Researchers have discovered that protein folding is much more than just a perfunctory, fleeting performance before the real biology begins. Protein folding is a constantly ongoing, complicated biological opera itself, with a huge cast of performers, an intricate plot, and dramatic denouements when things go awry. Martin Gruebele, a professor of chemistry and member of the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group, discusses protein-folding chaperones.
Liz Stine-Morrow, professor of educational psychology and leader of the Cognition, Lifespan Engagement, Aging, and Resilience Group discusses the promise and perils of cognitive training in dementia for late-life cognitive health at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2017, London, UK.
The National Science Foundation recently granted the University of Illinois $3 million for an interdisciplinary graduate student training program to help form new insight on the brain—and to expand participation in the field of brain science itself. Sixty graduate students from across campus will participate in the five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Traineeship, led by Martha Gillette, a professor of cell and developmental biology, director of the Neuroscience Program, and member of the Beckman's Intelligent Systems research theme. HyunJoon Kong, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and member of Beckman’s Bioimaging Science and Technology Group, is the lead co-principal investigator. Co-directors on the project include Beckman faculty members Rashid Bashir, a professor of bioengineering, electrical and computer engineering, and head of the Department of Bioengineering; Neal Cohen, a professor of psychology; and Jonathan Sweedler, a professor of chemistry.
The Journal of Physical Chemistry honored the achievements and life of Klaus Schulten, a pioneer in biophysics and computational biology and founding member of the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group (TCBG), who died in October 2016. TCBG members contributed to the issue: Emad Tajkhorshid, a professor of biochemistry, and Christophe Chipot, a former Beckman senior fellow and longtime collaborator of Schulten, were listed as guest editors of the issue, while Angela Barragan, a graduate research assistant; John E. Stone, a senior research programmer; and Melih Sener, a research scientist, created the cover image.
Kenneth Hernandez-Burgos, a Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow, and Mark Burgess, a doctoral student at Illinois, have been named recipients of the Norman Hackerman Young Author Award for best paper published by young authors in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. Both Hernandez-Burgos and Burgess work with Joaquin Rodriguez Lopez, assistant professor of chemistry and member of the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group. They will be recognized for their publication, "Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy and Hydrodynamic Voltammetry Investigation of Charge Transfer Mechanisms on Redox Active Polymers" at the October 2017 meeting.
In its third summer, the Bioimaging Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) allowed 10 undergraduate students to experience research on imaging. Not only did they learn about the specific area they were researching; but they acquired new skills related to imaging; gained professional skills, such as how to present their research; plus learned what graduate school is like. For some, it confirmed that graduate school/research was in their future.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Illinois and Stanford University $1.6 million over four years to develop a handheld detection system and sensor cartridge that can pinpoint individual HIV particles in minutes. This effort is co-led by Brian Cunningham, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and a member of Beckman’s Nanoelectronics and Nanoscale Group, who also is the director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Lab, and his collaborator, Professor Utkan Demirci from Stanford University.
Illinois postdoctoral researcher Diane Ehlers and professor Edward McAuley, a member of Beckman’s Cognition, Lifespan Engagement, Aging, and Resilience Group, found that physical activity may have cognitive benefits for cancer survivors struggling with fatigue and “chemo brain.”
Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive new study led by Aron Barbey, an associate professor of psychology and member of Beckman’s Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity Group.
For the past several years, researchers at the University of Illinois have been developing a class of walking "bio-bots" powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical and optical pulses. Now, Bioengineering Professor Rashid Bashir’s research group is sharing the recipe for the current generation of bio-bots. Their how-to paper was the cover article in Nature Protocols. Bashir is a member of Beckman’s 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group.
For the second time in three years, a team from the University of Illinois has placed high in the global ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge (ILSVRC 2017). Honghui Shi, a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering who works with Beckman’s Organizational Intelligence and Computational Social Science Group and the Coordinated Science Lab, led a team that placed second in all four categories of object detection and tracking from video. Shi works in the lab of Thomas Huang, a Beckman research professor and a founding figure in computer vision and image processing.
