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Newsmakers 2015: Research

UNLV researchers made national headlines this year with their discoveries. Here's a round up of some of our top stories of 2015.

Research  |  Dec 23, 2015  |  By Keyonna Summers
Brian Villmoare examines jawbone

Anthropologist Brian Villmoare helped unearth a 2.8 million-year-ol fossilized jawbone. (Aaron Mayes/UNLV Photo Services)

From heavenly bodies to the human body, UNLV faculty and students are making new discoveries, solving critical problems, and finding ways to help us better understand ourselves and the world around us. 

Below are highlights of research and discovery at UNLV that made headlines in 2015.

Dating goes to the dogs

Anthropology professor Peter B. Gray led a study which found that someone’s pet may wield significant influence in finding a mate. The survey of more than 1,200 Match.com users found that dogs beat out cats and other animals when it comes to making daters appear more attractive because they are seen as a “better measure of a potential mate’s caregiving capacity.”

HIV research

Nearly 35 years after HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was discovered, researchers at UNLV continue to forge ahead in the quest for prevention, education and a possible vaccine or cure. News outlets chronicled the efforts of UNLV students and professors to tackle the disease across various fronts, ranging from the smallest building blocks of human genomes to its cross-continental impact on various communities.

  • Desert Companion (World AIDS Day feature on projects by professors Mary Guinan, Echezona Ezeanolue, and Martin Schiller)
  • Research & Development Magazine (Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine executive director Martin Schiller pursues patent on potential cure)
  • KNPR (one-on-one interview with 1980s HIV discovery pioneer Mary Guinan)
  • KSNV (Lincy Institute professor Marya Shegog on diagnosis rates among women in Clark County)
  • Las Vegas Review-Journal (feature on work by student researcher Kiran Mathew)

Fruit flies help human heart disease

By using experimental evolution — or natural selection — to grow the world's fattest fruit flies, life sciences professor Allen Gibbs and Ph.D. student Christopher Hardy pioneered a new model for investigating obesity-related heart dysfunction.

Public perceptions about drones

As the possible use/regulation of drones increasingly comes up in talks about surveillance of public places for things like crime detection and crowd monitoring, several media outlets picked up on a UNLV criminal justice research team survey on the public's thoughts about the shift away from using the aerial technology strictly for military and government purposes.

Anthropologist unearths early human jawbone

UNLV anthropologist Brian Villmoare helped lead an international research team that discovered a 2.8 million-year-old fossilized jawbone in Ethiopia, filling a particularly elusive period gap in the evolution of modern humans. The jaw predates the previously identified fossils of the Homo lineage by approximately 400,000 years.

Life on other planets?

UNLV astrophysicist Jason Steffen co-led a study with Harvard researchers that used computer models to analyze two planets that were discovered close together around a star, known as Kepler-36, about 1,200 light-years from Earth. Scientists considered whether habitation is possible there and, if so, how communication between the planetary neighbors might help one other sustain life and boost survival.  

Full-day kindergarten

An annual study by UNLV's School of Community Health Sciences and partners found that full-day kindergarten might be linked to higher levels of educational attainment and, in turn, healthier, longer lives. The analysis was released just as Nevada lawmakers voted this past session to steer millions of dollars toward expanding full-day kindergarten offerings statewide.