Week Ending Dec 8, 2017

Interdisciplinary scholar examines the human animal
Cornell Chronicle – 12/5/17
Humans are animals – this should no longer be a controversial statement, says Laurent Dubreuil, professor of Romance studies, comparative literature and cognitive science at Cornell University. But what does this imply and how do we overcome the prejudices clouding the debate about the “human”? Dubreuil explores these questions in “The Human Animal,” a new episode in the “What Makes Us Human?” podcast series. “I am advocating for a renewed dialogue between the sciences and the humanities,” says Dubreuil in the podcast. “Groundbreaking discoveries in biology, artificial intelligence and the study of cognition acquire new meanings outside of the arena of science. Similarly, philosophical and theoretical declarations on humanness or pleas for animal rights ought to be responsive to what scientific research both constructs and reveals.”

Aiming to expand Auburn University’s research partnerships, Leath launches $5 million initiative
oanow.com – 12/5/17
Auburn University President Steven Leath has launched a research initiative at Auburn, similar to one he implemented while president at Iowa State in 2013. The Presidential Awards for Interdisciplinary Research, funded through Leath’s office, will provide $5 million over the next three years to Auburn research teams that “address some of the greatest challenges facing our world,” according to Leath. “The ISU initiative successfully attracted additional external funding for research, largely in health sciences and food security,” said Leath, who stepped into Auburn’s top office this summer. “Auburn also has a lot of health sciences expertise, as well as expertise in cybersecurity, autonomous vehicle research, the performing arts and humanities, and other key areas. I’m confident we’ll see a number of teams coming forward, ready to connect with industry and government partners that can benefit from Auburn expertise.”

Research reveals how cells rebuild after division
University of Bristol News – 12/4/17
University of Bristol research has revealed how cells rebuild their nucleus and organise their genome when they divide – a discovery which could have major implications for understanding cancer and degeneration. The research, published online in Nature Cell Biology, provides the first evidence that actin polymerisation in the nucleus helps in reshaping the nucleus and reorganising the genome after cell division (mitosis). Alice Sherrard co-first author of this study and a PhD student with Dr Abderrahmane Kaidi, developed and implemented complementary and interdisciplinary methods to visualise nuclear structure and genome organisation after cell division.

Study Reports Serious Risk of Mental Health Crisis in Yemen
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health – 12/5/17
Yemenis face serious mental health risks, but the issue is being neglected, says a new study released today by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic. The groups announced the start of a groundbreaking new joint project to research and improve mental health in Yemen. “Given both the extreme and chronic stressors Yemenis are continuing to face, there is serious cause for concern of a nationwide mental health crisis,” said Dr. Lindsay Stark, associate professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health and director of the CPC (Child Protection in Crisis) Learning Network. “The scale of need may appear daunting, but our proposed study has the potential to inform evidence-based responses that are intended to contribute to larger peace and reconstruction processes in Yemen.” “This new project seeks to advance the right to mental health in Yemen through interdisciplinary research and human rights advocacy,”  said Professor Sarah Knuckey, the director of the Human Rights Clinic.

A robotic small intestine? Researchers are making one
CU Boulder Today – 12/4/17
The day is coming when doctors-in-training can perfect certain medical practices on a robotic small intestine and test medical treatments on a human-made device vs. animals. Mechanical engineering Associate Professor Mark Rentschler is leading the effort to develop an artificial, robotic small intestine for use in medical laboratories. The research is supported by a $1.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The idea of a robotic small intestine may seem strange, as robotic devices are often thought of as being rigid and hard. However, Rentschler and an interdisciplinary team of CU Boulder researchers, including mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Christoph Keplinger, are challenging that perception. “People usually imagine robots as metallic and clunky, but we’re now developing softer materials and stretchable electronic circuits,” Keplinger says.