Ancient volcanic explosions shed light on Mercury’s origins

Mercury was long thought to be lacking volatile compounds that cause explosive volcanism. That view started to change when the MESSENGER spacecraft returned pictures of pyroclastic deposits — the telltale signature of volcanic explosions. Now more detailed data from MESSENGER shows that volcanoes exploded on Mercury for a substantial portion of the planet’s history. The findings suggest Mercury not only had volatiles but held on to them for longer than scientists had expected.

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Meditation as object of medical research
Mindfulness studies:

Mindfulness meditation produces personal experiences that are not readily interpretable by scientists who want to study its psychiatric benefits in the brain. At a conference near Boston April 5, 2014, Brown University researchers will describe how they’ve been able to integrate mindfulness experience with hard neuroscience data to advance more rigorous study.

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Miller to receive Laetare Medal

The University of Notre Dame has named Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown, the 2014 recipient of the Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor among American Catholics. The medal will be conferred at Notre Dame’s commencement May 18. “Kenneth Miller has given eloquent and incisive witness both to scientific acumen and religious belief,” said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, in an announcement on Laetare Sunday, March 30, 2014.

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‘Block Party’ to spotlight future of R.I. robotics
Humanity-centered robotics:

Baxter, PR2, quadcopters and other robots and robotic devices demonstrateingtheir skills at a Robot Block Party, April 5, 2014, in the Pizzitola Sports Center at Brown University. The activities, free and open to the public, marked the start of National Robotics Week.

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Indonesian climate shift linked to glacial cycle
Beautiful at the core:

Indonesian waters are major agents for global levels of atmospheric water vapor. A prolonged dry spell in Indonesia thousands of years ago has been found to correlate with ice ages in the northern hemisphere. Brown researchers have compiled a detailed Indonesian climate record of the last 60,000 years, tracking telltale indicators in sedimentary cores: titanium levels (a marker for surface water runoff) and the carbon isotopes of leaf wax, a marker for plant varieties (grasses indicate dry conditions).

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Mind/Brain Research Day showcases science

On the first Mind/Brain Research Day at Brown University March 25, 2014, there was no shortage information. All that was hard to find was open space. Brain scientists ranging from Brown undergrads to residents at affiliated hospitals displayed a total of 157 posters in Sayles Hall.

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Ainsworth named SIAM fellow

Mark Ainsworth, professor of applied mathematics, has been named a 2014 fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. He joins 31 other scholars from all over the world in this year’s class. Ainsworth, who joined the Brown faculty in 2012, studies computer simulation — specifically how to interpret simulation results and quantify the margins of error inherent in them.

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EEG study: Brain infers structure, rules of tasks
The advantage of structure:

A new study documents the brain activity underlying our strong tendency to infer a structure of context and rules when learning new tasks (even when a structure isn’t valid). The findings, which revealed individual differences, shows how we try to apply task knowledge to similar situations and could inform future research on learning disabilities.

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Conant named Ryskamp Fellow

Jonathan Conant, assistant professor of history, has been awarded a 2014 Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship by the American Council of Learned Societies. The Ryskamp Fellowship is a “targeted intervention in the careers of exceptionally talented scholars” in the humanistic disciplines, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the ACLS.

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Fox-Kemper, Serre have NSF CAREER Awards
Baylor Fox-Kemper:

Baylor Fox-Kemper, assistant professor of geological sciences, and Thomas Serre, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences, have received CAREER Awards from the National Science Foundation, the NSF’s most prestigious award for junior faculty scientists.

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Michèle Hayeur Smith

Michèle Hayeur Smith, a research associate at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, has been awarded a three-year, $605,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation’s Arctic Social Sciences program to examine women’s roles in the production and trade of cloth across the North Atlantic from the Viking Age until the early 19th century.

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Brown Researchers Receive Salomon Awards

Thirteen faculty members will receive a share of more than $190,000 in University grants through the Richard B. Salomon Faculty Research Awards, which are administered by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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A better water wing to harvest tidal energy
How tidal energy could take flight:

When it comes to raw power and absolute reliability, it doesn’t get much better than the tides. That’s why tidal power is such an attractive option as a renewable form of energy. But designing a device to gather tidal energy in shallow water, where the ebb and flow move fastest and the energy potential is highest, has proven problematic. A research group at Brown is working on a solution. Led by Shreyas Mandre, assistant professor of engineering, the group is developing a hydrofoil — a water wing — as a means to harvest tidal energy.

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Study proposes new ovarian cancer targets
Possible culprits hiding in plain sight:

In the complex genomic and molecular conspiracy that gives rise to ovarian cancer, what if researchers have been missing a whole set of suspects because they’ve been hiding in plain sight? That’s the argument made by Brown University biologists in a new paper that combines evidence from original research and prior studies to raise new suspicions about a set of proteins that assist in regulating gene expression.

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Morrow honored for research

The Society of Biological Psychiatry’s A.E. Bennett Research Award stimulates international research in biological psychiatry by honoring young investigators for the body of work they have underway. This year’s recipient is Eric Morrow, assistant professor of biology, with appointments in the Department of Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology and Biochemistry and the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior. Morrow studies the biology of autism and sees patients at the E.P. Bradley Hospital in East Providence. “Biological psychiatry as a field has a huge challenge,” Morrow said.

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