Faculty News

Hair Brushing L. Mahadevan

Researchers develop a mathematical understanding of detangling that could be used for textile manufacturing, robotic hairdressers

April 14, 2022

As anyone who has ever had to brush long hair knows, knots are a nightmare. But with enough experience, most learn the tricks of detangling with the least amount of pain — start at the bottom, work your way up to the scalp with short, gentle brushes, and apply detangler when necessary.

L. Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and of Physics, learned the mechanics of combing years ago while brushing his young daughter’s hair.

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Leeches floating in ethanol in vial

Researchers use leeches to map biodiversity

April 6, 2022

Researchers in Professor Naomi Pierce's lab teamed with researchers at the Kunming Institute, China, in a new study that used DNA samples extracted from the blood meals of leeches to map which animals live where in the Ailaoshan Nature Reserve in Yunnan, China. The study, published in Nature Communications, showed that the DNA samples can be used to find out which wild animals are present across large, protected areas such as national parks...

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Lichens by Monsieuricon on flickr.com

Marine Lichenized Fungi Bioindicators of Coastal Ocean Pollution

March 31, 2022

A new study in Rhodora examined the use of marine lichens to assess water pollution levels in the Boston Harbor. The study led by Liam F. Nokes, a former student at Arlington High School who was working in Donald H. Pfister's lab, suggests that marine lichens could prove useful as bioindicators of ocean pollution, and established a plan for a state fungus. Nokes' (now a student at Dartmouth) proposal is currently under review by...

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Henry-Tuatara Southland by Larry Koester on flickr.com

New study shows modern tuatara are little changed from 190 million year old ancestors

March 6, 2022

The modern tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) found in New Zealand may look like a lizard, but it is actually the last remnant of a mysterious and ancient order of reptiles known as the Rhynchocephalians. The Rhynchocephalians peaked in the Jurassic period and then mostly vanished from the fossil record. These odd creatures with jaws that slide back and forth and a third eye on the top of their heads can live for more than a century, and they prefer a chilly climate.

The decline following the Jurassic period created a patchy fossil record making it difficult for...

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Aquilegia by Amanda Slater on flickr

New study reveals novel interactions in the key processes that establish floral morphology

February 17, 2022

A new study in Development reveals novel interactions between cell division and cell expansion in the key process that establish floral morphology.

The study, led the PhD candidate Ya Min and co-author Stephanie J. Conway, postdoctoral fellow, and senior author Professor Elena M. Kramer, used a newly developed live-...

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istock image_memory

New study shows forgetting does not reverse the learning process

February 11, 2022

A new study in Science Advances by Professor Yun Zhang's lab shows that forgetting does not reverse the learning process, rather it generates a new status of the brain.

We all forget events we've experienced and knowledge we've learned in the past. Forgetting is part of normal brain functions due to the limited capacity of the brain. But, understanding forgetting is key to addressing mechanisms underlying many...

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Biohybrid fish on a hook (Photo credit to Michael Rosnach, Keel Yong Lee, Sung-Jin Park, Kevin Kit Parker)

Researchers build biohybrid fish made from human cardiac cells

February 10, 2022

Harvard University researchers collaborated with colleagues from Emory University to develp the first fully autonomous biohybrid fish from human stem-cell derived cardiac muscle cells. Professor George Lauder and PhD candidate Dave Matthews joined researchers from the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Emory University on the study published in Science. The artificial fish swims by...

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