Science Communication through the Lens of the Thirty-Meter Telescope Controversy

Author: Zechariah Pfaffenberger

Editors: William Dean, Alyse Krausz, and Sarah Kearns

 

The next-generation of astronomy and astrophysics might happen near the beautiful, sandy shores of Hawaii, but for astronomers, reaching this dream is no day at the beach. A battle is being waged in Hawaii’s tropical paradise, drawing in people from scientists to celebrities. On one side of this battle are the kānaka (native Hawaiians) and on the other, a partnership of astronomers from governments and universities. The cause of their disagreement is a thirty-meter telescope (TMT) and a sacred mountain. Although we might be disappointed by any delay in scientific progress, the story of the TMT teaches scientists about the current state of science communication practices and how we might do better. 

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Outdoor Journaling in Nichols Arboretum: A Study in Mental Health and the Power of Green Spaces

Author: Lily Johns 

Edited by: Lihan Xie, Genesis Rodriguez, Kristina Lenn, and Sarah Kearns

 

The Restorative Effects of Nature

“People in all walks of life, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times, find in nature something that comforts and restores” (Kaplans, 1995, pg. 175). 

University of Michigan faculty members Rachel Kaplan and the late Stephen Kaplan pioneered much of the research on the role of natural environments in benefitting well-being that exists today. With a multitude of publications, their research encompasses a variety of topics surrounding human cognition and the environment, notably the restorative effect that nature can have on the mind. According to the Kaplans, the restorative effect of nature is traced back to its role in preventing and ameliorating “directed attention fatigue”. Stephen Kaplan outlines the theory and importance of “directed attention”, which “plays a central role in achieving focus…and controls distraction.” This ‘directed attention’ is “susceptible to fatigue,” which often occurs due to a limited ability to direct their attention and leads to impulsivity, irritability, and distraction (Kaplan, 1995, pg. 17)

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Microbial α-L-Rhamnosidase: an important enzyme for the pharmaceutical and food industries

Author: Vinita Yadav, Ph.D.

Editors: Callie Corsa, Zena Lapp, and Noah Steinfeld

 

Molds or fungi are generally known for their pathogenic properties, but they are also used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. We can find several examples of uses in our daily lives including yeast used in brewing and baking, Aspergillus species used in making Soy sauce, and Penicillium species used in cheese industries. Penicillium species also make antibiotics like Penicillin.

During my thesis, my project was to search for fungi which produce alpha-L-Rhamnosidase, an enzyme that cuts the terminal L-rhamnose from several glycosylated compounds: compounds that have sugar attached. L-rhamnose is sweet in taste but not found in nature in its free form. It is always attached to several other biomolecules from lipid/fat molecules to proteins to other metabolites like flavonoids, steroids, or terpenoids (Figure 1).

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A Window to Ancient Earth Lies at the Bottom of Lake Huron

Author: Becca Dzombak

Edited by: Zuleirys Santana-Rodriguez, Emily Glass, and Whit Froehlich

 

In Lake Huron, off the coast of Michigan, lies a window to an ancient world. An underwater sinkhole holds water that’s chemically more similar to the ocean than to the rest of the Great Lakes. Microorganisms (microbes) thought to be very similar to those that thrived on Earth billions of years ago live at the bottom, moving around to chase the light and their preferred water chemistry. Geobiologists and biogeochemists are fascinated by this spot, called Middle Island Sinkhole, and the opportunity it presents to understand how ancient lakes may have supported oxygen-generating microbial communities, contributing to the rise of oxygen in our atmosphere. Using environments like Middle Island Sinkhole can help us understand the conditions in which life evolved on Earth (maybe even giving us hints for what to look for in our search for extraterrestrial life) and predict how carbon cycling in lakes might respond under climate change.

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It’s Not Always Mind Over Matter

Author: Kristina Lenn

On October 10th of this year, #WorldMentalHealthDay was a trending topic on social media as users posted their experiences with mental illnesses and their support for those who also suffer. “Live, Don’t Leave” was included in posts, trying to encourage those who are suicidal to seek help for a more hopeful future. Seeing this level of support as people band together across the world to break the stigma about mental health is heartening. However, it also intimates at the enormity of the situation and the lack of progress that the medical field is experiencing, partly because the specific causes are not well understood.

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From the Lab to your Medicine Cabinet: A Timeline of Drug Development

Author: Jessica McAnulty

Edited by: Alison Ludzki, Lihan Xie, and Sarah Kearns

Take a look inside your medicine cabinet. Advil, Benadryl, Sudafed – ready at the snap of a finger if you fall ill. Developing that medicine, however, probably takes much longer than one would expect. On average, getting a potential drug candidate from the laboratory to the pharmacy takes about 14 years, costs more than one billion dollars, and has a low success rate. A successful drug will pass through all five stages: drug discovery, pre-clinical research, clinical trials, FDA approval, and post-market monitoring. Success statistics are gathered several stages into drug development; a new report states 13.8% of drug candidates that enter Phase I of clinical trials, the first test in humans, will earn FDA approval. Upon approval, companies have an exclusivity period ranging from 6 months to 7 years  to earn back the large expense of drug development before generic medicines are released by competitors. For this reason, there is a necessary economic drive associated with pharmaceutical companies so that they can continue production of life-saving medication. Continue reading “From the Lab to your Medicine Cabinet: A Timeline of Drug Development”

