A journey towards quantum gravity: merging theories to understand our cosmos

Written by: Marina David

Editors: Lisa Pinatti, Christina Del Greco, and Sarah Kearns

Imagine you are waiting at a broken traffic light and both the green and red light are on. Should you keep waiting in hopes that it will fix itself eventually? Or should you pretend that you only see the green light and continue driving? You don’t want to cause a traffic jam, but you will be late for that 8 am meeting if you continue just sitting in the car. You would be confused about what to do, right? Quite surprisingly, this is similar to our current understanding of gravity.

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A Lesson in Science Communication from Dr. Anthony Fauci

Written by: Alyse Krausz

Editors: Sophie Hill, Lihan Xie, and Noah Steinfeld

I remember thinking, “Who is this Dr. Fauci?” as he took the stage in Ohio Stadium to give the commencement speech at my college graduation ceremony. It turned out that he was the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), but I was hoping for someone a little more exciting, or at least someone I had heard of before. Little did I know that a mere four years later, Fauci’s name would be all over the news as the most prominent scientific voice in a pandemic. The recent media coverage has confirmed what I discovered on my graduation day: Dr. Fauci is an exceptional communicator with plenty of lessons to teach.

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Why We Should Be Concerned about the Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

Written by: Gabrielle Huizinga

Editors: William Dean, Rebecca Dzombak, and Noah Steinfeld

Keywords: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, Infection

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, first emerged in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and quickly spread to the United States beginning in January 2020. At the time of writing, there have been over 39 million cases worldwide with a fatality rate around 2.8%. While hospitals and public health officials are primarily concerned with the short-term effects of COVID-19, such as hospitalization rates, shortages of supplies, and the spread of the virus, many viruses can cause long-term illness. There have already been reports that people who have recovered from COVID-19 experience lingering myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle. This can cause the heart to not function properly and puts excess strain on the body. Patients infected in the 2003 outbreak of SARS, a virus similar to SARS-CoV-2, experience chronic illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, abnormal lung function, and decreased exercise capacity. Our ability to understand the long-term effects of a newly-emerged virus like SARS-CoV-2 are limited, but the long-term symptoms of similar, more well-understood viruses may be informative when thinking about why we need to take action now to limit the spread of the disease through increased sanitization, the wearing of face coverings, and minimizing contact with others.

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Eavesdropping on Brain Cells: A History of the Patch-Clamp Technique

Author: Ellen KW Brennan

Editors: Emily Glass, Sophie Hill, and Lisa Pinatti

Illustrator: Katherine Bonefas

Neurons are the main communicators of the brain. Using electrical signals to ‘talk,’ their conversations with each other underlie every behavior, thought, and feeling we have. To produce these larger functions, neurons need to work together in networks. For example, there is a specialized network of neurons whose only job is to keep you oriented in your surroundings. Two of the main types of neurons in this network are ‘place cells,’ which tell your brain where your body is in space, and ‘head direction cells,’ which tell your brain which way your head is facing. Together (and with the help of many other cells), they act as your body’s GPS system. While knowing where you are is important, you also need to know the details of the world around you. Other specialized cells, like sensory neurons called ‘blobs,’ help you detect color, while neurons in your nose called ‘olfactory sensory neurons’ catch chemicals as you breathe to detect smells. Together, these and many other different neural networks give us a sensory representation of our surroundings.

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Happy 5th Birthday, MiSciWriters!

From the MiSciWriters Editorial Board

“MiSciWriters is a student organization dedicated to training in science writing, with the ultimate goal of improving public understanding of science. We believe that communicating science effectively to lay audiences is an essential and much-neglected component of scientific training.” Over the past five years, our mission statement and overall goals haven’t changed much, but our organization has grown significantly and has become an important foundation for so many during their graduate and postdoctoral experience at University of Michigan. 

