruch Fishoff and Dietram Scheufele.

Katrina Forest named 2012 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Fellow

Written on February 10, 2012

Katrina Forest, professor of bacteriology and NSEC Thrust 2 faculty member, has been selected by the Institute for Biology Education as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Faculty Fellow for 2012. Forest was chosen as a fellow both for her excellence in teaching and for her dedication to passing their knowledge and skills along to the next generation of educators.

Michael Graham receives honor from American Physical Society

Written on December 27, 2011

NSEC faculty member Michael Graham was among four University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers named fellows of the American Physical Society, an honor bestowed upon no more than half of one percent of the professional society’s membership. The peer-awarded designation is given in recognition of significant research advances or innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology.

Bob Hamers honored by American Chemical Society

Written on November 08, 2011

NSEC faculty member Bob Hamers was among four University of Wisconsin–Madison professors to have won awards from the American Chemical Society (ACS) in recognition of research excellence. He will be honored at a ceremony next March at the society’s 243rd national meeting in San Diego.

Mike Arnold wins White House science award

Written on September 29, 2011

The White House has named a pair of University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers and a recent alumnus to a list of the country’s most promising researchers. Materials science and engineering professor Michael Arnold, chemistry professor Daniel Fredrickson, and UW–Madison graduate Samuel Zelinka — now a researcher at the USDA’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison — are among just 94 recipients of Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

NSEC graduate student Ashley Anderson wins best paper award

Written on August 15, 2011

Societal Implications Group graduate student Ashley Anderson and co-authors won a best paper award at the 2011 Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri for their paper The New Communication Environment and its Influence on Media Credibility. The paper also won a Top 3 Faculty Paper Award.

New technology could stamp out bacteria in persistent wounds

Written on April 04, 2011

Using an advanced form of a rubber stamp, researchers have developed a way to adhere an ultra-thin antibacterial coating to a wound.

The active ingredient, silver, “has been used to prevent and treat infections for ages,” says first author Ankit Agarwal, a postdoctoral fellow in chemical and biological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But silver can also kill skin cells, and therefore we need to develop materials that deliver antibacterial but nontoxic levels of silver to wounds.”

In a study just published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, Agarwal, chemical and biological engineering professor Nicholas Abbott, and colleagues described a process for creating a transparent ultra-thin polymer coating carrying precise loads of extremely fine silver nanoparticles.
The coating, just a few molecules thick, was assembled on a flexible piece of rubber and then rubber-stamped onto a piece of cadaver skin that simulated a wound in the experiment.
To test the activity against bacteria, the researchers treated skin samples with two bacteria that commonly infect wounds. Using a silver dosage that had not harmed skin cells in previous tests, the bacteria were undetectable within 12 hours, Agarwal says.

Juan de Pablo receives lecture honors

Written on February 11, 2011

Juan de Pablo has received the 2011 Oersted Lectureship Award from Denmark’s Technical University. He is the 17th recipient of this award, which commemorates the accomplishments of Hans Christian Oersted, who discovered electromagnetism and was the founder of the Technical University of Denmark. Previous recipients of the Oersted Award include Nobel Laureates Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Ivar Giaever, Harold Kroto, and Ahmed Zewail.

Juan has also been selected to deliver the 2011 Julian C. Smith Memorial lectures in chemical engineering at Cornell University. The Smith lectures were initiated in 1988 and provide unique forum for recognizing outstanding contributions to research in engineering science. Juan will deliver two lectures entitled “Dimension Dependent Properties at the Nanoscale, and the Need for Alternative Nanofabrication Strategies” and “Directed Assembly and its Use in Genomics and Sensor Development” on April 18-19.

Nick Abbott honored as AAAS Fellow

Written on January 12, 2011

Professor Nick Abbott has been elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Selection as a AAAS fellow is a high honor conferred by peers in recognition of distinguished efforts to advance science and its applications. AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society. The tradition of naming AAAS fellows in honor of their achievements dates to 1874. New fellows will be recognized at the Fellows Forum, held during the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19.

Nick was recognized for the transformative engineering and analysis of biotic-abiotic interfaces, including the imaginative use of liquid crystalline materials to report on the interactions of biomolecules.

NSEC graduate student receives honorable mention in MAPOR competition

Written on November 17, 2010

Graduate student Pete Ladwig of the NSEC Societal Implications group recently won Honorable Mention in the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (MAPOR) Fellows Student Paper Competition.

Ladwig’s paper examined differences in knowledge between science topics that carry a religious or moral component and those that do not, as measured by true/false knowledge items in surveys. Ladwig will be presenting his findings at MAPOR’s annual conference held in Chicago, IL on November 19, 2010.

Nealey earns AIChE award

Written on September 01, 2010

Milton J. and A. Maude Shoemaker Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering Paul Nealey has earned an award for his contributions to the understanding of the nanoscopic properties and patterning of polymeric materials in ways that enable future generations of microelectronics, photonics and biotechnologies. Nealey will receive the 2010 Nanoscale Science and Engineering Forum Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and deliver a plenary lecture November 8 at the AIChE meeting in Salt Lake City.

