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The killer protein, properly explained

The hope is to be able, one day, to fight the pathogenic action of the amyloid-beta protein, whose build-up is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In the meantime, scientists (including a group from the International School for Advanced Studies, SISSA, in Trieste) have synthesised the knowledge acquired about this protein over the last few decades in a review paper that is destined to become a milestone for future research.

A “sponge” for culturing neurons

By using an innovative yet simple technique, a team of Italian research scientists (from SISSA in Trieste, the University of Trieste and IIT in Genova) have managed to obtain an in vitro culture of primary neurons (and astrocytes) that is genuinely three-dimensional. The neural network showed a more complex function than its two-dimensional counterparts. The structure is also the first to incorporate carbon nanotubes, which promote the formation of synapses among the neurons in the culture. The study has been published in Scientific Reports.

An important appointment at CERN

Guido Martinelli, Director of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste, has been appointed to the Scientific Policy Committee of CERN in Geneva, a prestigious appointment given solely on the basis of scientific competence. The appointment of the School’s Director confirms once again the high international standing of SISSA’s scientific personnel.

A new grant for supercomputing

SISSA has received European Community funding equivalent to 18 million hours of supercomputing, corresponding to almost half the hours that the SISSA supercomputer, inaugurated last September, can provide in a whole year. The grant was awarded thanks to a research project in particle physics. SISSA is placing high stakes on high performance computing, as also confirmed by the second edition of the Master in High Performance Computing (MHPC) which has just opened enrolments.

Molecular Lego of knots

Trefoil, Savoy, or simple … how do you fashion a “molecular” knot that has one of these shapes? Or better still, what are the most suitable “building blocks” for enabling the knot to assemble itself? A team of scientists coordinated by the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste has studied and catalogued the shapes that molecular building blocks should have so as to be able to assemble spontaneously into knots having specific forms, each with a possible utility in nanotechnology. The study has been published in Nature Communications.

Half spheres for molecular circuits

Corannulene is a carbon molecule with a unique shape (similar to the better known fullerene) and promising properties. A team of scientists from SISSA and the University of Zurich carried out computer simulations of the molecule’s properties and discovered that it might help overcome the difficulties building molecular circuits (i.e., of the size of molecules). The study has just been published in Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

Stars are younger

The latest data release from the ESA satellite Planck consortium – just published in Astronomy and Astrophysics – reveals a surprise: star formation in the Universe may be more recent than previously indicated by the analysis of Planck’s predecessor, the NASA WMAP satellite. The observation was made possible by the new maps of Planck’s low-frequency instrument (LFI), produced by the Trieste Data Processing Centre run by INAF-OATS in collaboration with the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) and the LFI Consortium. 

Movements/objects: “evolutionarily old”?

Human beings are born with a visual system already predisposed to see (and mentally representing) objects as discrete perceptual units. Movement is an important visual feature, but how early in a child’s development is it represented independently from the object itself? And what function does this skill serve in the development of cognitive abilities? Research conducted with the collaboration of SISSA, and published in Cognition, shows that this skill develops very early in infancy. Not only: its presence in mice suggests a genetic basis for it.

Still doubts on gravitational waves

In March last year the BICEP2 team (the Antarctic observatory) claimed to have observed, for the first time, the effects of gravitational waves in cosmic background radiation. In September Planck demonstrated that the signal observed might be the result of “contaminants” due to the polarised radiation produced by our Galaxy. The Planck and BICEP2 teams therefore joined forces to better investigate the problem, and will publish a paper in Physical Review Letters (announced by an ESA press release).

In 500 dalle scuole del Friuli Venezia Giulia

Circa cinquecento ragazzi delle scuole superiori del Friuli Venezia Giulia (e dal Veneto) si ritroveranno alla Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) di Trieste l’11 febbraio 2015, per una mattinata di seminari, conferenze, laboratori interattivi, incontri con i ricercatori e molto altro ancora. L’evento, che vedrà coinvolta tutta la SISSA, nasce per offrire  un’immagine più autentica e seducente della Scuola e della ricerca scientifica ai ragazzi che presto dovranno decidere il futuro dei loro studi. L’evento diventerà un appuntamento fisso negli anni a venire.  

Science: there’s no success without failure

Stuart Firestein

28 January, 3.00 pm

SISSA, “P. Budinich” Main Lecture Hall

Via Bonomea 265, Trieste

It wasn’t the successes that allowed science to progress. To the contrary, it was the failures that made it so important and influential in human society. This is the view held by Stuart Firestein, biologist at Columbia University, who will be discussing this topic at the next appointment with the SISSA Colloquia. The meeting, open to the public and held in English, is scheduled for 28 January 2015, at 3.00 pm in the “P. Budinich” Main Lecture Hall of SISSA.