2016 Research Highlights

Stanford scholars are engaged in ongoing basic and applied research — much of it interdisciplinary — that creates new knowledge and benefits society. Following are examples from 2016:

Biological Sciences

A team of Stanford Bio-X scientists develop the first technique for viewing cells and tissues in three dimensions under the skin, which could improve diagnosis and treatment for some forms of cancer and blindness.

Stanford scientists revise a decades-old model of how proteins move in cells, gaining new insight into one of the fundamental mechanisms of protein delivery.


Trust is more powerful than power itself, according to Graduate School of Business Professor Joel C. Peterson in “The Ten Laws of Trust.”

Reconfiguring elements of their own jobs leads employees to be significantly happier and more effective, according to research by business professor Justin Berg and colleagues at Yale School of Management and Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Business Professor of Economics Kathryn Shaw finds that three strategies good bosses use leads to measurable productivity and lasting positive impact on employee careers.


Using a new data set created from more than 200 million test scores, Professor Sean Reardon and colleagues found that school districts with large numbers of low-income students have a significantly lower academic performance average than the national grade-level average.

Stanford researchers distill learning theories into practical solutions for classrooms in “The ABCs of How We Learn” by Professor Daniel Schwartz, dean of the Graduate School of Education, and researchers Jessica Tsang and Kristen Blair.

A study by Professor Claude Goldenberg and Graduate School of Education alumnus Elliott Friedlander finds that literacy efforts that involve home and community interventions, as well as teacher training, are most effective.

New research by post-doctoral researcher Emily Penner and professor Thomas Dee shows gains in attendance and GPA of at-risk high school students from incorporating culturally relevant pedagogy.


A team led by William Chueh and Nicholas Melosh, assistant professors of materials science and engineering, makes a discovery that could use rust to make large-scale solar power storage a reality.

Stanford unveils a solar generating station in Kern County, California, designed to provide more than 50 percent of Stanford’s electricity.
Stanford engineer Yi Cui and colleagues finds a new way of making hydrogen fuel from water and improve grid-scale batteries.

The Precourt Institute for Energy and the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy award 15 seed grants for innovative energy research at Stanford and SLAC.

New findings by Professor Edward Solomon, graduate student Benjamin Snyder and other researchers could lead to greener methanol production.


A new study by Stanford researchers shows how harnessing the quantum properties of light can create a transmission technology impervious to eavesdropping.

An interdisciplinary team of Stanford scientists is identifying global poverty zones by comparing daytime and nighttime satellite images in a novel way.

Stanford’s humanoid robotic diver, OceanOne, recovers treasures from King Louis XIV’s wrecked 17th century flagship.

New Stanford engineering tools that record electrical activity of cells will help scientists understand and heal the brain.


Stanford scientists discover how the same geologic forces that helped stitch the supercontinent Pangea together also helped form the ancient coal beds that powered the Industrial Revolution.

A new computer model developed by a Stanford scientist can be used by resource managers around the world to weigh food and energy tradeoffs when water is scarce.

California’s drought-stricken Central Valley harbors three times more groundwater than previously estimated, Stanford scientists have found.

Stanford scientists find the carbon balance in the Amazon rain forest can change quickly in response to heat and drought conditions.

A Stanford-led report finds that larger-bodied marine animals are more likely to become extinct than smaller creatures, a pattern that is unprecedented and likely driven by human fishing.

In a global survey of kelp forests, Stanford scientists find that some populations are remaining stable or increasing in part due to local management of stressors such as pollution, fishing and coastal development.


Stanford archaeologist John Rick finds that the ancient Peruvian site of Chavín de Huántar offers clues about how authoritarianism arose in human civilization.

According to Professor Caroline Winterer, the “American Enlightenment” was a narrative fabricated during the Cold War era.

A team led by Stanford archaeologists has discovered a rare statuette of a woman made at Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic site in central Turkey, around 8,000 years ago.


In his new book, The End of Sex, Professor Hank Greely provides an informed look into the legal, ethical and societal implications of emerging biological technologies.
In the co-edited book Class Actions in Context: How Culture, Economics and Politics Shape Collective Litigation, Deborah Hensler discusses the growth of class-action lawsuits around the globe.
In the Stanford Law Review, Daniel E. Ho reports on a randomized controlled trial, designed with the public health department of Seattle & King County, of peer review as a governance mechanism.  The study shows that peer review could improve the quality and consistency of decision making of frontline government officials.
In a new JAMA Internal Medicinearticle, professors David M. StuddertJohn J. Donohue and Michelle Mello review the history of tort litigation against the firearms industry, outline the families’ claims regarding the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and describe the decision of the trial court to dismiss the case.


Using two decades of HIV data, Stanford scientists gain new insights into HIV's evolution, finding that effective treatment caused the virus to evolve differently than less effective treatments.

Seeking to relieve the burden on clinics and primary care doctors, Stanford engineers create a urinalysis system that uses a black box and smartphone camera to scan for diseases.

Stanford physicians have created a “nutrition surveillance” app that can help boost nutrition for children in some of the world’s poorest and most remote regions, such as Guatemala.

A group of rare blood cancers responds to new treatment pioneered by Stanford physician Jason Gotlib and a team of international researchers.

Associate Professor of bioengineering Jennifer Cochran and other Stanford researchers create "guided chemotherapy missiles" that target cancer cells and spare healthy ones.

A team of Stanford ChEM-H scientists discover a novel form of cancer immunotherapy, which works by removing certain sugars from the surface of cancer cells and making those cells visible to the immune system.

Stanford researchers create the first, detailed map of the body's antibody production, which could suggest new treatment options for immune disorders.

SLAC's X-ray laser provides clues to engineering a new protein to battle mosquito-borne illness.

Physical Sciences

Stanford scientists celebrate technological advances that finally made gravitational wave detection possible, confirming a prediction by Albert Einstein.

Stanford astrophysicist Yashar Hezaveh and team help discover hidden dwarf dark galaxy nearly 4 billion light years away.

Stanford researchers unveil new findings on understanding the dynamic behavior of galaxy clusters and ties to cosmic evolution.

Stanford engineers develop a low-cost plastic material that could become the basis for clothing that cools the wearer, reducing the need for energy-consuming air conditioning.

Stanford researchers debunk popular flight models by training birds to fly through lasers.

Stanford bioengineer David Camarillo and team show air-bag bike helmets may reduce impact by as much as six-fold compared with traditional bike helmets.

Social Sciences

Stanford historian Robert Crews studies how U.S. intervention in Afghanistan changed that country.

Stanford big data study finds racial disparities in police behavior and offers 50 ways to find solutions.

When older adults contribute to the well-being of youth, it cultivates a sense of purpose and extends benefits both ways, according to a new Stanford report.