Science & Technology

Niko Simpkins: At the nexus of engineering and music

For Niko Simpkins, a musician who performs, produces, and engineers his own tracks, the most exciting processes combine structure and flexibility, creativity, and rigor. As a third-year student in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, he sees his mechanical engineering education as a framework for problem solving that might serve him across a broad set of endeavors, and for now, he’s more interested in learning than narrowing to any one particular career path.

Evan Lerner

GRASP Lab’s coolest robot yet

The Lab’s latest GRASP Lab’s latest modular robotic system is a series of units made out of blocks of ice. These robots could be deployed to research in the Antarctic, or even an extraterrestrial planet.

Evan Lerner

In the News

Popular Science

Like humans, naked mole-rats have regional accents

Robert Seyfarth of the School of Arts & Sciences weighed in on a new study that found naked mole-rat colonies have unique vocal signatures. “Mole-rats have this incredible society,” he said. “It looks like their vocal communication, and the way their brain organizes vocalizations, has evolved to fit the demands of that society.”


KYW Newsradio (Philadelphia)

The first computer is turning 75 in Philadelphia: 'ENIAC set the stage for everything'

Penn is celebrating the 75th anniversary of ENIAC, an early computer, with a week of virtual presentations and roundtable discussions.



As more women enter science, it’s time to redefine mentorship

Danielle Bassett of the School of Engineering and Applied Science spoke about how same-gender mentorship can help aspiring female scientists navigate gender bias. “There’s clear evidence that, for many graduate students, having a shared gender with their mentor is something that’s important to them and allows them to succeed in ways that they couldn’t otherwise, because they have a role model,” she said.


Daily Mail (U.K.)

Scientists identify the region of the brain associated with risk-taking—and it could explain why some people are more likely to smoke and drink

Gideon Nave of the Wharton School spoke about research he co-authored, which identified areas of the brain linked with risk-taking. “We find that we don’t have only one brain region that is the ‘risk area,’” he said. “There are a lot of regions involved.”


New Scientist

Extroverts have more success training their dogs than introverts

Lauren Powell of the School of Veterinary Medicine co-led a new study that explored the links between dog training and the personalities of dog owners. The most important factor affecting success, she said, was how bad the dog’s behavior was to begin with, but owner traits seem to play a role, too.


The New York Times

Businesses aim to pull greenhouse gases from the air. It’s a gamble

Jennifer Wilcox of the School of Engineering and Applied Science spoke about companies pledging to eliminate their carbon emissions within decades. “Carbon removal shouldn’t be seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card,” she said. “It has a role to play, particularly for sectors that are very difficult to decarbonize, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for everyone to keep emitting greenhouse gases indefinitely.”



Can Biden’s climate plan spark cooperation in Pa.? Some see possible common ground in jobs, infrastructure

Oscar Serpell of the Kleinman Center on Energy Policy in Stuart Weitzman School of Design spoke about President-elect Joseph Biden’s plan to transition the country to renewable energy. “The business case has never been stronger, and I think it will continue to get stronger every single year,” Serpell said.


NBC News

Your dog may love you, but doesn't love the sight of your face, study finds

Carlo Siracusa of the School of Veterinary Medicine commented on a study that found dogs were more stimulated by seeing other dogs than people. “Mother Nature will not invest in something that is not relevant to survival, either in dog-to-dog or even wolf-to-wolf interactions,” he said. “They use other ways of communicating such as ear position—which can be seen from the front and from behind. The ear position will tell about the mood of the dog. We humans don’t move our ears.”



Facebook keeps data secret, letting conservative bias claims persist

PIK Professor Duncan Watts is working with Facebook to analyze its content for bias. "Mostly it's mainstream content," he said. "If anything, there is a bias in favor of conservative content."


CBS Philadelphia

University of Pennsylvania program training dogs to sniff out spotted lanternfly eggs

Jennifer Essler, a postdoc in the School of Veterinary Medicine, spoke about a new program that trains dogs to detect the presence of spotted lanternfly eggs. “For the dogs, it’s a game, it’s like anything else. They don’t know that they are saving the planet in any way,” she said.