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January 19, 2017

Gene that Enables Memories, Sense of Direction Produces Schizophrenia-like Symptoms When Mutated

By Toni Baker, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta University
Mutations in a gene that should enable memories and a sense of direction instead can result in imprecise communication between neurons that contributes to symptoms of schizophrenia, scientists report.

They found that dramatically reducing the amount of protein expressed by TMEM108, a gene already associated with schizophrenia, results in fewer, smaller spines, which work like communication fingers for neurons, said neuroscientist Dr. Lin Mei.

That translates to an impaired ability for neurons to receive whatever signals surrounding neurons are trying to send and mice displaying schizophrenia-like behavioral deficits such as impaired cognition and sense of direction.

"We knew this gene's alteration likely contributed to schizophrenia and we wanted to better understand how," said Mei, chairman of the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Neuroscience and a corresponding author of the study in the journal PNAS.

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January 4, 2017

GRA Eminent Scholar: "Pioneer of Modern Electronics"

By Georgia Institute of Technology
We think of the engineers, scientists and inventors who change the world as icons. Alexander Graham Bell. Thomas Edison. Albert Einstein – their largest contributions can be recited in just a few words.

But some of them live among us, unnoticed, even though they too made contributions that profoundly impacted everyday life. Russell Dupuis is one of them.

The smartphone you peer into, the LED bulb in your desk lamp, the Blu-Ray player that serves up your favorite film – all are here largely because of Dupuis, a professor in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech.

That’s because an essential component of their manufacturing traces back to a process that Dupuis developed in the late 1970s, a process that ushered in a new breed of mass-produced compound semiconductors. These electronic components – particularly those forged of elements from columns III and V in the periodic table — can operate at extremely high frequencies or emit light with extraordinary efficiency. Today, they’re the working essence of everything from handheld laser pointers to stadium Jumbotrons.

The process is known as metalorganic chemical vapor deposition, or MOCVD, and until Dupuis, no one had figured out how to use it to grow high-quality semiconductors using those III-V elements. Essentially, MOCVD works by combining the atomic elements with molecules of organic gas and flowing the mixture over a hot semiconductor wafer. When repeated, the process grows layer after layer of crystals that can have any number of electrical properties, depending on the elements used. 

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December 13, 2016

Bringing affordable solar power to a parking lot near you

The quest for clean energy has inspired sweeping efforts like the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which holds the ambitious goal of transforming the solar industry. SunShot’s aim is to drive down costs so affordable solar electricity is available to Americans everywhere.
The DoE’s investment has brought millions of federal research dollars to sunny Georgia, with impressive results: An innovative technology developed at Georgia Tech ranks in the top 10 percent of SunShot projects nationwide.
Georgia Tech researchers created a new way to install solar panels on oversized structures like raised parking canopies. The inventive canopies provide a dual purpose by keeping your parked car cool in the shade while gobbling up lots of solar rays for the clean power grid.
To bring their invention to market, the Georgia Tech researchers created a spin-off company, Quest Renewables. The company, which is marketing the structure as the QuadPod™ Solar Canopy, received investment this fall from GRA Venture Fund, LLC, a private investment fund created to help finance promising companies emerging from Georgia's universities.  
“The GRA Venture Fund investment was key for us because it also brought access to some very seasoned individuals in the world of early-stage companies,” says Norman “Finn” Findley, CEO. “Young companies need both dollars and expertise to build momentum, and Quest now has that momentum. We’re grateful for the confidence of investors like GRA Venture Fund.”
The QuadPod Solar Canopy meets several essential needs for solar panel installers. The hardware’s modular space frame design requires less than half of the steel used in traditional long-span canopy construction. In addition to creating cost savings in materials, the lighter components are easier and cheaper to ship.
And since the modular space frame is a familiar configuration for experienced construction crews, it’s also easier to put together. So workers can build a canopy in half the time it would take to build a competing canopy system.   
Quest Renewables has already helped bring solar power solutions to Atlanta landmarks like the new Falcons’ stadium, where the QuadPod Solar Canopy is offering more efficient parking-lot power generation and will provide about a third of the stadium’s electricity needs. The company is now poised to earn a large share of the billion-dollar solar canopy industry.

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