Published: Dec. 14, 2021

In 2021, CU Boulder researchers tackled challenges ranging from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to space exploration and climate change. They examined social trends, such as the power of Black Twitter, the impact of the growing singles population and why kindergarteners from low-income schools sit for longer stretches than students at wealthier schools. And they explored opportunities, such as new energy sources and customizable lullabies.

As you prepare for the holidays, take a look back at CU Boulder research from 2021 that will shape the year ahead.


Mutation-mapping tool could yield stronger COVID boosters, universal vaccines

Researchers at CU Boulder have given humans a new edge in the race against pathogens like SARS-CoV-2. The team developed a platform that maps out the common mutations in viruses that may allow them to evade the body's immune system.

New cereal box-sized satellite to explore alien planets

A new, pint-sized satellite named CUTE will explore the volatile physics in a class of far-away planets called hot Jupiters. CUTE is the first NASA-funded "CubeSat" mission to set its sights on worlds beyond Earth's solar system.


How therapy, not pills, can nix chronic pain and change the brain

One in five Americans suffer from chronic pain. Now, a new study shows that a non-drug, psychological treatment may help people to rewire their brain, providing them with potent and durable relief.

Increased winter snowmelt threatens western water resources

A new analysis of 40 years' worth of data has found that, in the West, the boundary between winter and spring has been steadily disappearing. Snow is melting sooner each spring at measuring stations from the Mexican border to Alaska. 

The single population is growing, and it’s time to grow with it

Nearly half of the adult U.S. population is single. Yet, society still focuses on marriage and relationships as the endgame. Marketing and psychology Professor Peter McGraw offers a new perspective on how we see solos.

Research-backed custom lullabies connect Colorado parents, babies

“Little Zoe River, with your friends you go and play. Full of life and laughter, you’re sure to find the way!” In a new project, researchers and musicians at CU Boulder partnered with expectant parents and guardians to write and sing personal lullabies for their babies.

What the history of camping can tell us about inclusion, homelessness and protest culture

There's nothing like sitting around a campfire and roasting s'mores. In her new book, historian Phoebe Young challenges readers to think about why some forms of camping became mainstram in the U.S., while others have been marginalized.

How Black Twitter has become the new ‘Green Book’—and more

Fifty-five years after a Black postal worker produced the inaugural issue of The Green Book to help African Americans navigate a racist society, Black Twitter is playing a similar and even broader role in the U.S., suggests a new CU Boulder study.

Kindergartners from low-income schools wait more, move less than wealthier school peers

Researchers traveled to 32 kindergarten classrooms to discover how kids spend their time during a typical day at school. The results reveal how the educational experiences of children in the U.S. can diverge before they reach first grade.

New wearable device turns the body into a battery

In an innovation right out of The Matrix, engineers at CU Boulder developed a new device that you can wear like a ring or bracelet and that harvests energy from your own body heat.