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Research Insider

This column features technology news and innovative scientific breakthroughs at the UW, like the benefits of scientific gaming, UW students winning the international iGEM competition, and an article advocating for longer growth periods before cutting down trees.

Gaming benefits science in big way

In a paper published Nov. 7, UW researchers revealed the creative strategies of people who play Foldit, a computer game which enables anyone to contribute to important scientific research, which has done wonders such as unraveling the structure of a protein central to AIDS research.

Published online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the article describes play during Foldit — players use recipes in order to solve protein structure puzzles. Scientists have been able to prove that scientific discovery games can solve long-standing scientific problems in previous papers.

In this recent paper, researchers studied 721 gamers during a three-month period and studied their strategies in detail. This study has shown the flexible nature of gamer intelligence.

UW students win iGEM competition, award in genetic engineering

On Nov. 7, 23 UW students and their five advisers won the iGEM’s “World Champion” award at MIT in Boston for their months of lab work and genetic engineering of microbes — one that produces diesel fuel and another, which helps to treat digestion problems for people with gluten intolerance.

The students on the team come from many departments, including biochemistry, microbiology, bioengineering, materials science, and computer science and engineering. The faculty advisers who accompanied the students this year were UW researcher Eric Klavins, UW biochemistry professor David Baker, and UW bioengineering associate professor Herbert Sauro.

Senior undergrad Liz Stanley, who is majoring in microbiology, received the trophy on stage. The trophy is made out of brick to symbolize the molecular components that are used in synthetic biology.

UW professor suggests cutting carbon dioxide in atmosphere by letting trees grow longer

In order to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels, researchers have proposed an idea to let commercially managed forests grow longer between harvests, or to not cut them at all.

Bruce Lippke, UW professor emeritus of forest resources, suggests that in order to keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, it makes more sense to use trees to recycle as much carbon while they’re growing to offset the burning of fossil fuel. This better than storing carbon in standing forests and continuing to burn the fossil fuels. The article also suggests using wood in longer-standing structures, rather than the production of cement and steel, which require large amounts of carbon-based fuel to produce.

Lippke is one of eight co-authors of the article, published in the journal Forests. The co-authors suggest to only harvest forests that can help counter carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, such as older forests that have been around for at least 45 years.

Reach reporter Asal Shahindoust at news@dailyuw.com.

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