Research notes from around the state
» Robots, etc.
The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition finished first in its group and second overall at the DARPA Robotics Challenge at Homestead Speedway in Miami [“Tech Jewel,” October 2013]. The institute’s team will compete in a final DARPA challenge in early 2015. Meanwhile, construction will begin in the spring on a major expansion of IHMC’s Pensacola campus that will allow IHMC to grow.
University of South Florida researchers earned $413.6 million in awards and contracts in 2012-13, and the school ranked 15th worldwide among universities granted U.S. patents. Among the research at USF’s Morsani College of Medicine is an effort to improve therapies for traumatic brain injuries. USF researchers are also leading a study of a drug to treat Friedreich’s ataxia, a rare genetic disorder in which the spinal cord and peripheral nerves degenerate, leading to impaired muscle coordination.
In central Florida, Sanford-Burnham at Lake Nona is partnering with Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo to develop drugs to treat cardiovascular-metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart failure and atherosclerosis.
Researchers at Scripps Florida are investigating whether reservatrol, a substance found in red wine, grapes, berries and some nuts, can be turned into a drug that reduces heart disease and other conditions associated with aging. Reservatrol doesn’t work particularly well in the body, and the researchers hope to identify compounds that can have the same effect, more efficiently.
» Fast Lasers
Attosecond lasers are bursts of light measured in billionths of a second. Zenghu Chang, a University of Central Florida physicist at the College of Optics and Photonics, holds the world’s record for the shortest laser pulse ever created at 67 billionths of a billionth of a second. Chang has attracted more than $9 million in federal grants and is leading a project to create a laser pulse six times faster than his record-setting burst. The attosecond lasers enable scientists to measure electrons and other molecules that couldn’t otherwise be studied. That ability should lead to better understanding of how electrons move, enabling the creation of faster computers and other electronic devices.
» Florida International University
Researchers at FIU employed the school’s “Wall of Wind,” which can simulate the effects of a Category 5 hurricane, to test a building design proposed by Italian developers. The design includes a “vertical forest” of 900-plus trees planted on terraces in the building, and the school’s International Hurricane Center tested whether the trees and planters would stay put in a strong storm.
Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies is funding 20 internships for Indian River State College students that provides a $1,250 per semester scholarship and pays the students for research-related work at the institute, including experiments on disease-fighting compounds.