Leading the News
Global Leaders Expand Push Into Clean Energy Research.
The Hill (6/2, Henry) reports the White House announced yesterday that “world leaders have agreed to double the clean energy research funding they pledged in December as part of an international push to reduce carbon emissions.” During the first meeting of the Mission Innovation project this week, in which 21 countries are involved, “international members said they would increase the clean energy research and development funding the project is designed to facilitate.” The White House said that by the year 2021, member countries will spend $30 billion per year on clean energy research. President Obama’s energy and climate change adviser Dan Utech said yesterday, “Today’s actions show that the transition to clean energy is inevitable. … Every sector and every level of government is involved, and the United States is all in.”
USA Today (6/2, Jackson) reports “with the expansion of clean energy sources, from wind and solar power to renewables,” the US “and other nations are looking to meet the carbon emission reductions envisioned under the Paris Agreement reached late last year.”
Moniz: Doubling Clean Energy Innovation Positions America For Global Competitiveness. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz writes for The Hill (6/2, Moniz) that in San Francisco he will join energy leaders from partner nations to “announce how we plan to meet our target of doubling clean energy R&D to a total of nearly $30 billion per year by 2021.” Clean energy innovation is “central to reducing the cost of clean energy technologies and in turn rapidly increasing their deployment” to support economic growth, increase energy access and security, fight climate change, and “position American companies as major players in the global energy technology marketplace.” Moniz writes that the President’s 2017 budget proposal to Congress “prioritized clean energy innovation within agreed budget constraints,” and he urges Congress to send a bill to the President that includes “significantly more funding for innovation if America hopes to not diminish its lead in this emerging economic revolution.”
Police Release More Details In UCLA Murder-Suicide.
The New York Times (6/2, Pérez-Peña, Subscription Publication) reports that the former student who killed engineering professor William S. Klug before taking his own life on Wednesday “left a list of people he apparently intended to kill.” Meanwhile, a woman whose name was on the list was found dead in Minnesota. LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck said that there was a second UCLA professor on the list, but that that individual is unharmed.
The Washington Post (6/2, Svrluga, Berman) reports that police said the gunman, Mainak Sarkar, “had a ‘kill list’ with other names, including that of a woman who was found dead in Minnesota.” The Post reports that the shooting “locked down the campus for two hours Wednesday morning, prompting a massive law enforcement response and forcing students to hide in rooms amid fears of an active shooter.”
The Los Angeles Times (6/2, Mather, Winton, Branson-Potts, Hamilton) reports that Sarkar “left a list at his home in” Minnesota “that included the names of the woman, UCLA professor William Klug and a second professor who is safe.” Sarkar “had accused Klug of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else, according to police.” The investigation led authorities to a house in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota listed as the residence of a woman who “was married to Sarkar.”
Minnesota High Schools’ Dual-credit Courses May Be Cut.
The St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press (6/2, Magan) reports on proposed changes to the partnerships between Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and public schools which could hinder students’ ability to earn college credits in high schools. Co-Director of the Education Advocate the Center for School Change Malik Bush said, “It’s counterproductive and it’s inequitable…At the end of the day, it is not the direction MnSCU or the state should be going.”
Compromise On For-Profit College Access To Military Bases.
Politico (6/2, McCaskill) reports in it’s Morning Education briefing, that according to Sen. Joe Manchin’s office, “a compromise has been reached to address concerns that multiple Democratic colleagues had over his contentious amendment to expand for-profit colleges’ access to military bases.” The Senate Armed Services Committee recently passed the amendment with support Committee Chairman John McCain, gaining pushback from some Senate Democrats and various veterans groups. The amendment primarily focuses on the National Defense Authorization Act which “increase academic advising opportunities for for-profit schools on military bases, particularly for online schools.” However, critics contend the amendment is a way for colleges to increase profits by recruiting service members more easily. Sens. Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin and other lawmakers filed an amendment to strike the language from the NDAA.
Survey: Use Of International Recruiting Agents On The Rise Among Colleges, Universities.
Inside Higher Ed (6/2, Redden) reports that according to survey data commissioned by Bridge Education Group, 37 percent of US “colleges and universities are using commissioned agents to recruit international students nearly three years after the National Association for College Admission Counseling amended its policies to permit – but not endorse – the practice among its member institutions.” The data was collected by the Austria-based consulting company StudentMarketing from a survey of 131 US higher education institutions, and 343 recruiting agencies from 64 countries. Proponents of agency recruitment argue that it allows universities to expand their international reach ethically, while critics contend that earning a commission for placing a student at a particular institution increases the risk of application fraud.
Research and Development
Researchers To Launch 10-Year Project To Create Synthetic Human Genomes.
