Breakthroughs

Experience. Explore. Discover. Achieve. And Now: Steward.

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    Hello! Welcome to Breakthroughs, a site devoted to sharing with you the latest, greatest advancements from the College of Science at Oregon State University. From breakthroughs in research to transformational philanthropy to interesting tidbits from the daily life of the College, we'll post frequently to keep you up-to-date. Please visit often and absolutely let us know what you might like to learn more about. Enjoy, and of course, GO BEAVS!
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Archive for August, 2008

Oldest Gecko Fossil Ever Discovered!

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 28, 2008

Approximately 100 million years old, that is:

gecko in amber

This is at least 40 million years older than the oldest known gecko fossil.

Scientists from Oregon State University and the Natural History Museum in London have announced the discovery of the oldest known fossil of a gecko, with body parts that are forever preserved in life-like form after 100 million years of being entombed in amber.

Due to the remarkable preservative power of being embalmed in amber, the tiny foot of this ancient lizard still shows the tiny “lamellae,” or sticky toe hairs, that to this day give modern geckos their unusual ability to cling to surfaces or run across a ceiling. Research programs around the world have tried to mimic this bizarre adhesive capability, with limited success.

The entire media release can be found here.

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Posted in Zoology | Leave a Comment »

Vince!

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 20, 2008

Vince We’d like to introduce you to Dr. Vince Remcho. He’s our new Associate Dean in the College of Science–everyone is so glad he succumbed to the wooing of his colleagues and has taken on this new role.

He’ll continue to stay busy as a Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science in our Chemistry Department. (He also holds adjunct appointments in Biochemistry & Biophysics and Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering.)

In all of his free time, Vince is an avid bike commuter. Standard apple-tree kind of thing: his kids have not missed A SINGLE day of bike commuting to school in four years. Not one.

We at Breakthroughs are happy, happy about Vince and we hope you will be, too. Stay tuned for more about (and perhaps from, hint, Vince?) in the future.

Here’s a photo of Vince in his lab. We asked him what he’s up to there… we’ll just quote him because it sounds more natural coming from him:

I am holding a “master”, designed and produced by Myra Koesdjojo (a senior Ph.D. candidate in my group), used for replica molding of a microfluidic or “lab-on-a-chip” device. The master is made using silicon wafer fab technology and consists of a polished silicon wafer onto which a photoresist is spin-coated. The photoresist is then patterned using the piece of equipment I am standing in front of, an IMP SF-100 direct write photolithography system. We then use a thermopneumatic press to transfer the features from the master into plastics such as polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) and polycarbonate (PC), and layer-p to generate complex 3-D fluidic networks. The finished devices are used for multi-step biochemical and environmental analyses and can also be applied to chemical labeling and synthesis operations.

Vince also wanted us to know that the real story in the lab is driven by the students and proudly shared this group photo. Myra Koesdjojo, mentioned above, is third from the left:

Posted in General News | Leave a Comment »

OSU Receives Grants to Study Cellulosic Ethanol

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 19, 2008

The USDA and Department of Energy recently announced plans to award 10 grants totaling more than $10 million to accelerate research in biomass genomics to further the use of cellulosic plant material for bioenergy and biofuels. Scientists at OSU are to receive two of the grants, totaling $2.4 million.

Assistant Professor of Botany, Todd Mockler says:

“Ethanol made from cellulose, instead of a food crops such as corn, is clearly one direction the future of biofuels is headed. These projects will all lay the groundwork for applied studies in this field, and give us the fundamental knowledge we need to make cellulosic ethanol more efficiently and help it become a working reality.”

Posted in Biochemistry & Biophysics, Botany & Plant Pathology | Leave a Comment »

Lionfish Population Has Scientists Worried

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 18, 2008

Posted in Zoology | Leave a Comment »

Another article about Beijing air quality

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 15, 2008

Pollution levels unclear but a key concern, from USA Today.

Simonich has been taking air samples for the last seven days. She hasn’t finished her analysis and doesn’t have exact figures, but her rough estimate is that pollution levels are between two and seven times higher than in a typical larger American city and six times higher than the average during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the Oregon State University researcher says.

Posted in Microbiology | Leave a Comment »

The Million Dollar Chair

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 13, 2008

Having found a butterfly net stashed away in his family’s closet, Harold Rice began collecting butterflies in his early childhood and has been collecting ever since. In his 90’s today, he is still out and about the state looking for butterflies.

Harold’s love of traveling and passion for butterflies is amply illustrated by his personal collection, which contains well over 30,000 specimens from all over the world. Nearly half of this has already been delivered to the Oregon State Arthropod Collection, with the remainder expected in future years. The material is carefully identified and beautifully pinned into wooden glass-topped drawers.

The local entomology community is fortunate to count Harold among its leaders. He remains a member of the Oregon Entomological Society, having attended their first meeting in the 1930’s , and is an active participant in the Pacific Northwest Lepidoptersist group – a group that has been meeting each fall in the Willamette Valley for the last 30 years.

In 1994 Harold, with the help of OSAC director Jack Lattin, established the Harold and Leona Rice Professorship Endowment in Systematic Entomology. This Professorship is helping OSU recruit a top-notch leader in the field of Insect Systematics (the formal biological study of insect biodiversity and evolution). Part of the Rice Professor’s position is to serve as the Director for the Oregon State Arthropod Collection. A new Rice Professor will be announced during the 2008/2009 academic year.

