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News from the Physical Sciences

$8.6 million to unravel the 4D nucleome

Physics professor Olga Dudko joins colleagues in biology and health sciences to lead a new center to unravel the geometry of the genome, precisely track its motion and generate predictive models of how the structure and dynamics govern mammalian genetics. Her goal is to establish the principles that govern structure and dynamics of the mammalian genome. The grant will provide graduate students in physics with the opportunity to directly work with cutting-edge biological data.

Simulation illuminates origin of the brightest galaxies

Astrophysicist Dušan Kereš and colleagues traced the evolution of enormous, bright galaxies over the course of several billion years to explore the origins of some of the most extreme objects in the universe: galaxies in deep space igniting stars at a thousand times the rate of the Milky Way.

They found that collisions between galaxies aren't required to account for the starburst and bright far-infrared glow, just lots and lots of gas and dust.  Read more.

New, versatile way to tag RNA

Chemists have devised a versatile way to attach handles and tags to RNA so that the tiny molecules can be detected and traced within cells or selectively pulled from a complex mixture of molecules. Learn more.

Chemists to build 'virtual cell'

The Visible Molecular Cell Consortium, led by Rommie Amaro at UC San Diego and Art Olson at The Scripps Research Institute, will build bridges between discplines to assemble and simulate a virtual model of a cell, down to an atomic level of detail and to visualize protein interactions in real time to better understand cellular function.

It's a "big data" challenge, applied to the uncharted territory of cellular architecture and ecology. Learn more.

Mathematician in the White House

DJ Patil counted abstract algebra among the fun classes he took as a mathematics major at UC San Diego. Now he's the nation's first ever chief data scientist, in charge of wrangling vast amounts of data and bringing it to the government's fingertips. 

"Data is there to help us make smarter decisions," Patil told Triton magazine. First on the docket is the Precision Medicine Initiative, an effort to harness information from genome sequencing to craft personalized medical treatment.

Read more in Triton.

Anybody out there?

Scientists have searched for signals from interstellar civilizations for the past 30 years. So far, silence. They’ve listened for radio waves and looked for light, but extraterrestrial intelligence could still send messages on a more efficient channel: infrared light. Triton magazine features NIROSETI in the fall issue.

Rational design of protein crystals

Akif Tezcan's research group has engineered a protein so that it self-assembles with zinc ions and an organic small molecule to form the first protein-based metal-organic framework, or MOF. The new material combines the biocatalytic, electron-transfer, and molecular recognition capabilities of proteins with the separation, storage, and catalysis applications of MOFs. Read more in Chemical and Engineering News (subscription or connection through campus required).

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