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Sigma Xi International Newsletter
Volume 5, Number 9/10
September/October 2006

This electronic bulletin is designed to keep subscribers updated on developments in Sigma Xiís international activities and to provide links and articles on topics of interest to researchers around the world. To submit an item to the newsletter, contact the Manager of the International Program at international@sigmaxi.org. You can also download and print a PDF version of this issue. To subscribe to this newsletter, please use this online form.

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In This Issue

  1. Science and Technology News
  2. International Cooperation, Fellowships and Scholarships
  3. Sigma Xi News
  4. Upcoming Events

A. Science and Technology News

US-UK Chemists Invented New Plastic Materials
A research team has developed a new plastic that can challenge silicon-based materials in electronic, printing and other industries. The plastic, reported in the journal Nature Materials, is the work of a US-UK industrial and academic team comprising of members from Merck Chemicals in Southampton, UK, Palo Alto Research Center, California, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory. The invention could eventually slash the cost of flat panel screens and bring electronic paper into common use. The new material can also be laid down using simple printing techniques rather than the expensive and elaborate methods used to process silicon. The researchers told that until now, the speed at which polymers conduct electricity has been too slow for them to fully challenge silicon-based materials. However this barrier can now be overcome using some clever chemistry.

The new material is an organic polymer, a class of substances that are used to make everything from bin bags to solar panels. They are also used in some electronic devices already. However, the performance of the plastics has always made them second choice for more mainstream applications. The new semi-conducting polythiophene could change all that. It has been tweaked by chemists to alter its molecular structure, meaning it is more efficient at carrying an electrical current and can also be dissolved in a solution to produce an ink. These modifications give the material its edge over traditional silicon which must be processed at high temperatures and in vacuums. This is not only slow and expensive but produces a large amount of waste. Instead, the new polymer can be printed using traditional inkjet printers or techniques similar to those used to produce magazines and wallpaper. This means it can easily be printed on large flexible surfaces, making it attractive for use in electronic paper where rigid silicon cannot be used. The abstract of the article can be seen at: http://snipurl.com/xj68.

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Giant Wind Turbines in Deep-sea Can Produce Enough Electricity
A research team of MIT and US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has developed a vision that will provide onshore customers with enough electricity to power several thousands homes by installing huge offshore wind turbines which can not be seen from onshore. The wind turbines will be placed on floating platforms a hundred miles out to sea, where the winds are strong and steady. The idea of designing of such giant wind turbines came from large floating structures for deep-sea oil and gas exploration.

Today's offshore wind turbines usually stand on towers driven deep into the ocean floor. But that arrangement works only in water depths of about 15 meters or less. Proposed installations are therefore typically close enough to shore to arouse strong public opposition. The proposed design calls for a tension leg platform (TLP), a system in which long steel cables, or "tethers," connect the corners of the platform to a concrete-block or other mooring system on the ocean floor. The platform and turbine are thus supported not by an expensive tower but by buoyancy. According to their analyses, the floater-mounted turbines could work in water depths ranging from 30 to 200 meters. In the Northeast, for example, they could be 50 to 150 kilometers from shore. And the turbine atop each platform could be big--an economic advantage in the wind-farm business. The MIT-NREL design assumes a 5.0 megawatt (MW) experimental turbine now being developed by industry. (Onshore units are 1.5 MW, conventional offshore units, 3.6 MW.). The team estimates that building and installing this floating support system should cost a third as much as constructing the type of truss tower now planned for deep-water installations. Installing the tethers, the electrical system, and the cable to the shore is standard procedure. Because of the strong offshore winds, the floating turbines should produce up to twice as much electricity per year (per installed megawatt) as wind turbines now in operation. And because the wind turbines are not permanently attached to the ocean floor, they are a movable asset. If a company with 400 wind turbines serving the Boston area needs more power for New York City, it can unhook some of the floating turbines and tow them south. Source: http://snipurl.com/xqbz.

