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  • U. of I. plant biology professor James O'Dwyer

    Team finds reliable predictor of plant species persistence, coexistence

    Like many ecological scientists, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign plant biology professor James O’Dwyer has spent much of his career searching for ways to measure and predict how specific plant communities will fare over time. Which species in a diverse population will persist and coexist? Which will decline? What factors might contribute to continuing biodiversity?

    In a new study reported in the journal Nature, O’Dwyer and his colleague, U. of I. graduate student Kenneth Jops, report the development of a method for determining whether pairs or groups of plant species are likely to coexist over time.

  • A hand holds two vials of solution, one pink and one blue.

    Imaging agents light up two cancer biomarkers at once to give more complete picture of tumor

    Cancer surgeons may soon have a more complete view of tumors during surgery thanks to new imaging agents that can illuminate multiple biomarkers at once, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers report. The fluorescent nanoparticles, wrapped in the membranes of red blood cells, target tumors better than current clinically approved dyes and can emit two distinct signals in response to just one beam of surgical light, a feature that could help doctors distinguish tumor borders and identify metastatic cancers.

  • Mother and juvenile golden snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus roxellana.

    Study tracks social, genetic evolution in Asian colobine primates

    Asian colobines, also known as leaf-eating monkeys, have been on the planet for about 10 million years. Their ancestors crossed land bridges, dispersed across continents, survived the expansion and contraction of ice sheets and learned to live in tropical, temperate and colder climes. 

    A new study reported in the journal Science finds parallels between Asian colobines’ social, environmental and genetic evolution, revealing for the first time that colobines living in colder regions experienced genetic changes and alterations to their ancient social structure that likely enhanced their ability to survive. 

  • An artist's rendering of an implant with the smart coating

    Smart surgical implant coatings provide early failure warning while preventing infection

    Newly developed “smart” coatings for surgical orthopedic implants can monitor strain on the devices to provide early warning of implant failures while killing infection-causing bacteria, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers report. The coatings integrate flexible sensors with a nanostructured antibacterial surface inspired by the wings of dragonflies and cicadas.

  • Photo of Jeff Hoover in the woods.

    How does climate change affect global bird reproduction?

    A new study assessed changes in the reproductive output of 104 bird species around the world between 1970 and 2019. Illinois Natural History Survey avian ecologist Jeff Hoover, a co-author of the report, explains how climate change is altering bird ecology and health.

  • The sea slug, Pleurobranchea californica

    Study: Brain circuits for locomotion evolved long before appendages and skeletons

    Hundreds of millions of years before the evolution of animals with segmented bodies, jointed skeletons or appendages, soft-bodied invertebrates like sea slugs ruled the seas. A new study finds parallels between the brain architecture that drives locomotion in sea slugs and that of more complex segmented creatures with jointed skeletons and appendages.

  • The research team in the lab. A screen behind them displays brain regions involved in the new analysis. In the room behind them, an MRI machine.

    Study links nutrients, brain structure, cognition in healthy aging

    A new study found that blood markers of two saturated fatty acids along with certain omega-6, -7 and -9 fatty acids correlated with better scores on tests of memory and with larger brain structures in the frontal, temporal, parietal and insular cortices.

  • A picture of Pheidole dentata ants attending to eggs in their nest.

    In Florida study, nonnative leaf-litter ants are replacing native ants

    A new look at decades of data from museum collections and surveys of leaf-litter ants in Florida reveals a steady decline in native ants and simultaneous increase in nonnative ants – even in protected natural areas of the state, researchers report.

  • Photo of the researchers.

    Are Illinois farmers aware of the risk of tick-borne diseases?

    Illinois Ph.D. candidate Sulagna Chakraborty describes awareness of ticks and tick-borne disease among Illinois farmers.

  • Photo of the research group

    AI predicts enzyme function better than leading tools

    A new artificial intelligence tool can predict the functions of enzymes based on their amino acid sequences, even when the enzymes are unstudied or poorly understood. The researchers said the AI tool, dubbed CLEAN, outperforms the leading state-of-the-art tools in accuracy, reliability and sensitivity. Better understanding of enzymes and their functions would be a boon for research in genomics, chemistry, industrial materials, medicine, pharmaceuticals and more.

