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May 15, 2013

In Research

New sensor could help detect asteroids near earth

metal block containingsensor
The NEOCam sensor aims to improve the performance and efficiency of the next generation of space-based asteroid-hunting telescopes.

A sensor designed to be the eyes of a future asteroid tracking mission has passed a critical test. The Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) sensor is an infrared-light detector intended to improve the performance and efficiency of the next generation of space-based asteroid-hunting telescopes. It’s the result of a long-term collaboration between the University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory together with Teledyne Imaging Sensors. A paper on the NEOCam sensor test will be published in the Journal of Optical Engineering.

“The NEOCam sensor will increase our ability to detect hazardous asteroids near the Earth and improve our understanding of threatening objects,” says William Forrest, professor of astronomy. The NASA–funded NEOCam space mission will also search for the most favorable destinations for future exploration by humans or robotic missions.

Once launched, the space-based telescope would be positioned at a location about four times the distance between Earth and the moon. From its perch, NEOCam could observe objects near Earth every day without impediments like cloud cover and daylight. The location also allows the monitoring of areas of the sky generally inaccessible to ground-based surveys, letting scientists access data from the spacecraft.


Researchers enhance Tamoxifen to tame aggressive breast cancer

A Medical Center team has shown how to exploit secondary activities of Tamoxifen, a drug used to treat millions of women with early stage and less aggressive breast cancer, so that it might work on more aggressive forms.

The research, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, is a promising development for women with basal-like breast cancer, sometimes known as triple-negative disease, which is notoriously resistant to treatment.

Led by doctoral student Hsing-Yu Chen and Mark Noble, professor of biomedical genetics, the team studied the molecular mechanism that allows basal-like breast cancer cells to escape the secondary effects of tamoxifen and discovered that two proteins are critical in this escape. One protein, called c-Cbl, controls the levels of multiple receptors that are critical for cancer cell function. A second protein, Cdc42, can inhibit c-Cbl and is responsible for the tumor’s underlying resistance.

“Our work is very exciting because our approach simultaneously addresses two of the most critical challenges in cancer research—to increase the utility of existing therapies and to discover new vulnerabilities of cancer cells,” says Noble. “Based on these discoveries, we are already pushing forward with new compounds and with new approaches that might make clinical translation of this discovery much more rapid than would occur with traditional drug-discovery approaches.”


Local laws key to reducing lead poisoning dangers

A new study in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law catalogs community-based efforts to develop strategies and policies that—by targeting high-risk housing—may hold the key to reducing lead hazards in children’s homes.

“Lead poisoning has long been characterized as a health problem with a housing solution,” says Katrina Korfmacher, director of the Community Outreach and Engagement Core of the Medical Center’s Environmental Health Sciences Center and coauthor of the study. “It is, therefore, critical that local communities—where the ability to regulate private housing often resides—understand the unique role that they can play in reducing exposure.”

The study examined local lead abatement efforts in eight communities: Rochester, Burlington, Vt., Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.

The study found that local laws can be highly effective tools to address lead hazards, specifically because lead hazards are linked to housing, and municipalities typically have the ability to regulate private housing through code enforcement.


Reasons for attending college affect performance

Warner School researchers have found that student motivation for attending college is related to academic success. The study, which appears in the Journal of College Student Development, is coauthored by Douglas Guiffrida, associate professor of counseling and human development; Martin Lynch, assistant professor of counseling and human development; Andrew Wall, associate professor and chair of the Educational Leadership Program; and doctoral student Darlene Abel.

The study tracked the relationship between student motivation for attending college and the academic outcomes of 2,500 college students attending two different institutions— a two-year community college and a four-year liberal arts college—in the northeast.

The team confirmed that students who attend college to fulfill needs for autonomy and competence—two core components of intrinsic motivation—tended to have higher grades and intentions to persist. The researchers also found, however, that student socioeconomic status affected these relationships. Studying subject areas to fulfill needs for autonomy and competence was more important to the success of students of high socioeconomic status than low-income students, whose motivation may be more influenced by a need to improve their financial situation. also one that acknowledges their desire to improve their financial situation through academic success.


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