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Headliners: Ocean Water, Hold the Salt

UT researchers made news with a desalination “water chip” that could give millions access to drinking water. Check out this media hit and other recent headlines.

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Researchers, scholars and experts from The University of Texas at Austin are sought by news outlets every week for their knowledge, expertise and insights. Here’s a selection of recent media hits.

the water chip developed by UT researcher Richard Crooks

Richard Crooks, chemistry professor 

Tiny Channels Take Salt from Seawater
Discovery News

Richard Crooks, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Natural Sciences

Richard Crooks

Richard Crooks, chemistry professor 

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly one billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. But that could change with the development of a “water chip” created by two scientists, including UT’s Richard Crooks. Crooks and Ulrich Tallarek are working with Okeanos Technologies to further develop the chip which takes salt from seawater to make drinkable water. Currently, it is expensive to turn seawater into drinkable water but this new desalination method could prove to be a solution to many.

Read more about the impact this technology for the future.

Related Links:
Chemists Work to Desalt the Ocean for Drinking Water, One Nanoliter at a Time (UT News)
Desalting the Ocean (Texas Science)

‘Brainwashed’ Examines the Value of Brain Scans
NPR Science Friday

Russell Poldrack, Imaging Research Center, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, Department of Neuroscience, College of Natural Sciences

Russell Poldrack

Russell Poldrack, professor 

NPR’s Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, invited a panel to discuss the science behind some recent brain imaging research. Flatow’s guests included UT Austin’s Russell Poldrack, director of the Imaging Research Center and Professor of Psychology and Neurobiology. Poldrack discussed the differences between a structural MRI and a functional MRI and the type of MRI his research is using. Poldrack went on to tell Flatow that “we can actually decode what people are thinking, at least in very limited circumstances.”

Listen to the interview or read the transcript to learn what the show’s guests had to say about what brain scans can and cannot tell us about human behavior and how the mind works.

Related Links:
This Austin Scientist is Scanning His Own Brain Over 100 Times (KUT News)
Weekly Readings: Quantifying Self (UT feature)

Rick Perry Co-Stars in Texas Political Drama

James Henson, Texas Politics Project, Department of Government, College of Liberal Arts

James Henson

James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project 

Frank James writes in his latest NPR piece about the irony of Texas politics right now. State Sen. Wendy Davis’s filibuster of anti-abortion legislation a few weeks ago has not only raised her profile but also that of Gov. Rick Perry. James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT, told NPR that not only has Davis gained statewide and national attention, the fireworks at the capitol have given Perry an opportunity to reintroduce himself to a national conservative audience. Henson also points out that conservatives will use Davis’s new renown against her in advertising during her state senator reelection campaign.

Read more about Henson’s opinions on Perry and Davis’ Texas political drama and what it means for both of them.

Related Links:
Texas Politics Project (Website)

Working From Home? Boss May Still be Peeking Over Your Shoulder
NBC News

Jennifer Glass, Population Research Center, Department of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass, professor 

In 2010, about 13.4 million people, or 9.5 percent of the workforce, spent at least some of their time telecommuting. That number is expected to be higher this year. But earlier this year, Yahoo banned telecommuting because the company said it wanted workers to be in the same space for better collaboration.

Some suggest that telecommuters slack off, but experts argue that’s not necessarily true. Telecommuting works if employers hold workers accountable for getting their work done. Jennifer Glass, telecommuting expert and sociology professor, agrees, stating in a CNBC article, “You have to manage workers, whether they’re working from home or not.” Glass also noted that most telecommuters only work part time, and it is usually overtime work.

Glass also recommends that workers not work remotely all the time, noting the importance of building relationships and networking activities best done in the office.

Learn more about telecommuting and productivity in this CNBC article.

Related Links:
Telecommuting Adds Hours to Workweek, UT Study Shows (Alcalde)
Telecommuting Increases Work Hours and Blurs Boundary Between Work and Home, New Study Shows (UT News)
The Work-From-Home Wars (Alcalde)

5 Super-Cool Supercomputers

Stampede, Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC)

Stampede Supercomputer TACC UT Austin


The United States hosts 253 of the 500 supercomputers on the “Top 500” list more than any other country. This year the Chinese reclaimed the top spot in June’s fastest supercomputers list. The Tianhe-2 is almost twice as fast as any other supercomputer.

UT Austin is home to “Stampede,” the world’s sixth-fastest supercomputer. After receiving an upgrade, Stampede actually moved up one spot on the top list, a rarity in the supercomputer world. Stampede is also one of the world’s largest open computer systems. Any researcher at a U.S. institution can submit a request to use Stampede.

Learn more about Stampede and the other “super-cool” supercomputers.

Related Links:
About Stampede (TACC website)
Make Room for Stampede (YouTube)
Texas Unleashes Stampede for Science (UT feature)