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Neutrófilo: un villano emergente en COVID-19

Autora: Shuvasree SenGupta

Editores: Lisa Pinatti, Lihan Xie, y Whit Froehlich

Traducción: Paloma Contreras, editado por: Irene Vargas-Salazar


Mantener nuestro sistema inmune funcionando de manera apropiada es importante para estar saludable en los tiempos de la pandemia de COVID-19 (enfermedad del coronavirus 2019). Sin embargo, este mismo sistema inmune se encuentra detrás de algunos de los peores síntomas del COVID-19, lo cual puede parecer paradójico. Cuando algunos componentes del sistema inmune no son regulados de forma apropiada, pueden ser contraproducentes y dañar nuestras propias células. Debido a esto, científicos/as especulan que algunas de las complicaciones fatales vistas en COVID-19 ocurren como resultado de la activación anómala de un miembro específico de la población de células inmunes innatas, conocidos como neutrófilos.

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The Evolution of Sperm Morphology, Part 1: Sperm Competition

Author: Molly A. Hirst

Edited by: Patricia Garay, Emily Glass, and Alyse Krausz


Most of us have a general understanding of what human sperm cells look like: a ball with a middle piece and a squiggly tail, right? But what about sperm from animals such as frogs, spiders, and mice? The short answer, as shown in Figure 1, is that they look totally different! In fact, sperm are actually the most morphologically diverse animal cell type known (seriously, check out Figure 1) (Lüpold & Pitnick 2018). This morphological diversity may seem counterintuitive at first; sperm have a singular function in fertilization and reproduction, so a mutation that alters the shape of sperm could potentially render them useless. This certainly can be the case, yet changes in sperm morphology between species, or even populations of the same species, are common.

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Neutrophil: An emerging villain in COVID-19

Author: Shuvasree SenGupta

Editors: Lisa Pinatti, Lihan Xie, and Whit Froehlich


Keeping our immune system functional is important to stay healthy in the time of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic. However, the same immune system is behind some of the worst symptoms of COVID-19, which may seem paradoxical. Components of the immune system, when not regulated properly, can boomerang back and cause harm to our own cells. As such, scientists speculate that some of the fatal complications seen with COVID-19 are because of the aberrant activation of a member of the innate immune cell population, known as neutrophils.

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Activating Vitamin B12 in Humans

By: Harsha Gouda

Edited by: Emily Glass, Lisa Pinatti, and Sarah Kearns


Vitamins are the essential micronutrients required in tiny amounts for the healthy development of an individual. They play a crucial role by initiating various chemical reactions inside the cells like production of pigment that is responsible for your vision or synthesis of red blood cells that carry oxygen in your blood. Early discovery of the importance of vitamins such as B12 in diet was identified in patients suffering from abnormally large red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is one of the most complex chemical molecules among all the other essential vitamins. Owing to its complexity, this precious and rare vitamin is mainly acquired via diet as humans are unable to synthesize it for ourselves. Low dietary B12 intake or defects in the transport pathway to its target place of utilization inside our body result in heart and nerve related disorders in humans.1 As such, evolution developed a very sophisticated trafficking pathway to transport and deliver B12 from the food we eat to the cells that use it.1

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Curbing Addiction: Buprenorphine and the Opioid Epidemic

Author: Ruiqi Tang

Edited by: William Dean, Sophie Hill, and Noah Steinfeld


Less than 35% of the 2.3 million people with opioid misuse in the United States receive treatment. Opioids are a class of drugs that mask pain by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain, producing pleasurable sensations. These “euphoric” feelings can lead to addiction when patients begin taking opioids for non-medical use. Despite the growing crises of opioid addiction, there is a dire shortage of physicians approved to prescribe a medication approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opioid addiction: buprenorphine. Buprenorphine works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, but unlike opioids, its sedating effects are relatively lower and it is frequently co-formulated with another drug (naloxone) to prevent overdose. Despite its safety advantages in suppressing withdrawal symptoms, physicians must undergo additional training to obtain a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)-issued waiver in order to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid addiction–a restriction that does not exist for opioid medications like oxycodone that have a greater risk of adverse outcomes.

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