A sample of fungus that produces compounds similar to gasoline enclosed in a petri dish. DOD-funded researchers at Yale University are studying this fungus, found in Patagonia, as a cost-competitive source for the production of biofuels.
Daniel Spakowicz is a fourth-year student working towards a PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale University. He is originally from Oshkosh, WI.
I’m part of a team at Yale University that’s studying biofuels — we’re working to make gasoline from fungi! The team, consisting of two graduate students and three postdocs, is directed by Dr. Scott Strobel, a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow (NSSEFF) funded by the Department of Defense’s National Defense Education Program. NSSEFF supports world-class faculty members and their development of the next generation of leading scientists.
Current biofuels are very different from fossil-derived fuels. Their use requires the modification of our current engines and infrastructure, which can be very costly. In addition, current biofuels are made from food sources.
At Yale, we study a fungus that grows on dead trees and makes compounds similar to gasoline. If we could understand how this fungus is able to produce these compounds, then we may be able to scale it up to be a cost-competitive source of biofuel.
An October 4th, 2010, New York Times article, “U.S. Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels,” described the DoD’s recognition of the vulnerability of long fuel supply convoys. What if the fuel was produced at a forward theatre? Imagine being able to make your own gasoline, wherever, from waste materials. Or, we could take the genes responsible for this production and put them into another organism, like algae, to make gasoline from sunlight.
Dr. Shinn-Cunningham uses test subjects like this mannequin to study how the brain reacts to different sound settings. (Courtesy photo)
Dr. Barbara Shinn-Cunningham is a Professor of Cognitive and Neural Systems and Biomedical Engineering at Boston University and a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow.
As an engineer who also happens to be a musician, studying how we hear was a natural choice for me when I entered graduate school. What I didn’t realize back then was that work I do would have implications for hundreds of thousands of returning American war veterans who have service-related hearing injuries, not to mention the tens of millions of civilian Americans who have hearing loss.
In many social settings, like a cocktail party, multiple sounds reach the ears from all different directions. Normal-hearing, young, healthy listeners are good at focusing on whatever source they are interested in (like the attractive lawyer they just met) and ignoring other sounds (the snob opining about the hint of grapefruit is his chardonnay, the couple bickering about their finances, …). In other words, most listeners are able to filter out unwanted sound sources and focus on what sound is important, a process known as “selective auditory attention”.
Understanding when and how selective auditory attention fails is a problem that has real consequences in every walk of life. Imagine not being able to converse with your spouse at the dinner table because of the rambunctious antics of your three young children, or not being able to understand a command directed at you during a critical moment on a battlefield. Failing to filter out unwanted sounds can lead to catastrophic outcomes, from social isolation to life-threatening decision errors.
Drs. Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn in the foothills above the Boulder campus. (Courtesy photo)
Dr. Margaret Murnane is a faculty member at the University of Colorado and a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow. She runs a joint research group with her husband, Dr. Henry Kapteyn, and credits their success to teamwork.
2010 is the 50th anniversary of the first demonstration of the laser — an advance that has transformed our lives in many wonderful ways. It is also a very special year for my husband Henry and me.
We met as graduate students together at Berkeley, studying in the same field and in the same group. Many people told us that we had no hope of ever getting faculty positions together because no university would ever hire two people in the same field. Fortunately, Washington State University (WSU) did. And, even better, they were fine with us working together.
At WSU, we developed the fastest lasers in the world at the time – under 10 femtoseconds (< 0.000000000000001 sec). We also figured out how to compress all the laser energy into a light pancake that was a few millimeters in diameter and only 3 microns thick! By comparison, a human hair averages 50 microns in diameter.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced the selection of 11 distinguished university scientists and engineers for the 2010 class of its National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF). The NSSEFF program provides Fellows with a sizable chunk of change: up to $4,250,000 in long-term support to conduct unclassified research on topics of interest to DoD, including sensors, surveillance, information security, cyber and force protection, and power projection.
“These distinguished researchers have a demonstrated record of success in fields of strategic importance to the DoD. Their NSSEFF work will not only contribute to preparing DoD and the nation for an uncertain future (more…)