Viktor Gruev, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and member of Beckman’s Bioimaging Science and Technology Group, has developed goggles and imaging technology that can help surgeons visualize cancer cells. His research caught the interest of local television news magazine ciLiving.tv because of a new clinical trial in collaboration with Assistant Professor Laura Selmic at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
It took two years on a supercomputer to simulate 1.2 microseconds in the life of the HIV capsid, a protein cage that shuttles the HIV virus to the nucleus of a human cell. The 64-million-atom simulation offers new insights into how the virus senses its environment and completes its infective cycle. "We are learning the details of the HIV capsid system, not just the structure but also how it changes its environment and responds to its environment," said U of I research scientist Juan R. Perilla, who led the study with physics professor Klaus Schulten. Both were members of Beckman's Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group. Schulten, who died in October 2016, pioneered the application of molecular dynamics simulations to study large biological systems. He called the method "computational microscopy."
Zyvex Labs, a Texas-based company that designs and constructs atomically precise manufacturing technology in order to build products with microscopic accuracy, has donated a 20-bit ZyVector scanning tunneling microscope (STM) control system to the lab of Joseph Lyding at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.
Gene Robinson, a professor of entomology and of neuroscience, the director of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, and member of Beckman’s Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity Group, was cited in an article about the decline of honeybee populations. “Populations have declined over the past 10 years by about 30 percent annually throughout the U.S.,” Robinson said. The article discusses how the ag industry, Illinois beekeepers, and communities across the state have come up with solutions to help honeybee populations rebound.
Paul Kenis, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and a member of Beckman’s 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group, was cited in an article in Chemistry World. Scientists at Paris Diderot University, France, and the National University of Cordoba, Argentina, have developed an inexpensive catalytic system that reduces carbon dioxide to methane at ambient pressure and temperature. “The authors describe an interesting approach, first converting carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide and then converting the carbon monoxide to methane with high selectivity,” Kenis said.
Aditi Das, an assistant professor of comparative biosciences and a member of Beckman’s 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group, and colleagues discovered an enzymatic pathway that converts omega-3-derived endocannabinoids into more potent anti-inflammatory molecules. Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, THC, is responsible for some of its euphoric effects, but it also has anti-inflammatory benefits. The new study in animal tissue reveals the cascade of chemical reactions that convert omega-3 fatty acids into cannabinoids that have anti-inflammatory benefits—but without the psychotropic high.
News-Gazette staff writer Paul Wood talks with Paris Smaragdis, an associate professor of computer science and of electrical and computer engineering, and a member of Beckman’s Illinois Language and Literacy Initiative. Smaragdis’ primary research interests revolve around making machines that can listen. He has worked on signal processing, machine learning and statistics as they relate to artificial perception, and in particular computational audition.
Slug City, a website maintained by Rhanor Gillette, a professor emeritus of molecular and integrative physiology and member of Beckman’s Cellular and Molecular Foundations of Intelligent Behavior Group, was cited in an article discussing a mysterious creature found on a beach in California. If it’s a sidegill (a type of sea slug), it’s probably Pleurobranchaea californica. Trawling data suggests that P. californica eggs hatch during midsummer, mature during the fall and reproduce during the winter months, according to Gillette's website.
Three Beckman Institute researchers are among those recently appointed to the Center for Advanced Study’s permanent faculty: Gary Dell, psychology and a member of Beckman’s Illinois Language and Literacy Initiative; Martin Gruebele and Catherine Murphy, chemistry and members of Beckman’s Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group. The appointment is one of the highest forms of academic recognition the U of I campus makes for outstanding scholarship.
Electrical and Computer Engineering Visiting Scholar Nimrod Missael Garcia Hernandez along with ECE Associate Professor Viktor Gruev won two Best Paper Awards at the IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems (ISCAS). These distinctions include the Best Paper Award in the Sensory Circuits and Systems track, and most impressively the Best Student Paper Award, chosen from among around 800 papers. Gruev, who was the principal investigator for the research, is also affiliated with the Beckman Institute and the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory (MNTL).
