• A drop of ferrofluid morphed into this design resembling Native American art.

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  • Material created in Paula Hammonds' MIT lab will be spun into a spiderweb-like substance.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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  • A computer simulation shows how columns of atoms in lithium cobalt oxide, seen end-on, ought to appear. The inset is an actual image taken with a transmission electron microscope.


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  • A water strider walks on water.


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  • Professor Anette "Peko" Hosoi, graduate student Brian Chan and junior Catherine Koveal demonstrate RoboSnails I (right) and II. RoboSnail I has since been rebuilt to be the same size as the smaller RoboSnail II.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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  • MIT's plasmatron coupled with an exhaust treatment catalyst removed 90 percent of the smog-producing nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted from this bus.

    Photo courtesy / ARVINMERITOR

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  • MIT Professor Gerbrand Ceder (left) and research associate Dane Morgan, both of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, mine for materials with computers.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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MIT research highlights from the past year

Jan. 10 - Physicists make Alzheimer's discovery

Brain damage related to Alzheimer's disease may start far earlier than previously thought and may be caused by newly implicated protein molecules.

Jan. 13 - Sugars research may aid patients

Basic research on complex sugars has led to a cascade of potential medical applications that could, for example, significantly improve outcomes for patients undergoing major operations such as heart bypass surgery and impact a multibillion dollar drug industry.

Jan. 15 - Biology of the future

Laying the foundation for treating biological entities as complex living systems, the MIT Computational and Systems Biology Initiative held its first annual conference at MIT.

Jan. 30 - 'Library' aids detection of antibodies

K. Dane Wittrup has helped create a library of 1 billion human antibodies on the surface of yeast cells.

Feb. 5 - New waterproofing process

Researchers have demonstrated a technique for depositing a very thin layer of a water-repellent coating that will make it possible to waterproof new kinds of materials.

Feb. 5 - Startling designs

"Wow. What was that?" Markus Zahn recalls saying as he watched the black drop of liquid suddenly morph into a design resembling Native American art.

Feb. 11 - Tandem access memory

Distinct parts of the brain build memories for two separate but related aspects of everyday experiences.

Feb. 14 - RNA-based gene silencing

RNA medicines could be developed to treat a host of disorders from high cholesterol to cancer, as well as viral diseases such as AIDS.

Feb. 18 - Using lentiviruses to silence genes

Using this method to silence genes will allow researchers to systematically test how lentiviruses function in virtually all cells of the body.

March 5 - Hydrogen vehicle won't be viable soon, study says

Even with aggressive research, the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle will not be better than the diesel hybrid in terms of total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

March 19 - Gamma-ray burst reveals birth of something big

Scientists arriving on the scene of a gamma-ray burst witnessed the death of a gigantic star and the birth of something monstrous in its place, possibly a brand-new, spinning black hole.

March 19 - Screen for protein revolutionizes proteomics

Researchers create a screen for proteins that has been described as a revolution in proteomics.

March 31 - Vegetation essential to balancing climate models

Just as vegetables are essential to balancing the human diet, the inclusion of vegetation may be equally essential to balancing Earth's climate models.

April 3 - The tree that 'cures 1,000 diseases'

Genetic tools will help identify and preserve a tree containing a substance that inhibits viruses and boosts fertility.

April 16 - Green light on Pluto

NASA has authorized the New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission, of which MIT professor Richard Binzel is a co-investigator.

April 18 - Mimicing spider silk

A team is weaving its way through the challenge of reproducing spider silk.

May 14 - Earthquake-like patterns found in stock market movements

The stock market has its share of shakeups, but who would guess that large movements in this man-made system adhere to a similar pattern of predictability as earthquake magnitudes?

May 21 - Sugars and animal development

Chains of sugars called chondroitin play an important role in animal development.

June 2 - Going face to face with autism

Pawan Sinha wonders if autistic individuals simply don't see what others see, focusing on details and losing sight of the whole.

June 12 - Vision brain cells are smarter than previously thought

Contrary to popular belief, cells in the brain's primary visual cortex are "smart" enough to help determine where the eyes will look next.

June 12 - Controlling light with a shock

Light is faster than a speeding bullet, but Evan J. Reed and colleagues found that light waves do some really weird things when they meet a speeding bullet head on.

June 16 - First lithium pictures could aid battery research

In work that could aid the development of better batteries for products from laptop computers to electric cars, researchers take the first images of individual atoms of lithium.

June 18 - Male chromosome gains new respect

Not only does the Y chromosome contain far more genes than scientists thought; it also includes a large number of genes arranged in ways that may allow the Y to mimic the paired chromosome structure of the rest of the genome.

June 24 - Lab homes in on home life

A "living laboratory" will allow researchers and companies to study how new technologies, materials and design strategies will change the way people live.

June 27 - Watching a frosty Mars

An international team uses data from NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft to analyze the dynamic character of the frozen layers that dominate the high northern latitudes of Mars.

June 30 - Work may lead to better schizophrenia drugs

Researchers have created a schizophrenic mouse that pinpoints a gene variation predisposing people to schizophrenia.

June 30 - Environmental chemicals may not mutate people

Environmental chemicals are probably not producing human cancers by causing the mutations found in those cancers.

July 3 - Einstein's gravitational waves may set speed limit for pulsar spin

Gravitational radiation -- ripples in the fabric of space -- may serve as a cosmic traffic enforcer.

July 9 - Pluto's atmosphere expanding

Pluto's atmosphere is expanding even as it continues on its long orbit away from the sun.

