All posts by Tori Indivero

How DNA testing ID’ed the last of the Romanovs

The Adventures in Genomics video series — produced by Illumina, a life sciences technology company — highlights the many discoveries and benefits of “next-generation” DNA sequencing. This recent episode tells the story of how, with the help of this powerful tool,  forensic scientist Mitch Holland helped to solve the nearly century-old mystery of where exactly the last member of the Russian royal family ended up.  Continue reading How DNA testing ID’ed the last of the Romanovs

Focus on research: How might drone racing drive innovation?

By Jack Langelaan

Over the past 15 years, drones have progressed from laboratory demonstrations to widely available toys. Technological improvements have brought ever-smaller components required for flight stabilization and control, as well as significant improvements in battery technology. Capabilities once restricted to military vehicles are now found on toys that can be purchased at Wal-Mart.

Small cameras and transmitters mounted on a drone even allow real-time video to be sent back to the pilot. For a few hundred dollars, anyone can buy a “first person view” (FPV) system that puts the pilot of a small drone in a virtual cockpit. The result is an immersive experience: Flying an FPV drone is like Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia flying a speeder bike through the forests of Endor.

Continue reading Focus on research: How might drone racing drive innovation?

Focus on research: Big data problems threaten privacy

By Jungwoo Ryoo

As more personal information is collected up by ever-more-powerful computers, giant sets of data – big data – have become available for not only legitimate uses but also abuses.

Big data has an enormous potential to revolutionize our lives with its predictive power. Imagine a future in which you know what your weather will be like with 95 percent accuracy 48 hours ahead of time. But due to the possibility of malicious use, there are both security and privacy threats of big data you should be concerned about, especially as you spend more time on the Internet.

What threats are emerging? How should we address these growing concerns without denying society the benefits big data can bring?  Continue reading Focus on research: Big data problems threaten privacy

Probing Question: How can we prepare for storm surge?

What happens when a hurricane makes landfall and brings with it a deluge of deadly water? The storm surge in a hurricane is arguably the greatest threat to lives and one that is often ignored.

Brent Yarnal, professor of geography in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, researches the vulnerability of coastal communities to contemporary hurricane storm surge and the role of our rising sea level in increasingly destructive storms. Are there ways to rebuild the shoreline’s natural defenses against hurricanes and flooding? Can coastal communities prevent catastrophic damage to people and property?

Continue reading Probing Question: How can we prepare for storm surge?

‘We can still contain this superbug’

“Don’t freak out, wash your hands, be careful in health care settings to observe all infection control requirements.”
– Andrew Read, director of Penn State’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics

Late last week, researchers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center published a paper revealing that a woman in Pennsylvania was infected with a strain of antibiotic resistant E. coli, the first known incident in the United States. Although the patient in this case recovered, the finding raises the possibility of a “superbug” that could cause untreatable infections.

In the videos below, Penn State infectious disease experts offer comment.

“…this sort of thing we fear, this superbug, we can still contain it. So long as we start doing things sensibly, start looking for alternative solutions, start getting this hygiene right, making sure we’re using the drugs only when we need to.”
-Andrew Read

Continue reading ‘We can still contain this superbug’