Research Wire: November 2019

Researchers associated with the Center for Science & Engineering of Living Systems (CSELS) at the McKelvey School of Engineering have developed an open source computational model that allows scientists to generate predictive insights connecting molecular architectures to phase diagrams for multivalent proteins.

LAttice Simulation engine for Sticker and Spacer Interactions (LASSI) was designed in the lab of Rohit Pappu, CSELS director and Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering, by Furqan Dar, a graduate student in physics in Arts & Sciences, and former postdoctoral researcher Jeong-Mo Choi.

Details of the algorithm underlying LASSI were published recently in PLoS Computational Biology. Find the source code for LASSI at GitHub.

Michal Grinstein-Weiss, the Shanti K. Khinduka Distinguished Professor at the Brown School, is co-author of the paper “Medicaid and Household Savings Behavior: New Evidence From Tax Refunds,” published in the Journal of Financial Economics.

The researchers show that financially burdened families’ savings get a shot in the arm with access to Medicaid.

Reseachers found that a family with little income, too many bills and no health insurance has little incentive or ability to save money. But put that family on Medicaid, the government’s health-care program for low-income people, and researchers found their calculation changes — they start to save. Read more about the findings online.

In a paper published in Environmental Science & Technology, a team led by Dan Giammar, the Walter E. Browne Professor of Environmental Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, looked at if — and if so, how — pH and other factors affected the ability of engineered nanoparticles to clear water of hexavalent chromium, a pollutant which poses a public safety risk when found in drinking water.

Using computer modeling as well as experimental evidence from waters with environmentally relevant compositions, the team found that the nanoparticles collected more hexavalent chromium as the pH decreased and that the presence of certain other chemicals also affected the efficacy of the nanoparticles. Read the full paper online.

Clara Wilkins, assistant professor in psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, will serve as principal investigator for “Harnessing Religious Values to Increase Public Virtue.” Lerone A. Martin, associate professor in the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics and director of the American Culture Studies program in Arts & Sciences, will serve as co-principal investigator.

The two-year study — which received an award of $187,176 from The Self, Virtue & Public Life research initiative — will combine in-person interviews with quantitative psychological analyses to assess the extents to which faith communities perceive bias against their own groups; the motivations and policy implications of those beliefs; and potential strategies for addressing tensions between Christian and LGBT groups. Read more here.

Patricia Weisensee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the McKelvey School of Engineering, has received a two-year $110,000 grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund to study the effect of heat transfer on the development of flow fields in 2D microporous media. Non-isothermal, multiphase flow in porous media is abundant in the petroleum sector, including natural flow in geological formations, enhanced oil recovery and oil-water separation in membranes. Weisensee’s research may lead to a paradigm shift in understanding two-phase flow through porous media.

Caitlin Rankin, a graduate student in archaeology and geoarchaeology in Arts & Sciences, has been named a co-recipient of the Geological Society of America’s prestigious Richard Hay Award. Rankin was selected for this competitive award based on the scientific merit of her recent research on the effects of climate change at the Cahokia site in Illinois.

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