  • Photo of Brian Monson

    Study compares third-trimester sound exposures in fetuses, premature infants

    A new study is the first to compare the sound exposures of fetuses in the last 16 weeks of pregnancy with their age-matched premature peers. The analysis reveals profound differences in their exposures to noise, language and the biological sounds of the mother, with implications for the infants’ development.

  • Portrait of Kathryn Clancy

    Book tackles myths about science of menstruation

    A new book from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign anthropology professor Kathryn Clancy takes an unflinching look at the many ways humans have struggled – and often failed – to understand one of the greatest mysteries of human biology: menstruation.

  • Image of the logo design for the 40th Insect Fear Film Festival, featuring a dragonfly bursting out from a rock or fossil.

    Insect Fear Film Festival celebrates 40 years of entertaining, educating about insects

    The 2023 Insect Fear Film Festival celebrates 40 years of entertaining and educating people about insects and their close relatives. This year’s festival features living fossil organisms.

  • Photo of professor Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo and graduate student Mary Ellen Mendy standing in front of an arched window

    Study examines COVID-19 pandemic's effect on Black, Latina women's mental health

    Black and Latina women had high rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms during the pandemic, but prayer had differing effects, kinesiology and community health professor Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo found in a study.

  • The graphic shows an orange and blue fractal image illustrating mathmatical order and chaos

    Theory sorts order from chaos in complex quantum systems

    It’s not easy to make sense of quantum-scale motion, but a new mathematical theory could help, providing insight into the various computing, electrochemical and biological systems. Chenghao Zhang, a physics graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and chemistry professor Martin Gruebele performed a computational analysis of the new mathematical theory developed by Rice University theorist Peter Wolynes and theoretical chemist David Logan at Oxford University. The theory gives a simple prediction for the threshold at which large quantum systems switch from orderly motion like a clock to random, erratic motion like asteroids moving around in the early solar system.

  • Illustration showing fentanyl pills, a syringe, an ambulance and a chunk of crystal methamphetamine.

    Study finds 'staggering increase' in methamphetamine deaths tied to opioid co-use

    The U.S. methamphetamine mortality rate increased fiftyfold between 1999 and 2021, with most of the added deaths also involving heroin or fentanyl, researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health.

  • A graphic of a DNA shield guarding a simple human figure with the liver highlighted

    Possible genetic basis and mouse model found for severe nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

    A mutant or damaged gene may be a cause of a severe, mysterious form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers have found. Mice and human liver cells lacking the SRSF1 gene show all the hallmarks of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, also known as NASH, the researchers found. The unique mouse model captures all three hallmarks of excess fat, inflammation and scarring in the liver, opening the doors to better understanding and development of treatments for NASH.

  • Photo of Dominika Pindus

    Study links exercise intensity, attentional control in late-adolescent girls

    Adolescent girls who engage in more moderate and vigorous physical activity each day have better attentional control, a new study finds. The study focused on girls and boys aged 15-18.

  • PTI Director Michael Schlosser presents to police recruits at the Police Training Institute.

    Wrongful conviction course now required for all police recruits in Illinois

    Starting in 2023, all police recruits in the state of Illinois must take a Wrongful Conviction Awareness and Avoidance course as part of their training. This course was first developed by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Police Training Institute director Michael Schlosser with leaders of the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield.

    The course impresses upon new recruits the importance of carefully gathering and analyzing evidence in investigations and not jumping to conclusions about potential suspects. It offers real-world examples of the harm that accrues from wrongful convictions, including a presentation from an exoneree.

  • A composite image of seven faculty portraits

    Seven Illinois faculty members elected to AAAS

    Seven professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been elected 2022 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Fellows are chosen by their peers for outstanding contribution to the field.

