Friday, October 12, 2018

R&D Magazine announces 2018 Scientist of the Year

Bette Korber, from R&D.

R&D Magazine is proud to announce Los Alamos National Laboratory theoretical biologist Bette Korber, PhD, as the 2018 Scientist of the Year.

Korber’s innovative HIV “mosaic” vaccine design—assembled from fragments of natural sequences via a computational optimization method—led to a first-in-class preventative HIV vaccine now being tested for efficacy in humans with support from the NIH and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a milestone few others have reached.

This year marks the 53rd annual Scientist of the Year Award, which recognizes career accomplishments in scientific research and technology spanning nearly all disciplines from physics to medicine to chemistry. (Full story)

Catching hackers in the act

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, where some of the nation’s most precious secrets are kept, information is not only closely guarded, tools are being developed to help others detect and respond quickly to targeted attacks.

Understanding the capabilities and intent of malware — a process known as reverse engineering — is a difficult, manual process that can take days or even weeks for an expert analyst. Los Alamos has long been a leader in manual malware analysis, and has found that expert intuition can be augmented by machine learning tools that rapidly identify patterns across large sets of related malware, collected over time. (Full story)

Astrophysicists scramble to find an answer for mysterious microquasar jets

Material ejecting from a region around a
supermassive black hole in a quasar, ESO image.

Due to it fundamentally challenging established astrophysics, scientists are truly baffled by the discovery of highly energetic radiation being emitted from a microquasar in deep space. A microquasar is a black hole that swallows debris from a nearby companion star and blasting it out as enormous jets of material, but this is the first time that such radiation has been detected coming from one. Publishing its findings in Nature, a team from the US Department of Energy and the Los Alamos National Laboratory strongly suggested that particle collisions at the end of the microquasar’s jets likely produced the powerful gamma rays. (Full story)

Officials use social media to monitor, intervene in disease outbreaks

Influenza A.

Public health officials say that polling using text messages, social media platforms, and other digital tools can be key in both tracking the health care behavior of people and disseminating lifesaving information during emergency situations. Meanwhile, social media is being used to help forecast seasonal flu epidemics. The Los Alamos National Laboratory told Axios last flu season they found social media (in particular using Google health trends) to be helpful in their forecasting. (Full story)

Local biologist develops lollipop to tackle allergy symptoms

It's easy to feel wiped out this time of year. Allergies can leave you feeling miserable with all of the sneezing, runny noses, and itchy eyes.

While most blame what's in the air, Cliff Han, a doctor and now biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said your symptoms have nothing to do with what's in the environment. The cause, believe it or not, he said is good oral hygiene that's killing that good bacteria in your mouth. (Full story)


Solving epidemics with math

Mac Hyman, from the Monitor.

Sharks, bears, spiders and snakes may rule the deadly monster category on TV, but a team of mathematicians at Tulane University, who also partner with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, know who the real threat to humans are.

That would be the lowly mosquito.

While researchers have already found a way to infect mosquitoes with a bacteria that keeps them from spreading deadly disease, Tulane University professor and mathematician Dr. Mac Hyman, who is also a research partner with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is helping those researchers better wield their new weapon with math. (Full story)