Penn State In The News: October 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State appears in the news hundreds of times every day. The research and discovery happening at the University is changing the world we live in and how we look at other worlds. Journalists also look to Penn State when they need expert perspectives on complicated issues.

In a new monthly feature, Penn State’s Office of Strategic Communications will feature national and international news coverage of the work and expertise of Penn State’s faculty, students and staff.

Among the highlights in October:

Scientists have discovered a phenomenon that some hypothesize could be evidence of alien life. They detected a mysterious “megastructure” in deep space blocking light from a star in an odd pattern. Observations of the phenomenon appeared in hundreds of publications across the country and dominated science discussions for nearly the entire month. Journalists from The Atlantic reached out to Jason Wright, Penn State professor of astronomy and astrophysics, for his perspective. Wright was quoted in Popular Science, The Washington Post and countless other publications. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider," Wright told The Atlantic, "but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

On the topic of climate change, Penn State meteorology and geoscience professors including Michael Mann, Richard Alley and David Titley are regular participants in the national conversation.

  • Mann commented to on the “1,000-year flood” that caused massive damage in South Carolina. Mann explained what that event meant for people living there and offered up a sobering prediction: "Climate change is actually increasing the likelihood of these events. They are no longer 1,000-year events."
  • The Washington Post ran a story about the melting of one of the largest glaciers in the world. Alley offered his expertise on the study. “Warming waters can influence this area and access a lot of ice leading to long-term, large sea-level rise,” he said.
  • The Conversation features articles written by scholars across the country. Titley spoke from his expertise as a meteorology professor and a former rear admiral and chief oceanographer of the U.S. Navy. He said science tells them that weather and oceans are just beginning to change. “If the world does not soon enact meaningful cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the cost of adapting to the changing climate will become staggering.”

Nancy Sin, postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Healthy Aging in the College of Health and Human Development, recently published research showing that how people react to stressful situations plays a role in long-term health.  "A person's frequency of stress may be less related to inflammation than responses to stress," said Sin. "It is how a person reacts to stress that is important." Her research was featured beyond traditional scholarly journals and appeared in Men's Health Magazine.

Peter Wilf, professor of paleobotany, is studying a place in southern Argentina that’s home to a rare petrified forest. “It is places like these, where rocks full of fossils are actually exposed at the surface, that reveal the story of life on planet Earth,” said Wilf. featured his research on Patagonia in print and in a documentary series.

When NASA needed help looking at other ways to fuel space exploration they turned to Penn State space systems engineer Michael Paul. Popular Mechanics pointed out NASA only has a small amount of plutonium-283 stockpiled for future space missions. Paul is now pioneering a new way to use the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere to power exploration, according to the author of the article.

These are just a few of the highlights. For more of Penn State’s experts’ appearances in the media, visit

Last Updated July 28, 2017