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Sigma Xi International Newsletter
Volume 6, Number 1/2
January/February 2007

This electronic bulletin is designed to keep subscribers updated on developments in Sigma Xi’s 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.

Past Issues

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

Remote Controlled Nanoshells Destroy Cancer
It is no more a scientific fiction to destroy cancerous tumors by sending remote signals. It has been possible by placing gold-coated nanoparticles, called nanoshells, inside tumors and then heating them with infrared light until the cancer cells die. By replacing surgery and conventional chemotherapy with noninvasive treatments targeted at cancerous tumors, this nanotech approach could reduce or eliminate side effects by avoiding damage to healthy tissue. Because the nanoparticles also scatter light, they could be used to image tumors as well. Although several groups are now working on similar localized treatments, Naomi Halas and Jennifer West have led the way in this area, and their work is the farthest along. (See "Nano Weapons Join the Fight Against Cancer.") Nearly ten years ago, Halas, professor of chemistry and electrical and computer engineering at Rice University, developed a precise and reliable method for making nanoshells, which can be hollow spheres of gold or, in the case of the cancer treatment, gold-coated glass spheres. These spheres are small enough (about 100 nanometers in diameter) to slip through gaps in blood vessels that feed tumors. So as they circulate in the bloodstream, they gradually accumulate at tumor sites. It has been licensed by Nanospectra Biosciences, a startup based in Houston, Texas, that is beginning the process of getting FDA approval for clinical trials for treating head and neck cancer. In the future, the technology could be used for a wide variety of cancers. While people will not be able to take advantage of these advances in the near future, Halas says that treatments based on the original design could be available in a couple of years. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w6w.

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Cheap Hydrogen for Fuel-Cell Vehicles
New technology developed by researchers in Switzerland to split hydrogen from water by using solar energy could be used as one of the most promising energy sources for fuel-cell vehicles. Generation of hydrogen with this technique has various advantages, such as less dependency on fossil fuel, lower price and more environmental friendliness, compared to similar existing methods.

Currently, hydrogen is separated from natural gas through a process that generates carbon dioxide and undercuts the main motivation for moving to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles: ending dependence on fossil fuels. Another way is electrolysis, which uses electricity to break water into hydrogen and oxygen, with the two gases forming at opposite electrodes. Although electrolysis is costly, it can be cleaner if the source of the electricity is wind, sun, or some other carbon-free source. But if the source of the electricity is the sun, it would be much more efficient to use solar energy to produce hydrogen by a photochemical process inside the cell itself. The researchers have shown that by including small amounts of silicon and cobalt, they can grow nanostructured thin films of iron oxide that convert sunlight into the electrons needed to form hydrogen from water. And the iron oxide films do this more efficiently than ever before with this material.

The main achievement of this research is that it examines the interactions at work in the system in great detail. The findings suggest several strategies that could help the iron-oxide-based panel reach the 10 percent efficiency level that would make the technology competitive with current ways of creating hydrogen. If this level of efficiency can be met, hydrogen-generating solar energy could mitigate some of the challenges that threaten to make hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles impractical. For example, if consumers and businesses used these panels to make hydrogen, rather than getting hydrogen from a large facility, it would cut out the cost of shipping hydrogen, making hydrogen more affordable. Solar-to-hydrogen panels would be more efficient than small electrolysis machines, and they would ensure that the hydrogen comes from a renewable source. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w5z.

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Computer System for Effective Cardiovascular Surgery Planning
A Computer Program has been developed to help cardiac surgeons optimize procedures before they enter the operating room. This innovative program developed by the researchers of Georgia Tech and Emory University in the U.S.A. will enable the doctors to manipulate a three-dimensional computer model of a patient's heart.

The program was built to test one of the most common and complex congenital heart problems known: a single ventricle defect. Children with this condition have only one heart ventricle (the left), instead of two, for pumping oxygenated and deoxygenated (dirty) blood throughout the body. In healthy patients the right ventricle pumps the deoxygenated blood through the arteries to the lungs, while the left ventricle receives the oxygenated blood through the veins and shoots it off to every organ in the body. The mixture of blood in the single ventricle greatly compromises circulation throughout the body. The surgeon's job is to separate the circulation, meaning rerouting the deoxygenated blood directly and evenly to the lungs while minimizing resistance to flow, an operation called Fontan repair. The program will greatly enhance the surgeon's understanding of the situation in advance and perform the operation with much greater effectiveness.

