Game-changing computational approach takes the guesswork out of materials design

Synthesizing and characterizing new compounds with interesting properties costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. By simulating substances inside powerful computers, University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers are accelerating the process of making new materials, some of which might be very useful for advanced communication devices. Check out my article about this innovative... Continue Reading →

Tweaking text in the book of life: What engineering genomes means for science and society

Scholars at UW-Madison lead the way in genome engineering research, as well as deliberations about responsible use of the technique. This piece originially appeared at: Tweaking text in the book of life: What engineering genomes means for science and society While humans certainly are composed of softer materials than steel and concrete, both bodies and... Continue Reading →

Strategies for synthesizing hydrogen peroxide in a single step

Dilute solutions of hydrogen peroxide sit on shelves in medicine cabinets across the world. Yet synthesizing the chemical at the large scale requires a surprisingly complicated process that is economically unfeasible for all but a few industrial facilities. Chemists and engineers have long been working to develop simpler approaches, and recent research could contribute to developing a... Continue Reading →

Strained relationships: Using the forces that shape living cells to design new materials

Life is flexible. All living cells are basically squishy balloons full of water, proteins and DNA, surrounded by oily membranes. Those membranes stand up to significant amounts of stretching and bending, but only recently have scientists started to fully appreciate the useful organization and functions that result from all that stress. A group at UW-Madison... Continue Reading →

Designed for disaster

Have you ever looked at your hands…like REALLY looked at your hands? Our mitts are massively complicated assemblages of ligaments and bone. Human hands help us pick up pencils, swim freestyle stroke, and even occasionally type blog posts. 30 million years of descent with modification, random variation, selection and adaptation separate our paws from orangutan... Continue Reading →

The quantified self…or how do you measure a fool’s progress?

Data are a systematic representation of observations about reality. "Raw data" is an oxymoron. Every dataset has some underlying agenda--selecting which parameters to measure, which to ignore, and how to present results constructs a narrative, whether evaluating if Paxil is safe and effective for teens or deciding which state is the worst in the nation for African-American youth. We're living in the... Continue Reading →

CRISPR at a crossroads

Today some very smart people are having some very deep discussions about a very important technology. The world's finest scientific minds, along with a squadron of bioethicists, philosophers, and concerned citizens have convened in our nation's capital to debate one overarching question: What should the world DO with CRISPR? For the uninitiated, CRISPR stands for... Continue Reading →

What do mechanical engineers do in Wisconsin

One of my gigs here in wonderful Wisconsin is as a science writing intern/mad scientist for the College of Engineering at UW-Madison. The mechanical engineering department just hired four fantastically interesting new faculty members, and I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing each one. It turns out that Mechanical engineers do LOTS of different things: from 3D... Continue Reading →

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