Yanni Mpourmpakis, one of CRC's’s most prolific collaborators, won the Bodossaki Foundation Distinguished Young Scientist Award, among the highest scientific awards given in his native Greece, presented by Greek president Prokopios Pavlopoulos in Athens on June 19. Mpourmpakis, Bicentennial Alumni faculty fellow and associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, works with the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab in developing computational methods and simulations to design nanomaterials – including work on safe storage of radioactive waste, formation of kidney stones, and creating building blocks for plastics. Left, Mpourmpakis with the Bodossaki Award plaque in the Greek Nationality Room in the Cathedral of Learning.
Orbiting Jupiter almost 400 million miles from Earth is the moon Europa. Ice covers its entire surface and cracks in the ice are filled with a brown substance whose color matches salt samples bathed in the lab with Jupiter-intensity doses of radiation. Spectroscopic observations of Europa using the Hubble Space Telescope match the spectrum of the irradiated salts.The Galileo Jupiter probe and Hubble have detected plumes of water vapor erupting through Europa’s ice sheet.What’s under the ice? If a saltwater ocean, Europa possesses the essential ingredient of biological life. NASA plans to explore that ocean – and thanks to Center for Research Computing collaborator Matthew Barry and his team, the University of Pittsburgh is an integral partner in one of the most ambitious and potentially consequential space missions since the Apollo program.
Reducing CO2 emissions costs money. Existing technology of trapping CO2 and pumping it underground consumes a significant part of the power produced by the plant, raising the price of electricity.
J. Karl Johnson, Pitt CRC Associate Director and Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and other Pitt CRC collaborators work to develop technology that not only reduces emissions but creates incentives to reduce emissions by transforming captured CO2 into valuable fuels and chemicals, offsetting capture costs while creating a possible profit motive.
Justn Kitzes, an assistant professor in Pitt’s Biological Sciences Department, works with Pitt CRC research consultant Barry Moore II in refining OpenSoundscape – a machine learning program Kitzes developed to create dense, meaningful and applicable data on the distribution and survival of species based on a model of simple acoustic sensors acquiring vast sets of bird calls and machine learning programs making sense of the data.
“Bird calls have lots of variability between them, but also lots of similarity," Kitzes explains. "Bird calls can vary greatly within one species. Birds sing simultaneously on top of each other. It is a complex picture.” Here, Moore, left, and Kitzes show off one of the acoustic sensors.
Students step into science by identifying and naming thousands of bacteriophages - viruses that attack bacteria - as part of the SEA-PHAGES program headed up by Pitt biologist Graham Hatfull. CRC powers the sequencing and analysis of a sliver of the billions-plus-strong, ever-changing population of bacteriophages. “Bacteria and phages are locked in a 3-billion year war,” Hatfull says simply. “Dynamic populations have been evolving for a long time, and they keep evolving.”
Hatfull and his team are receiving global attention for the role of SEA-PHAGES in the dramatically successful treatment of a 15-year-old girl for a rare bacterial infection. Read a small sample of of the media coverage at NOVA, Nature Medicine, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlantic.
Left, Pitt students Aishwarya Mukundan and Daniel Zipfel hunt for phages in Pitt's SEA-PHAGE lab.