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HHMI has just announced its 2020 Hanna Gray Fellows to support diversity in biomedical research: Dr. Edgar Medina, a Duke Biology Ph.D., is part of this exceptional cohort of fellows! Hanna Gray Fellows receive funding for their postdoc training and may continue to receive funding during their early career years as independent faculty. In total, fellows may receive up to $1.4 million each and be supported for up to eight years.  Edgar Medina studies chytrids, one of the most ancient lineages of fungi, to explore the… read more about BioGrad Alum Edgar Medina Awarded Prestigious HHMI fellowship! »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke researchers have been studying something that happens too slowly for our eyes to see. A team in biologist Philip Benfey’s lab wanted to see how plant roots burrow into the soil. So they set up a camera on rice seeds sprouting in clear gel, taking a new picture every 15 minutes for several days after germination. When they played their footage back at 15 frames per second, compressing 100 hours of growth into less than a minute, they saw that rice roots use a trick to gain their first foothold in the… read more about Time-Lapse Reveals the Hidden Dance of Roots »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke researchers have been studying something that happens too slowly for our eyes to see. A team in biologist Philip Benfey’s lab wanted to see how plant roots burrow into the soil. So they set up a camera on rice seeds sprouting in clear gel, taking a new picture every 15 minutes for several days after germination. When they played their footage back at 15 frames per second, compressing 100 hours of growth into less than a minute, they saw that rice roots use a trick to gain their first foothold in the… read more about Time-Lapse Reveals the Hidden Dance of Roots »

Duke's primate researchers travel the globe to observe wild primates, including the chimpanzees of Gombe who were first studied by Jane Goodall, and the baboons of Amboseli, who have been studied for five decades. Longevity in Humans and Chimpanzees Many humans live to see their 80s, some even reach 100. But chimpanzees rarely make it past 50, despite sharing 99% of our genetic code. While modern medicine has added years to human lifespans, a Sept. 2020 Duke study points to a more ancient explanation why humans are the long… read more about Learning From Our Closest Relatives »

The United Nations has declared February 11 the sixth International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Presently, less than a third of scientists worldwide are women, and only about a third of women in college are pursing STEM fields. How many more great, female minds are out there who might help solve the world’s problems? We’d like to celebrate the day, and Duke’s path-breaking women scientists, by sharing some highlights of their work over the last year.   Amanda Hargrove Duke chemist Amanda Hargrove identified a small… read more about Duke Celebrates Women and Girls in Science Day »

DURHAM, N.C. -- The world’s most technologically advanced robots would lose in a competition with a tiny crustacean. Just the size of a sunflower seed, the amphipod Dulichiella cf. appendiculata has been found by Duke researchers to snap its giant claw shut 10,000 times faster than the blink of a human eye. The claw, which only occurs on one side in males, is impressive, reaching 30% of an adult’s body mass. Its ultrafast closing makes an audible snap, creating water jets and sometimes producing small bubbles due to rapid… read more about Tiny Crustacean Redefines Ultra-Fast Movement »

DURHAM, N.C. -- The world’s most technologically advanced robots would lose in a competition with a tiny crustacean. Just the size of a sunflower seed, the amphipod Dulichiella cf. appendiculata has been found by Duke researchers to snap its giant claw shut 10,000 times faster than the blink of a human eye. The claw, which only occurs on one side in males, is impressive, reaching 30% of an adult’s body mass. Its ultrafast closing makes an audible snap, creating water jets and sometimes producing small bubbles due to rapid… read more about Tiny Crustacean Redefines Ultra-Fast Movement »

The Graduate School has announced eight recipients for the 2021 Dean’s Awards, recognizing outstanding efforts in mentoring and teaching. The recipients will be honored at a virtual ceremony on March 31. More details about each recipient will be posted closer to the event. Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring Each faculty award winner receives a $3,000 prize, while each student recipient gets $2,000. Faculty Makeba Wilbourn, Associate Professor of the Practice of Psychology and Neuroscience Marcos A. Rangel,… read more about 8 Graduate Students, Faculty Receive 2021 Dean’s Awards »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Malaria is an ancient scourge, but it’s still leaving its mark on the human genome. And now, researchers have uncovered recent traces of adaptation to malaria in the DNA of people from Cabo Verde, an island nation off the African coast. An archipelago of ten islands in the Atlantic Ocean some 385 miles offshore from Senegal, Cabo Verde was uninhabited until the mid-1400s, when it was colonized by Portuguese sailors who brought enslaved Africans with them and forced them to work the land. The Africans who… read more about Malaria Threw Human Evolution Into Overdrive on this African Archipelago »