  • Professor Ning Wang, front right, is joined by researchers, from left, Fazlur Rashid, Kshitij Amar and Parth Bhala.

    Probe can measure both cell stiffness and traction, researchers report

    Scientists have developed a tiny mechanical probe that can measure the inherent stiffness of cells and tissues as well as the internal forces the cells generate and exert on one another. Their new “magnetic microrobot” is the first such probe to be able to quantify both properties, the researchers report, and will aid in understanding cellular processes associated with development and disease.

  • Photo of Jacob S. Sherkow, a professor of law at Illinois who studies the ethical and policy implications of advanced biotechnologies

    Paper: California's proposal to manufacture insulin could curb prices, improve public health

    A new paper co-written by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign legal scholar Jacob S. Sherkow argues that the state of California’s proposal to manufacture and distribute insulin at cost could be a game-changer for curbing out-of-control price increases and a boon to public health.

  • Camera-trap photo of several pumas in the wild.

    Camera-trap study provides photographic evidence of pumas' ecological impact

    A camera-trap study of two ecosystems – one with pumas and one without – adds to scientists’ understanding of the many ways apex predators influence the abundance, diversity and habits of other animals, including smaller carnivores.

  • A photograph of an eBiobot prototype, lit with blue microLEDs.

    Microelectronics give researchers a remote control for biological robots

    First, they walked. Then, they saw the light. Now, miniature biological robots have gained a new trick: remote control. The hybrid “eBiobots” are the first to combine soft materials, living muscle and microelectronics, said researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and collaborating institutions.

  • African savanna elephants

    Team streamlines DNA collection, analysis for elephant conservation

    A new DNA-collection approach allows scientists to capture genetic information from elephants without disturbing the animals or putting their own safety in jeopardy. The protocol, tested on elephant dung, yielded enough DNA to sequence whole genomes not only of the elephants but also of the associated microbes, plants, parasites and other organisms – at a fraction of the cost of current approaches.

  • Illustration of a sailing ship on the water amid icebergs.

    New website compiles ocean data from landmark 19th-century scientific voyage

    English professor Gillen D’Arcy Wood’s Oceans 1876 project makes a treasure trove of 19th-century marine data accessible to help scientists better understand how our oceans have changed and how to protect them.

  • Photo of U. of I. researchers.

    First test of anti-cancer agent PAC-1 in human clinical trials shows promise

    A phase I clinical trial of PAC-1, a drug that spurs programmed cell death in cancer cells, found only minor side effects in patients with end-stage cancers. The drug stalled the growth of tumors in the five people in the trial with neuroendocrine cancers and reduced tumor size in two of those patients. It also showed some therapeutic activity against sarcomas, scientists and clinicians report in the British Journal of Cancer.

  • Thomas O'Rourke portrait.

    How can we tame the gun violence epidemic?

    Thomas O’Rourke, a professor emeritus of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about how previous efforts to institute public health measures succeeded and how the same approaches can be employed to reduce the scourge of gun violence in the U.S.

  • Portrait of Aron Barbey

    Study: Network neuroscience theory best predictor of intelligence

    Scientists have labored for decades to understand how brain structure and functional connectivity drive intelligence. A new analysis offers the clearest picture yet of how various brain regions and neural networks contribute to a person’s problem-solving ability in a variety of contexts, a trait known as general intelligence, researchers report.

  • Photo of the researchers.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations extends RIPE funding with $34M grant

    Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations has awarded a grant of $34 million to the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency project, an international research effort led by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In its 10-year history, RIPE has demonstrated large increases in crop productivity in replicated field trials on the university farm.

  • The researchers in the laboratory.

    Experts boost activity of potential therapeutic target in triple-negative breast cancer

    Less than 20% of diagnosed breast cancers are designated “triple-negative,” meaning that the affected tissues lack three types of receptors often found in other breast cancer types, but TNBCs are often aggressive with a higher risk of recurrence, metastasis and mortality. In a study conducted in TNBC cells and in a mouse model of the disease, researchers found that targeting a specific estrogen receptor that is sometimes present in TNBCs alters the activity of dozens of cancer-related genes and slows the growth and metastasis of these breast cancers.

