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Welcome to the NatSci news page! Check back often to learn about the latest innovations, discoveries and accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students and alumni.

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November 22, 2021
MSU Academic Specialist Nathan Emery and collaborators recently published a study in BioScience in which they surveyed college/university educators from around the globe on teaching practices related to data science as well as how scientists use data science in their own research. Their work offers a window into how data science is currently taught and how to best empower instructors to incorporate data science into future biology and environmental science courses.
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November 16, 2021
Journal articles of particular note in chemistry are occasionally honored through supplementary journal covers to promote the research content. Chemistry Professor Piotr Piecuch’s recent publication in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters was selected for such an honor. The journal awards supplementary covers to authors of articles it recognizes as having contributed significantly to advancing important principles in physical chemistry, and is an honor given to only a maximum of three articles per journal issue.
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November 10, 2021
Plants are master chemists, producing a dazzling array of molecules that are valuable to humans, including vitamins, pharmaceuticals and flavorings. In a paper published in Science Advances, a team of MSU scientists from the College of Natural Science followed up on their observation that the common black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) makes an unusually large number of different acylsugar protective compounds in their trichome hairs. A surprise finding from this study is that black nightshade acylsugars have distinct types of compounds not found together in other plants.
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November 8, 2021
Long ago in Earth’s history, individual cells began to communicate and coordinate with one another. Thanks to this and a few billion years of evolution, humans can now gather in lecture halls to share ideas about how to study this communication and its wide-ranging implications.MSU scientists Lee Kroos and Yann Dufour now have a paper, published online Nov. 5 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which they took a deep look at how single cells work together to choreograph collective behavior. In particular, the team looked at a bacterial species known as Myxococcus xanthus to tease out the basic rules of the dances bacteria do to survive, thrive and impact humanity, for better or worse.
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November 3, 2021
About 20 years ago, MSU's B. Alex Brown had an idea to reveal insights about a fundamental but enigmatic force at work in some of the most extreme environments in the universe. Brown’s theory laid the blueprints for connecting the properties of nuclei to neutron stars, but building that bridge with experiments continued to be challenging. That is until 2017 when he said he started thinking about the precision experiments run by his colleague Kei Minamisono's group at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, or NSCL, and in the near-future at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB. The goal of this new idea, which was recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters, was the same as his earlier theory, but it could be tested using what are known as “mirror nuclei” to provide a faster and simpler path to that destination.
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November 1, 2021
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science has announced its selection of graduate students for the Office of Science Graduate Student Research program’s 2021 Solicitation 1 cycle, three of whom are Michigan State University College of Natural Science doctoral students: Caleb Richard Hicks and Gabriel Given in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Scott Essenmacher in the Department of Chemistry.
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October 28, 2021
The NASA Astrobiology Institute funded Michigan State University geomicrobiologist Matt Schrenk’s lab to study life in the extreme environment of an aquifer near Lower Lake, Calif. Because similar environments occur in space—in the subsurface of Mars and in the oceans of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus—the microorganisms found in this aquifer, and their behavior, may provide insight into potential extraterrestrial life. Two former MSU earth and environmental sciences graduate students, Lindsay Putman and Mary Sabuda, have just published papers on this research.
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October 27, 2021
MSU quantitative ecologist Elise Zipkin has been awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship, which will send her to Israel for four months of research and teaching in 2022. Teaming up with Tel Aviv University (TAU) microclimate prediction scientists, Zipkin developed a research and teaching proposal that bridges their disciplines. She plans to lead a series of four full-day workshops for graduate students at TAU and study how climate change affects ecologically and economically important insect species in the Middle East.
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October 21, 2021
Five Michigan State University College of Natural Science students and one recent alum are among the 10 MSU students and four alumni nominated this year for nationally competitive graduate school scholarships in the UK and Ireland that could make these potential honors a reality. In total, MSU has produced 16 Churchill Scholars, 20 Marshall Scholars, five Mitchell Scholars and 20 Rhodes Scholars.
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October 20, 2021
MSU ecosystems scientist Bruno Basso has received a $3.4 million grant from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency to help determine how much carbon is in unproductive agricultural lands now and how much carbon the soil can hold. The answers found by Basso and his team will contribute to a carbon storage initiative known as the Conservation Reserve Program, which allows unproductive land to return to native vegetation and hopefully to increase the amount of carbon to be stored in the soil while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agrochemical applications to mitigate climate change.

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