Negative experiences are taking a toll on scientists’ sense of security at work, said Illinois anthropology professor Kathryn Clancy, who is a member of Beckman’s Social and Emotional Dimensions of Well-Being Group and co-led a new study on bias. In an online survey about their workplace experiences, 88 percent of academics, students, postdoctoral researchers and administrators in astronomy and planetary science reported hearing, experiencing, or witnessing negative language or harassment relating to race, gender, or other physical characteristics at work within the last five years. Of the 423 respondents, 39 percent reported having been verbally harassed and 9 percent said they had suffered physical harassment at work.
In the first study of its kind, Illinois researchers compared the cost of the entire life cycle of corn used as food to corn used as biofuel and found that it has more economic value as food. Aditi Das, an assistant professor of comparative biosciences and a member of Beckman’s 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group, was one of the researchers cited on the study.
Bioengineering faculty Rohit Bhargava and Brad Sutton, both members of Beckman’s Bioimaging Science and Technology Group, are among the Illinois researchers to receive funding through the Carle Illinois Collaborate Research Seed Funding Program, offered by Carle and the U of I. Proposals were required to list a lead investigator from both Carle and Illinois on the project, as well as demonstrate a strong connection between physicians and faculty. Each of the one-year projects—which had to relate to one of four priority research areas—receives $50,000 in research funding.
Deana McDonagh, a professor of industrial design and member of Beckman’s Social and Emotional Dimensions of Well-Being Group, was quoted in an article about Serionix, a startup based in the University of Illinois Research Park, developing new applications for their air filter—including getting rid of the smell of cat pee—that was originally designed for industry. "It's a testimony to them that they didn't dismiss what, on the surface, sounds a bit crazy, but in reality it's got, wow, incredible legs,” McDonagh said.
Eight Beckman researchers were among the Illinois researchers awarded 3,697,000 node hours (NH) of time on the Blue Waters supercomputer by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) from spring 2017 proposals. Some of the time allocated for Blue Waters will go to projects that focus on HIV research, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) simulations, genomics, global warming research, and MRI applications. Those with Beckman affiliations: Aleksei Aksimentiev, a member of the Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials; Aaron Anderson and Narayana R. Aluru, members of the Computational Multiscale Nanosystems Group; Juan Perilla and Jodi Hadden, members of the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group; Alex Cerjanic and Brad Sutton, members of Bioimaging Science and Technology Group; and Nancy Makri, a member of Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials Group.
The Cancer Center at Illinois plans to make an impact in the fight against the second leading cause of death in Illinois and the United States. The center will bring together more than 90 faculty members from across campus, and numerous graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, to pursue cancer-related research.
Westerners view handshaking more positively than do East Asians, researchers report in a new study. Western men also rate handshakes initiated by men and women differently, the study found. “We know from previous studies that handshaking positively affects people’s first impressions and evaluations of others,” said U. of I. graduate student Yuta Katsumi, who led the research with U. of I. psychology professors Sanda Dolcos and Florin Dolcos. All are members of Beckman’s Social and Emotional Dimensions of Well-being Group.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) developers promise that the technology is only limited by imagination, but wearing VR goggles for even a short period of time can cause eye strain, motion sickness, fatigue, and other physical complaints. However, a new breakthrough at the iOptics Lab (Intelligent Optics Lab) at Illinois is poised to change that. Assistant Professor Liang Gao and graduate student Wei Cui, both from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and affiliated with the Beckman’s Bioimaging Science and Technology Group, have created a new optical mapping 3D display that makes VR viewing more comfortable.
A new portable device can quickly find markers of deadly, unpredictable sepsis infection from a single drop of blood. A team of researchers from the U of I—including Rashid Bashir, a member of Beckman’s 3D Micro- and Nanosystems Group—and Carle Foundation Hospital completed a clinical study of the device, which is the first to provide rapid, point-of-care measurement of the immune system’s response, without any need to process the blood.
Lydia Kisley, a Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow, and colleagues recently used Fast Relaxation Imaging (FReI) to investigate the folding stability and dynamics of proteins within polyacrylamide hydrogels.