The beauty of research is that it allows you to take control of your own path. “We are very lucky to be in the position to decide what we love to do and do it,” says Tai-ping Sun, a Duke biology professor studying the plant hormone GA. Researchers get to take control of their own path, she said. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, design and analyze experiments and decide what direction to take. Sun studies the GA signaling pathway because it regulates plant growth and development. She got interested in GA… read more about Her Research Path Winds Through a Plant’s Growth »

Tai-ping Sun is a professor of Biology at Duke The beauty of research is that it allows you to take control of your own path. “We are very lucky to be in the position to decide what we love to do and do it,” says Tai-ping Sun, a Duke biology professor studying the plant hormone GA. Researchers get to take control of their own path, she said. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, design and analyze experiments and decide what direction to take. Sun studies the GA signaling pathway because it regulates plant… read more about Her Research Path Winds Through a Plant’s Growth »

Dr. Sönke Johnsen and PhD student Alex Davis' study on ultra-black deep-sea fishes was highlighted by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top 10 Ocean Stories of 2020. In a partnership with the Smithsonian, Dr. Johnsen and Davis described how some deep-sea fishes have a special arrangement of black pigments within their skin that absorb at least 99.5 percent of light.  Read more about these ultra-black fishes on the Duke Today. The scientific paper by DR. Johnsen, Davis and collaborators is here. Read the Smithsonian'… read more about Ultra-black fishes on the Smithsonian Magazine!  »

Dr Mohamed Noor, Professor in the Biology Department and Dean of Natural Sciences, was interviewed by the North Carolina journal News & Observer, to talk about his outreach work based on the Star Trek Universe. In addition to having a succesful outreach program based on the popular Sci-fi series, Dr. Noor is one of the science consultants of the series Star Trek Discovery. Read the full story here.  To learn more about Dr. Noor's outreach related to Star Trek, go here. To learn about Dr. Noor's research, go here… read more about Dean Mohamed Noor on The News & Observer! »

DURHAM, N.C. -- It’s no surprise that losing your mother is bad for you. What is surprising is that the troubles start even before she dies, according to a new study comparing life histories of several species of primates. The study from Duke University shows that kids born in the last four years before a female’s death are more likely to die at a young age, before their mother dies. If these kids make it, the negative effects of losing their mother will reach across generations, lessening the survival of their future… read more about Primate Orphans Have it Tough Even Before Mother Dies »

Of all the things that make college students anxious, now you can add ghost cars to the list. Not haunted, unoccupied moving vehicles, Flying Dutchman style. “Ghost cars” is a term Duke Parking & Transportation (DPT) uses to define cars that enter or leave parking lots when the gates are up, like during a football game or evening event. The gate sensors don’t record them both entering and exiting, which causes problems in keeping an accurate count of the cars using a lot. A few summers ago, DPT asked a group of… read more about Quantitatively and Qualitatively, Data+ and Its Affiliated Programs Are Big Hits »

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke University senior Yuexuan Chen has been named a Schwarzman Scholar, a program that funds one year of study in Beijing, the organization announced Monday. Chen, from Cleveland, is among 140 scholars chosen from more than 3,600 applicants worldwide. The scholars develop leadership skills through a one-year master’s degree in global affairs, with specialization tracks in public policy, economics or international studies. Scholars are selected on the basis of leadership potential, entrepreneurial spirit… read more about Duke Senior Named a Schwarzman Scholar, Will Study in Beijing »

Duke’s leading scholars are once again prominently featured on the annual list of “Most Highly Cited Researchers.” Thirty-seven Duke faculty were named to the list this year, based on the number of highly cited papers they produced over an 11-year period from January 2009 to December 2019.  Citation rate, as tracked by Clarivate’s Web of Science, is an approximate measure of a study’s influence and importance. Three of these faculty are researchers in Duke Biology: Drs. Emily Bernhardt, Xinnian Dong and Sheng-Yang He.… read more about Three Duke Biology Faculty Listed in "Most Cited" List.  »

New Duke biology professor Ke Dong is drawn to creeping, crawling, swarming pests that make most people squirm: invincible cockroaches and blood-sucking mosquitoes. Rot-loving fruit flies and parasitic mites. Her interests started early, while growing up on the campus of a silkworm research institute in southeastern China where her mother worked as a chemist. As a child, Dong didn’t have the standard childhood pets. Instead of a cat, or a dog, she raised caterpillars. The institute where her mother worked grew row upon row… read more about Duke Welcomes Professor Ke Dong, Insect Neurotoxicologist  »

