Pulsed electrical stimulation drives cell-type specific neuromodulation.

Research Shows Promising Results for Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a proven way to help control involuntary movements associated with Parkinson’s disease, but patients must receive continuous electrical stimulation to get relief from their symptoms. If the stimulator is turned off, the symptoms return immediately. In a recent breakthrough, researchers led by Aryn Gittis have found a way to make DBS more precise, resulting in therapeutic effects that outlast what is currently available. The new protocol targets specific neuronal subpopulations in the globus pallidus, an area of the brain in the basal ganglia, with short bursts of electrical stimulation. Delivering stimulation in such a cell-type specific manner seems to provide longer lasting benefits — at least four times longer than conventional DBS. Gittis, an associate professor of biological sciences and faculty in the Neuroscience Institute, said that the hope is to greatly reduce stimulation time, therefore minimizing side effects and prolonging battery life of implants. Neurosurgeons at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Health Network plan to use Gittis’ research, which was published in Science, in a safety and tolerability study in humans. They will soon begin a randomized, double blind crossover study of patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, following them for 12 months to assess improvements in their motor symptoms and frequency of adverse events.


High energy diffraction microscopy images of grain boundary velocities and curvatures and computed mobilities. Velocities do not correlate with the other properties.

Refuting a 70-Year Approach to Predicting Material Microstructure

A 70-year-old model used to predict the microstructure of materials doesn’t work for today’s materials, according to Materials Science and Engineering Professor Gregory Rohrer and Physics Professor Robert Suter. At the microscopic level, metals, alloys and ceramics are made up of aggregates of grains that are tied together by a network of grain boundaries that shift when exposed to stressors, changing the material’s properties. For decades, researchers have predicted materials’ behavior using a theory that says that the speed at which grain boundaries move throughout a heated material is correlated to the boundary’s shape. A microscopy technique developed by Suter and colleagues yields evidence that contradicts the conventional model. Called near-field high energy diffraction microscopy (HEDM), the technique can noninvasively view the grain orientations and boundaries as they evolve over time, revealing individual grain boundary motions. The research time discovered that each grain boundary is connected to, on average, 10 others, so it can’t move as freely. They also found that grain boundaries weren’t even moving in the direction that the model would have predicted. The conclusion? The model no longer holds. Their work, published in Science, points the way toward the use of new types of characterizations to predict properties — and therefore the safety and long-term durability — of new materials.


The European Organization for Nuclear Research’s (CERN) cloud chamber can recreate temperature conditions anywhere in the atmosphere, enabling researchers to monitor and analyze particle formation in different regions.

Accelerating Aerosol Production

The CLOUD collaboration at CERN, in a research project led by former chemistry doctoral student Mingyi Wang, found that aerosol particles can form and grow in Earth’s upper troposphere in an unexpected way. The results, published in Nature, show that nitric acid, sulfuric acid and ammonia together form new particles 10 to 1,000 times faster than a sulfuric acid–ammonia mixture, which was previously considered to be the dominant source of upper tropospheric particles. Once the three-component particles form, they can grow rapidly to sizes where they seed clouds. In polluted parts of the atmosphere closer to the ground, such as over big cities, the agents that act as seed particles are abundant, but they are quite rare in the vast areas of the upper atmosphere. The research team found that the surprisingly high concentrations of ammonia observed in the upper troposphere over the Asian monsoon region drive the rapid formation of these seed particles, which can travel from Asia to North America in just three days via the subtropical jet stream. Having these particles make and change cloud composition in the upper troposphere could potentially influence Earth’s climate on an intercontinental scale.


Simulation of Hurricane Katrina as it approaches the Louisiana coastline showing water level contours and wind vectors.

Simulation of Louisiana Coastline Aids Risk Assessment

In partnership with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) of Louisiana, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has developed an interactive public portal showing the Louisiana coastline as it is predicted to change over the next 50 years. The team utilized PSC’s Bridges-2 supercomputer to run simulations to assess the water landscape of Louisiana, using data including individual metrics such as area habitat, salinity and water elevation, and risk-related factors like hurricanes, wave heights, flood depths and storm events. The data collected and run on the simulations also fed into a risk assessment, which informed the CPRA’s 2023 Master Plan, a vital document for state decision-making and funding allocations that prioritizes the most cost-effective solutions to reduce storm surge-based flood risk and restore and maintain coastal wetlands. PSC staffers Juan Puerto and Matt Yoder created the publicly accessible and interactive portal. Portal visitors can see the land change and see the vegetation type at its current state, and how it will evolve over the next 50 years.

Tour of the future site of the CMU Cloud Lab during 2022 Carnival

New Science Building Grows to Include the Institute for Contemporary Art & School of Computer Science Departments

Last year, the university announced that it would be building a new home for the sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, funded through a $150 million lead grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The Richard King Mellon Hall of Sciences, which is part of the university’s ambitious future of science initiative, will house the Mellon College of Science Dean’s Office, much of the Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry, the administrative offices of the Neuroscience Institute and innovative laboratory and teaching spaces.

Plans for the building have expanded to 315,000 square feet and an adjacent plot of land at the corner of Forbes Ave. and Craig St., making the project the largest construction project at the university to date. The additional space will house the Miller Institute for Contemporary Art, which is funded through a $15 million commitment from the Juliet Lea Hillman Simonds Foundation and the Henry L. Hillman Foundaiton, and education and research space for the School of Computer Science’s Departments of Computational Biology and Machine Learning and the Language Technologies Institute.

“Our vision for the Richard King Mellon Hall of Sciences has always been that it would be a space where interdisciplinary work thrived and a place that would invite in and engage the public,” said Rebecca W. Doerge, Glen de Vries Dean of the Mellon College of Science. “Expanding the building to include computer scientists and artists will allow us to realize this vision in a bigger and bolder way.”


Carnegie Mellon and emerald cloud lab enter into partnership to build the
world’s first university cloud lab

Carnegie Mellon University and Emerald Cloud Lab (ECL) formalized their partnership to build the world’s first cloud lab in an academic setting. The remote-controlled lab will provide a universal platform for artificial intelligence-driven experimentation and revolutionize how academic laboratory research and education are done.

The Carnegie Mellon University Cloud Lab will be based on the commercial cloud lab platform created by the San Francisco-based ECL. Founded by Mellon College of Science alumni Brian Frezza and DJ Kleinbaum, ECL has created the only remotely operated research facility that can handle all aspects of daily lab work, from experiment design to data acquisition and analysis.

“Carnegie Mellon University is a world leader in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and the foundational sciences. There is no better place to be home to the world’s first university cloud lab,” said Rebecca W. Doerge, the Glen de Vries Dean of the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon. “Bringing this technology, which I’m proud to say was created by CMU’s alumni, to our researchers and students is part of our commitment to creating science for the future.”

The CMU Cloud Lab will be built on top of the ECL software architecture, the result of $100 million of technical development over 10 years. Additionally, ECL will collaborate with Carnegie Mellon on the facility’s design and construction, equipment installation, and laboratory management and operations. Together, ECL and the university have already begun to train faculty and students who wish to use the lab when it opens.

“We are truly honored that Carnegie Mellon is giving us the chance to demonstrate the impact that access to a cloud lab can make for its faculty, students and staff,” said Frezza, co-founder and co-CEO of ECL. “We couldn’t think of a better way to give back to the university than by giving them a platform that redefines how a world-class institution conducts life sciences research.”