Science in brief

UW professors develop sensors to detect harmful materials:

UW-Madison professors of chemical and biological engineering have recently developed new ways to detect explosives, pollutants and chemical disease markers. Professors Manos Mavrikakis and Nicholas Abbott created a framework for creating a liquid crystal-based sensor to highlight dangerous or important chemicals. Such technology, which combines computational chemistry and liquid crystals, could be used in the future to dictate when meats go bad or when an individual contracts a respiratory illness via the presence of nitric oxide on their breath.

Not so Super supermoon recap:

According to Jim Lattis, a science historian and director of the UW-Madison’s astronomy outpost, Space Place, last Monday’s supermoon was not all that spectacular. In fact, the moon only appeared about 7 percent larger and was really only 50 miles closer to spectators in North America. Lattis told University Communications that the term supermoon isn’t all the common in the field of astronomy, coined by an astrologer to refer to the phenomenon “perigee-syzygy” or “perigee full/new moon.” Syzygy refers to the event when three astronomical objects line up. For a supermoon, those are the sun, earth and moon. More specifically, when the moon, in elliptical orbit around Earth, aligns with the Earth orbiting around the sun at its closest point during the full moon hours. About every 14th full moon is a supermoon.

UW System students, teachers honored:

The Alliant Energy Foundation and the UW System recognized four students and three teachers for their achievements in business and engineering on October 28. As part of the 10th annual Alliant Energy/ Erroll B. Davis, Jr. Academic Achievement Award for outstanding scholarship and community service that recognizes traditionally underrepresented minority students in business or engineering majors at UW-Madison or UW-Platteville, the 2016 recipients included UW-Madison seniors Janerra Allen and Catherine Finedore, both studying engineering. The other two awardees attend the UW-Platteville. Clinical Associate Professor and Medical Physicist in the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health Dr. Jennifer B. Smilowitz was among the three teachers honored with the 24th annual Alliant Energy/Underkofler Excellence in Teaching Award. A professor of chemistry from UW-Rock County and a professor of civil and environmental engineering from UW-Platteville were also among those recognized.

“Science in brief” is a new column featured in the Daily Cardinal. Highlighting other science stories not covered in full, “Science in brief” hopes to shed light on the plethora of research the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers.

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