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Research in the news
Physics professor is one of 15 recipients of Department of Defense MURI research award
June 6, 2013 - A team of six scientists, including physics professor Marco Fornari,
is receiving $8.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to
develop and apply computational methods that will replace expensive and
rare chemical elements from critical technologies.
Their award-winning research proposal, "Rare Element Replacement
Strategies," is a combined effort between Fornari and his colleagues at
Duke University, Brigham Young University, University of North Texas and
University of Maryland - College Park. The team is receiving one of 15
awards given by the DoD to academic institutions to perform
multidisciplinary basic research. Totaling $105 million, the awards are
presented by the Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research
under the DoD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI)
The MURI program supports research by teams of investigators across
traditional science and engineering disciplines to accelerate research
progress. Fornari, along with his research colleagues, will investigate
topological decompositions and spectral sampling algorithms for elements
substitution in critical technologies. In simpler terms, he will
develop and apply methods to design advanced materials with improved
functionalities for applications that are crucial for the mission of the
The Army Research Office and the Office of Naval Research solicited
proposals in 16 topics important to the DoD and received a total of 193
papers, followed by 43 proposals. The 15 awards handed out are for a
five year period, with the research expected to produce significant
advances in capabilities for U.S. military forces, and to open up
entirely new lines of research. A total of 43 academic institutions are
expected to participate in these select 15 research projects.
Pear-shaped atomic nuclei offer clues into nature of matter
May 28, 2013 - An international team of nuclear physicists, including CMU assistant professor of physics Kathrin Wimmer, has found that some atomic nuclei can assume asymmetric 'pear' shapes.
The researchers' findings, published in the May 9 issue of the journal Nature,
landed the coveted cover story and could be the key to understanding
one of the great mysteries of the universe - the reason for the Big
Bang's creation of a massive imbalance between matter and antimatter.
reason behind the imbalance is one of physics' great mysteries. In
particle physics, four basic forces dictate how matter behaves -
gravity, electromagnetic forces, "strong" interactions and "weak"
interactions. Physicists have been searching for signs of a new type of
force or interaction to explain the matter-antimatter imbalance.
nuclei that exist naturally are not spherical. Wimmer and her
colleagues decided to focus on pear-shaped nuclei because their
unusually asymmetrical shape would make the effects of the new force
much easier and stronger to detect. These nuclei get their shape from
positive protons that are nudged out from the center of the nucleus by
asymmetrical nuclear forces, yielding more mass at one end of the
nucleus than the other.
now, it was difficult to observe pear-shaped nuclei experimentally.
However, a technique pioneered in the Isotope Separator Facility
(ISOLDE) at CERN, the European laboratory for nuclear physics research
in Geneva, has been used successfully.
determine the shape of the nuclei, the research team accelerated radium
and radon atoms and smashed them into tin, nickel and cadmium. However,
because the positively charged nuclei repelled each other, nuclear
reactions were not possible. The result was the excitation of the nuclei
to higher energy levels and the production of gamma rays, with the
pattern of gamma radiation revealing the pear shape of the nucleus.
experimental observation of nuclear pear shapes is important for
understanding the theory of nuclear structure and for helping with
experimental searches for electric dipole moments (EDM) in atoms.
study's results will help direct ongoing research for EDM that are
currently being conducted in labs across North America and Europe,
helping to advance the search for understanding the nature of the
building blocks of the universe.
research team, which included scientists from the UK, Germany, the USA,
Switzerland, France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Poland and Spain, was
led by professor Peter Butler from the University of Liverpool's
Department of Physics.
First published in 1869, Nature
is the world's most highly cited interdisciplinary science journal. Most scientific journals are now highly specialized, but Nature
among the few that still publish original research articles across a
wide range of scientific fields. Published weekly, papers in this
international journal feature the finest peer-reviewed research in all
fields of science and technology.
Mahon and research team find that Asian carp DNA is not widespread in the Great Lakes as previously thought
April 5, 2013 - Assistant professor of biology and Institute for Great Lakes Research scientist Andrew Mahon, along with scientists from the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy, recently published their research on Asian carp DNA throughout the Great Lakes in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
Silver and bighead carp - which gorge on plankton that all fish consume - are of particular concern to the Great Lakes ecosystem, since they are large fish that can quickly reproduce and unravel the food chain that supports a $7 billion fishing industry. In their latest study, the research team found that at least some Asian carp have found their way into the Great Lakes, but there is no evidence that they are as widespread in the Great Lakes basin as previously thought.
Between September 2009 and October 2011, Mahon and his colleagues collected more than 2,800 water samples from parts of the Great Lakes and tributary rivers. Laboratory analysis yielded 58 positive hits for bighead or silver carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System, a network of rivers and canals linked directly to Lake Michigan, and 6 in western Lake Erie. Some of the Chicago eDNA was found in Lake Calumet, where a live bighead carp was caught in 2010 and three others were snagged in 1995 and 2000.
