CU-Boulder: Highlights of 2012

December 27, 2012

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights of 2012 at the University of Colorado Boulder, including important accomplishments in research, athletics, the arts and student service, among other top stories:


Another Nobel

CU-Boulder lecturer David J. Wineland, also a researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, won the Nobel Prize for physics this year. Wineland – whose groundbreaking research includes using lasers to trap ions – is the fifth CU faculty member to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Related links:

Nobel Prize-winner David Wineland praised as mentor to CU-Boulder graduate students

CU-Boulder Nobel laureates

Combating disease

CU-Boulder researchers identified a new target for anti-cancer drug development that is sitting at the ends of our DNA, and in a separate study, CU-Boulder scientists identified two prime targets of the Hepatitis B virus in liver cells, which could lead to a treatment for the disease.

Related links:

CU-Boulder researchers uncover new target for cancer research

New CU-Boulder discoveries hold promise for treatment of Hepatitis B virus infection

Service overseas

For the second year in a row, CU grads earned the university a No. 1 ranking from the Peace Crops for most volunteers. More than 100 buffs were serving overseas in January when the award was announced. CU has been ranked in the top three schools in the nation for Peace Corps volunteers every year since 2004.

Related links:

CU-Boulder No. 1 for Peace Corps volunteers for second straight year

Peace Corps at CU

Olympic Buffs

Six athletes with ties to CU-Boulder participated in the summer Olympics in London, including three current students. And CU-Boulder researchers were involved in several studies of amputee athletes that helped South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, a bilateral leg amputee, win admittance to this year’s games.

Related link:

Contributions of Olympic proportion


President Obama and federal luminaries

President Barack Obama visited the CU-Boulder campus not once, not twice, but three times in 2012 during the run-up to the election. CU-Boulder also hosted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Law School’s Bench and Bar Conference and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who spoke at an event put on by the Center of the American West.

Related links:

Video: President Barack Obama visits CU-Boulder

Photo gallery: President Barack Obama visits CU-Boulder

Video: A conversation with Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg keynotes inaugural Colorado Law Bench and Bar Conference

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to speak at CU-Boulder Sept. 13

“Rake’s Progress” takes three forms

In September and October, CU-Boulder presented William Hogarth’s “Rake’s Progress,” a tale of a man who spends all his inheritance on women, clothes and drink before falling from grace. The school showcased the original artwork by Hogarth and prints by English artist David Hockney, as well as the opera by Igor Stravinsky based on the tale.

Related links:

CU’s three ‘Rake’s’ mark world-first shared staging of art and music

Video: The Rake's Progress | CU Opera

Political perspective

CU researchers found, in two cases, that what Americans think about political systems may not align with reality.  First, researchers in the psychology and neuroscience department found that Americans overestimate political polarization while a professor in the political science department found that Congress works better than many Americans think.

Related links:

Americans overestimate political polarization

Congress works better than many think, new research shows

Sky watching at CU

Two rare solar events drew thousands of people to the CU-Boulder campus this year. On May 20, an estimated 10,000 sky-gazers showed up at Folsom Field to watch the partial solar eclipse, when the moon crossed between the sun and the Earth, apparently taking a “bite” out of the sun. Hundreds more visited the Fiske Planetarium and the Sommers-Bausch Observatory on June 5 to watch as Venus made its trek across the face of the sun, an event that won’t be seen again for a century.

Related links:

Next five weeks bring rare solar events to Colorado

Relatively rare solar eclipse to draw viewers in stadium

State-of-the-art buildings

Campus researchers rejoiced this year at the opening of two high-tech, lab-equipped buildings: the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building and JILA’s new X-wing.

Related links:

A place for tackling critical challenges in bioscience

New laboratories for world-renowned science


Hoop glory

The men’s basketball team won the inaugural Pac-12 postseason tournament in March, and the women’s basketball team returned to a top-25 ranking this year after a five-year absence.

Related links:

Brooks: After last March, Boyle believed in destiny

Buffaloes debut At No. 25 in AP top 25 poll


Fresh look at an old canyon

A CU geologist found that the Grand Canyon may be as old as the dinosaurs, which would push back the canyon’s age by about 60 million years.

Related link:

Grand Canyon as old as the dinosaurs, suggests new study led by CU-Boulder


50 years of cutting-edge physics

JILA, a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, celebrated a half century on the cutting edge of physics this year, while scientists at the institute continued to publish new physics breakthroughs. This year, JILA researchers used ultrafast lasers to create the first tabletop X-ray device and they learned how to chill a gas of molecules to extremely low temperatures, a feat once thought to be nearly impossible.

Related links:

JILA institute celebrates 50 years of scientific advances

CU-Boulder physicists use ultrafast lasers to create first tabletop X-ray device

JILA physicists achieve elusive ‘evaporative cooling’ of molecules

Hungry beetles

CU researchers continued to bore into the pine beetle epidemic to explain the severity of the outbreak. Scientists in CU’s ecology and evolutionary biology department found that the bugs were breeding twice in a year, and researchers in the geography department connected the current epidemic with the 2001-02 drought.

Related links:

Discovery of pine beetles breeding twice in a year helps explain increasing damage, CU researchers say

2001-02 drought helped to shift Rocky Mountain pine beetle outbreak into epidemic

A pair of thirds in the NCAA

The men’s cross country team repeated this year as the Pac-12 champions and finished third in the NCAA. The Buff skiers also took third in the NCAA after Katie Hartman returned to the team following a nasty knee injury.

Related links:

Buff skiers finish third at NCAA championships

Men place third at NCAAs

The big melt

Researchers from institutes and departments across CU highlighted our warming world with research related to melting. Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center observed a record-setting low for sea ice extent in the Arctic, faculty at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences found that the Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding into the ocean more quickly than before thanks to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, and a team led by the physics department found that glaciers and ice caps outside of Greenland and Antarctica are shedding 150 billion tons of ice annually. CIRES scientists also found that Alaska’s iconic Columbia Glacier may actually stop retreating in 2020, reaching a new equilibrium.

Related links:

Arctic sea ice reaches lowest extent ever recorded, says CU-Boulder research team

Greenland Ice Sheet flushing itself away?

CU-Boulder study shows global glaciers, ice caps shedding billions of tons of mass annually

A coaching change-up

The CU-Boulder football team ended 2012 with a new beginning. In December, Mike MacIntyre became the 25th full-time head football coach in CU history when he decided to leave San Jose State to coach the Buffaloes. MacIntyre replaced John Embree after the team finished with a 1-11 record in the fall.

Related links:

Brooks: MacIntyre makes winning first impression

Embree will not return as Colorado head football coach

Tracking carbon

Atmospheric scientists at CU-Boulder discovered that the Earth’s vegetation and oceans continue to soak up about half of the carbon dioxide being emitted in the world, even as those emissions go up. Other CU-Boulder researchers developed a new monitoring system that can tease out which carbon emissions are connected to the burning of fossil fuels and which are related to biological processes.

Related links:

Earth still absorbing carbon dioxide even as emissions rise

New CU-NOAA monitoring system clarifies murky atmospheric CO2 questions

Unraveling mysteries in space

CU-Boulder researchers discovered that galaxies with the hungriest black holes produce fewer stars than other galaxies. CU-Boulder space scientists got a peek at a cluster of galaxies in their initial stage of construction. And CU-Boulder researchers played a key role in NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission, which launched this fall.

Related links:

Overfed black holes shut down galactic star-making, says new study involving CU-Boulder

CU-led study pinpoints farthest developing galaxy cluster ever found

CU-Boulder researchers gear up for NASA radiation belt space mission