Penn State In The News: August 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.

August's highlights:

-- Ripped jeans, heal thyself. Penn State researchers are trying to make your clothes last longer, by healing themselves. Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics Melik Demirel and his team have developed a liquid derived from squid teeth that, when dripped on torn fabric, makes the material repair itself. "Science happens in small steps," Demirel told CNN. "The next step would be to see if clothes can self-repair when we pour the liquid into a washing machine, like you would a detergent, and apply water and heat." Video of the process actually working went viral and was picked up by the New York Post, MSN and the Big Ten Network, among many others.

-- The last of the woolly mammoths died of thirst. Geosciences Professor Russell Graham released findings showing that the last of the large hairy beasts died about 6,000 years ago on a small island off the coast of Alaska. His research shows that rising sea levels made freshwater scarce and led to the animals’ extinction. Those findings have practical applications for today. Graham told NPR’s Here and Now, “We're seeing the same thing happen on South Pacific Islands as sea level comes up. And in some cases people are going to have to leave those islands because they're not going to have enough freshwater to persist there.” The story of the woolly mammoths’ thirsty plight also ran in The New York Times, Business Insider and dozens of other publications.

-- Meanwhile, smoke may have been a factor in another species dying off. Agricultural Sciences Professor Gary Perdew told the International Business Times, “Modern humans are the only primates that carry this genetic mutation that potentially increased tolerance to toxic materials produced by fires for cooking, protection and heating. The mutation may have offered ancient humans a sweet spot in effectively processing some of these toxins.” His recently published research shows that early Homo sapiens were able to adapt to the smoke and prosper while the Neanderthals could not. Perdew was also interviewed on The Naked Scientists podcast based out of the University of Cambridge.

-- Cyberbullying has become a major concern for many parents, and Penn State researchers found that the bullies are usually the victim’s “friend.” In fact, the risk of cyberbullying was seven times higher between friends or former friends than between teenagers who had never dated or been friends. Sociology professor Diane Felmlee published the research and said, “We believe that competition for status and esteem represents one reason behind peer cyberbullying. Friends, or former friends, are particularly likely to find themselves in situations in which they are vying for the same school, club, and/or sport positions and social connections.” CBS News, Parents and U.S. News and World Report all reported the findings.                              

-- Parents featured Penn State research again when Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences Ian Paul released his findings showing how many parents were putting their children in dangerous sleeping environments. He found that as high as 93 percent of babies were sleeping in spaces with potentially dangerous things around them. “Perhaps we have to make it even simpler,” Paul said. “We need to be extremely clear and unambiguous in our advice and we need to make sure we model safe sleep environment when babies are in the hospital.” USA Today, AOL and dozens of other outlets reported his findings.

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

Last Updated September 09, 2016