The American Climate

Author: Kristina Lenn
Editor: Sarah Kearns

The end of September played host to many action items for climate change, not the least of which was the third Global Climate Strike on Friday, September 20. These international strikes are a result of activist Greta Thunberg’s ongoing travail to not only enlighten governments and their citizens of the impending dangers of climate change but also admonish the world’s leaders for turning a blind eye to it. Additionally, on September 23, the United Nations convened for the Climate Action Summit, a forum for world leaders to discuss how together they can take steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and curb Earth’s rising temperature. Continue reading “The American Climate”

Struggling between Private and Public Domains — Issues around Intellectual Property

Written by: Lirong Shi
Edited by: Patricia Garay, Alyse Krausz, and Sarah Kearns

The primary concerns of scientific researchers are experiments and data.  Thinking about intellectual property (IP) is usually left behind. However, if researchers hope to turn products or discoveries into patents or publications, it is of vital importance to understand intellectual property as soon as they start collecting data. Currently, with the rapid development of scientific research, issues are accumulating around intellectual property, such as authorship, data ownership, and publication practices. The purpose of setting up intellectual property rights is to promote social innovation and public access to human intelligence. Even though the intention of protecting intellectual property is sincere, the original work sometimes becomes too protected, resulting in limited access to it. New regulations, such as redefining authorship assignment and promoting open access, should be implemented to better protect IP and help untrained researchers trudge through the struggle between private and public domains. Continue reading “Struggling between Private and Public Domains — Issues around Intellectual Property”

Tan cerca pero tan lejos: Por qué “la píldora” para hombres no está a la vuelta de la esquina

Escrito en inglés por Ashley Melnick y editado por Stephanie Hamilton, Christina Vallianatos. Traducido al español por Genesis Rodríguez y editado por Attabey Rodríguez Benítez

La planificación familiar es un componente importante en muchas relaciones; incluyendo la planificación de embarazos y la prevención de embarazos no planeados. Desde que los anticonceptivos llegaron al mercado, en general las mujeres han sido responsables de tomar “la píldora” y utilizar otros métodos de anticonceptivos, como el monitoreo del ciclo menstrual, el uso de anillos vaginales, y parches anticonceptivos. En diciembre del 2018, El Centro de control y prevención de enfermedades (CDC por sus siglas en inglés) publicó datos indicando que la píldora es el anticonceptivo más común (12.6%), después de la esterilización (18.6%). Adicionalmente, las Anticoncepciones Reversibles de Acción Prolongada (LARCs por sus siglas en inglés) como el Dispositivo Intrauterino (DIU) también es usado (10.3%), al igual que los condones masculinos (8.7%). Con los nuevos avances en de salud reproductiva, una variedad similar de anticonceptivos se esta volviendo disponible para los hombres, lo cual pronto les dará más opciones para su planificación familiar. Recientemente más sociedades de occidente han presionado a que los hombres asuman mas responsabilidades en la crianza de su familia, incluyendo la licencia de paternidad y la aceptación de papas “amos de casa”. Desarrollar opciones adiciones para anticonceptivos masculinos le provee al hombre y mujer, en relaciones y solteros, más opciones en cuanto a la planificación de hijos y la prevención de embarazos. Continue reading “Tan cerca pero tan lejos: Por qué “la píldora” para hombres no está a la vuelta de la esquina”

Femenino, Masculino o Andrógeno: ¿Cómo deberíamos de caracterizar a la ciencia?

Autora: Kristina Lenn
Editores: Isabel Colon-Bernal, Jessica Cote y Whit Froehlich
Traducción: Irene Vargas-Salazar, editado por Thibaut R. Pardo-García

Ser confrontada con nuestros propios prejuicios es una experiencia que te enseña mucha humildad. Detesto admitirlo, pero en gran parte de mi vida, inclusive cuando estaba en la universidad, las imágenes que tenía de científicos e ingenieros eran típicamente de hombres. Al crecer, la escuela parroquial que atendí nos enseñó que los hombres deberían de ser los proveedores y las mujeres las cuidadoras. De acuerdo con mis maestros y mis pastores, los hombres son más lógicos mientras que las mujeres son más emocionales, por lo tanto, los hombres son una mejor elección para tomar posiciones de liderazgo. La cultura popular desde entonces, que desafortunadamente no es tan diferente al del día de hoy, está llena de referencias a mujeres rubias con falta de inteligencia, excusas por la parte de mujeres para “volverse locas” por estar en “ese tiempo” del mes y la desconfianza de los hombres en cualquier cosa que “sangra por 7 días y no muere”. Continue reading “Femenino, Masculino o Andrógeno: ¿Cómo deberíamos de caracterizar a la ciencia?”