Just in time for the release of a new Star Wars movie, the Luke Skywalker references abound in these three stories based on new research from a Georgia Tech team working on more responsive prostheses for amputees. There certainly is a resemblance to Skywalker's robotic hand in the prosthesis developed by College of Design researchers, which allows users to work individual fingers and control the amount of force. It enabled Jason Barnes, a musician who lost his right hand five years ago, to once again play the piano. In addition to the Mashable story, there is coverage at Engadget and Digital Trends. Minoru Shinohara, an associate professor, and lecturer Chris Fink are part of the research team; both are with the School of Biological Sciences.

This CNN video provides an up-close look at how musician Jason Barnes is able to play the piano again, thanks to an advanced right hand prosthesis provided by Georgia Tech researchers. The prosthesis allows more control and dexterity. There is also a side-by-side comparison of Barnes' prosthesis with the one Luke Skywalker uses in the Star Wars films. Minoru Shinohara, an associate professor, and lecturer Chris Fink were part of the Tech research team that designed the hand. They are both with the School of Biological Sciences.


The "Star Wars" theme is an ode to triumph, and there's no better way for musician Jason Barnes to show off his new prosthetic right hand than playing the song on a piano. Barnes, who lost the hand in 2012, received his prosthesis from researchers at Tech's Center for Music Technology. The prosthesis allows for greater control of individual fingers. Associate Professor Minoru Shinohara and lecturer Chris Fink were part of the design team; both are with the School of Biological Sciences.

This Medical Xpress item is a reprint of a Georgia Tech news release on the recent thought paper published in PLOS Biology by Sam Brown and Kristofer Wollein Waldetoft. They suggest that physicians should come up with alternatives for treating smaller, non-life-threatening bacterial infections in an effort to save antibiotic effectiveness for more serious infections. Brown is an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, and Waldetoft is a postdoctoral research assistant in Brown's lab. 

These may not be the droids you're looking for, but there's no denying the influence of "Star Wars" on pop culture. The author of this story make the argument that the film francise has also had a big impact on science and technology, including interesting experiments with brain-computer interfaces. The Luke Skywalker-style prosthetic hand that an interdisciplinary team of Georgia Tech researchers recently made for an Atlanta musician is mentioned in the story. Associate Professor Minoru Shinohara, and lecturer Chris Fink, both of the School of Biological Sciences, worked on the design for the prosthetic hand.

Should doctors who are increasingly concerned about antibiotic resistance hold off on using them to treat mild infections? Should they use alternative treatments instead, and save the stronger medicine for more serious infections? Those questions were raised in a recent essay published in PLOS Biology by Kristofer Wollein Waldetoft and Sam Brown, both with the School of Biological Sciences. In this audio report, Heather Goldstone of WCAI's Living Lab Radio interviews Waldetoft, a postdoctoral researcher. Brown is an associate professor.

Mud crabs are a favorite snack for blue crabs. But when blue crabs pee in the water while searching for food, it sends their prey a warning: Better hide or urine trouble. (Sorry, we couldn't resist.) Researchers have known that chemicals in crab urine scare mud crabs, but couldn't identify the offending chemicals — until now, thanks to a new Georgia Tech study co-led by Julia Kubanek, a professor in both the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Marc Weissburg, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences. The findings could lead to better management of crab and oyster fisheries, and may even help target pollutants that upset marine life. Kubanek is also Associate Dean for Research for the College of Sciences.

Georgia Public Broadcasting radio host Celeste Headlee replays her 2015 interview with Patricia Yang, a doctoral student and co-winner of an Ig Nobel Award, an honor presented by Improbable Research given to science projects that "make you laugh, then make you think." Yang's award was for a study on animal urination, which involved monitoring and recording the bladder-emptying habits of 32 different mammals at Zoo Atlanta. Yang worked on the study with David Hu, an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Biological Sciences, with an adjunct appointment in the School of Physics

National Academy of Sciences honors Hay for his research into algal science, with implications for the world’s imperiled coral reefs

January 17, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Mark E. Hay, Regents Professor and Harry and Linda Teasley Chair in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech, is the recipient of the 2018 Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal of the National Academy of Sciences. The award recognizes excellence in published research on marine and freshwater algae.