The new anatomically modified three-dimensional model is seamlessly exported and meshed for a computational fluid dynamics analysis (CFD). CFD creates a simulation of blood flow in the newly configured heart that can be viewed by the surgeon on the screen. After multiple mock models are designed and tested, the surgeon can decide which operation proved optimal for that particular patient. Thus far, the hearts of five patients have been designed and tested for surgery using the three-dimensional model. At the moment, the system is only being used by a small group of surgeons involved in the research. It is believed that the technology is three to five years from being ready for general use, and there are still some challenges to overcome. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w65.

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Strong Artificial Muscles Developed from Carbon Nanotubes
Researchers have developed artificial "muscles" that can exert 100 times the force, per area, of natural muscle. This has been possible by spinning carbon nanotubes into yarn a fraction of the width of a human hair. These muscles can be used for prosthetic limbs, microscale machines, and robots. Artificial muscles- actuators based on such materials as certain types of metals and polymers that shrink, grow, or change shape which are necessary for the above use.

The yarns are created by first growing densely packed nanotubes, each about 100 micrometers long. The carbon nanotubes are then gathered from a portion of this field and spun together into long, thin threads. The nanotube yarn can be just 2 percent of the width of a hair- not even visible- but upwards of a meter long that could support loads 150 times greater than nanotube papers could. This is a promising new material that could deliver real benefit to society, once the processing challenges are solved. Despite the fact that much work remains to be done in developing the materials, work so far represents important advances for carbon nanotube-based artificial muscles. Source: http://snipurl.com/18w68.

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EU Sets New Target for Emissions of Greenhouse Gases
According to a recent BBC report, the European Commission has unveiled a new energy strategy, calling on member states to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 20% by 2020. EC President Jose Manuel Barroso has urged for a common European response to climate change that will address to the new reality, i.e., to make Europe's energy supplies more secure. He added that this will send a clear signal on how seriously we take the future of our planet. He further mentioned that there would be three central pillars to this integrated energy policy: namely, a true internal energy market, accelerating the shift to low-carbon energy, and energy efficiency through the 20% target by 2020.

EU energy chief Andris Piebalgs said 20% of all EU energy should come from renewable power by 2020 and 10% of vehicle fuel from biofuels. The EU wants to set binding targets for the first time, he said, suggesting a massive boost in low-carbon, home-grown power such as wind and solar energy to cut reliance of imported fossil fuels. The report also touched upon other pertinent issues related to energy, such as investments, energy efficiency measures, and use of wind, solar, nuclear and other alternative source of energy. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w70.

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Alternative Communication in Developing Regions
Recently a new guide has been announced to support the spread of low-cost communications in the poorest parts of the world. This free guide to Voice over IP, available in four major languages, is an effort to disseminate the use of telephony over the Internet in developing regions. The booklet "VoIP-4D Primer, Building Voice Infrastructure in developing regions" is written by IT +46, a Swedish consultancy company focusing on innovative usage of IT technology in the developing world. The idea of using the Internet as an alternative to the telephone network is not new, but the software that makes it possible certainly is revolutionary.

The work has been possible thanks to support from the Acacia Initiative of the International Development Research Centre of Canada and the contribution of several translators and reviewers. The guide is licensed under the Creative Commons Non-commercial Share-Alike license. It is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. Free PDF download of this guide in any of these languages can be done from the Web site: http://voip4d.it46.se.

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B. International Cooperation, Fellowships and Scholarships

International Joint Research Initiative for Computing Standards
The Asia-Pacific region is seeking more countries to develop universally compatible applications and networks to make internal and external government services and transactions more automatic, affordable and efficient. With this end in view the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), IBM and Oracle announced recently a joint research initiative to help Asia-Pacific countries share and create strategies, blueprints and policies for adopting the right blend of open standards and technology services.

