CBS faculty weigh in on the coolest discoveries of the past year.


"I'd say the coolest scientific discoveries this year would fall into a broad category of planetary science and the possibility of exobiology (the study of life on other worlds). Several different groups have been discovering dozens of "exoplanets" (planets outside our solar system) across the galaxy, and a recent discovery of water vapor plumes coming from Europa (a moon orbiting Jupiter) shows that liquid water does, in fact, exist there. This shows us that there are real worlds outside our own in the cosmos, and I am willing to bet that there is biology happening on some of them. It will take decades, but it's time we started to look for life out there. Today's CBS students are learning about life on earth. Who knows, maybe in the future, they will be exploring the life of other planets too?"

- Professor Jon Foley (Ecology, Evolution and Behavior/Institute on the Environment)

"My favorite paper in a long while was published about one year ago, it dealt with the issue of how a bacterium can select needed phosphate from an environment in the midst of high arsenate (a toxin) concentrations."

- Professor Larry Wackett (BMBB/BioTechnology Institute)


"I’m slightly biased, but I thought this was a really cool paper. ... We grew an obligate iron oxidizing bacterium by replacing iron with direct electrical current from an electrode. If we can figure out how this works at the genetic and biochemical level we can build conduits for electron transfer into engineered cells that could use electricity to make fuels for us!"

- Associate Professor Jeff Gralnick (Microbiology/BioTechnology Institute)

"I think the coolest thing I saw this year was the discovery of a bacterial secretion system in which the cells appear to make a spring-loaded injection system, similar to a syringe used for injections in people. Here, a “stretched” spring sheath is assembled by the effector cells, then collapses, secreting proteins into an adjacent target cell, and then the sheath disassembles after it is done. How cool is that?"

- Assistant Professor Melissa Gardner (GCD)

"I will pick one very interesting report from Alice Ting's group, describing a method that enables spatially and temporally resolved identification of proteome and molecular architecture in living cells."

- Assistant Professor Yue Chen (BMBB)