July 10 - Sensor improves pathogen detection

A fast, powerful new sensor can identify everything from SARS to bioterrorist agents.

July 16 - New technology helps find ancient shipwrecks

Long-hidden shipwrecks are now being located with the help of high-tech systems created by David Mindell.

July 28 - Identifying mechanism in developing brain synapses

Mark F. Bear explains for the first time why temporarily covering one of an animal's eyes soon after birth induces permanent blindness in that eye.

July 30 - Dances with stars

Scientists confirm that close encounters between stars form X-ray emitting, double-star systems in dense globular star clusters.

 Aug. 6 - Walking on water

With a new understanding of how some insects skim across the surface of ponds, researchers have created Robostrider, a mechanical water strider.

Aug. 13 - Microbes' 'blueprints' promise insights into oceans

Three teams of scientists have announced the genetic blueprints for the world's smallest photosynthetic organisms.

Aug. 25 - Sight unseen

Pawan Sinha is bringing his cognitive sciences expertise to India, in an effort to help children who have had their eyesight restored learn to see again.

Aug. 29 - Neuroscientists describe brain's 'checklist'

Neuroscientists suspect they've found the brain's system for keeping track of what we do and at least one site in the brain that keeps a sort of checklist.

Sept. 4 - RoboSnail research keeps up steady pace

The humble snail, trailed by its ribbon of slime, now has its first robotic counterpart.

Sept. 11 - Biggest chill

Scientists have cooled a sodium gas to the lowest temperature ever recorded -- only half-a-billionth of a degree above absolute zero.

Sept. 15 - NIH grant aids MIT systems biology

A new five-year, $16 million grant from the NIH will aid MIT efforts to better understand complex biological circuits by analyzing overall systems rather than individual components.

Sept. 17 - Devices could help detect precancerous cells

An MIT interdepartmental laboratory has received $7.2 million from the NIH to further its work on devices that can detect and image precancerous cells as noninvasively as shining a tiny beam of light onto a patient's tissue.

Sept. 23 - Dual-purpose fabric on tap for soldiers

An ultra-waterproof and antibacterial fabric, under development at MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, could aid soldiers within the next five years.

Sept. 24 - Researchers dive into mystery of H2O bonds

Chemists uncovered one of the stubborn mysteries of water by seeing for the first time how a hydrogen bond vibrates right before it breaks apart.

Oct. 1 - HexFlex moves specks

Assembling a machine sounds straightforward, but what if the components are nanoscopic? An MIT team's invention seeks to improve the process.

Oct. 2 - Supramolecules come in handy

Large molecules composed of subunits designed to perform specific tasks can detect pollutants in water, help jets maneuver at high speeds and improve the efficiency of internal combustion engines.

Oct. 14 - Tissue engineering advance

Engineers report a new approach to creating three-dimensional samples of human tissue that could ultimately lead to therapeutic applications and replacement organs.

Oct. 16 - Last bus to NOxVILLE

A bus in Indiana is the latest laboratory for MIT's plasmatron reformer, a small device that could cut the nation's oil consumption and noxious emissions.

Oct. 22 - Pebble-bed reactor

Andrew Kadak is leading the MIT half of a collaboration with Tsinghua University in Beijing to develop a pebble-bed nuclear reactor.

Oct. 23 - Advancing understanding of a cancer gene

The exact way the BRCA gene predisposes some patients to breast and ovarian cancer has remained a mystery -- until now.

Oct. 23 - Trying to prevent loss of synapses

By discovering one of the first mechanisms through which brain synapses are dismantled, Morgan Sheng has taken a step that may lead to the prevention or minimization of synapse loss associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Nov. 4 - Genetic variation associated with heart risk

Individuals with a common genetic variation in one of two known estrogen receptors have a threefold increase in the risk of having a heart attack.

Nov. 5 - Humanoid could open doors

Cardea, the Roman goddess of thresholds, is getting 21st-century attention as the namesake for a robot that could become the world's first humanoid personal assistant.

Nov. 13 - New program interrogates gene pathways

New software promises to do for biology what criminal investigators would do at a crime scene: cross-examine witnesses until a single, coherent account of the event emerges.

Nov. 14 - Perfect solar storms

October's solar outbursts, sending powerful bursts of energy and matter racing out into space, were the perfect storms for scientists at MIT's Haystack Observatory.

Nov. 18 - Computers help mine for new materials

A computational technique now being applied to the search for new materials could help in the design of nanostructure computer components and ultralight, high-strength alloys for airplanes.

Nov. 20 - Adult stem cells made to multiply at will

In a finding that may help create unlimited quantities of therapeutically valuable adult stem cells, James Sherley has found a way to treat adult rat liver stem cells so they multiply like embryonic stem cells, and can also revert to acting like normal adult stem cells.

Dec. 3 - Retina implant aims to help blind

Researchers are producing a sophisticated engineering tool that electrically stimulates the retina to provide vision of a sort for people who are totally blind.

Dec. 12 - Earthquake insight from afar

Nearly 10 years after Los Angeles was shaken by the Northridge earthquake, scientists are showing that space technologies are advancing our understanding of earthquakes.

Dec. 17 - Radar may warn of bio attacks

Lincoln Laboratory is exploring ways to use the same Doppler radar that provides colorful weather pictures on TV to detect biological and chemical agents used in potential terrorist attacks.

Dec. 18 - Physicists perform ultracold coup

In a step that might help explain the mystery of how high-temperature electrical superconductors work, three research groups have observed molecules form a collective identity at ultracold temperatures.

Topics: History of MIT


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