Tell Me About
What has been the most significant technological advance in your field in the past 10 years?
Assistant Professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences
“In stable isotope geochemistry, it’s the ability to make high-precision measurements of rare, stable isotopes in a range of natural materials. These advances include creative techniques to convert samples (rocks, fossils, water, gases) into clean gases for analysis and pushing the limits of mass spectrometry. These advances are analogous to increasing the magnification of a microscope—we’re now able to see more and can explore the natural world in new ways; they are expanding our understanding of environmental conditions throughout Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history, fluxes in the Earth today, and the evolution of other planets. These advances are helping us discover things that we didn’t even know to look for 10 years ago.”
Professor History of Art, Near Eastern Studies
“In my field of ancient Near Eastern art history, the Internet has had widespread, pervasive influence on how we conduct research, and ultimately how we produce and disseminate knowledge. Old and obscure scholarly publications have been scanned and posted online, museums have constructed detailed databases with images of their collections, and excavation teams regularly post their most recent discoveries on their websites. And most critical, Internet search engines such as Google allow for boundless, networked data collection. The Internet hasn’t completely supplanted the library and its hard copy books, but it has radically changed how I conduct basic research.”
Assistant Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences
“An explosion in new tools, including strategies for gene editing, fluorescent protein sensors of neural activity, reprogrammable (brain) cells, super-resolution microscopy methods, and miniaturized microendoscopes. But perhaps the most significant advance has been optogenetics, a technique to turn off and on, at will, the activity of identified groups of neurons anywhere in the brain. It involves the insertion of specially engineered, light-sensitive proteins into cells of interest and activating these proteins by shining light on them. Optogenetics has signaled a revolution in our ability to detect causal relationships between brain circuits and animal behavior and marks the dawn of a new age in neuroscience research.”