  • Ian Ludden, graduate student; Janet A. Jokela, interim executive associate dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine; Sheldon H. Jacobson, professor of computer science.

    Second year of pandemic deadlier for middle aged than the first, analysis finds

    The first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase in mortality rates, both from COVID-19 and other causes, but the groups hardest hit shifted between the first and second years, according to an analysis of publicly available data. Both years saw an increase in deaths over the five years preceding the pandemic, even with COVID-19 numbers removed. But while the first year was most deadly for those over age 65, the second year hit middle-aged adults the hardest, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers found.

  • Photo of the researchers on this year's list.

    Nine Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential

    Nine U. of I. researchers have been named to the 2022 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. The list recognizes research scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated exceptional influence – reflected through their publication of multiple papers frequently cited by their peers during the last decade. This year’s list includes 6,938 individuals from around the world whose papers rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in the Web of Science.

  • Atul Jain

    How can the 2022 Global Carbon Budget report help inform UN Climate Summit?

    The Global Carbon Project published the Global Carbon Budget 2022 today, giving world leaders access to data on atmospheric carbon concentrations, emissions and trends for the 2022 United Nations Climate Summit – or COP27 – in Egypt. Illinois atmospheric scientist Atul Jain was among the many scientists worldwide who contributed data to the report. Jain talked about this year’s findings with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian.

  • Researchers stand in the Molecule Maker Lab.

    Artificial intelligence and molecule machine join forces to generalize automated chemistry

    Artificial intelligence, building-block chemistry and a molecule-making machine teamed up to find the best general reaction conditions for synthesizing chemicals important to biomedical and materials research – a finding that could speed innovation and drug discovery as well as make complex chemistry automated and accessible.

    Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and collaborators in Poland and Canada reported their findings in the journal Science.

  • Photo of a viper skull with fangs out.

    Model calculates energetics of piercing fangs, claws and other biological weapons

    Researchers have created a model that can calculate the energetics involved when one organism stabs another with its fangs, thorns, spines or other puncturing parts. Because the model can be applied to a variety of organisms, it will help scientists study and compare many types of biological puncturing tools, researchers said. It also will help engineers develop new systems to efficiently pierce materials or resist being pierced.

  • Researchers stand alongside an elongated treadmill used in the research.

    Team uses digital cameras, machine learning to predict neurological disease

    In an effort to streamline the process of diagnosing patients with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, researchers used digital cameras to capture changes in gait – a symptom of these diseases – and developed a machine-learning algorithm that can differentiate those with MS and PD from people without those neurological conditions.

  • Photos show differences and similarities in the plumage of males and females of several thrush species.

    Male/female plumage differences in thrushes promote species recognition

    In 1868, the naturalist Charles Darwin wrote that differences in plumage coloration between male and female birds of the same species were likely the result of sexual selection: Female birds – he used the peahen and peacock as an example – seemed to prefer the showiest males. A new study of thrushes offers evidence that another dynamic is at play, and helps explain why this phenomenon, called sexual dichromatism, is not universal among birds, its authors say.

  • Photo of the researchers standing in front of an outdoor playground.

    More physical activity, less screen time linked to better executive function in toddlers, study finds

    A new study found that 24-month-old children who spent less than 60 minutes looking at screens each day and those who engaged in daily physical activity had better executive function than their peers. Executive function includes the ability to remember, plan, pay attention, shift between tasks and regulate one's thoughts and behavior.

  • Photo of David Rosenboom at a piano keyboard with a computer screen next to him.

    Experimental composer headlines events examining art-science connections

    David Rosenboom, a pioneer in experimental music, will lecture, perform and conduct workshops with students during a two-week series of events beginning Oct. 3. “Experimental Arts & Sciences at UIUC” is hosted by the School of Music.

  • Artists rendering of cornaviruses. A virus in the foreground is wrapped in a DNA net that is giving off a glowing signal.

