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biology

DeepMind’s Neural Network Helped Solve a 50-Year-Old Mystery in Computational Biology

London-based AI lab, DeepMind, claims to have “solved” the problem of protein-folding using AI. Watch DeepMind’s video for an explanation on these important biological molecules.

https://www.morningbrew.com/emerging-tech/stories/2020/12/02/deepminds-neural-network-helped-solve-50yearold-mystery-computational-biology

This blog is a project of the NOVA Fellowship at TU.

 

 

Scientists Build “First Living Robots” From Frog Stem Cells

Scientists use frog stem cells to create a “living, programmable organism”; this robot technology could be used for targeted drug delivery in the future.

https://futurism.com/scientists-worlds-first-living-robots-stem-cells

This blog is a project of the NOVA Fellowship at TU.  

The NOVA Fellowship at The University of Tulsa (TU) has a mission to build and support the culture of innovation on campus and in our communities. We do this by providing small grants to help innovative student projects, faculty involved in innovative programs, and curating content related to current trends and recent developments in technology and innovation. This content includes topics relevant to the entire campus, including health sciences, economics, arts management, biology, computer science, finance, artificial intelligence (AI), communication, engineering, and global issues. Because NOVA students are studying in a variety of TU majors, our interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving is one of our great strengths.

NOVA also helps provide training to students and faculty in creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We offer training on the TU campus in meetings and workshops, and through an exciting partnership with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Every year since 2015, NOVA has sent several TU students and faculty to Stanford for 4-5 days of training with experts and interaction with fellow scholars from around the world. The student program is University Innovation Fellows (www.universityinnovationfellows.org) and the program for faculty is the Teaching and Learning Studio Faculty Workshop (http://universityinnovationfellows.org/teachingandlearningstudio/).

In these ways, NOVA exposes TU faculty, staff, and students to many processes and tools used in modern companies related to creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. One of these is “design thinking.” It is one of the most well-known problem-solving approaches used around the world today, used to develop concepts for new products, buildings, machines, toys, healthcare services, social enterprises, and more. According to the people who developed this tool, Dave Kelley and Tim Brown of the design firm, IDEO:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success…. Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.” (https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking)

As the innovation field develops, new perspectives are emerging. One promising approach we are beginning to bring into NOVA meetings and workshops is called “systems thinking,” which builds upon the emergent field of complexity research. Systems thinking recognizes the inherent interactivity of the dynamic processes in our world and focuses on problem-solving with that complexity in mind. This approach isn’t completely new, but recent work has made systems thinking more accessible to people interested in solving problems of most any type. For example, Derek Cabrera, Ph.D. (Cornell University) has proposed a useful taxonomy designed to improve systems thinking called DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives). He defines it as: “The recursive distinguishing of things and their interrelationships and part-whole organization from various perspectives” (https://blog.cabreraresearch.org/what-is-a-system-what-is-systems-thinking). Elsewhere, DSRP has been described as a particular way to think about problems, and that the use of these four patterns notably improves people’s problem-solving abilities – demonstrated in sessions with Kindergartners all the way to CEOs. The complex, adaptive mental models that are formed during systems thinking attempt to identify the most approachable and simplest explanations for phenomena. In his book with Laura Cabrera, Systems Thinking Made Simple, examples of the simplicity that drives complexity include: the interaction of CMYK colors in our world, the amazing biodiversity derived from combinations of DNA’s core nucleotides ATCG, the fundamentals of martial arts which practitioners use together to improvise during sparring matches, the almost infinite variety of models that can be built with modular Lego blocks, and the billions of possible moves in a chess match with just 6 unique pieces.

We invite you to join us and collaborate as we learn more about effective ways to solve problems that you and others care about in the community, in corporations, and on campus! Please visit www.novafellowship.org or email Dr. Charles M. Wood, Professor of Marketing at TU: charles-wood@utulsa.edu.

 

Scientists Are Storing Energy in Uneaten Fruit

Scientists in Australia, experimenting with jackfruit and durian to transform it into an ultra-capacitor, experience success storing energy.

https://futurism.com/the-byte/storing-energy-uneaten-fruit

This blog is a project of  the NOVA Fellowship at TU.  

 

The NOVA Fellowship at The University of Tulsa (TU) has a mission to build and support the culture of innovation on campus and in our communities. We do this by providing small grants to help innovative student projects, faculty involved in innovative programs, and curating content related to current trends and recent developments in technology and innovation. This content includes topics relevant to the entire campus, including health sciences, economics, arts management, biology, computer science, finance, artificial intelligence (AI), communication, engineering, and global issues. Because NOVA students are studying in a variety of TU majors, our interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving is one of our great strengths.

