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With experiments, comes waste: Scientific waste and where it ends up

Written by: Lirong Shi and Manaswini Sarangi

Editor: Sarah Kearns and Alyse Krausz

Introduction

As a scientist working around scientists, we may not realize how much scientific waste we and our colleagues produce every day, just like everyone else who may not pay attention to how much household waste we produce in our kitchen. We are so used to the waste in the lab, and compared to the large garbage bin outside, we might think the small plastic bucket in the lab should be negligible. But that is not true. Accounting for only 0.1% of the population, scientists create approximately 5.5 million tons of plastic waste annually in life science alone, which accounts for approximately 2% of the plastic waste produced worldwide [1]. The large amount of plastic waste wandering around the oceans can disrupt carbon balance, poison fish, and end up on humans’ tables. Through experiments, scientists are attempting to improve everyone’s life while also literally contributing to the detriment of the world.

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What did Rev-Erbβ say to heme? ‘Never let go. Your chemistry drives my biology.’

Written by: Anindita Sarkar

Edited by: Isabel Colon-Bernal, Christina Del Greco, & Alyse Krausz


My pet dog would be scratching and pawing me at roughly the same time every day without fail. My mother believes that he had a better sense of time than me and my sister. I would always convince my mom that the credit for his sense of time should be given to his internal biological clock. This internal biological clock, better known as the circadian rhythm, tunes different physiological processes in not just my dog but also other living beings, to a 24-hour cycle. That is why we tend to feel sleepy or hungry at almost the same time every day. Needless to say, this biological time-tracking system functions as a result of an intricate interplay of several genes and proteins. In fact, I work on one important member of this family of proteins, Rev-Erbβ, which is responsible for the proper upkeep of the circadian rhythm.

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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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