University of Minnesota Alumni Association



"Keep Bees Buzzing," "Thin and Strong," and "Reducing Police Violence"

PHOTO CREDIT: PollyDot/Pixabay

Keeping Bees Buzzing

 The decline in the honeybee population is a well-known challenge to both hobby gardeners and the agricultural industry, where honeybee pollination contributes $15 billion to the economy each year. Now, a recent study by University of Minnesota researchers has found an important link between a common virus and the decline of colonies across the world.

U of M researchers discovered that deformed wing virus (DWV) attacks the sensory and behavioral centers of a bee’s brain, which in turn causes bees to forage prematurely. That’s an issue because if honeybees act older than they are, they disrupt the order of their hives, which are organized according to agespecific tasks. If there are more foragers, for example, there are fewer younger bees to tend to the hive’s larvae and queen. Researchers also theorize that these infected and disoriented bees may be spreading the virus to additional colonies. 

The hope is that these insights will allow scientists to develop physical and molecular interventions to prevent colony decline due to DWV. “Our findings could provide new insights into the host-pathogen relationship,” says Declan Schroeder, the study’s co-author and an associate professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. 

This study was originally published in the February 20 issue of Nature.

Thin and Strong 

An international team of scientists that included professors from the College of Science and Engineering have made a discovery that could one day improve efficiency in the production of gasoline, biofuels, and plastics. 

Using atomic-scale imaging made possible by high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in a lab on the U of M Twin Cities campus, researchers were able to identify one-dimensional defects in two-dimensional MFI, an ultra-thin zeolite (a porous mineral that’s used as a commercial absorbent and catalyst) nanosheet. Being able to view these MFI nanosheets at the atomic level was a breakthrough as the crystals are often damaged in the process of imaging them using high-energy electrons. The results will help William Jones-Warner/iStock scientists better understand how these zeolite nanosheets work and improve their efficiency as molecular-level filters. 

“The discovery by TEM of one-dimensional intergrowths in two-dimensional nanosheets and the practical implications suggested by modeling bring the potential of this concept to a new level and suggest new opportunities for targeted synthesis that we have not imagined possible,” says Professor Emeritus Michael Tsapatsis, who is now at Johns Hopkins University. 

Membranes made from these enhanced nanosheets were fabricated by a research group led by Tsapatsis. They were then tested under industrial conditions by ExxonMobil. Those tests showed record filtration performance. 

The results of this study were originally published on February 24 in Nature Materials. 

Reducing Police Violence 

The statistics are disturbing: Studies show police officers are approximately three times more likely to kill Black men than their white counterparts. In an effort to understand what’s driving these grim numbers, the School of Public Health surveyed 48 stakeholders—including young Black men ages 14-24, parents and educators, police officers, and staff in youth organizations—to learn more about why people think violence occurs between law enforcement and Black youth in their communities. They were asked questions in three areas:

  • To identify causes of violent encounters between police and young Black men.
  • To describe police officers who live in their communities. 
  • To describe interactions between police and young Black men.

Researchers found that, with the exception of police, respondents felt that these violent encounters happened because the police didn’t have connections to the communities they were patrolling. Racism, prejudice, and fear and distrust between young Black men and police were also cited as contributing challenges. Respondents also said that any positive interactions between police and young Black men were the result of trusting relationships that were developed over time. 

The hope is that the study’s results will be used to both identify the need for experiences and programs that create a sense of shared values and opportunities for compromise. “Any organization that wants to address violent encounters between police and young Black youth should note where there is common ground in perceptions,” says SPH Ph.D. student Collin Calvert, a coauthor of the study. “It’s going to take cooperation between groups—police officers, teachers, youth organizations, health care providers, and others—to address the issue.” 

Originally published in the January 2020 issue of Journal of Urban Health. 

As always, huge thanks to University News Service as well as the Minnesota Daily.

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