Scientist at Work: Seth Young

Seth Young Most people flee hydrogen sulfide, the notorious molecule that as a gas, smells an awful lot like rotten eggs. Indiana University Bloomington isotope biogeochemist Seth Young does the opposite. Young seeks out hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and the products of its chemical reactions, particularly in extreme environments. "The isotopes of sulfur can tell us a lot about the Earth at various stages of its history," Young says. "We can learn more about the oceans of the past, particularly life in those oceans -- about extinction events and the replacement of one group of species by another -- by studying stable isotopes of elements such as sulfur and carbon."  Full Story

Rising CO2 is causing plants to release less water to the atmosphere, researchers say

Florida peat

As carbon dioxide levels have risen during the last 150 years, the density of pores that allow plants to breathe has dwindled by 34 percent, restricting the amount of water vapor the plants release to the atmosphere, report scientists from Indiana University Bloomington and Utrecht University in the Netherlands in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (now online). In a separate paper, also to be published by PNAS, many of the same scientists describe a model they devised that predicts doubling today's carbon dioxide levels will dramatically reduce the amount of water released by plants.

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Polygamy hurt 19th century Mormon wives' evolutionary fitness

Joseph Smith house

Polygamy practiced by some 19th century Mormon men had the curious effect of suppressing the overall offspring numbers of Mormon women in plural marriages, say scientists from Indiana University Bloomington and three other institutions in the March 2011 issue of Evolution and Human Behavior. Simply put, the more sister-wives a Mormon woman had, the fewer children she was likely to produce.

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IU students present research at Women in Science conference in Bloomington

Women in Science Program conference

Indiana University scientists in training presented the fruits of their undergraduate and graduate research projects on March 4 at the 13th Women in Science Program Conference, an annual event that supports women who are considering careers in science, social science or mathematics. Posters were on display in the Indiana Memorial Union's Alumni Hall. Attendance of the conference, which includes a poster and presentation competition, has grown steadily over the years. Last year's WISP conference had 85 student registrants, and a record-setting 100 participants this year.

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Biologist Innes a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology

Roger Innes

Roger Innes, chair of the Indiana University Bloomington Department of Biology, has been elected a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. It is a major honor for scientists who study bacteria and viruses. Innes and this year's 77 other electees are invited to attend a special event at the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting in New Orleans (May 2011). The American Academy of Microbiology is the Society's honorific division.

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Method of DNA repair linked to higher likelihood of genetic mutation


Researchers from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Umea University (Sweden) reported in a study published in the February 15, 2011, issue of PLoS Biology that a method by which cells repair breaks in their DNA -- known as Break-induced Replication (BIR) -- is up to 2,800 times more likely to cause genetic mutation than normal cell repair. Accurate transmission of genetic information requires the precise replication of DNA. Errors in DNA replication are common and nature has developed several cellular mechanisms for repairing these mistakes.

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IU mathematician credited with solving one of combinatorial geometry's most challenging problems

Combinatorial geometry

A mathematician in the Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences is being credited with resolving a 65-year-old problem in combinatorial geometry that sought to determine the minimum number of distinct distances between any finite set of points in a plane. The work by IU Department of Mathematics Professor Nets Hawk Katz, with Larry Guth of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., achieved what many thought was unachievable: Solving Paul Erdos' 1946 Distinct Distances Problem.

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Previous issue

John Colbourne

The Feb. 15, 2011, issue of IU Discoveries featured evolutionary biologist John Colbourne, genomics director for the Indiana University Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics. Also included were stories about the completion of the water flea genome by IU scientists, developing new drugs for diabetes and cancer, a project that rewards innovations in sustainability, pinpointing the processes in bacteria that antibiotics affect, and increasing racial diversity among American life scientists.

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