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New Hope for Better Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Patients
University of Florida (UF) researchers have discovered that leptin- an appetite-controlling hormone could also combat type 2 diabetes. Using a novel gene therapy technique, a UF professor of neuroscience Dr. Satya Kalra and his team were able to reverse type 2 diabetes in mice. The researchers found that in diabetic mice, leptin acts in the hypothalamus to keep the body from producing too much insulin even after constant exposure to a high-fat diet, which over time can lead to or worsen type 2 diabetes, according to findings published this month in the online edition of the journal Peptides. Scientists are hopeful these findings will lead to better treatments for patients with type 2 diabetes, said Dr. Kalra, who is the senior author of the article.

The researchers injected a gene embedded in a harmless virus into the brains of the mice to increase leptin production in the hypothalamus, which regulates the hormone. Eating rich and fatty foods usually causes blood sugar levels to rise, which in turn causes the body to produce more insulin. Patients with type 2 diabetes often become resistant to the insulin they do make, causing too much of it to build up in the body. After gene therapy, tests showed that the blood sugar and insulin levels in the mice that received it had returned to normal, even when they were fed a high-fat diet. Mice that ate a high-fat diet but that did not receive gene therapy, however, continued to overproduce insulin and have high blood sugar levels, which are markers for type 2 diabetes. This is the first time researchers have shown that leptin can independently affect insulin secretion as well, Kalra said. Gene therapy would be an ideal treatment because it just takes one shot and it is also likely drugs could be developed to simulate leptin's action in a pill form, which is easier to give to patients. Please see: http://snipurl.com/xqbw.

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A Step Closer to Roll-up Computer Screens
Dr. Keith Seffen and his team from the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University have confirmed that they have developed metal structures that can be changed from flat screens into tubes and other shapes. Dr Seffen said they got the idea from children's toy "flick" or "snap" bracelets which transform from a straight strip into a coil around the wrist. According to them in the future the electronic displays could be rolled-up and placed in a bag or pocket. The principle behind the shape-shifters is manipulating the stress within the structure. The shape and stress are interconnected and this principle could be applied in such a way that can make the shape and the stress interact with each other in a positive way. The materials could also be used, among others, for re-usable packaging, roll-up keyboards, self-erecting temporary shelters and electronic newspapers. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/xiu6.

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Japanese Banks Step Up Biometric ID Security
Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and other financial institutions in Japan began introducing a system that scans the veins on the palm of the hand or finger-recognition system to verify the identity of ATM users in a concerted effort to protect their customers from cash-card crime. Cash cards were regarded as quite safe, providing users kept their PIN numbers secret. But identity-theft criminals have developed several ways of beating this traditional form of security. These include a technique called "skimming," in which the criminals temporarily steal cash cards from wallets left in locker rooms, for example, use scanning devices to read the data stored on them, and replace the cards before their owners return. They then use the stolen data to withdraw money from the victim's account. Increased incidents of such crimes have prompted calls by depositors for banks to bolster cash-card security, and some banks are fitting biometric ID systems to their ATMs to prevent such crimes. In this system an infrared scan is taken of the veins on the customer's palm or fingertip, and the data from the scan is stored in an IC chip embedded in the cash card. When using the ATM, the customer places his or her hand or fingertip on a scanning device, which verifies whether the pattern of veins matches that stored on the card. The reliability of palm and fingertip systems is about the same, the main difference being that the palm-based system enables the scanning of a wider area of blood vessels, while the fingertip system's smaller scanning area means that there is less data to process, resulting in slightly faster scans. Introduction of biometric security system is getting popularity in other areas as well. Some of these areas are: protection from unauthorized use of personal computers, denial of unauthorized entry into home, detection of faked ID and passports, prevention of the use of stolen cell phones and others. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/xqc4.

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B. International Cooperation, Fellowships and Scholarships

Cornell University Fellowship on Applied Agricultural Sciences
Cornell University dedicates the "Frosty" Hill Agricultural Research Fellowship to the memory of Dr. Forrest F. Hill, cofounder of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), in honor of his significant contributions to the application of agricultural sciences in addressing critical world food problems. The Fellowship provides financial support for selected senior scientists from international centers supported by or affiliated with the CGIAR to spend from 9 to 12 months with scientists at Cornell University. More importantly, this Fellowship creates opportunities for scientists from the major international centers to work together with scientists from Cornell on significant agricultural problems of mutual priority and concern. Each Fellow is awarded an office in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Research space as appropriate, the use of a personal computer, access to the mainframe computer, and funding for research, professional activities and personal expenses. In return, each fellow is expected to maintain a working relationship with faculty and graduate students and to give at least one college-wide lecture in the International Agriculture series. While no teaching is required, requests for occasional lectures may be expected. For further information about the Fellowship program, please visit Web site: http://snipurl.com/xob7.

