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Point of Discovery

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Point of Discovery takes you on a journey behind the front lines of science, where you'll meet the brilliant, quirky scientists who make the magic happen. Our stories are driven by curiosity. How much of our DNA do we share with yeast? How do our brains block out noise at a party so that we can focus on just one person speaking? How do you study a terrible disease-causing bacteria that turns mild-mannered in the lab? Come discover the answers with us. Learn more at: http://pointofdiscovery.org

Point of Discovery takes you on a journey behind the front lines of science, where you'll meet the brilliant, quirky scientists who make the magic happen. Our stories are driven by curiosity. How much of our DNA do we share with yeast? How do our brains block out noise at a party so that we can focus on just one person speaking? How do you study a terrible disease-causing bacteria that turns mild-mannered in the lab? Come discover the answers with us. Learn more at: http://pointofdiscovery.org
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Location:

United States

Description:

Point of Discovery takes you on a journey behind the front lines of science, where you'll meet the brilliant, quirky scientists who make the magic happen. Our stories are driven by curiosity. How much of our DNA do we share with yeast? How do our brains block out noise at a party so that we can focus on just one person speaking? How do you study a terrible disease-causing bacteria that turns mild-mannered in the lab? Come discover the answers with us. Learn more at: http://pointofdiscovery.org

Language:

English


Episodes

You Belong Here: What It Takes for Success in College

9/19/2019
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Why do so many first-year students struggle in college? Who is most likely to fail? And what can professors and staff do to help them get over the hump? “I didn't know what was going on. And I just felt out of place as a whole,” said Ivonne Martinez, a first-year student at UT Austin who was in danger of failing Freshman Calculus. “I was like, What am I doing? And that kind of made me panic.” In today’s show, math professor Uri Treisman and chemistry professor David Laude describe ways they...

Duration:00:15:44

Confronting RSV, a Shape-Shifting Killer

7/31/2019
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Virtually everyone contracts RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) as a child, but few people have even heard of it. It’s actually one of the leading causes of infectious disease deaths in infants. Now a team of researchers, including molecular biologist Jason McLellan, are using a radically new way to develop a potential vaccine against RSV. This method, called structure-based vaccine design, is already changing the way many vaccines are now being developed. To see a cool image of the...

Duration:00:10:42

Better AI Vision to Help Save Lives

6/16/2019
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Kristen Grauman, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, and her team have taught an artificial intelligence agent how to do something that usually only humans can do—take a few quick glimpses around and infer its whole environment. That will be a critical skill for search and rescue robots that can enter a dangerous situation—like a burning building—and relay information back to firefighters or other personnel. To see an animation of how the new AI agent creates...

Duration:00:08:25

A Machine That Understands Language Like a Human

4/25/2019
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One thing that sets humans apart from even the smartest of artificially intelligent machines is the ability to understand, not just the definitions of words and phrases, but the deepest meanings in human speech. Alex Huth, a neuroscientist and computer scientist, is trying to build an intelligent computer system that can predict the patterns of brain activity in a human listening to someone speaking. If a computer could begin to extract the same kinds of meaning from a set of words as a...

Duration:00:10:41

A Love Letter from Texas Scientists to the Periodic Table

3/5/2019
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We’re celebrating the 150th anniversary of the periodic table. Join us as we tour the cosmos, from the microscopic to the telescopic, with four scientists studying the role of four elements—zinc, oxygen, palladium and gold—in life, the universe and everything. Emily Que is a chemist who helped capture, for the first time on video, zinc fireworks that burst from an egg when it’s fertilized by sperm. Astronomer Michael Endl is searching for chemical signs of life in the atmospheres of...

Duration:00:16:06

All in the (Scientific) Family

2/24/2019
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Scientists often talk about the people who mentored them, and the students and postdocs they supervise, in ways that sound like a family. Today, in the second of a two-part conversation, we listen in on two members of a well-known scientific lineage: Bill Press, a professor of computer science and integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin and his former doctoral adviser, Kip Thorne, one of the recipients of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of gravitational...

Duration:00:11:41

Bringing Real Science to the Big Screen

1/21/2019
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What’s it like for a scientist to work as an advisor on a major Hollywood film? In this first of a two-part conversation, Kip Thorne talks with his former graduate student Bill Press about the impact that a film like Interstellar can have on the public, balancing scientific accuracy and entertainment and what winning the Nobel Prize really says about a scientists’ worth. (BTW, Interstellar star Matthew McConaughey is also a UT Austin alum) Special thanks to the family of Bryce DeWitt and...

Duration:00:09:23

Recap: A Big Week in Science

10/4/2018
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The first week of October is like a science-lover’s World Series: Each year, the spotlight falls on high-impact science, when day after day, a series of Nobel Prizes and other prestigious awards are announced all in one week. This has been an especially exciting week for us here in UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences. For the second year in a row, one of our alumni (James Allison) nabbed the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. What’s more, the Nobel Prizes given in the categories of...

Duration:00:42:49

Of Fruit Flies, Nobel Prizes and Genetic Discoveries that Change the World

9/26/2018
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Last year, University of Texas at Austin alumnus Michael Young won the Nobel prize for discovering the molecular mechanism behind circadian rhythms. Circadian clocks are critical for the health of all living things, acting as the internal timekeepers in plants and animals that help to synchronize functions like eating and sleeping with our planet’s daily rhythm of light and dark. In today’s episode, Young reveals the series of lucky events that launched him into the forefront of circadian...