In the picture here, Chris Marshall, Curator & Collections manager for the OSAC, has just presented Harold with an Oregon State University chair. Amused, Harold jokingly refers to the chair as his “million dollar chair.”

Posted in Alumni, Zoology | Leave a Comment »

OSU Mentors

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 11, 2008

Hixon-Lamb-banner

Mark & Robbie's banner on Campus Way: “The role of the mentor is to help students find their passion. If they leave the university with a passion for what they want to do in life, then it’s been a successful education.” - Mark Hixon

University Advancement at OSU has just introduced new banners around campus that help illustrate stories from the mentor program — “recognizing the relationships that change lives”.

In the picture, we show one of the banners which features Dr. Mark Hixon, professor of Zoology, and Robbie Lamb (’08). We asked Dr. Hixon to tell us a little bit about Robbie:

Robbie started working with Dr. Hixon doing image analysis in his lab for a coral reef fish project. He then spent his sophomore year in Ecuador, first as an exchange student studying in an Ecuadorian university, and then as a marine biology intern for the conservation group Equilibrio Azul. (View their website translated into English.)

rlambscuba

Robbie Lamb doing scuba surveys in the Bahamas

While working for Equilibrio Azul, Robbie spent every morning monitoring shark catches in the local fish market, as well as weekly beach surveys monitoring the local sea turtle nesting habits. Upon his return to Corvallis, Robbie went back to work for Dr. Hixon, this time with the intent of traveling to the Bahamas with the Hixon lab for the summer fieldwork season. Robbie secured two research grants to pay his own way to the Bahamas, where he spent three months working as a SCUBA research assistant. He also used his grants to perform his own study on the Oregon coast with the help of an Oregon Sea Grant undergraduate research fellowship.

Robbie graduates from OSU in September with honors degrees in biology and international studies. He will then move back to Ecuador to start work on a Fulbright fellowship, working to improve the sustainability of small-scale Ecuadorian fisheries.

For more great reading on Dr. Hixon and Robbie, check out these two articles in Terra:

Terra/Spring 2008: Coastlines and cultures

Terra/Spring 2008: Deep ecology

Posted in Zoology | Leave a Comment »

OSU GeoClub in Death Valley, Part II

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 7, 2008

Today we’re sharing the final photos from the Geosciences Club’s Death Valley trip. Thanks to Barry Walker for providing the photo descriptions in both posts.

Mosaic Canyon. The river (apparently very ephemeral) has plastered layers of breccia onto the sides of this canyon, creating an amazing effect.

Barry Walker and Morgan Salisbury in front of Ubehebe Crater, a ~600 ft deep explosion crater in the northern part of the park. A few thousand years ago (estimates differ from 6,000 to 2,000), magma reached the near surface here, boiling the ground water and, as a result, creating several explosion pits, of which Ubehebe Crater is the largest.

Barry Walker and Morgan Salisbury in front of Ubehebe Crater, a ~600 ft deep explosion crater in the northern part of the park. A few thousand years ago (estimates differ from 6,000 to 2,000), magma reached the near surface here, boiling the ground water and, as a result, creating several explosion pits, of which Ubehebe Crater is the largest.

Minor copper mineralization in these hills has caused the distinct coloration of Artists Palette.

Minor copper mineralization in these hills has caused the distinct coloration of Artist's Palette.

Kilns (built originally in 1867, restored in 1971) used to slow-burn wood down to charcoal. The charcoal was then used for smelting and ore extraction in the many mines of Death Valley.

Kilns (built originally in 1867, restored in 1971) used to slow-burn wood down to charcoal. The charcoal was then used for smelting and ore extraction in the many mines of Death Valley.

Sara Alsbury and Lauren Foiles use the ol teamwork method for rock identification.

Sara Alsbury and Lauren Foiles use the ol' "teamwork" method for rock identification.

On the last day, the group hiked partially up Telescope Peak, which is the mountain just to the west of Death Valley and Badwater Basin.

On the last day, the group hiked partially up Telescope Peak, which is the mountain just to the west of Death Valley and Badwater Basin.

Geologists Barry Walker, Russell Rosenberg, Luc Farmer and Lauren Foiles. This is possibly a staged photograph.

Geologists Barry Walker, Russell Rosenberg, Luc Farmer and Lauren Foiles. This is possibly a staged photograph.

Posted in Geo Club, Geosciences | Leave a Comment »

Update from Beijing

Posted by The College of Science at OSU on August 4, 2008

Dr. Staci Simonich writes a quick e-mail from Beijing:

In one of the most polluted atmospheres I have ever been in on Monday in Beijing with visibility only 0.5 miles or so with air sampler. Very hot and humid (see hair). The student is from Peking University (Mr. Wentao Wang) and will be spending 1 year in my lab analyzing the samples we are collecting.

On Friday night, Dr. Simonich was able to attend a rehearsal of the opening ceremony where she expected security to be very tight!

She shared a link to this article with us, to help illustrate what she’s up to: Beijing Considers New Curbs as Pollution Threatens Games

simonichbejing

Posted in Microbiology | Leave a Comment »