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Novartis Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
The Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow Program of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) provides talented scientists with a unique opportunity to perform high quality science in an environment with the resources of a large pharmaceutical company at one of its global sites in Switzerland, USA, UK or Austria. The Program provides rigorous scientific training, while supporting flexibility in the Fellow's future career options, whether the goal be a position in academia or industry. Fellows design their own research plan and receive guidance from two mentors: a senior researcher at NIBR and a faculty member from an academic institution. To ensure that Fellows are competitive for a variety of research careers, they are encouraged to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals and present their research at international scientific meetings. Fellows will also have regular opportunities to present their work and interact with Novartis Institutes' scientific leaders, including at an annual Postdoctoral Fellow retreats. In addition, Fellows benefit from professional development resources designed for early career scientists. Graduate students within 6 months of completing their doctoral work and postdoctoral fellows nearing completion of their first postdoctoral training period (within 3 years of obtaining their PhD) are eligible to apply. To obtain more information on the fellowship, including requirements and procedures to apply, please see: http://snipurl.com/xobq.

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Austrian Science Foundation Offers Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
The Lisa Meitner Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Scheme is administered by the Austrian Science Foundation to provide junior postdoctoral researchers from overseas with the opportunity to work in Austrian research facilities. The goals of this program are to strengthening of the quality and the scientific know-how of the Austrian scientific community and creating international contacts. Fellowships are available in any scientific field and funding is provided for a 12 month period. Applications can be submitted at any time during the year and funding decisions are normally reached 4 months after applications are submitted. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/xoc6.

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IARC Fellowship for Cancer Research
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is inviting applications for postdoctoral fellowships to junior scientists from low- or medium-resource countries who wish to complete their training at the IARC in Lyon, France working in a research group. IARC is also offering a Visiting Scientist Award and Expertise Transfer Fellowship for different durations. The deadline for application for above fellowships and award is 30 November 2006. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/xocw.

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C. Sigma Xi News

Sigma Xi has the New Executive Director
Dr. Philip B. Carter has been named executive director of Sigma Xi. He began his duties on August 28, 2006 at the society's administrative offices in RTP, North Carolina. Dr. Carter comes to Sigma Xi from North Carolina State University, where he is a professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology, and from the not-for-profit Merck Foundation, where he was programs director of the Merck Childhood Asthma Network. "On behalf of the board of directors and, indeed, of all members of Sigma Xi, I enthusiastically welcome Philip Carter as executive director of the society," said Dr. James F. Baur, chair of the search committee and president of Sigma Xi. Summarizing Dr. Carter's credentials Dr. Baur further said "Dr. Carter is a distinguished research scientist whose technical expertise, administrative experience and international perspective on science make him the ideal leader for our society." Dr. Carter succeeded Dr. Patrick D. Sculley at Sigma Xi, who has retired after four years with the society. Sigma Xi Web site has carried more information on Dr. Carter at: http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/news/carter.shtml.

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Sigma Xi President Supports Expansion of International Activities
Dr. James F. Baur, Sigma Xi president has reiterated his commitment to support Society's international efforts to make it a truly global scientific society. In an interview with Sigma Xi Today Dr. Baur has discussed various initiatives that Society has undertaken to enhance its presence and visibility in the international arena. He explained the rationale of introducing the International Partner category for those countries that can not afford Sigma Xi's regular dues. As former chair of the International Committee he has participated in functions of the Moscow Partner and the Hungary Chapter. He has the vision of having new International Chapters or Partners in all continents, including Africa, Eastern Europe, Gulf of Aquaba, South Pole, Antarctic Station and others. He encourages to establishing a Sigma Xi Global Fund with contributions from multinational corporations that do business and have an interest in fostering science in developing countries and regions. His full interview has been published in the current issue of Sigma Xi Today (http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/news/SXT06SO.pdf).