Communication professor honored for teaching, research, service

Written on July 15, 2010

Dietram Scheufele, professor of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the winner of the 2010 Krieghbaum Under-40 Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

The award, named for former New York University professor Hillier Krieghbaum, goes to young association members for achievement in teaching, research and public service, which Scheufele considers a tidy description of the Wisconsin Idea.

“Service to society at large is important to us at Wisconsin and important to my work, which actually often cites Krieghbaum,” Scheufele says. “Krieghbaum was dealing with some of the same issues we’re dealing with today. How to we build bridges between society and the science we’re doing at universities today?”

Back in circulation: Why certain polymers improve blood flow

Written on June 03, 2010

With funding from the National Science Foundation, a University of Wisconsin-Madison engineer will study whether “drag-reducing” polymer molecules enhance flow through some of the tiniest blood vessels in the human body. Smaller than the diameter of a human hair, capillaries are embedded within the body’s organs and are important for distributing blood throughout the tissues. “One of the issues is making sure that, under situations where there’s a disease or injury, blood is still able to get to where it needs to be,” says Michael Graham, Harvey D. Spangler Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UW-Madison.

Powerful genome barcoding system reveals large-scale variation in human DNA

Written on May 31, 2010

Genetic abnormalities are most often discussed in terms of differences so miniscule they are actually called “snips” — changes in a single unit along the 3 billion that make up the entire string of human DNA.

“There’s a whole world beyond SNPs — single nucleotide polymorphisms — and we’ve stepped into that world,” says Brian Teague, a doctoral student in genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “There are much bigger changes in there.”

Variation on the order of thousands to hundreds of thousands of DNA’s smallest pieces — large swaths varying in length or location or even showing up in reverse order — appeared 4,205 times in a comparison of DNA from just four people, according to a study published May 31 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Those structural differences popped into clear view through computer analysis of more than 500 linear feet of DNA molecules analyzed by the powerful genome mapping system developed over nearly two decades by David C. Schwartz, professor of chemistry and genetics at UW-Madison.

Does Google steer our conversations about science?

Written on May 20, 2010

By adding a subtle nudge to each of more than 1 billion search requests every day, Google may be steering the direction of public discussion. Begin typing a word in the search box at, and the Google Suggest feature starts kicking in ideas – “tiger” begets “tiger woods,” “tea” draws “tea party movement” and “craig” will summon “craigslist.” “It is meant to be helpful, but from a public discourse perspective it is worrisome,” says Dominique Brossard, a University of Wisconsin-Madison life science communication professor. Brossard and four colleagues studied Google”s data for nanotechnology-related search terms and the associated Google suggestions from October 2008 to September 2009. In a study published in the May issue of Materials Today, the researchers found a reversal in the top 10 nano search terms, with economic impact (word such as “stocks,” “jobs” and “companies”) searches giving way to health (“medicine” and “cancer”) searches over the course of a year.

Crystal defect shown to be key to making hollow nanotubes

Written on April 22, 2010

Scientists have no problem making a menagerie of nanometer-sized objects — wires, tubes, belts, and even tree-like structures. What they sometimes have been unable to do is explain precisely how those objects form in the vapor and liquid cauldrons in which they are made.

Now a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison chemist Song Jin, writing this week (April 23, 2010) in the journal Science, shows that a simple crystal defect known as a “screw dislocation” drives the growth of hollow zinc oxide nanotubes just a few millionths of a centimeter thick.

The finding is important because it provides new insight into the processes that guide the formation of the smallest manufactured structures, a significant challenge in nanoscience and nanotechnology. “We think that this work provides a general theoretical framework for controlling nanowire or nanotube growth without using metal catalysts that can be generally applicable to many materials,” says Jin, a UW-Madison professor of chemistry.

Mahesh Mahanthappa receives Emil H. Steiger Award

Written on April 05, 2010

In four years at UW-Madison, Mahesh Mahanthappa, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, “has rapidly distinguished himself as the outstanding young teacher in our department,” writes nominator Robert Hamers, chair of the Department of Chemistry. In the fall of 2007, Mahanthappa received the highest evaluation score of any faculty or staff member in any undergraduate course, and he has continued that excellence since.

“Professor Mahanthappa’s ability to communicate is the first step in his magic as a teacher, because in captivating a room of 250 freshmen by talking about chemistry, he sets the stage to teach meaningfully and to inspire students in a way rarely accomplished,” writes student Lauren Buckley. “All professors know the material they teach and most find it fascinating, but Professor Mahanthappa’s ability to share both his knowledge and excitement is a defining factor of his effectiveness as a teacher. He showed you that if you knew the concepts and were immersed in the language of chemistry, you would eventually learn it like you do any foreign language.”