Every Thursday, North by Northwestern's science and tech section will bring you some of the week's most important and noteworthy news, discoveries and events. This week, Northwestern's new innovation space opened its doors, and an engineering professor brought us a step closer to using a revolutionary new material.
Herpes doesn't have to last forever!
Northwestern microbiology professor Greg Smith paired with grad student Nicholas Huffmaster to discover how herpes viruses use a regulatory protein called ubiquitin to switch between two invasive states to enter humans’ nervous systems. Removing the virus’ ability to enter the nervous system would allow our immune systems to sterilize the virus and prevent herpes from causing a life-long infection.
Start me up
Northwestern’s new innovation incubator, The Garage, opened on Tuesday in the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. The space will be open to students from all schools and encourage collaboration, providing the opportunity for entrepreneurial-minded students to bring start-up ideas to life.
A pioneer passes away
The co-founder of the first materials science department in the world, Morris E. Fine, passed away on Sept. 30 at the age of 97. Fine joined Northwestern’s faculty in 1954 and started a department of metallurgy that later expanded to encompass electronic materials, polymers and ceramics, according to a Northwestern press release. He retired in 1988 after advising 70 Ph.D students, the accomplishment he called the highlight of his career.
One step closer to flexible phone screens
Nanocellulose is a strong, tough and transparent material that offers a lot of practical value – if someone can figure out how to use it. Though nanocellulose could be used to make body armor, flexible touch screens and bendable batteries (to name a few applications), researchers have trouble actually using the material. Enter Sinan Keten, an engineering professor at Northwestern who is working with students to develop an explanation for why experiments often fail to produce the ideal nanocellulose material. Keten hopes to modify the nanocellulose’s surface chemistry to help it bond easier with the polymers that are necessary to produce material that can be used to make real products.