The results of their research contradict earlier government studies that have said many of the positive water samples detecting Asian carp DNA in or near the lakes in recent years could have come from other sources, such as excrement from birds that fed on the carp in distant rivers, or via boats and other pathways. While these previous studies acknowledged the presence of eDNA, government researchers disagreed that the findings signaled the presence of live fish.
Dr. Christopher Jerde, lead investigator on the latest study and a scientist at the University of Notre Dame, said, "Looking at the overall patterns of detections, we remain convinced that the most likely source of Asian carp DNA is live fish."
Conducted by experts who pioneered the use of genetic data to search for the aggressive fish, Mahon and his colleagues' investigation builds upon a growing area of research to find invasive species when they are at low abundance and when they can be potentially managed.
The paper's co-author, Mahon, said, "When we first discovered DNA from Asian carp at the Calumet Harbor and Port of Chicago, we were concerned that Asian carp may already be widespread in the Great Lakes, but because of our collaborations with state and federal partners, we now have a better picture of the Asian carp distribution. We are optimistic that with continued vigilance, it will be possible to prevent Asian carp becoming established in the Great Lakes."
Click here to read the full research article, "Detection of Asian carp DNA as part of a Great Lakes basin-wide surveillance program."
CMU's Antarctica research team returns
March 15, 2013 - A Central Michigan University research team recently returned from their voyage to Antarctica to collect invertebrates in areas of water that have never been explored.
Assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon, along with December 2012 CMU graduate Carlos Coronado and CMU senior Abigail Hollingsworth, joined scientists from Auburn University of Alabama for a six-week journey gathering and analyzing small invertebrate animals in one of the most remote regions of the world.
The crew boarded the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a National Science Foundation research vessel, Jan. 1 in Punta Arenas, Chile. During the grant-funded research trip, the scientists collected invertebrate samples by dropping nets of up to 1,000 feet.
CMU biology faculty and research team introduce new screening method to detect abundance of invasive species in water
March 6, 2013 - Central Michigan University assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon and a group of researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy have identified a genetic method of surveillance to detect the abundance of invasive species in water.
The study is the first to utilize the common genetic technique known as PCR screening to detect the relative abundance of a particular Asian carp species by testing for residual environmental DNA in water samples.
The findings of their recent study have been published in PLOS ONE, the electronic journal of the Public Library of Science, an open-access publisher of research from all areas of science. Access the article here.
"Our study shows the percentage of DNA positive samplings we find is directly related to the number of that particular species of fish in the water," said Mahon, lead scientist on the study. "This validates the use of eDNA surveillance sensitivity for the detection of multiple species of Asian carps in water systems."
Researchers compared genetic material found in water samples to the number of fish found in a 2.6-mile stretch of river in the Chicago canal system after it was treated with retenone and the fish carcasses were collected.
"Our results showed a positive correlation between the number of genetic samples and the abundance of fish after the canal was treated," said Mahon.
This testing provides for another tool for environmental management agencies to use in determining whether invasive species are present in the water.
"This genetic testing method, along with other traditional options currently being used such as netting, electro fishing, and hook and line sampling, offers an additional tool for detecting invasive species and one more option in the battle against these species getting into our waterways," said Mahon.
USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center scientists Margaret Hunter and Leo Nico are co-authors on the study, providing expertise, genetic samples and information on black carp.
Media Contact: Kathy Backus, 989-774-1702
CMU engineering students harvesting pedestrian energy to produce electricity
Electrical panel to provide renewable energy to power temperature display
March 4, 2013 - Central Michigan University engineering students are constructing an electrical panel that will serve as a vibrational energy harvester to create renewable energy for powering a temperature display. The panel, which will be located in the entrance of CMU's Engineering and Technology building, will generate electricity by using the vibrations of pedestrian footsteps as they walk in and out of the facility.
Assistant professor of engineering Tolga Kaya says the student-led project could lead to the development of self-sustainable electric systems to be used in settings highly populated by pedestrians like subway stations or settings that experience heavy vehicle traffic like highways.
"This project is about generating energy through human steps and using that energy to sustain a system without batteries," Kaya said. "This is a small prototype. If this works, similar panels could be installed in train stations and other high traffic areas so that these facilities can be self-sustainable and generate their own energy."
The panel is being constructed as part of a senior design project for engineering students with a budget of $1,500.
The panel is scheduled for completion in April. If the project is a success and the panel is self-sustainable, Kaya imagines it will remain at the entrance of the building in the future.
The project began in the fall with four students conducting the research that would make the second-semester design phase successful. For the students who created the project, there's a genuine interest in the technology that goes beyond the requirements of the course work.
"I have always had an interest in energy harvesters like wind turbines and power dams," said White Lake senior Robert Balma. "It's fun to see something being powered from nothing."
Canton senior Justin Scaparo says the project has been challenging, but the experience he's getting has been very valuable.
"We've had to use a lot of our own research to be innovative in what we're trying to do," Scaparo said. "We're working together, bringing together pieces of our own expertise, to develop new applications using the technology that is out there. It gives me the opportunity to bring what I learn in class to life."