The Washington Post (6/2, Achenbach) reports scientists, entrepreneurs, and policy leaders met at Harvard University for a closed-door, invitation-only meeting “to discuss an ambitious plan to create synthetic human genomes.” The participants “have published their idea, declaring that they’re launching a project to radically reduce the cost of synthesizing genomes – a potentially revolutionary development in biotechnology that could enable technicians to grow human organs for transplantation.” The New York Times (6/2, Pollack, Subscription Publication) reports that the group published the 10-year project on Thursday in the journal Science. The project plans “have already set off an ethical debate, because the ability to chemically fabricate the complete set of human chromosomes could theoretically allow the creation of babies without biological parents.” The project will be run by the Center of Excellence for Engineering Biology and seeks “to raise $100 million this year from various public and private sources.” National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis S. Collins “said in a statement that while N.I.H. was interested in encouraging advances in DNA synthesis, it ‘has not considered the time to be right for funding a large-scale production-oriented’ project like the one being proposed.” He added, “whole-genome, whole-organism synthesis projects extend far beyond current scientific capabilities, and immediately raise numerous ethical and philosophical red flags.”
Nature (6/2, Callaway) reports that the “team is led by synthetic biologist Jef Boeke, at New York University, genome scientist George Church, at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and Andrew Hessel, a futurist at the commercial design studio Autodesk Research in San Rafael, California.” Nature points out that some find the proposal “praiseworthy,” while others were not so keen on the project saying that the “HGP-write represented a needless centralization of work that is already taking place in companies working to lower the price of synthesizing strings of DNA.” The NPR (6/2) “Shots” blog reports that Dr. Collins said, “The ability to synthesize long stretches of DNA would clearly provide us with an experimental tool that would be quite valuable for understanding how life works and how disease occurs,” but for now, “the NIH has no plans to fund any major new projects like the one being proposed.” STAT (6/2, Swetlitz) reports that Dr. Collins told STAT in an email, “Moving beyond reading DNA to writing DNA is a natural next step.” Collins continued saying that the focus should be on “how to catalzye significant advances for understanding lhow life works and how disease occurs.” The article adds that the closed-door meeting “has come under criticism from individuals who did not attend…for discussing behind closed doors what they argued should be a public matter.” Also covering the story are Reuters (6/2, Dunham), Science Magazine (6/2), and a separate STAT (6/2), The Guardian (UK) (6/2, Radford, Davis).
Study: Artificial “Leaf” Mimics Photosynthesis To Produce Liquid Fuel.
Bloomberg News (6/2, Roston) reports, “Harvard University researchers say they’ve created a half-chemical, half-biological system to generate liquid fuel, using air, water, and sunlight,” while drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in the process. Daniel Nocera has been developing what he calls an “artificial leaf” and the new system is reportedly 10 times more energy efficient than natural organisms, according to a study out Thursday in the journal Science. Reuters (6/2, Arsenault) explains that the technology uses solar panels to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, mimicking photosynthesis. “Once separated, hydrogen is moved into a chamber where it is consumed by bacteria, and with help from a special metal catalyst and carbon dioxide, the process generates liquid fuel.”
Arizona University Study Seeks Imaging Markers For Early Diagnosis Of Ovarian Cancer.
The AP (6/1) reported University of Arizona professor Jennifer Barton is leading research “to identify subtle tissue changes that could provide early diagnoses of ovarian cancer.” According to Barton, “ovarian cancer is difficult to detect early because of its location deep inside the body, few early symptoms and a lack of effective screening techniques.”
On its website, KTAR-FM Glendale, AZ (6/2, McClay) adds that the National Cancer Institute funded the $1 million study, which tests “mice to find early markers of the disease.” The research also aims “to develop a new endoscope that can detect the cancer in the Fallopian tubes, where many researchers think it originates.”
Professor Warns Against Threats To Security Of Internet Of Things.
The New York Institute of Technology’s school of engineering and computing sciences’ associate dean Babak Beheshti wrote in a commentary for the Wall Street Journal (6/1, Subscription Publication) to warn against potential threats from the expanding use of the Internet of things. Beheshti asserted the myriad of Internet-connected devices have created opportunities for cyber criminals.
FireEye Researchers Discover Malware That Targets ICS.
C4ISR & Networks (6/2) reports FireEye Labs Advanced Reverse Engineering (FLARE) researchers have discovered a type of malware that attacks industrial control systems (ICS). The Malware, called “IRONGATE,” includes an extension named SCADA.exe, “seemingly in reference to supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems” used in ICS. The researchers report that the malware “is not viable against operational Siemens controls systems,” and say that it is likely “a test case, proof of concept, or research activity for ICS attack techniques.” IRONGATE uses the techniques of sandbox evasion, masking, and the man-in-the-middle attack, the first time these have been found in malware attacking ICS.
