Tag Archives: University of Oklahoma

Herpetology Field Trip

The Cameron Siler Lab is based at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Researchers there study herpetology, which means they know just about everything there is to know about reptiles and amphibians.

They just started the first year of a three year grant to study the diversity of those creatures in Oklahoma. They’re also looking to see if any of them show signs of certain diseases that could have a major impact on the populations.

Special thanks to Jessa Watters, the herpetology collections manager, for letting me tag along on one of their field trips. We went to the James Collins Wildlife Management Area in Latimer County. It’s not know if any of the animals you see in this video suffer from those diseases. The researchers take what they’ve collected back to their lab to perform the tests.

If you know of a group of scientists doing field work in Oklahoma please let me know. I’d love to go out there with them. Drop me a line at scienceisok (at) outlook (dot) com.

This Scientist is OK- Dr. James Shaffer

Dr. James Shaffer is a physicist at the University of Oklahoma. He recently created a new molecule that could lead the way for quantum computing. He loves science and the scientific process because, he says, it’s always on the edge of uncertainty.

A couple of items from this interview…at the 1:08 mark he talks about why he likes the sitcom The Big Bang Theory and at the 2:18 mark he explains why politicians are sometimes misguided when they evaluate scientific research.

 

Snakes and turtles and stuff

A student researcher examines a turtle.

A student researcher examines a turtle.

I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with researchers from OU studying snakes and turtles and stuff. Jessa Watters is the Collection Manager for Herpetology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.

Watters is part of the Cameron Siler lab at the museum. She was joined by two students this weekend at the James Collins Wildlife Management Area in Latimer County, it’s near Robbers Cave State Park. I’ll be producing a story of my visit soon and show why they say studying these creatures is important.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma study wildlife in Latimer County.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma study wildlife in Latimer County.

Have Fun with Aquilops

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with Aquilops americanus. That’s the small horned dinosaur found in Montana by a team that included Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History paleontologist Dr. Richard Cifelli.

The tiny fossil is now on display at the museum, but what better way to celebrate this historic find than to have your own version…sort of.

Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week is the place to go for the latest news on this awesome little creature. They’ve also passed on some most outstanding ways you can make Aquilops your own. Click here to see how you can make hand puppets, 3D models, even a baby Aquilops for the kiddos. It’s all very cool and a great way to teach kids about dinosaurs.

OU Researchers Create New Molecule

Scientists at the University of Oklahoma have created a new molecule that may lead the way to quantum computing. Dr. James Shaffer and his team created the molecule by manipulating the electron inside an atom causing it leave the atom, this caused another atom to reach out to it creating what’s called a Dipole Moment(Obviously, this is a way watered-down version of this process.)

The Dipole Moment created by the OU researchers is the largest on record.

Quantum computers are much faster than conventional computers and are based on a large Dipole Moment. Dr. Shaffer explains in this video how his breakthrough could help develop quantum computing and why that’s important.

Below is a news release from the University of Oklahoma that has some details.

OU Physicists First to Create New Molecule with Record-Setting Dipole Moment

Norman, Okla.—A proposed pathway to construct quantum computers may be the outcome of research by a University of Oklahoma physics team that has created a new molecule based on the interaction between a highly-excited type of atom known as a Rydberg atom and a ground-state atom.  A unique property of the molecule is the large permanent dipole moment, which reacts with an electric field much like a bar magnet reacts with a magnetic field.

“This is the largest electric dipole moment ever observed in a molecule,” says James Shaffer, professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, OU College of Arts and Sciences.  Shaffer and his team want to produce enough of these molecules to carry out future experiments on dipole interactions.  Dipole interactions between particles may provide a pathway for constructing scalable quantum computers.

Donald Booth, the lead graduate student on this project, says the molecule is formed when an electron from the Rydberg atom grabs onto the ground-state atom. OU researchers excite the Rydberg atom using lasers in a cloud of ground-state atoms, so the Rydberg electron can collide with a ground-state atom and form the molecule.

A paper by OU physicist James Shaffer on this research has been published in Science magazine at news.sciencemag.org.

Weather School

Oklahoma’s weather season is here so what better time to go to weather school. The Storm Prediction Center in Norman is offering just such an opportunity.

Rich Thompson is a lead forecaster at the SPC. He hosts a weekly a series on forecasting tornados. You can attend the workshops live every Tuesday evening at 7:30 at the National Weather Service office in Norman or you can watch online right here. You can also go to this YouTube channel for more archives and other presentations.

The workshops are for anyone who wants to learn more about tornados and science behind how forecasters know where one will next appear.

 

Summer of Science

How about a summer of science for your high schooler (or 8th grader)?!?! OK Higher Ed is offering a fantastic opportunity for students who will be in 8th-12th grade next year. It’s called the Summer Academies.

A total of 26 academies will be held at 17 college campuses across the state throughout the summer.  Topics include biology, engineering, math, aeronautics, meteorology…you know, all the STEM stuff. Best of all, it’s FREE!!!

Check out these quotes from former academy attendees courtesy of OKMath.

“No field of study has started a fire within me like architecture and interior design has. Your enthusiasm for my ideas and designs was new and exciting for me.”

“This is the best thing I will ever do this whole entire summer.”

“College doesn’t seem as unimaginable as before. I will definitely be going to college.”

OKMath also reports, “a greater percentage of Summer Academies students go to college immediately after high school than compared to other students.” Also, “Summer Academies students earn degrees at a higher rate than other students.”

Click here to register and see a full list of academies being offered. You can also call 1-800-858-1840 for more information.

And remember, it’s FREE!!

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This Scientist Is OK- Kyle Davies

Kyle Davies is a paleontologist and a fossil preparator at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. He builds the displays you see on the museum floor. He most recently helped prepare Aquilops americanus display which debuted in February.

Davies is one of those people who’s living a childhood dream. He says all he ever wanted to do was build fossil displays. How abut that? Now he’s doing it and that makes him an OK scientist.

It’s what’s in the Gut that matters

Scientists at the University of Oklahoma are getting international attention for research into what’s in your gut. Cecil Lewis and his team at the Laboratories of Molecular Anthropology and Microbiome Research at OU studied what’s inside the guts of a group of Norman residents and compared it to the guts of a hunter-gatherer society in the Amazon.

They found that the population of gut microbes of the people in the Amazon and city-dwellers in Norman have some significant differences. For example, one microbe called Treponema was not found in the Norman population but was found in the tribe of hunter-gatherers. This is a bacteria that has been in human and primate guts for millions of years.

“In our study, we show that these lost bacteria are in fact multiple species that are likely capable of fermenting fiber and generating short chain fatty acids in the gut.  Short chain fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties.  This raises an important question, could these lost Treponema be keystone species that explain the increased risk for autoimmunce disorders in industrialized people?  This is what we hope to explore next,” says Lewis.

You can read the research for yourself in nature.  Or you can read this article in Science Magazine by Ann Gibbons to see how researchers convinced the tribe in the Amazon to let them study their guts. (Let’s just say, sometimes science ain’t pretty.). Gibbons sums it up quite nicely about what this means and why this kind of research is important.

This Scientist is OK- Dr. Lynn Soreghan

Dr. Lynn Soreghan is a geologist at the University of Oklahoma. She studies what’s called deep time climate, basically we’re talking about Earth’s climate from hundreds of millions of years ago. She does it by studying ancient dust that has now solidified and become rock.

In this video she talks about why she loves geology, what ancient dust particles tell you about climate of the past, and what she thinks about the state of science education in Oklahoma. You can really see at the 2:52 mark as she tries to find the words to describe her frustration with some of the meddling that goes on in science education in our state.