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Eureka!: beaker briefs

Research highlights from the desk, lab and field

 Cyber Chair

illustration: Kelly Kennedy

Cyberempathic Design

Instead of consumers learning how to use products, they may soon study us. Using embedded sensors, researchers are developing techniques to design individualized goods. Imagine an office chair that monitors your posture and automatically adjusts pressure to maximize comfort. The study could transform how everyday products look, feel and behave.

Who’s Leading It: Mechanical and aerospace engineering researcher Andrew Olewnik

Origins of Sleep

Turns out a newly discovered “sleep node”—and not the Sandman—is responsible for helping us catch some much-needed z’s. Researchers found the neuron, which controls half of the brain’s sleep-promoting activity, in the brainstem. Their findings may translate into safer anesthetics and new medications for treating sleep disorders.

Who’s Leading It: Pharmacology and toxicology researcher Caroline E. Bass

Combatting Superbugs

Researchers are turning to an old remedy to fight new superbugs resistant to modern medicine. Developed 50-plus years ago, polymyxins are an effective antibiotic against bacteria, but are also toxic to the kidneys and nervous system. Investigators are searching for the optimal dosage to maximize bug eradication and minimize toxicity.

Who’s Leading It: Pharmacy and CBLS researcher Brian Tsuji

Underwater Speedometers

Fifteen-year-old research on underwater swimming lights has resurfaced. Using a UB prototype, Texas-based LumaLanes LLC developed a system of smartphone-controlled lights that, when placed at the bottom of a pool, show swimmers their ideal pace. In the original study, researchers used UB swimmers to test the system, with remarkable success.

Who’s Leading It:  Physiology and biophysics researcher David Pendergast