    DNA nets capture COVID-19 virus in low-cost rapid-testing platform

    Tiny nets woven from DNA strands can ensnare the spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19, lighting up the virus for a fast-yet-sensitive diagnostic test – and also impeding the virus from infecting cells, opening a new possible route to antiviral treatment, according to a new study led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Photo of a circle arms of different people extended with their hands in the middle.

    Krannert Center performance combines art, science to examine what makes us human

    “The Joy of Regathering” combines science, music and movement to explore humanity’s place in the universe in a Sept. 17 performance at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

  • Photo of a least bittern in a marsh.

    Study tracks waterbird use of Chicago-area wetlands

    A three-year study in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana found that – even at small scales – emergent wetlands or ponds support many wetland bird species. The study also found that, at least in the years surveyed, the level of urbanization had little effect on most of the studied species’ use of such sites, provided the right kinds of habitat were available.

  • Nicholas Antonson prepares a nest box to accommodate a prothonotary warbler nest.

    Cowbird chicks do best with two warbler nest mates – not four, not zero, study finds

    Brown-headed cowbirds are generalist brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of many other bird species and letting the host parents raise their young. A new study seeks to understand the strategies cowbird chicks use to survive in prothonotary warbler nests when they hatch with different numbers of warbler nestlings. The study reveals that a cowbird chick does better with two than with four or zero warbler nest mates. 

  • Photo of Jacob S. Sherkow, a professor of law at Illinois who studies the ethical and policy implications of advanced biotechnologies

    Paper: Valuable antibody patents vulnerable to overly broad doctrinal shift in patent law

    A new paper co-written by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign legal scholar Jacob S. Sherkow advocates for a middle ground in patent claims involving antibodies, the backbone of modern bioscience.

  • Eric R. Larson and Sally McConkey

    How do we measure community disaster resilience?

    In a new study, retired Illinois State Water Survey engineer Sally McConkey and Eric R. Larson, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences at the U. of I., examined the metrics used at a county scale for national assessments to determine whether communities are prepared to withstand and recover from natural disasters such as floods and fires. McConkey spoke to News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about what they found.

  • Photos of numerous primate species whose territories overlap with Indigenous peoples' lands around the world.

    Study links protecting Indigenous peoples' lands to greater nonhuman primate biodiversity

    By comparing geographic patterns of nonhuman primate biodiversity and human land-use, researchers discovered that areas managed or controlled by Indigenous peoples tend to have significantly more primate biodiversity than nearby regions. They also found that lorises, tarsiers, monkeys and apes whose territories overlap with Indigenous areas are less likely to be classified as vulnerable, threatened or endangered than those living fully outside Indigenous lands.

  • Portrait of Kai Zhang

    Light-activated technique helps bring cell powerhouses back into balance

    Light-activated proteins can help normalize dysfunction within cells and could be used as a treatment for diseases such as cancer or mitochondrial diseases, new research suggests.

    Researchers from the University of Cincinnati, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University at Buffalo published the results of their study in the journal Nature Communications. The research centers on the functions of mitochondria, organelles within a cell that act as the cell’s “power plant” and source of energy.

  • photo of five leafhopper species

    Study tracks plant pathogens in leafhoppers from natural areas

    Phytoplasmas are bacteria that can invade the vascular tissues of plants, causing many different crop diseases. While most studies of phytoplasmas begin by examining plants showing disease symptoms, a new analysis focuses on the tiny insects that carry the infectious bacteria from plant to plant. By extracting and testing DNA from archival leafhopper specimens collected in natural areas, the study identified new phytoplasma strains and found new associations between leafhoppers and phytoplasmas known to harm crop plants.

  • Photo of professor Allen Barton

    Study links insulin resistance, advanced cell aging with childhood poverty

    Black adolescents who lived in poverty as children and were pessimistic about their future had accelerated immune cell aging and greater levels of insulin resistance in their mid- to late twenties, according to a study by Allen W. Barton, a professor of human development and family studies.