When Sheng-Yang He walks by a field of wheat, or beans, he doesn’t just see a farm. He sees a battlefield. However, in this conflict, it's not soldiers with rifles on the front line. The war is between plants and the microbes that infect them, and He -- who joins the Duke faculty this year as full professor -- has spent his career trying to understand these battles at a molecular level, though from a different angle than many other researchers. Plants, like humans, face an onslaught of microbial invaders, He says. They’re… read more about Duke Welcomes Professor Sheng-Yang He, Plant Infectious Disease Expert  »

James (Jim) Siedow, Duke's former vice provost for research and a longtime biology professor known for his kindness and quick, Texan wit, died on Sunday, November 15 in Durham’s Croasdaile Village after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 73. Over the course of his 40-year career at Duke, Siedow made various contributions to our understanding of plant growth. Siedow is the author or coauthor of more than 125 scientific papers on plant respiration, the process by which plants convert the food they make through… read more about Former Vice Provost James Siedow, Plant Biochemist, Dies at 73 »

Forty-eight years. That’s more than twice the average age of your typical Duke undergrad. That is how long Dr. David McClay, the Arthur S. Pearse Distinguished Professor of Biology, has been teaching Cell Biology to cohort after cohort of Duke students. Today, the Biology department celebrated Dr. McClay’s last lecture with a friendly “zoom-bombing”. Dozens of colleagues and ex-students flooded his last virtual lecture to celebrate his ability to instill a passion for Biology in the classroom. A passionate teacher, Dr.… read more about A friendly zoom-bombing! The Bio department celebrates Dr. David McClay 48 years inspiring students »

Drosophila, the fruit fly, has been a staple of undergraduate education in Biology for a long time. More and more, however, undergraduates are becoming assets in Drosophila research. One example: Duke Biology’s Eric Spana and a group of six undergrads have uncovered the genetic basis of a mutation known for over 100 years: Drosophila’s speck phenotype. In 1910, Thomas Hunt Morgan identified speck flies, characterized by their slightly darker body and by a little dark spot at the… read more about Collaborative Classwork Reveals 100-Year-Old Secret in Fruit Flies »

According to a new Duke University study, the ability to mentally categorize colors is not a universal avian attribute, and dull-colored birds may see the world in a completely different way than their colorful cousins. In previous experiments, a team led by Duke postdoctoral researcher Eleanor Caves showed that female zebra finches presented with a continuum of orange to red colors will categorize these into two distinct groups with a clear threshold. These birds have brightly colored orange to red beaks, which may act as… read more about Dull-Colored Birds Don't See The World Like Colorful Birds Do »

Patek lab alum Patrick Green (currently a postdoc at the University of Exeter) and PhD candidate Jacob Harrison just published in Animal Behaviour showing that, when presented with empty burrows, shrimps prefer homes that are a tad too large. When faced with occupied burrows, however, intruders fought hardest for homes that were slightly smaller than ideal. Read more in this press release by the University of Exeter.  CITATION: Green, P. A., Harrison, J. S., Quadratic resource value assessment during mantis shrimp (… read more about Mantis shrimp will fight to keep their burrows, even if they're not the perfect home »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Fall is here, and we see the leaves turning yellow, orange or red thanks to a trick of our vision: our brains categorize colors. Scientists have learned that birds with colorful markings do this too. But what about drab birds that don’t rely on color? According to a new Duke University study, the ability to mentally categorize colors is not a universal avian attribute, and dull-colored birds may see the world in a completely different way than their colorful cousins. To test whether birds separate colors… read more about Dull-Colored Birds Don’t See The World Like Bright Birds Do »

Quantifying how microbes grow is fundamental to areas such as genetics, bioengineering, and food safety. In a collaboration between the Schmid lab and Duke Statistics, Tonner and colleagues revisit the old problem of understanding microbial growth. This problem, thought to be solved in the 1940s by Jacob and Monod, was actually far from understood. A new paper, published on October 26, 2020, in the journal PLOS Computational Biology, reports that random effects such as experimental variability, batch effects or… read more about How do Microbes Grow? Turns Out It’s Not How We Think »

PhD Student Matthew Zipple, Susan Peters, Bill Searcy (U. Miami), and Steve Nowicki found that female swamp sparrows do not show any preference for the songs of males that are in the peak of their lives as compared to songs recorded from the same males after they senesced. This lack of female preference is in contrast to male swamp sparrows, who this group has previously found to respond more aggressively to the songs of peak-aged songs as compared to senescent songs. They describe their findings in a new paper, published… read more about Female swamp sparrow don't care about male age »