NOVA also helps provide training to students and faculty in creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We offer training on the TU campus in meetings and workshops, and through an exciting partnership with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Every year since 2015, NOVA has sent several TU students and faculty to Stanford for 4-5 days of training with experts and interaction with fellow scholars from around the world. The student program is University Innovation Fellows (www.universityinnovationfellows.org) and the program for faculty is the Teaching and Learning Studio Faculty Workshop (http://universityinnovationfellows.org/teachingandlearningstudio/).

In these ways, NOVA exposes TU faculty, staff, and students to many processes and tools used in modern companies related to creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. One of these is “design thinking.” It is one of the most well-known problem-solving approaches used around the world today, used to develop concepts for new products, education, buildings, machines, toys, healthcare services, social enterprises, and more. According to the people who developed this tool, Dave Kelley and Tim Brown of the design firm, IDEO:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success…. Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.” (https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking)

As the innovation field develops, new perspectives are emerging. One promising approach we are beginning to bring into NOVA meetings and workshops is called “systems thinking,” which builds upon the emergent field of complexity research. Systems thinking recognizes the inherent interactivity of the dynamic processes in our world and focuses on problem-solving with that complexity in mind. This approach isn’t completely new, but recent work has made systems thinking more accessible to people interested in solving problems of most any type. For example, Derek Cabrera, Ph.D. (Cornell University) has proposed a useful taxonomy designed to improve systems thinking called DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives). He defines it as: “The recursive distinguishing of things and their interrelationships and part-whole organization from various perspectives” (https://blog.cabreraresearch.org/what-is-a-system-what-is-systems-thinking). Elsewhere, DSRP has been described as a particular way to think about problems, and that the use of these four patterns notably improves people’s problem-solving abilities – demonstrated in sessions with Kindergartners all the way to CEOs. The complex, adaptive mental models that are formed during systems thinking attempt to identify the most approachable and simplest explanations for phenomena. In his book with Laura Cabrera, Systems Thinking Made Simple, examples of the simplicity that drives complexity include: the interaction of CMYK colors in our world, the amazing biodiversity derived from combinations of DNA’s core nucleotides ATCG, the fundamentals of martial arts which practitioners use together to improvise during sparring matches, the almost infinite variety of models that can be built with modular Lego blocks, and the billions of possible moves in a chess match with just 6 unique pieces.

We invite you to join us and collaborate as we learn more about effective ways to solve problems that you and others care about in the community, in corporations, and on campus! Please visit www.novafellowship.org or email Dr. Charles M. Wood, Professor of Marketing at TU: charles-wood@utulsa.edu.

 

Biology abroad: ISL student realizes her full potential with TU dual degree

Biological sciences and German senior Alyssa Williams is on track to become the first student to officially complete The University of Tulsa’s new International Science and Language program. Few students take on the challenge of earning two complex degrees in just five years, but Williams is expected to graduate next spring after studying both majors.

Biology + German

The Broken Arrow native took German language courses in high school, and when the program eventually was eliminated, she focused on her other interests in science. “I had a lot of cool biology teachers in high school, so I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.

international scienceShe enrolled at TU to pursue biology, but during her freshman year, she met a friend who was studying German. Williams often did homework with her and by the second year of college, she was adding German classes to her schedule. A year later, David Tingey and Victor Udwin, associate professors of German and comparative literature, told Williams about a new program launching at TU. The International Engineering and Language or International Science and Language program enables students to study an engineering or science discipline while learning a foreign language. After completing the required coursework and studying and interning abroad for one year, participants graduate with bachelor’s of science and bachelor’s of art degrees. IEL and ISL participants are empowered with the tools, knowledge and experience to establish a career in engineering or science while communicating and working effectively in a second language and culture.

“I had never considered going abroad,” Williams said. “It always sounded really cool, but I didn’t think it was something I would do.”

A year in Freiburg, Germany

The application process was simple, requiring only a language competency exam to determine her level of German-speaking skills. Williams explained Tingey and Professor of Biological Sciences Estelle Levetin were instrumental in arranging classes and an internship abroad. With additional help from the global exchange organization Cultural Vistas, she received an internship offer within a month of applying and was matched with a lab ideal for her interests and location. In just a few weeks, she joined the program and prepared to embark on the adventure of a lifetime in the city of Freiburg, Germany. Her first semester, she took five classes at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. The second half of the year, she worked in a plant lab at the same institution.

international science“I had a lot of biology credits, so I spent more time studying German,” Williams said. “The second semester was more focused on science and working with a species of plant called Arabidopsis thaliana. I learned new lab techniques and basics I can use in the future, and I helped my mentor with a project that involved growing and tracking 70 plant varieties in Petri dishes.”

Every few weeks, she was responsible for tracking the root systems and applying varying concentrations of salt and drying agents to record lateral root growth. The year abroad also offered Williams the chance to experience different living environments. The first six months, she shared a flat with other college students from China, Mexico and Germany. She met other Americans too and traveled frequently with student groups to other countries such as Prague, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and France.

