Everyone poops, and it takes them about the same amount of time. A new study of the hydrodynamics of defecation finds that all mammals take 12 seconds on average to relieve themselves, no matter how large or small the animal. The research, published in Soft Matter, reveals that the soft matter coming out of the hind ends of elephants, pandas, warthogs and dogs slides out of the rectum on a layer of mucus that keeps toilet time to a minimum. “The smell of body waste attracts predators, which is dangerous for animals. If they stay longer doing their thing, they’re exposing themselves and risking being discovered,” says Patricia Yang, a mechanical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Yang, a doctoral student in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, worked on the study with David Hu, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences and an adjunct associate professor in the School of Physics.
Why was School of Biological Sciences associate professor David Hu drawn towards mammal poop as the topic of a new study? His experience as a working dad, he recently posted on the Conversation blog, "turned me from a poo-analysis novice to a wizened connoisseur." The people running the PBS Newshour website had a chance to digest the post and decided to share it in full on their Rundown blog. Hu is also a adjunct associate professor in the School of Physics and an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. Patricia Yang, a Ph.D. student in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, co-authored the study, which appeared in Soft Matter.
A research team led by Thomas J. DiChristina, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences, has figured out an easier, more environmentally-friendly way to break down lignocellulose (plant-based biomass) waste into bioproducts. The new approach? The use of microbes, instead of specialized enzymes, to power a Fenton reaction, a chemical process often used as a wastewater treatment. Hyun-Dong Shin, a research scientist in the School of Biological Sciences, co-authored the study, which was originally published in Biosource Technology.
It's Vice's turn to have fun with a new study on mammal defecation provided by School of Biological Sciences associate professor David L. Hu's lab. The study found that despite a wide range of sizes in bodies and feces, most healthy mammals poop at the same rate. There is one telling behind-the-scenes detail: study co-author Patricia Yang says her team promised other graduate students sharing the lab not to bring their animal dropping samples from the Atlanta Zoo into the lab until after 5 p.m. because of the smell. Hu is also an adjunct associate professor in the School of Physics and an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. Yang is a Ph.D. student in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.
Athletics brought Madison R. Young to Georgia Tech, and that would have been enough to allow her to shine. “A strong member of the diving squad for the Jackets,” crows the Ramblin' Wreck sports website as it lists her accomplishments in ACC and NCAA diving competitions. But she can balance athletic ability and academic achievements: She was named Scholar Athlete of the Year as a senior at Crean Lutheran High School in Irvine, Calif., and was on the ACC Academic Honor Roll. Now she’s celebrating a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Pre-Health with Business/Research options.
What attracted you to Georgia Tech?
I am an athlete, and I was recruited to attend Georgia Tech. But I was already attracted to Tech because of its very strong academics and good reputation around the country and the world.
How would you describe your life before enrolling in Georgia Tech?
I was much less open-minded.
What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
The most important thing I learned at Tech is that hard work does actually pay off, and collaboration is very important both now and later. I also learned that Tech teaches you to actually think, not just complete assignments. I know this will help me later on when I am presented with issues in my job that require not only knowledge of the issue but critical thinking.
What surprised or disappointed you the most about Georgia Tech?
I was disappointed during my freshman year when I got poor grades on all of my first exams. I was most surprised by how much all of my professors have cared about my individual, academic, and athletic success.
Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?
Jeannette Yen and Bill Todd have had the biggest impact on me. They taught me how to work in professional situations and how to use what I have learned at Tech in the workplace. I did research with Dr. Yen for two and a half years and she helped me write an undergraduate thesis on behavioral ecology, something I had never expected I would be able to do. Under Professor Todd I completed a work study program with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and learned how to act as a consultant, a skill that I will carry with me forever.
What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
My participation in athletics is my most vivid memory of Tech. I formed unbelievable friendships with my teammates and cannot imagine going through four years at Georgia Tech without them.
If you participated in experiential learning activities, what was the most valuable outcome from your experience?
I participated in undergraduate research in behavioral ecology with Jeannette Yen. I was able to complete the research option and write a thesis under her supervision. The most valuable outcome of my experience was the confidence I gained to complete a project on my own, including running and designing the experiments, analyzing the data, and writing my thesis. It also taught me problem solving and perseverance.
On the basis of your experience, what advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?
Time management is the key to success. Start studying way before you think you need to, and never pull an all-nighter!
What feedback would you give to Georgia Tech to improve the campus experience for future students?
I think the GT 1000 class needs to have better structure. I honestly did not learn much through GT 1000. My class was focused on the history of Tech, which was fun to learn, but I think it should show students more resources in case they need help. It should also provide more assistance on time management and study techniques.
Where are you headed after graduation?
I am heading to Auburn University Veterinary School to pursue a DVM. I wish to work with horses and eventually be an equine surgeon. Tech has prepared me by giving me a strong science foundation, which I believe will be much greater than that of my graduate-school peers.
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Scientific American has reprinted David Hu and Patricia Yang's April 26 article from The Conversation detailing their new research on the defecation habits of mammals. (The Conversation also lists that article as one of its most read items for the past week). In addition to being an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, Hu is also an adjunct associate professor in the School of Physics and an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. Yang is a Ph.D. student in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.
Science News is the latest stop for media coverage of David Hu and Patricia Yang's poop paper. This story contains details on how much work the researchers had to do to get information on mammal defecation, including trips to Zoo Atlanta to gather feces, and studying YouTube videos of animals pooping (are you really that surprised such videos exist?) Hu is an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, an adjunct associate professor in the School of Physics and an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. Yang is a Ph.D. student in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.
This story does indeed sing the praises of the humble honeybee, focusing on special Atlanta projects designed to study and provide homes for our four-winged pollen pals. One of those is the Georgia Tech Urban Honeybee Project, located on the roof of Clough Undergraduate Learning Center. That's where Jennifer Leavey, program director and senior academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences, rules the hives. The story also mentions a recent study from School of Biological Sciences associate professor David Hu, who used the Project to research honeybee hairs and the role they play in pollen collection.
The tenants of the Georgia Tech Urban Honeybee Project are creating quite a buzz about themselves and David Hu's research. Hu, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, recently used bees in the project for a research paper on how the hairs on their tiny little legs factor into pollen gathering and cleanup. The New York Times put the resulting video with the cute title "How Bees Freshen Up" on its home page. The Urban Honeybee Project's director is Jennifer Leavey, a senior academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences.
Here's how award-winning science writer and author Ed Yong of The Atlantic decribes the new research from Tech's Young-Hui Chang and Lena Ting on how and why flamingos can stand on one leg for long periods of time. The subject matter is a great match for Yong's talents; with a lively writing style, he describes the efforts that Chang and Ting put in to understand this unique flamingo habit. Chang is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences and director of the Comparative Neuromechanics Laboratory. Ting is a professor in the Wallace Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.