Penn State In The News: April 2016

UNIVERSITY, Pa. — Penn State appears in the news hundreds of times every day. Monthly, the University’s Office of Strategic Communications features national and international news coverage of the work and expertise of Penn State’s faculty, students and staff.

April's highlights:

-- Penn State researchers proved that social media isn't just for young people. The New York Times interviewed S. Shyam Sundar, the co-director of the Media Research Laboratory, about his research on Facebook’s senior population. Sundar was inspired by his own father, and found that seniors are flocking to Facebook to connect with old friends, make new ones and keep track of their loved ones. “The whole idea is to kind of give people a chance to be social when there are physical constraints,” Sundar said. “Create a virtual retirement community, if you will.” The Atlanta-Journal Constitution and the San Francisco Chronicle soon picked up on the story.  

-- Penn State researchers are trying to keep mushrooms looking better longer. The Scientific American, Nature and many other publications reported on how Yinong Yang, associate professor of plant pathology, made it happen without triggering extra oversight from the USDA. The researchers did not add any DNA to stop the mushrooms from turning brown. Instead, they removed a gene that caused the mushrooms to brown when exposed to oxygen. Those mushrooms that stay fresher-looking longer could be headed to the supermarket. “I need to talk to my dean about that. We’ll have to see what the University wants to do next,” Yang said. Penn State has filed for a patent on the organism.

-- Penn State researches have uncovered a link between pesticides and autism in children. The findings looked at the rates of autism and other developmental delays from areas where crews have sprayed mosquito pesticides from an airplane. They found that children living where mosquito-spraying happened every summer had a 25 percent higher risk of an autism or similar diagnosis. “Several studies have previously reported links between pesticide and autism risk,” Dr. Steve Hicks, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, told TIME Magazine. “Our data suggests the way in which pesticides are applied might play some role. Studies of pesticides in animal models show they can affect certain neurotransmitters in the brain, but their exact molecular effects on brain development are still being explored.” Dozens of other publications picked up the story afterward.

-- The Guardian spoke with anthropology professor David Puts, who led an international team of scientists looking at the links between how deep a man’s voice is and if people perceived him as attractive or dominant. “If you look at what men’s traits look like they are designed for, they look much better designed for intimidating other males than for attracting females,” said Puts. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation also picked up the story. 

-- And finally, Penn State researchers are also trying to save clothes from messy eaters. Gizmodo reported on a new coating developed at Penn State by the Wong Laboratory for Nature Inspired Engineering.

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

Last Updated August 01, 2016