CMU Demonstrates Driverless Cars To Officials, Press.
AP (6/2, Blazin) reports that following a news conference on Pennsylvania’s plans for legislation and a task force to oversee the development of self-driving vehicles, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Raj Rajkumar gave demonstration of self-driving car rides to officials and the media. The article mentions that since February 2015, CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center has partnered with Uber to research self-driving vehicles. The article writes that demonstration presented “the vehicle’s nimbleness and limitations.” The article mentions that self-driving vehicles are key part of Pittsburg’s application for DOT’s Smart City grant.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (6/3, Blazina) reports that after announcing a partnership with CMU, Uber hired 40 researchers and donated $5 million to CMU to fund a new faculty chair and three fellowships. However, the article explains that despite the joint venture, the two groups are not conducting joint research. The article adds that “Uber wouldn’t comment on the lack of joint research with CMU or the future of their relationship.”
Engineering and Public Policy
WVU Fracking Project Seeing Successes.
The AP (6/2) reports a West Virginia fracking project is being praised by those involved in it “after the first year.” The Marcellus Shale Energy Environmental Laboratory project “is meant to give a look at the hydraulic fracking process over five years,” and researchers say the project has put WVU “at the cutting edge of research.” Chemical engineering professor Brian Anderson “says two production wells were drilled last fall, along with a scientific observation well.” Anderson stated, “Everything went swimmingly. Of course, some of the schedules were changed with the rain last June, but it was really a huge success during the stimulation drilling in the early part of the test.” Anderson said he has spoken about the project’s impact in China, and said delegations from Colombia and Mexico have visited regarding the project.
American Canyon Successful At UC Davis’ C-STEM Day Robotics Competition.
The Napa Valley (CA) Register (6/1, Brinkerhoff) reported on the push by the Center for Integrated Computing and STEM Education at UC Davis “for K-12 schools to blend robotics with math curriculum.” The article focused on American Canyon high school and middle schools’ success at the Center’s “annual C-STEM Day competition, in which student teams from high schools and middle schools throughout California spend an entire day programming Linkbots.”
Chevron Sponsors Soap Box Derby, Promotes STEM.
The Mississippi Press (6/2, Carter) reports that on Saturday, “the 24th annual Deborah Washington Memorial Soap Box Derby will take place in Downtown Moss Point.” The race is sponsored by the Chevron Black Employee Network and Moss Point Active Citizens. Cheryl McLeod, Technical Administrative Assistant of Process Engineering at Chevron, said that Chevron likes “to partner with the community to show them that we do not just work here, but we want to interact with the children in our community and county through fun, family-oriented activities such as this.” Chevron communications specialists Allison Cook said that “while the derby isn’t specifically designed to support Chevron’s STEM initiative, there are certainly STEM elements to soap box racing.” She explained, “One of the benefits of Chevron employees volunteering at the event is that they are hands-on to engage with young people, explain how physics concepts influence the car’s performance and maybe spark children’s future interest in science, technology, engineering and math.”
Kentucky Schools Chief Criticizes ED Over Science Assessments.
WLKY-TV Louisville, KY (6/2) reports that Kentucky schools chief Stephen Pruitt “sent a scathing letter” to Education Secretary John King accusing ED officials “of ‘being mired in a bureaucratic checkbox mentality.’” The letter “details a May 5 call with Ann Whalen, senior adviser to the secretary, during which Pruitt says she ‘insisted that Kentucky implement science assessments and performance levels that do not measure Kentucky’s actual science standards.’”
Preschool Can Increase The Number Of Future Scientists And Engineers.
The Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News (6/2) reports among the reasons why increased state funding for preschool programs is desirable, a new report now connects “access to preschool to helping businesses and the military fill their future need for workers possessing science, technology, engineering, and math skills.” According to a Mission Readiness/Ready Nation report titled “STEM and Early Childhood – When Skills Take Root,” to be released on Thursday, “there is a growing body of research that indicates that interest in the science, technology, engineering and math fields takes root as early as preschool and kindergarten.”
NSF Awards Presenter’s Choice To Program Teaching Computer Programming Through Dance.
THE Journal (6/2, Ravipati) reports on a research project from Clemson University that created “VEnvI (Virtual Environment Interactions), a program that teaches computational thinking through embodied cognition.” As part of the project, “students first learn choreographed dance routines,” then programmed virtual avatars, teaching the students “programming concepts, such as sequencing, looping and conditionals.” The NSF awarded the project’s video the Presenter’s Choice award in its 2016 video showcase, which is entitled “Advancing STEM Learning for All: Sharing Cutting Edge Work and Community Discourse.”
Thursday’s Lead Stories
• Analysts Examine Apple iPhone 7 Market Potential.