Today, many e-Government initiatives show that new systems are very often developed from scratch at both central and local levels. New systems are developed with specifications and solutions that match goals and tasks relevant to a particular administration, but without adequate attention to surrounding government institutions and information and communications technology (ICT) systems. The result is a patchwork of ICT solutions that are not always compatible with each other, reduced efficiency and duplication of effort. UNDP, IBM and Oracle, together with the International Open Source Network (IOSN), have teamed up to conduct a thorough review of how governments in the region and beyond are promoting efficient, government-wide sharing of information and data by focusing on automatic technology services provided by computing networks, rather than individual technologies. UNDP, IBM and Oracle are enthusiastic about the project and expressed their satisfaction about being able to participate in the initiative. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w73.

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UN Urges to Enhance Africa's Science Capacity
Abdoulie Janneh, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, told that the quality of science and engineering education in Africa is on the decline, partly due to the "absence of physical infrastructure and equipments," which has limited the capacity to develop and adapt innovations. Recently he was speaking at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He said African science and technology policies were outdated and links between the scientific community and political institutions were "very weak." He called for Africa to undertake "a major science and technology capacity building initiative to generating, revamping and deploying large numbers of scientists, engineers and technicians." There must be "strong linkages" between technology-based industries, academic institutions and government if Africa is to develop appropriate technologies for national needs, Janneh said. He called for more public-private partnerships in science and technology research.

He said many African countries were using obsolete technologies while a number of them had failed to honor the Lagos Plan of Action, agreed in 1980, which outlined a radical transformation of African economies through more investment in research. The Lagos Plan called for African countries to allocate at least one per cent of their gross domestic product to research and development, but Janneh said many countries devote "considerably lower" funding. He said that African countries "have to scale up their investments in science and technology" if the region is to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. At the Executive Council meeting, African foreign affairs ministers and their science and technology counterparts adopted a proposal to better utilize the expertise and innovations developed by African scientists now working in the West. The full text of his speech can be seen in the following Web link: http://snipurl.com/18w7b.

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Research Incentive Scheme in the Netherlands
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) invites proposals for research grants from talented scientists who have shown that they have the ability to successfully develop their own innovative lines of research and to act as coaches for young researchers. They will be enabled to build up their own research teams, often in advance of a regular professorial appointment. Their lines of research will be given a structural place within the research institution. The maximum amount of grant will be Euro 1,250,000 for a period of five years. Researchers who have completed their doctorate with a maximum of 15 years are eligible to apply for the grant. Recently appointed professors may also compete for this funding provided that it is no more than three years since their appointment and no more than 15 years since the award of their doctorate. The deadline for submission of the pre-proposal is 29 March 2007. Proposals must comply with the requirements as stated in the brochure and the application form must be submitted electronically to NWO in the prescribed format. For other information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w75.

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Call for Research Proposal in EPSRC
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), UK invites proposals from individuals and organizations to conduct innovative research in the area of green and sustainable chemical technologies and sustainable energy solutions. The EPSRC Chemistry Program has allocated up to £3 million to support a number of high quality research proposals through this call. The deadline for the receipt of applications by the EPSRC is 4.00pm on 27 March 2007. Key research areas identified for future exploration include use of alternative "clean" and renewable feed-stocks, novel reactions, novel catalysis, solvents, waste minimization, natural processes, separation technology, process intensification, and related areas. In all applications, the focus of the research proposals must be in the development of novel chemistry/chemical engineering leading to green and sustainable chemical technologies and/or sustainable energy solutions. Proposals may range from short-term feasibility studies to longer programs of work. For more information, such as exclusions, assessment process and criteria, proposal format, proposal submission, expected timeframes and other related information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w8a.

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BES Grant for Small Ecological Project
British Ecological Society (BES) is offering Small Ecological Project Grants (SEPGs) to promote all aspects of ecological research and ecological survey. The grant can be used to enable ecologists to travel from the United Kingdom to a third country, or vice versa, for the purposes of research where alternative sources of funding are inadequate. There are no restrictions on where applicants come from or where they carry out their research work. These grants are given to people and not to organizations. SEPGs are only open to current BES members and to applicants applying from a country classified as having "Low or Lower-Middle-Income economies" according to the World Bank categorization. Funding is not normally available for work that will form part of a higher degree thesis. The research should be distinct from timetabled teaching activities and should primarily have been planned and organized by the applicant.

