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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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Bacterial virus, known as bacteriophage (Credit: Bacterial virus, known as bacteriophage (Credit:

Top Research Stories of 2017

SDSU is committed to becoming a top public research university.
By Michael Price

San Diego State University’s faculty and staff researchers are pioneers in the critical fields of science, engineering and health. Last year, university researchers brought in $134 million in research grants and contracts—an 11 percent uptick over the previous year. Their breakthroughs and contributions to their fields are the driving force behind SDSU’s mission to become a top public research university. Here’s a look at some of the top science and research stories from 2017.

Phages Don’t Need Bacteria to Enter the Body

Bacterial viruses, known as bacteriophages, are commonplace in our bodies, inhabiting the millions and millions of bacteria that live on and inside of us. But whether these viruses hitch a ride by hiding inside invading bacteria, or enter human body cells on their own has long been a biological mystery. A team led by former and current SDSU biologists found that phages can slip through human outer cell layers in the same way proteins and other cellular components—no bacterial host required.

A Novel Virus’s Cousins Are Surprisingly Abundant

SDSU computer scientist Rob Edwards and colleagues teamed up with National Center for Biotechnology Information scientist Eugene Koonin to follow up on Edwards’ 2014 discovery of a bacteriophage, known as crAssphage, which is present in the guts of about three-quarters of humans on earth. The team found that “cousins” of crAssphage are found all over the world and are surprisingly abundant.

Who Were the First Americans?

Anthropologists first believed the Americas were populated by a group of humans called the Clovis people who entered North America through what is now known as Alaska about 13,500 years ago and headed south into the continent’s central plains. More recent findings have proven humans dispersed down the coast 500 to 1,000 years before that. With numerous unsupported claims of American establishments between 25,000 and 50,000 years ago, SDSU archaeologist Todd Braje urges researchers asking this question to be more scientifically rigorous.

Dispatches from the Aleutian Islands

As students and faculty members from SDSU’s biology and ecology programs sailed around Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to study how changes to the undersea kelp forests are affecting sea life, undergraduate student Genoa Sullaway kept the SDSU community back at home riveted with her three-part series describing the trials, tribulations and thrills of science at sea.

Smoking Out Sources of In-Home Air Pollution

A study led by public health researchers at SDSU found that, not surprisingly, cigarette smoke is a major source of airborne particles in homes with smokers. But cleaning products, candles, frying food and marijuana smoking also jumped out as in-home air polluters. The findings are especially relevant to families with children living in low-income households as these children are at greater risk of health problems resulting from poor air quality.

Other stories of standout research from 2017 include:

A Flash Forward for Manufacturing Technology

Boosting Your Own Defenses against Heart Disease

Illuminating Speech’s Path from Brain to Tongue

Sorting the Myriad Medicinal Molecules of Coral Reefs

Don’t Bug this Beetle