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DURHAM, N.C. -- It might look like a comet or a shooting star, but this time-lapse video is actually a tiny plant root, not much thicker than a human hair, magnified hundreds of times as it grows under the microscope. Researchers at Duke University have been making such movies by peering at stem cells near the root’s tip and taking snapshots as they divide and multiply over time, using a technique called light sheet microscopy. The work offers more than a front row seat to the… read more about From Growing Roots, Clues to How Stem Cells Decide Their Fate »

For junior Alex Ozonoff, declaring a major in Biology was the obvious choice — after some soul searching and deep dives into entomology, epidemiology and microbiology, that is. And as his career decisions began to feel more real than hypothetical, he fixated on becoming a doctor. “My mother is a physician assistant, and my dad is a surgical technician, so I’ve always been exposed to medicine,” he explains. “It seemed clear to me from early on what I’d pursue.” On the pre-med track with a concentration in Biochemistry,… read more about Piano and Pre-Med: Achieving a Balance »

DURHAM, N.C. -- We humans are fixated on big brains as a proxy for smarts. But headless animals called brittle stars have no brains at all and still manage to learn through experience, new research reveals. Relatives of starfish, brittle stars spend most of their time hiding under rocks and crevices in the ocean or burrowing in the sand. These shy marine creatures have no brain to speak of -- just nerve cords running down each of their five wiggly arms, which join to form a nerve ring near their mouth. “There's no… read more about Brittle Stars Can Learn Just Fine — Even Without a Brain »

For a guy who high-jumped 6-foot-8 in high school and is a candidate for the Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell scholarships in his senior year at Duke, an all-expense-paid trip to Washington DC for three days may not seem like a big deal. But for Danny Collins, 22, this could be yet another launching pad. Next week, Collins will be among the finalists in the Collegiate Inventors Competition, hosted by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The winners take away cash prizes and an accelerated patent application to the US Patent… read more about Duke Senior Launches Himself Toward Big Rewards  »

DURHAM, N.C. -- This summer, Duke biology Ph.D. student Elise Paietta traveled some 9,000 miles from North Carolina to the lowland rainforests of Madagascar, east of southern Africa. Her mission: virus hunting. Every day for three weeks she crawled out of her tent, pulled on her rubber boots and joined a team of researchers and veterinarians for a trek into Manombo Special Reserve, a wildlife reserve spanning some 20 square miles on the island’s southeastern coast.   As they ventured into the forest, Paietta… read more about Looking for Viral Threats in the Era of Climate Change »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Living things from bacteria to plants to humans must constantly adjust the chemical soup of proteins -- the workhorse molecules of life -- inside their cells to adapt to stress or changing conditions, such as when nutrients are scarce, or when a pathogen attacks. Now, researchers have identified a previously unknown molecular mechanism that helps explain how they do it. Studying a spindly plant called Arabidopsis thaliana, a Duke University-led team discovered short snippets of folded RNA that,… read more about Unzipping mRNA Rallies Plant Cells to Fight Infection »

Assistant Professor of Biology Arnaldo Carreira Rosario joins the Duke faculty this year. (John West/Trinity Communications) You just bought a brand-new, top-notch computer. You take it out of the box and press the power button, anxious to get it going. The machine purrs slightly, the display lights up, and then you wait five, 10, maybe even 15 minutes until the whole thing boots up. Turns out that brains do exactly the same thing — minus the purring — and Arnaldo Carreira-… read more about Arnaldo Carreira-Rosario Wants to Understand How Brains Power Up »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Many of the bacteria that ravage crops and threaten our food supply use a common strategy to cause disease: they inject a cocktail of harmful proteins directly into the plant’s cells. For 25 years, biologist Sheng-Yang He and his senior research associate Kinya Nomura have been puzzling over this set of molecules that plant pathogens use to cause diseases in hundreds of crops worldwide ranging from rice to apple trees. Now, thanks to a team effort between three collaborating research groups, they may… read more about Mysterious Family of Microbial Proteins Hijack Crops’ Cellular Plumbing »

Kelly Hogan is a new professor of the practice in the Department of Biology. (John West/Trinity Communications) A new chapter in the storied rivalry between Duke and the University of North Carolina will begin this fall when Kelly Hogan trades her Biology classroom in Chapel Hill for one in Durham. Hogan obtained her doctorate at UNC, then joined the faculty as a Biology professor and associate dean of instructional innovation in the university’s College of Arts & Sciences.… read more about Kelly Hogan Is Making Intro Classes Fun, Effective and Equitable »

Sara Lipshutz is a new assistant professor in the Department of Biology. (Gordon Oliver, edited by Shaun King/Trinity Communications) Be honest: when asked to think about an animal ready to fight for its territory, bearing weapons, testosterone coursing through its veins, what comes to mind? A roaring lion, mane flowing in the wind? An elk, antlers lowered in a menacing pose? Or a female bird? For Sara Lipshutz, new assistant professor in the Department of Biology, the answer is… read more about Fighting Females and Caring Males: Sara Lipshutz Studies Birds That Challenge Our Binary Expectations »

DURHAM, N.C. -- If you happened upon a witch hazel plant in the forest, you might describe it as a sweet-smelling shrub with crinkly ribbon-like petals. But to Duke University graduate student Justin Jorge, it’s a howitzer. That’s because of the impressive firepower of its fruits. When witch hazels are ready to disperse their seeds, their woody seed capsules split open. Pressure builds up, and eventually the seeds shoot out like bullets fired from a rifle, hitting 30 feet per second in about half a millisecond. “If you… read more about Members of the Witch Hazel Family Can Fling Seeds Fast Thanks to Spring-Loaded Fruits »