Although threatened habitats provide the impetus for the SEPG scheme, the scheme has now been widened to include any ecological project. The BES is keen to support small pilot projects, in which cases the grants are viewed as pump priming, hopefully being instrumental in obtaining larger grants from other organizations. Occasionally grants will be given for the dissemination of the results of ecological work, particularly work supported by the Society in its initial stages, and for the preparation of identification keys where these are seen to be essential for further ecological work. The grant covers up to a maximum of £1000 for travel costs and up to a maximum of £1,500 for other expenses. Grants are given towards the cost of travel, for the employment of casual and short-term assistance, and for the purchase of small items of equipment.

Applications must be accompanied by two referees' statements. The application will not be considered by the Society if the referees' statements are not received by the BES by the deadline of 1 April 2007. For copy of the electronic application form and other information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w79.

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ESF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Germany
The Ernst Schering Foundation (ESF) of Germany is inviting application for postdoctoral fellowships from biologists, chemists, medical students, pharmacists or postdoctoral students of appropriate interdisciplinary study courses (e.g. bioinformatics, biochemistry) who have completed their studies and their doctoral degree with outstanding results and who are not older than 33 years of age. Furthermore, the applicants should have at least one published article in a peer-review journal as principle author. The nationality of the applicant is irrelevant.

Support will be given to projects that deal with subjects from the area of basic research, particularly from the areas of cell or development biology, molecular diagnostics (molecular imaging), endocrinology, immunology, neurosciences, oncology, reproduction biology and chemistry. Projects from the sectors of botany, ecology, systematics and dentistry will not be sponsored. Projects focused on clinical studies are also excluded. 1,700 Euro per month plus 100 Euro allowance for material costs, together with a country weighting for the duration of 2 years. The fellowship includes a travel allowance to a conference up to a sum of 1,000 Euro and a monthly child supplement of 200 Euro. Next deadline for submission of application is 31 July 2007. Other information, including procedure to application submission, format of the application and where to forward the application can be seen at the Web site: http://snipurl.com/13i3l.

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C. Sigma Xi News

GIAR Application Deadline 15 March
15 March and 15 October are the application deadlines annually for research grants of up to $1,000 to support investigation in any field of science and engineering, including the social sciences. Special funds allow grants of up to $5,000 for astronomy and $2,500 for eye or vision related research. Grant proposals are judged by a volunteer committee of Sigma Xi members solely on the basis of their scientific merit. Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research have been providing valuable educational experiences to undergraduate and graduate students for more than 80 years. Application guidelines, an interactive application form and helpful tips on preparing a successful application are all available online. Also online is a list of grant recipients and research project titles from the past three grant cycles, to give applicants a sense of what kind of projects are funded. Undergraduate or graduate students in a degree program are eligible. While Sigma Xi membership is not a requirement, the majority of funds (75 percent) are designated for use by individuals whose primary advisors are members or who are Sigma Xi student members themselves. Often, these grants provide the "seed money" that enables promising researchers to gather the initial data they need to launch their careers and position themselves to compete for larger grants. For more information, please visit Sigma Xi's Web site: http://snipurl.com/18w7g.

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Sigma Xi's 2007 Awards Announced
Sigma Xi has announced the recipients of the Society's 2007 annual awards honoring leading science and engineering researchers and communicators. The awardees for this year are Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University, North Carolina, USA; Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International in Arlington, Virginia, USA.; Stanford Ovshinsky, president and chief scientist and technologist of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD Ovonics) in Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA; and Lise Abrams, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida, USA. In addition to this, K.C. Cole and Rosalind Reid will be inducted as Sigma Xi's newest honorary members. Cole teaches science journalism at the University of Southern California, USA and Reid is the editor of American Scientist. The awards will be presented at the Society's Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Orlando, USA during 1-4 November 2007. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w8h.

