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Spring 2016
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Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.

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E.T.

Searching for Signs of Life

NASA grant worth nearly $1 million helps professor hunt the universe for amino acids  

Computer model of myoglobin

A computer model of myoglobin, a protein chain of 153 amino acids folded into a molecule

Though we've yet to find it, the search for other life in the universe continues ever on, thanks to researchers like Professor Purnendu "Sandy" Dasgupta. The Hamish Small Chair in Ion Analysis of Chemistry and Biochemistry was awarded nearly $1 million from NASA to further the hunt for amino acids, considered the building blocks of life.

Dr. Dasgupta will use the funds to extend his open-tubular capillary chromatography platform, which he developed to detect and isolate ions. His research is concerned with finding evidence of extraterrestrial existence and exploring the structural makeup of amino acids.

Amino acid molecules are chiral, meaning they have a rotational orientation (called a chiral form) that can be either right- or left-handed. But while amino acids synthesized in a flask will be composed of equal amounts of both orientations, those coming from a living system—like humans—will instead wholly or dominantly contain only one orientation.

"Life is centered on one type of chirality. It's like a mold—that handedness is preserved," Dasgupta explains. "If the amino acids are dominantly of one chiral form, that would fairly unambiguously prove that it is associated with some life process. In that case, it would definitely be of biological origin."

Image by Pasieka/Science Photo Library/Corbis

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