Duration:00:10:28

Can We Build Machines that are Less Biased Than We Are?

9/5/2018
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Think about some of the most important decisions people make – who to hire for a job, which kind of treatment to give a cancer patient, how much jail time to give a criminal. James Scott says we humans are pretty lousy at making them. “I think there is room for machines to come into those realms and improve the state of our decisions,” said Scott. “That's going to involve humans and machines working together, however, not simply treating these decisions the way you might treat a microwave...

Duration:00:08:20

Which Mental Superpower Would You Choose?

6/27/2018
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What if people who lost a particular brain function—say, an Alzheimer's patient who can no longer make new memories—had the same option as many people who’ve lost limbs or other body parts—the chance to use technology to supplement what’s no longer there? Or what if you could boost a healthy person's brain, essentially giving them mental superpowers, like the ability to become a Kung Fu master by downloading new skills directly to your brain? Scientists are now working on brain-machine...

Duration:00:13:43

James Allison Eases Off the Brakes

5/20/2018
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Forty years ago, when James Allison had just gotten his PhD in biochemistry, he was intrigued by this far-out idea that was floating around about a new way to treat cancer. The idea—dubbed cancer immunotherapy—was to train the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells—the same way this system already goes after bacteria and viruses. He was one of the few people who actually believed it could work. In today’s episode, Allison—an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin and the chair of...

Duration:00:10:33

When Science Communication Doesn’t Get Through

4/12/2018
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Climate change, vaccinations, evolution. Scientists sometimes struggle to get their message across to non-scientists. On the latest episode of the Point of Discovery podcast, what communications research can teach us about why science communication sometimes backfires, and what scientists can do about it. Today’s episode features Emma Dietrich, a PhD student in the Ecology, Evolution and Behavior graduate program at the University of Texas at Austin and a member of Austin Science Advocates....

Duration:00:12:09

A Score to Settle with Cancer

3/1/2018
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Jonathan Sessler was a college student when he was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Fortunately, he was also a chemistry major. After surviving radiation therapy, relapsing and then surviving extremely high doses of what he calls “rat poison” (a.k.a. chemotherapy), his oncologist challenged him: “You’re a chemist. Find new cancer drugs.” In the four decades since, he’s founded two companies, one of which commercialized a blockbuster drug for leukemia and was sold for $21 billion. The...

Duration:00:13:19

Tackling Science and Engineering's Diversity Problem

1/24/2018
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The STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – have real work to do in terms of diversity. Right now, women make up only about 30 percent of the STEM workforce – and people identifying as black or Hispanic make up just 11 percent. What are the barriers to entry -- or the obstacles to staying in -- STEM? And how can we make sure smart, creative thinkers and problem solvers from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and included in these fields? We invited three leaders in science...

Duration:00:13:16

BONUS: Full Conversation with Three STEM Deans

1/24/2018
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We recently invited three leaders in science and engineering at the University of Texas at Austin to talk about the lack of diversity in their respective fields – and ways to tackle the problem. We featured highlights from their conversation in the previous podcast. The episode you’re listening to right now is the full conversation. To hear the shorter, highlights episode, go to: https://soundcloud.com/point-of-discovery/tackling-science-and-engineerings-diversity-problem About Point of...

Duration:00:24:06

The Language Brokers

12/13/2017
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Millions of children in the U.S. play a vital, but often overlooked, role in their families. These children of immigrants, known as “language brokers,” help their parents translate job applications, medical documents and bills into their native language. They also help them navigate a completely alien culture. Researchers like Su Yeong Kim, in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, are debating whether being a language broker is good for...

Duration:00:08:27

Cosmic Car Wreck

10/16/2017
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Astronomers have long been able to watch the universe’s blockbuster special effects unfold in dazzling 3D Technicolor. But until now, it’s been like watching a silent movie. Today that all changes. Scientists announced this morning that they have for the first time ever detected both light and gravitational waves from a massive explosion in space caused by the collision of two super-dense neutron stars. On today’s show, we talk to astrophysicist Pawan Kumar about what this breakthrough means...

Duration:00:07:54

Does This Look Like Cancer?

9/6/2017
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A team of scientists and engineers led by Livia S. Eberlin at The University of Texas at Austin has invented a powerful tool that rapidly and accurately identifies cancerous tissue during surgery, delivering results in about 10 seconds. The MasSpec Pen is an innovative handheld instrument that gives surgeons precise diagnostic information about what tissue to cut or preserve, helping improve treatment and reduce the chances of cancer recurrence. The research is described in the Sept. 6...

Duration:00:08:38

When Will We Have Quantum Computers?

7/10/2017
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Quantum computers might sound like science fiction. A fully functioning quantum computer could complete calculations in a matter of seconds that would take a conventional computer millions of years to process. Science fiction or not, they’re already here. Scientists at Google, Microsoft, IBM and elsewhere are building and studying them. At this point, they’re not very powerful. But Scott Aaronson, a theoretical computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, believes in the next few...

Duration:00:07:59