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Sigma Xi's 2006 Annual Meeting
Sigma Xi's Annual Meeting and Students Research Conference (AMSRC) will be held in Detroit, Michigan from 2-5 November 2006. Each November, Sigma Xi leaders and highly motivated undergraduate students gather to share information, ideas and companionship at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference. Delegates from Sigma Xi chapters decide key governance questions of the Society and attend educational sessions on leadership, chapter management and major issues facing the research enterprise. A session on international issues will be conducted by Dr. Antonio Pita, Director of Canadian/International Constituency Group. For more information, please see: http://www.sigmaxi.org/meetings/annual/index.shtml.

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Sigma Xi Initiates Affiliates Program
Sigma Xi has created a new category of participation in Sigma Xi to expand the Society's influence in the public sector. This new program is open to those who are interested in supporting the Society and its mission but who are otherwise not qualified for membership in the Society. As of now three categories have been established under this program. These are Professional, Friend and Student. For more information on the program, please see: http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/news/affiliate.shtml.

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D. Upcoming Events

Materials Science and Technology 2006 Conference and Exhibition;
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; 15-19 October 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo80"

Managing Maritime Emergencies;; St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada; 25-27 October 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo86

7th EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2006: Genes, brain/mind and behavior; Heidelberg, Germany; 3-4 November 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo8a

The 2006 International Conference on Computer Engineering & Systems (ICCES'06); Cairo, Egypt; 5-7 November 2006; http://www.iceec.org

International Technology and Innovation Conference 2006 (ITIC 2006) Advanced Manufacturing Technologies; Hangzhou, China; 6-7 November 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo8b

2nd International Young Scientists' Global Change Conference; Beijing, China ; 7-8 November 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo8c

Global Environmental Change: Regional Challenges; Beijing, China; 9-12 November 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo8c

Nature Chemical Biology Annual Symposium: The Chemical Biology of the Cell; Boston, USA; 10-11 November 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo8r

Science Policies Meet Reality: Gender, Women and Youth in Science in Central and Eastern Europe; Prague, Czech Republic; 1-2 December 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo8t

ITIC (India) - International Technology and Innovation Conference Bangalore, India; 1-2 December 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo8x

HUMANOIDS'06 - 2006: IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots; Genova, Italy; 4-6 December 2006; http://humanoids06.epfl.ch

Mechatronics and Machine Vision in Practice; Toowoomba, Australia; 5 - 7 December 2006; http://www.m2vip.com

HIV DART 2006: Frontiers in Drug Development for Antiretroviral Therapies; Cancun, Mexico; 10-14 December 2006; http://snipurl.com/xsgn

Scientific Conference in Food Fortification; Tripoli, Libya; 17-19 December 2006; http://snipurl.com/xo8z

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics; Kunming, China; 17-20 December 2006; www.robio2006.org

Fourth International Conference on Mechatronics Engineering; Barcelona, Spain; 29-31 March 2007; http://snipurl.com/xoa4

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation; Rome, Italy; 10-14 April 2007; www.icra07.org

First meeting of the Federation of African Nutrition Societies; Ouarzazate, Morocco; May 7-9, 2007; http://snipurl.com/xo9y

National Convention of American Association of University Women; Phoenix, USA; June 29-July 2, 2007; http://snipurl.com/xo93

International Conference on Agile Manufacturing (ICAM); Durham, UK; 9-11 July 2007; http://snipurl.com/xo94

We Welcome Your Comments and Suggestions
As part of our continued efforts to improve the Sigma Xi's International Newsletter we seek your comments and suggestions on its content, format and presentation. You may suggest inclusion of any new item or exclusion of any existing item from the newsletter giving the reason. Please your comments and suggestions. Thank you for your cooperation.

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For more information on any of the programs mentioned in this newsletter, please contact:

Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
P. O. Box 13975, 3106 East NC Highway 54
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 USA
Telephone: +1-919-549-4691
Fax: +1-919-549-0090
E-mail: international@sigmaxi.org

 

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