Media Contact: Danny Goodwin Jr., 989-774-1072
CMU research team sets off to discover new species in Antarctica
Study of invertebrate animals living in one of the most remote regions of the world
January 3, 2013 - A Central Michigan University research team is on a voyage to Antarctica to collect invertebrates in areas of water that have never been explored. On previous research trips to Antartica, assistant professor of biologyAndrew Mahon uncovered four new species.
"Because there have been so few people who have been to Antarctica to conduct research, we find new things," said Mahon. "Whether it's a new area where we didn't think a particular species lived or a species that's new to science completely, every time we go we find new things."
Mahon, as well as December 2012 CMU graduate Carlos Coronado and CMU senior Abigail Hollingsworth have joined scientists from Auburn University of Alabama for a six-week journey gathering and analyzing small invertebrate animals in one of the most remote regions of the world.
"From my experience, these trips are life-changing," said Mahon. "You get to see things that nobody has ever seen. You get to go places where nobody else has ever been."
The crew boarded the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a National Science Foundation research vessel, Jan. 1 in Punta Arenas, Chile. During the grant-funded research trip, the scientists will collect invertebrate samples by dropping nets of up to 1,000 feet.
They will be studying DNA and other genetic information from the small animals they gather. Each species will be documented, and samples will be sent to biology labs at CMU for research.
Coronado of Hazel Park is most excited for what they will discover in the nets and the opportunity to see the world.
"We're studying in Antarctica because it's a very unique system," said Coronado. "Not a lot of people get to go there. Particularly this spot where we're going, pretty much no one else has been there."
Hollingsworth of Lexington says she is lucky to have this opportunity as an undergraduate student.
"The kind of opportunities this trip will open up for me and the work experience it will give me... I feel very grateful," said Hollingsworth.
Mahon and his team will be communicating with several K-12 classes throughout Michigan during their trip via email messages, social media and blog posts. Follow their voyage at these links:www.facebook.com/cmich; https://twitter.com/CMUniversity; andhttp://people.cst.cmich.edu/mahon2a/MahonLab/Antarctica/Antarctica.html
Media Contact: Kathy Backus, 989-774-1702
CMU physics professors invited to participate in the initiative of MSU's leading nuclear physics facility
October 10, 2012 - Michigan State University has invited three Central Michigan University faculty members to participate in the academic initiative of a nuclear physics research facility in East Lansing to
help improve understanding of how nuclear particles can be used in diagnosing and curing diseases as well as assisting in homeland security efforts through radiation detection and uncovering the origin of matter.
The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at MSU will include
three CMU assistant professors that will work at both institutions
furthering nuclear physics research as part of a research cohort in an
academic collaboration between MSU and CMU. As part of their appointment
to the department of physics at MSU, the CMU faculty members will
supervise MSU doctoral students to educate future generations of
scientists. Both undergraduate and graduate students from CMU will have
the opportunity to be involved in the research.
collaboration between MSU and CMU amplifies the impact of FRIB on the
state by ensuring students and colleagues at CMU will be working with
faculty with direct engagement in FRIB,” says Mark Burnham, vice
president of governmental affairs at MSU. “This furthers the development
of Michigan as a hub for nuclear physics.”
The CMU faculty members include:
- Matthew Redshaw, an assistant professor of
physics at CMU who will conduct research at FRIB. His current research
projects include the study of high-precision mass measurements with
exotic nuclei and ultra-high-precision mass spectrometry with stable and
long-lived isotopes. Redshaw received his Ph.D. from Florida State
- Kathrin Wimmer, an assistant professor of physics
at CMU whose current research projects include the study of the
structure of exotic nuclei. Her research is performed at the National
Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory in East Lansing. Wimmer received
her Ph.D. at Technische Universitat München in Munich.
- Georgios Perdikakis, an assistant professor of
physics at CMU who received his Ph.D. from the National Technical
University of Athens in Greece. Perdikakis specializes in experimental
nuclear physics and nuclear astrophysics. His current research includes
experiments to understand the nuclear reactions that occur in stars and
FRIB is a facility that will enable more than 1,000 nuclear
scientists from around the world to conduct their research that will
allow scientists to produce the same rare isotopes found in stars or
supernovae, which will help discover the origin of matter. The $680
million facility is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of
Science, MSU and the State of Michigan.
“It’s going to be the most powerful rare isotope user facility in
the world,” says Redshaw. “It’s a great opportunity to have this
facility only 60 miles down the road from CMU.”
Mahon receives EPA grant to battle invasive species in
October 2, 2012 - IGLR researcher and assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon
is leading the CMU research team that recently received a $356,154
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant from the United States
Environmental Protection Agency to combat invasive species in the Great
Lakes basin, including the much-feared Asian carp.
Mahon's project, "Assessing Aquatic Invasive Species Risk in the Erie
Canal Corridor" will assess the risks presented by aquatic invasive
species (AIS) to the Erie Canal Corridor (ECC). Mahon and CMU
researchers will catalogue non-native species in the Mohawk-Hudson River
and Lake Champlain basins and identify currently restricted AIS that
have potential to spread into the ECC. By using environmental DNA
surveys, they will help identify the current range of priority AIS,
potential invasion pathways and future surveillance needs.