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Twelve UB research projects that caught the world’s attention in 2016

Every year, students and professors at University at Buffalo make significant advancements concerning myriad fields. Many of these ingenious endeavors made so much headway that they managed to catch the attention of national media and thus the world psyche. While Buffalonians might not be familiar with the technological breakthroughs and groundbreaking advancements, the world tuned into international news outlets that broadcasted the following achievements made in Buffalo:

A glowing dye for batteries (lead image)

Could a glow-in-the-dark dye be the next advance in energy storage technology? Yes! That’s according to UB chemist Timothy Cook. In tests, his team found that a glowing dye called BODIPY performed well as the main ingredient of a rechargeable battery that was drained and reenergized 100 times. Such fluid-filled batteries could store wind energy for future use or power solar houses at night.

As featured in LiveScience, UPI.


Mary and Peter Bush at the South Campus Instrumentation Center. Photo: Douglas Levere

Faulty courtroom evidence, exposed

Bite-mark analysis, which matches crime suspects’ teeth to bite marks on victims, has historically been used as evidence in court. But studies by UB dental researchers Mary and Peter Bush show this methodology is flawed: Bite marks from different people can be indistinguishable, and a single set of teeth can leave varied impressions. The work helped lay the foundation for a landmark 2016 recommendation to ban such evidence from Texas courts.

As featured in Wall Street Journal, BBC, VICE.


John Leddy with a patient.

Exercise and the brain

When athletes get concussions, doctors often prescribe a prolonged period of rest. But UB medical researchers John Leddy and Barry Willer have shown that low-level exercise can actually be beneficial to recovery. To understand why this might be, the two have launched a new study to investigate how the brain changes after a concussion, and how the organ returns to normal.

As featured in CBS This Morning, Buffalo News, WBFO, Business First.


Artist’s reconstruction of an early (ca. 38 million year-old) beardog from Texas, based on fossils of Angelarctocyon australis and Gustafsonia cognita. © Monica Jurik, The Field Museum.

Beardog origins

Ferocious beasts called beardogs — neither bears nor dogs — roamed the Northern Hemisphere millions of years ago. But where did they originate? A study co-authored by UB paleontologist Jack Tseng points to the southwestern U.S. as an early home for this lineage of prehistoric mammals. The research helps to clarify the evolutionary history of this now extinct, once-successful group of predators.

As featured in Associated Press, Discover, Ars Technica.


James Campbell.

America, Polarized

At the end of a grueling election season, many people wondered: How did the country become so divided? UB political scientist James Campbell offered insights in a 2016 book, “Polarized: Making Sense of a Divided America.” He says that while it’s tempting to see polarization as a top-down process spurred by the media and politicians, it’s the changing views of ordinary Americans that have driven growing segmentation.

As featured in Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News.


Despina Stratigakos.

Architecture’s missing women

Architecture has an attrition problem: Women represent almost half of all students in the field, but less than 20 percent of licensed practitioners. UB architectural historian Despina Stratigakos explored the roots of this disparity in her 2016 book, “Where Are the Woman Architects?” Her analysis took on new urgency this spring with the death of Zaha Hadid, widely regarded as the world’s most prominent woman architect.

As featured in Slate, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times.


An infographic shows UB’s lava-brewing process. Credit: Bob Wilder

Homemade lava

UB geologists are brewing their own lava. The process takes about four hours, with a high-powered furnace heating batches of basaltic rock to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, aims to record what happens when molten rock meets water. The study could elucidate the danger that volcanoes near ice, lakes and other water sources pose to surrounding communities.

As featured in Washington Post, The Guardian, Smithsonian SmartNews.


Food-tracking necklace

The sounds of our chewing may not be charming, but they may prove a useful tool for researchers designing gadgets to help us watch what we eat. UB computer scientist Wenyao Xu is cataloguing the unique sounds that foods make as we bite, grind and swallow. The data will be integrated into a high-tech necklace that tracks the wearer’s diet and calorie intake.

As featured in CNET, Engadget, VICE Motherboard.


Love and storytelling

A good story can fuel romance. That’s the conclusion of a series of studies by UB communication expert Melanie Green and her colleague John Donahue at Columbus College of Art and Design. The research found that when it comes to prospects for long-term relationships, women prefer men who are good storytellers to those who can’t spin a tale.

As featured in CBS News, Wall Street Journal, The Conversation.


Undermined — and undermining

Selfish acts can cause a workplace to become toxic. A study led by UB School of Management researcher KiYoung Lee shows that when employees are undermined at work, they feel entitled to undermine colleagues — sparking a vicious cycle. The researchers advise organizations to develop ethics training programs, hire employees who value morality, and encourage managers to emphasize moral values at work.

As featured in, Business News Daily.


Illustration of a vortex laser on a chip. Credit: University at Buffalo.

Corkscrew communication

As society’s demand for information-sharing grows, UB engineers Natalia Litchinitser and Liang Feng have devised a new tool for accelerating light-based communication. Their team created a mini vortex laser. The technology distributes light in a corkscrew pattern, enabling the transfer of 10 times more data than conventional, linear lasers.

As featured in Wired UK, New Atlas.


Clouds over Europe. Credit: Adam Wilson

A cloud cover atlas

An important part of understanding where endangered plants and animals live may be hidden in the sky. Using satellite images, UB geographer Adam Wilson and Yale researcher Walter Jetz built a database containing images of cloud cover for nearly every square kilometer of Earth for every day over the past 15 years. This catalogue revealed that cloud patterns can be used to pinpoint the borders of ecological biomes and the habitats of individual species.

As featured in The New York Times, New Scientist, Washington Post.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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