Penn State In The News: May 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, 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.

May's highlights:

-- Penn State researchers set out to prove what many new parents know: Having a child is stressful. And that stress takes a toll on the parents' sex lives. Human development and family studies researcher Chelom E. Leavitt and his team talked to 169 couples about their stress levels while they were expecting. Then the team revisited the couples six and 12 months after the babies were born. "When new moms feel fatigued by the added responsibilities of parenting, they may feel less sexual,” said Leavitt. "Interestingly, we found that men's parenting stress had no impact on either men's or women's sexual satisfaction.", Science World Report and several other outlets reported the findings that at the 12-month mark, 69 percent of women were still somewhat-to-very satisfied and 55 percent of men felt the same.

-- Penn State helped to answer the question zoo-going children have had for generations: “Why do giraffes have such long necks?” The study found that giraffes diverged from their closest relative, the okapi, about 11.5 million years ago. Okapi look more like zebras than giraffes. Douglas Cavener, biology professor and Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science, and his team studied the giraffe genome and found about 70 genes that set the giraffe apart. “All of these genes in the giraffe — we have them ourselves. What made giraffes unique is just to tinker with them a bit and alter them in subtle ways,” Cavener said. Animal lovers and curious children of all ages read the news in Time magazine, Scientific American, The Wall Street Journal and dozens of other outlets.

-- Nature declared Penn State researchers are leaders in the race to create super-crops. Jonathan Lynch, professor of plant nutrition, and his team developed a string bean that can survive in even the harsh growing conditions of Africa. Nature called it one of the first successful attempts to grow crops in nutrient-depleted soil. “Low availability of nitrogen, phosphorus and water are the main limitations of plant growth on Earth. We desperately need this technology,” said Lynch.

-- The presidential primaries are still continuing even though it looks like both parties know who their nominee will be. Christopher Beem, managing director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, wrote a piece for Fortune Magazine detailing, “Why it’s time for Bernie Sanders to support Hillary Clinton.” Beem acknowledged Sanders’ accomplishments, like mobilizing young voters, bringing socialism back into the political discussion and even influencing his opponent’s political positions. But Beem said endorsing Clinton and giving a speech at the Democratic convention would help Sanders and his party. “A convention speech is his opportunity to cement his reputation and cultivate his movement. If he does it right, he will do both, even as he helps to secure Clinton’s election in November,” Beem wrote.

-- And when the insurance company Liberty Mutual released a report that said some worrying can actually be beneficial to a person, The New York Times reached out to Penn State for their expertise in the field. “People have a love-hate relationship with worry,” Michelle Newman, professor of psychology and psychiatry, told the Times. “They think at some level that it helps them.”

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