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Life, Earth and Space

TIPSHEET: The future of Pluto and Ceres

Dec. 21, 2009—Three years ago, when the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status, the unpopular decision was based on personal opinions and professional politics, not on rigorous scientific criteria that can clearly differentiate planets from lesser bodies, points out Vanderbilt astronomer David Weintraub. In the next decade, however, the amount of knowledge that we have about Pluto and another dwarf planet, Ceres, will change dramatically and this new information may affect our views of these objects and their status in the solar system as asteroids, dwarf planets or planets.

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Nuclear energy powered by uranium from the sea could promote peace in coming century

Dec. 18, 2009—One of the best things the world can do to promote peace and stability in the coming century is to expand commercial nuclear power based on the extraction of uranium from the ocean. That is the proposition which Frank Parker, an internationally recognized expert in remediation of radioactively contaminated soil and water and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, advanced at an exclusive meeting held at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican last month.

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Astronomer receives NSF award to study black holes’ evolution and to support Fisk-Vanderbilt minority Ph.D. program

Dec. 17, 2009—Vanderbilt University Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Kelly Holley-Bockelmann has been awarded the National Science Foundation's largest ever Faculty Early Career Development grant in the field of astronomy. She will use the prestigious award to continue her studies of black holes while supporting the university's innovative program designed to make the university the top producer of underrepresented minorities with Ph.D.s in physics and astronomy.

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New study confirms exotic electric properties of graphene

Nov. 17, 2009—First, it was the soccer-ball-shaped molecules dubbed buckyballs. Then it was the cylindrically shaped nanotubes. Now, the hottest new material in physics and nanotechnology is graphene: a remarkably flat molecule made of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal rings much like molecular chicken wire.

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Interdisciplinary research team to develop novel drug detection technology using software that acts like a robotic scientist

Nov. 9, 2009—With the support of a $2.7 million Recovery Act grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), an interdisciplinary team headed by Vanderbilt chemist John McLean and physicist John Wikswo will attempt to determine whether an individual's white blood cells retain chemical memories of exposure to drugs like cocaine and alcohol that can be read reliably and unambiguously.

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Inconspicuous leaf beetles reveal environment’s role in formation of new species

Oct. 30, 2009—Unnoticed by the nearby residents of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, tiny leaf beetles that flit among the maple and willow trees in the area have just provided some of the clearest evidence yet that environmental factors play a major role in the formation of new species.

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Vanderbilt biologist receives early career development award to study tree of life

Oct. 8, 2009—Antonis Rokas is a member of a small cadre of scientists who are applying the growing power of genomics to untangle and correctly arrange the branches of the tree of life.

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First direct information about the prion’s molecular structure reported

Oct. 5, 2009—A collaboration between scientists at Vanderbilt University and the University of California, San Francisco has led to the first direct information about the molecular structure of prions. In addition, the study has revealed surprisingly large structural differences between natural prions and the closest synthetic analogs that scientists have created in the lab.

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Vanderbilt astronomers participate in new search for dark energy

Oct. 1, 2009—The most ambitious attempt yet to trace the history of the universe has seen "first light." The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III), took its first astronomical data on the night of Sept. 14-15 at the Sloan Foundation telescope in New Mexico.

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Vanderbilt chemist receives grant to develop animal testing alternative

Aug. 13, 2009—Vanderbilt chemist David Cliffel has received a grant from the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation to assess the potential of an advanced cell monitoring system for reducing the use of animals in toxicity testing.

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Vanderbilt doctors and software engineers pioneer an advanced sepsis detection and management system

Jun. 15, 2009—Jason Martin, a fellow in allergy, pulmonary and critical care medicine, is part of an interdisciplinary team at Vanderbilt University that has come up with a high-tech approach to combat this deadly illness, which is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States and kills more than half a million people worldwide every year.

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Chemists synthesize herbal alkaloid

Apr. 15, 2009—A team of synthetic chemists at Vanderbilt University report in the March 18 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society that they have created an efficient way to make a naturally occurring alkaloid that could have anti-cancer properties and may combat memory loss from scratch.

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