“In Europe, everything is so much closer together,” Williams explained. “You can take these really cheap buses and just go see everything.”

Stepping out of her comfort zone

international scienceExploring new countries and cities, experiencing the different cultures and practicing her German gave Williams the confidence to become more independent during the second semester abroad; she went to the government office in Freiburg and registered to apply for a Student Visa. She set up her living arrangements and lived by herself. English was not commonly used in many of the European cities she visited, so by the time she returned to America in July 2019, her proficiency in German had drastically improved. Williams said she also learned a lot about how other countries function differently in society.

“There’s definitely a cultural aspect to it. Germans are much more straight-forward. In the lab, they would use sticky notes to give instructions. To us, it would be considered passive-aggressive, but to them, they think, ‘there’s an issue, so we’re going to address it.’ Also in Freiburg, everyone dresses up, no one leaves the house just wearing sweatpants,” she said with a smile.

With graduation on the horizon, Williams plans to take the GRE and maybe apply to grad school but beginning her career in the research world also is an option. Either way, she said the ISL experience helped her grow as a person and realize her potential. “Before, I was a biology major and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Now, I’m a biology and German major who is more independent. I don’t necessarily know exactly what I want to do, but I can see the roads ahead of me.”

Studying Abroad as a Sophomore

I’ve always been predictable. From what I eat for dinner to where I sit in my university’s library, familiarity makes my world run smoothly. I could give you a million examples of how often I find my daily life entrenched in routine. And, most importantly, the one decision that completely changed that.

No one was more surprised than I was at the spur-of-the-moment decision I made to study abroad last fall. I was a sophomore. I’d never even mentioned a desire to go abroad. And I decided to go a mere week before my school’s application was due. Suffice it to say that I was a bit frazzled getting my ducks back into a familiar row.

While I can’t tell you what compelled this ‘by the books’ gal to pack up her life and move 4,000 miles away, I can tell you what compels me because of that decision.

Here’s what no one tells you about going abroad as a sophomore:

  • You get to have two full years back at your home university afterwards. I had no worries about missing out on what was going on back home; I knew I still had half of college to get back into the swing of things.
  • You can learn from your peers. My two closest friends in Scotland, Katie and Rachel, were both juniors while I was a sophomore. It was so refreshing to have influential women in my life who I could not only experience Edinburgh with, but also rely on for their experience and advice, both abroad and at home. Back in the States, most of my friends were my own age, and having the opportunity to talk through the college experience with others who had been going through school longer than I was completely amazing. We came together despite our age differences, united by our Scottish adventure. The most “delicious” benefit to my friends was in regard to meals. I had never cooked for myself before, so the thought of having to prepare my own meals at first was a little scary. Katie and Rachel had lived and cooked for themselves back home, so if the mess of grocery shopping and chopping ever got to be too much for me, I could pop over to Rachel’s flat for whatever delicious meal she’d concocted.
  • You have more flexibility when it comes to coursework. My university has certain ‘Block’ course requirements, the standard general electives. Because I went abroad as a sophomore, I was able to take three classes in British History, rather than in my major, Biology, all without getting behind. I got to fully immerse myself in the culture of Scotland, both past and present, all while fulfilling the courses I needed to graduate from my home university anyway. After all, if a STEM student needs to take history classes, why not take them where history was written?
  • You get to be a resource. Now, as a junior, several of my friends are deciding to take the leap and head abroad. I’ve had the unique opportunity to tell them what it was like, to advise them to bring waterproof shoes and to keep a journal so they forget nothing. I have two whole years to spread the word about the life you can find if you step outside your comfort zone.

Now that being said…

You can ask anyone what it’s ‘really like’ to study abroad, but at the end of the day, the experience is really what you choose to make it. I had a bit more growing up to do than some of my older peers, but to have had the opportunity to gain life experience in Scotland made it all the more meaningful to me.

Don’t study abroad if you don’t want it to change your life. Because it will. I’ll never be the same, now that I’ve lived in Scotland, hiked through the Highlands, traveled internationally alone, and seen what it truly means to take a leap of faith, and find out where you land.

Thanks to study abroad, I’ve gained a strength I didn’t know I had, and a confidence in my ability to chase my dreams, no matter how crazy they might seem. I’ve gained a new sense of independence and freedom, knowing I can and have survived on my own. I didn’t prepare emotionally go to abroad. I just went. And that made all the difference.

I truly believe that the decision to study abroad changed my life more than I could have imagined. And I’ve changed my mind about following the same path you’ve always been on.  If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that impulsive decisions can bring you to some of your happiest days. Don’t be afraid to experience life, even if it means on a slightly different timeline than those around you. It’s your life, and your timeline, after all.

Abby Kucera
University of Tulsa ’18
Biology

Scotland, Spring 2016
Previously published by IFSA-Butler: https://alumni.ifsa-butler.org/scotland-2/sophomore-study-abroad