While cryogenics is often depicted as a scientifically fictitious, Hollywood creation, Kieran Loehr ’20 and peer researchers in the lab of Prof. Robert Thorne, physics, are collaborating to make bio preservation an easy and affordable process. According to Loehr, freezing humans to be resuscitated in 100 years is not a foreseeable feat, but improving freezing techniques for commercial use, like sperm and egg cryopreservation and biomaterial storage for research purposes, is the lab’s primary goal. “Tissues, which are composed of membrane bound cells, are particularly delicate and the harsh process of freezing can cause them to rupture and incur damage,” Loehr said. This happens when the molecules of a slowly cooling liquid rearrange into rigid, crystalline structures and disrupt cell membranes. However, according to Loehr, “if the rate at which the freezing process takes place is increased to 600,000 kelvin/sec, biological damage can be avoided due to glass formation.” Glass is a term used to describe a frozen solid composed of molecules that are arranged as if in liquid state.
Proteins are strikingly complex macromolecules, which control every aspect of molecular function in all living organisms, making them an interesting research target. The Ando Lab studies the structure of proteins, specifically enzymes, in order to understand their function, using structural techniques like x-ray diffraction and small-angle x-ray scattering. These techniques allow for the visualization of atomic and molecular structure of proteins. Small-angle x-ray scattering is a technique used to study the structure of proteins in solution. SAXS maintains an advantage over other techniques because it allows for the understanding of the movement of proteins; however a caveat to SAXS is its lower resolution, creating the need for combinatorial approaches to studying proteins such as combining SAXS with chromatography.
Principal investigator of the Mars rover missions, Prof. Steven Squyres ’78 is “now teaching adults, college students, who cannot remember a time when there wasn’t a rover on Mars.” The rover, Opportunity, who has been on Mars for 14 years became unresponsive in June following a massive dust storm on the planet.
Quantum teleportation may sound like a futuristic means of travel, but it occurs at the particle level. It can enable encryption that is essentially unbreakable. As part of the physics department’s Fall 2016 Bethe Lecture, Prof. Anton Zeilinger, physics, University of Vienna, discussed concepts in quantum theory that could revolutionize information technology. The Bethe Lectures is a lectureship endowed by Cornell University to honor Hans Albrecht Bethe, who led the physics department and was awarded the 1967 Nobel Prize in physics for his contributions to the theory of nuclear reactions. Quantum physics describes the nature of matter on the atomic and subatomic scale.
What started as a question to the A-exam became a revolutionary discovery in the material science field. Neil Y.C. Lin — a graduate student from Cornell University pursuing a physics Ph.D. — was asked if it was possible to measure forces at the single particle scale, given that the current methods can only measure said forces at bulk scale (in groups) on his A-exam. A-exam is an exam where Ph.D. candidates must attempt to answer questions that not even the professors know the answers to. This question led Lin to work with Prof. Itai Cohen, physics, Prof. James Sethna, physics, Matthew Bierbaum grad and Prof. Peter Schall, physics, University of Amsterdam. After three years of research, this team of theorists, computer calibrators, and crystal specialists found their answer in SALSA — not the tasty dip, but Stress Assessment from Local Structure Anisotropy.