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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 »

DURHAM, N.C. -- A few years ago while on a fishing trip in the Florida Keys, biologist Lori Schweikert came face to face with an unusual quick-change act. She reeled in a pointy-snouted reef fish called a hogfish and threw it onboard. But later when she went to put it in a cooler she noticed something odd: its skin had taken on the same color and pattern as the deck of the boat. Former Duke postdoc Lori Schweikert holds a hogfish she caught while on a fishing trip in the Florida Keys. A common fish in the western… read more about This Fish Doesn’t Just See With Its Eyes -- It Also Sees With Its Skin.  »

An agave plant at the Duke Bioscience House has finally bloomed after 10 years. Last month the agave plant stalk first started growing, and it now stands at roughly 20 feet tall, sprouting flowers with nectar. At this greenhouse, this growth has created a lot of buzz. "They only produce one stem in their entire life and you have to wait 15 years for it to bloom and then it dies,” said Jorge Fidel Gonźalez, an assistant horticulturist with the biology department. Yes, this agave plant lives 10 to 15 years, sprouts a… read more about A Rare Bloom After a Decade of Waiting »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Health officials warn that drug resistance could wipe out recent progress against malaria, particularly in Africa and southeast Asia. Now, researchers looking for other ways to fight the mosquito-borne parasites that cause the disease have zeroed in on a potential new target: biological clocks. Most living things have internal clocks that govern fluctuations in everything from hunger and hormone levels to when genes are active throughout the day. In a study published June 6 in the journal Proceedings of… read more about Biological Clocks of People and Malaria Parasites Tick in Tune  »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Researchers studying a group of widespread but often overlooked microbes have identified a climate feedback loop that could accelerate climate change. But it’s not all bad news: this one comes with an early warning signal. Using a computer simulation, a team of scientists from Duke University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that most of the world’s ocean plankton and many other single-celled creatures in lakes, peatlands and other ecosystems could cross a threshold where instead of… read more about Little-Known Microbes Could Help Predict Climate Tipping Points »