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Centennial Campaign for Grants-in-Aid of Research
A campaign is being launched by Sigma Xi to celebrate its 100 years of Grants-in-Aid of Research, and to increase the investment in the future of science and engineering the program represents. In this regard the Society is planning to raise grant endowment to $22 million by the year 2022. Since 1922, Sigma Xi members and friends have made a difference for nearly 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students through the Grants-in-Aid of Research program. Supported by member dues and voluntary contributions, Sigma Xi grants often provide the "seed money" to help launch research careers. Competition for grant funds, especially among beginning researchers, has never been more intense. Sigma Xi wants to help even more promising young research students in the years ahead. Help continue Sigma Xi's proud tradition of supporting promising students at the outset of their research careers. To contribute to the campaign or receive information on endowing a named Grant-in-Aid of Research in perpetuity, contact Sigma Xi's development director at development@sigmaxi.org or 800-243-6534. For more information, please see: http://snipurl.com/18w7f.

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D. Upcoming Events

Gas Arabia: An International Conference for the Middle East Gas Sector; Abu Dhabi, UAE; 4-6 March 2007; http://snipurl.com/191dg.

MGH-HKU-Nature China Forum: Molecular Medicine and Biopharma Opportunities; Hong Kong; 5-6 March 2007; http://snipurl.com/191dh.

Advanced Course in Basic & Clinical Immunology; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; 7-11 March 2007; http://snipurl.com/191dl.

SPE Applied Technology Workshop on Women in Science, Engineering and Technology; Manama, Bahrain; 9-10 March 2007; http://snipurl.com/191dn.

NanoTech Insight; Luxor, Egypt; 10-17 March 2007; http://snipurl.com/191do.

5th World Life Sciences Forum; Lyon, France; 11-14 March 2007; http://www.biovision.org.

3rd Functional Genomics of Malaria Parasites Practical Course Workshop; Pathumthani, Thailand; 18-27 March 2007; http://snipurl.com/191dp.

The Second International Workshop on Cell Regulations in Division and Arrest; Okinawa, Japan; 25-29 March 2007; http://snipurl.com/191ds.

17th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and 25th International Congress of Chemotherapy; Basel, Switzerland; 31 March - 3 April 2007; http://www.eccmid-icc.org.

Plankton Symposium IV; João Pessoa, Brazil; 1-5 April 2007; http://snipurl.com/191e1l

Information and Communication Technologies International Symposium; Fez, Morocco; 3-5 April 2007; http://www.ictis07.org.

Tissue Engineering and Development Biology; Snowbird, Utah, USA; 12-17 April 2007; http://snipurl.com/191e3.

29th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals; Denver, Colorado, USA; 29 April - 2 May 2007; http://snipurl.com/191e5.

1st International Summit on Hurricanes and Climate Change; Crete, Greece; 27 May - 1 June 2007; http://snipurl.com/191e8.

3rd International Conference on Tissue Engineering; Rhodes, Greece; 27 May - 01 June 2007; http://snipurl.com/191ea.

International Society for Stem Cell Research - 5th Annual Meeting; Cairns, Queensland, Australia; 17-20 June 2007; http://snipurl.com/191eb.

Nanotechnology in Industrial Applications; Düsseldorf, Germany; 19-21 June 2007; http://snipurl.com/191ed.

International Conference on Modern Physical Chemistry for Advanced Materials; Kharkiv, Ukraine; 26-30 June 2007; http://snipurl.com/191ee.

2nd International Conference on Rapid Manufacturing; Loughborough, UK; 11-12 July 2007; http://snipurl.com/191eg.

Biochemical Engineering XV: Engineering Biology from Biomolecules to Complex Systems; Quebec, Canada; 15-19 July 2007; http://snipurl.com/191ek.

21st International Congress of Heterocyclic Chemistry; Sydney, Australia; 15-20 July 2007; www.ichc21.com.au.

CLAWAR-2007: Tenth International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots and the Support Technologies for Mobile Machines; Singapore; 16-18 July 2007; http://snipurl.com/191el.

ESF World Conference on Research Integrity; Lisbon, Portugal; 17-19 September 2007; http://snipurl.com/191ep.

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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