The 2018 Smith Medal recognizes Hay’s research into algal science, which has influenced a generation of scientists and revealed numerous insights into the declining health of ocean ecosystems. His research has enormous implications for coral reef recovery, along with the ecosystems and human societies that depend upon these reefs. 

Hay developed algal chemical ecology as the major model for marine chemical ecology, a field that he cofounded. He elucidated how chemical cues and signals from algae structure marine and aquatic populations, communities, and ecosystems.

An experimental ecologist, Hay led scientific expeditions to remote regions to study the processes and mechanisms that control the organization, function, and sustainability of natural ecosystems. His studies of seaweed – which comprise red, brown, and green marine algae – have revolutionized the practice of marine conservation and management.

“By conducting phycological studies within the broader intellectual framework of ecology and evolution, Mark extended the impact of his algal studies,” says James H. Tumlinson, the Ralph O. Mumma Professor of Entomology and Director of the Center for Chemical Ecology at Pennsylvania State University. “His research has informed the conservation of coral reefs and helped predict how coastal ecosystems will be altered by global change.”

Hay’s 40-year academic career features many discoveries about the natural history of seaweeds. Initially, he focused on the effects of physical factors and biotic interactions on algal ecology, Tumlinson says. Then Hay turned to seaweed-herbivore interactions, seaweed chemical defenses, and the roles they played in deterring herbivores, overcoming competitors, and organizing seaweed communities.

Insights from his research enabled Hay to predict that particular combinations of herbivores would be needed to stop seaweed damage to corals and the algal domination of reefs. “By manipulating herbivore diversity alone, Hay’s lab was able to prevent coral mortality and increase coral growth, thus demonstrating the applied potential of his research,” Tumlinson says. “More recent work demonstrates the critical role of algal chemical cues in fish and coral recruitment on Pacific reefs and the impact of these chemical cues on reef resilience.”

“His research has informed the conservation of coral reefs and helped predict how coastal ecosystems will be altered by global change.”

The Smith Medal is the latest of significant honors bestowed upon Hay. In 2016, Hay reaped three awards: He received the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ICSE) Silver Medal, the society’s highest honor. He was named Fellow of the Ecological Society of America. And Georgia Tech named Hay the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Faculty Research Author Award, for producing the most impactful publications from Georgia Tech in the previous five years.

“We bask in the glow of Mark’s accomplishment,” says College of Sciences Dean and Sutherland Chair Paul M. Goldbart. “Through his research and education efforts, Mark serves as a role model inspiring countless students and colleagues. In his communication efforts, Mark sets a superb example that so many more of us need to emulate.”

Indeed, Hay’s outstanding scholarship is matched by his zeal in communicating his research and its ecological implications in ways that are understandable to the public. He has written articles for the New York Time’s Scientists At Work blog and given numerous interviews to broadcast media, including NPR, BBC, CBS, ABC, Voice of America, and Voice of Russia.

“Because the ecosystem I study is disappearing,” Hay says, “I’ve perceived the need to focus on senior decision makers that can make a difference in the very near term.” Lately, he has been speaking about environmental challenges at corporations like The Coca-Cola Company and at community organizations, such as Rotary Clubs. He continues to educate the world about the plight of endangered ecosystems by organizing international symposia and web-based global discussions.

Presented every three years, the Smith Medal consists of a gold-plated bronze medal and a $50,000 prize. The bequest of Helen P. Smith in memory of her husband, Gilbert Morgan Smith, established the award in March 1968. Gilbert Smith was a renowned botanist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the first president of the Phycological Society of America.

For More Information Contact


A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences

When a filmmaker set out across the South Pacific Islands to collect stories of locals fighting climate change, he probably didn't expect to find a Georgia Tech student in Fiji. Cody Clements is a Ph.D. student in the School of Biological Sciences, in the lab of Mark Hay. But in Fiji, he's a coral gardener, tending to the ocean's coral reefs like they're his backyard garden. The stituation is dire. He has personally witnessed multiple mass bleaching events in Fiji. But he works to rehabilitate the reefs by replanting various species in coral communities. His work is documented in the video series Across the Salty Roads.


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