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Year in Review: Top Research News

The media highlighted scores of research stories from UT Austin in 2015. Here are 10 of the stories that got the widest media coverage.

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The media highlighted scores of research stories from UT Austin in 2015. Here are 10 of the stories that got the widest media coverage.

1. Some Prairie Vole Brains Are Better Wired for Sexual Fidelity

Natural selection drives some male prairie voles to be fully monogamous and others to seek more partners. The surprising contrasts in the animals’ brains result from differences in their DNA. Read more in the New York Times.


A pair of voles. One bears an ear tag that is used as a unique identifier for the vole. Photo by Aubrey Kelly/Cornell University

2. Fish Skin Provides Invisibility in Open Ocean

Scientists have solved a longstanding mystery about how some fish seem to disappear from predators in the open waters of the ocean. Discovery News reports on the findings and how they could help materials scientists and military technologists create more effective methods of ocean camouflage.


Simulated view of how the lookdown fish would appear in polarized light with mirrored skin (left) versus skin that reflects polarized light (right). Images created by the Cummings lab

3. Hormones Influence Unethical Behavior

Hormones play a two-part role in encouraging and reinforcing cheating and other unethical behavior. Forbes explains the study in the context of corporate culture and organizational structures.


Hormones play a dual role in unethical acts, according to research from Harvard University and UT Austin. Photo by Hariadhi, Wikimedia Commons

4. Texas Astronomers Help Find Earth’s Older, Bigger Cousin

NASA’s Kepler mission discovered the first near-Earth-sized planet orbiting a Sun-like star in the “habitable zone,” and media from Huffington Post to CNN highlight the news.  Astronomers used the university’s McDonald Observatory to help confirm the finding. 


This artist’s concept of the newly discovered planet Kepler-452b depicts the planet as similar to Earth, based on its known size and orbit. However, it’s unknown if the planet really has continents and oceans like Earth. Photo courtesy of NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

5. Corals Are Already Adapting to Global Warming, Scientists Say

Some coral populations already have genetic variants necessary to tolerate warm ocean waters, and humans can help spread these genes. The New York Times writes about mixing and matching corals of the same species to help reefs survive.


A diver surveys temperature-tolerant corals in the Great Barrier Reef. Photo by Ray Berkelmans, Australian Institute of Marine Science

6. Medication May Stop Drug and Alcohol Addiction

As Popular Science reports: “Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found that a blood pressure medication that’s already on the market can help decrease the potency of some of the non-chemical drivers of addiction.”


Hitoshi Morikawa, associate professor of neuroscience. Photo courtesy of College of Natural Sciences

7. New Centimeter-Accurate GPS System Could Transform Virtual Reality and Mobile Devices

New system could revolutionize geolocation on virtual reality headsets, cellphones and other technologies, making global positioning and orientation far more precise than what is currently available on a mobile device. Popular Mechanics comments on “Why Centimeter-Accurate GPS in Your Phone Is Such a Big Deal.” 

GPS test

Ken Pesyna and Andrew Kerns, two of the Cockrell School graduate students behind the project. Photo courtesy of the Cockrell School of Engineering

8. Shakespeare Wrote Contested Play, Suggests Psychological Text Analysis

Through the use of text-analysis software, psychology researchers identified William Shakespeare as the author of “Double Falsehood.” UK outlets, CNN, the Los Angeles Times and many others examine the revelation. 


Getty Images

9. Expedition Will Sample Crater Left By Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid

An international research team is planning to drill nearly 5,000 feet below the seabed to take core samples from the crater of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Texas Standard features a leader of the expedition from UT Austin who explains its significance.


An artist’s impression of the Chicxulub asteroid impacting the Yucatan Peninsula as pterodactyls fly in the sky above. Painting by Donald E. Davis

10. East Antarctica Melting Could be Explained by Oceanic Gateways

Two seafloor gateways allow warm ocean water to reach the base of Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest and most rapidly thinning glacier. The Washington Post writes about the vulnerability and how it could affect sea level rise.


Aerial photo of Totten Glacier ice shelf. Image by Jamin Greenbaum

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