Three recent research discoveries

Author: Dennis Brown

Note to the media : The following event is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday (Sept. 24) in room 2325 of the Rayburn Office Building.p. p. Three recent research discoveries from the University of Notre Dame were among 162 science and engineering breakthroughs featured today (Thursday, Sept. 24) in a report issued to Congress by The Science Coalition.p. Titled “Great Advances in Scientific Discovery,” the report included signifcant breakthroughs in the past year from 50 colleges and universities in 18 scientific fields and was presented as part of an event hosted by the House Science Committee. Anthony Hyder, associate vice president for graduate studies and research, represented Notre Dame at this morning’s Congressional forum.p. “Great Advances” from Notre Dame included:
p. * Mosquito modification ? Led by Frank Collins, professor of biological sciences, entomologists at Notre Dame and the University of California at Irvine have developed a technique for introducing DNA into the genome of the mosquito Aedes aegypti. Their goal is to alter genetically the capacity of wild populations of this mosquito to transmit pathogens like yellow fever and dengue virus. Dengue infects 2 billion people worldwide each year and yellow fever epidemics have reemerged in Africa and South America. The scientists also hope to perfect this technique for use with the African mosquito carrier of malaria, Anopheles gambiae. The research is supported by the National Institutes of Health, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and a United Nations, World Bank and World Health Organization special program for research and training in tropical diseases.p.

  • Smart buildings ? A shock absorber for buildings that can automatically adjust for catastrophic events has been developed by Bill Spencer, professor of civil engineering and geological sciences, Michael Sain, Frank M. Freimann Professor of Electrical Engineering, and other researchers in Notre Dame’s Earthquake Engineering Laboratory. A damper uses oil in which tiny iron particles are suspended. Under normal conditions, the fluid retains the viscosity of light oil, allowing the building a soft, cushy “ride” in response to routine movement. In critical stress, however, a computer controller sends a current to the damper that generates a magnetic field. When this happens, the fluid thickens to the consistency of pudding, providing a tight suspension to protect the building from violent movement. The research is supported by the National Science Foundation.p.
  • Invading fish ? Notre Dame aquatic ecologists, led by Gary Lamberti, associate professor of biological sciences, have found that food needed to sustain the invading Eurasian ruffe (pronounced “rough”), a perch-related fish now inhabiting western Lake Superior and moving east, is abundant throughout the Great Lakes. This may have dire consequences for native fish species. Ever since the appearance of this invading species in Lake Superior waters almost a decade ago, researchers have worried that the ruffe will outcompete yellow perch, a popular sport fish whose populations already are in decline in Lake Michigan. The researchers predict that within the decade the invading ruffe will move down into Lake Michigan, as well as into Lakes Erie, Huron and Ontario. The research is supported by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant. Two Notre Dame breakthroughs were featured in last year’s “Great Advances” report to Congress ? the first experimental demonstration of a transistorless approach to computing, and discovery of evidence of a new subnuclear particle called an exotic meson. Notre Dame receives about $33 million annually, most of it from the federal government, for research, facilities and equipment, and educational and service programs.p. The Science Coalition is an alliance of more than 400 organizations, institutions and individuals ? including public and private universities, scientific societies, Nobel Laureates, businesses, health organizations, medical groups and health care providers ? dedicated to sustaining the federal government’s historic commitment to U.S. leadership in basic research. The “Great Advances” report is issued annually to provide an update on the innovations in scientific research conducted at the nation’s leading research universities. For more than 50 years, the federal government has sustained a strong, bipartisan commitment to funding basic research, the majority of which is performed at Notre Dame and other universities. In addition to making significant breakthroughs, university researchers also are training the next generation of scientists and engineers by providing hands-on opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students. The “Great Advances” report can be viewed at The Science Coalition site on the World Wide Web at

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