Conversations about Science Writing: Nick Wigginton

MiSciWriters member Kristina Lenn chatted with Nick Wigginton, the assistant vice president of research at the University of Michigan, about the importance of communication among researchers and the big responsibility science writers carry in the current political climate.

 

 Anyone who has ever done collaborative research can list the benefits of being able to work with another group and learn about the cultural differences between researchers. Dr. Nick Wigginton knows better than anyone else how important communication is to successful collaborations.

Prior to his tenure at Michigan, Dr. Wigginton received his doctorate in Earth Science, and his dissertation was a collaborative effort by his department, physics, chemistry, and biology. This interdisciplinary gauntlet gave him the tools he needed to succeed as an editor for Science magazine where he needed to address the research and cultures of multiple departments.

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Science Behind the Scenes: Model Organisms—The Unsung Heroes of Biomedical Research

Author: Noah Steinfeld

Editors: Alex Taylor, Christina Vallianatos, and Bryan Moyers

In 2001 the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to three scientists, Leland Hartwell, Tim Hunt and Paul Nurse, for their discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle. Normally, before a cell can divide, it must undergo several phases of the cell cycle in a precise order. First, a cell grows in size, then duplicates its DNA, and finally distributes its DNA evenly between two daughter cells. The three researchers played seminal roles in identifying the mechanisms by which cells transition from one cell cycle phase to the next.

These fundamental discoveries are not only crucial to our understanding of biology, but have applications in human disease. Many types of cancer are linked to mutations that cause cells to move quickly through or even skip some parts of the cell cycle, making cell cycle regulation a hot area of biological research. Given the implications this research has for human health, it might surprise you that many cell cycle regulators were not first discovered in humans. Instead, these cell cycle regulators were identified and characterized in model organisms including yeast and sea urchins.

“But what do I have in common with the yeast I use to bake bread?” you might ask. As it turns out, a lot more than you’d think.

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In silico biology: How math and computer science teach us about life

Author: Hayley Warsinske

Editors: Molly Kozminsky, Ellyn Schinke, Irene Park

We live in a world of science and technology. Biomedical research helps improve our lives everyday by providing us with vital information about everything from hygiene to Alzheimer’s disease. Computers provide us with access to wealth of information on any subject in an instant and expedite many of our daily activities. Often these two worlds overlap and computers are also used to provide scientists with information about our own health and survival to facilitate biomedical research.

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Science behind the scenes: The costs and payoffs of science

By: Bryan Moyers

Edited by:  David Mertz, Shweta Ramdas, Scott Barolo, Kevin Boehnke

Why haven’t we cured cancer?  Physicians have known about cancer for over 5000 years, and the United States spends nearly $5 billion per year on cancer research.  But there’s still no cure.  Also, where is our clean, renewable energy?  We can’t even catch half the energy in sunlight, and solar panels don’t come cheap!  Why don’t we have a moon colony yet or a male birth control pill?

In the U.S., science funding comes from many sources, including the taxpayers.  As an example, half a percent of the federal budget goes to fund NASA, before considering all of the money that goes to the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the National Institutes of Health and other federal science organizations.  It is reasonable that publicly-funded science should provide some benefit for the public, but it seems like there’s a lot of scientific research out there that’s not giving us the technologies and discoveries we want and need.   So why do we throw money at projects that don’t seem to deliver?

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P-values, or: infinite shades of grey

Author: Peter Orchard

Editors: Theresa Mau, Bryan Moyers, Alisha John

 

Peter Tea_and_MilkAlmost 100 years ago, the English biologist and statistician Dr. Ronald Fisher was enjoying a cup of tea with his Cambridge University colleagues when another biologist, Dr. Muriel Bristol, made an interesting claim. Bristol asserted that just by tasting her tea, she could infer whether the tea was poured into the cup before the milk, or the milk before the tea.

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Science behind-the-scenes: Which fields are “real sciences”?

Author: Bryan Moyers

Content Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Molly Kozminsky

Senior Editor: Alisha John

 

 

Well, that field isn’t really science.”

Oh, that’s just a soft science.”

Most people who work in the sciences have probably heard phrases like these.  Translation: that field is lesser.  The physicists say it about everyone lower than them in the pecking order, as do the chemists, biologists, and so on down the line.  The nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford famously said, “All science is either physics or stamp-collecting.”  People argue about this at scientific conferences and in the media.   The science and pop-culture webcomic xkcd has even parodied the issue.

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Communicated, not classified: The importance of collaboration in science (Science behind-the-scenes)

By Molly Kozminsky

Close your eyes and picture a scientist. What do you see?

In 1983, David Wade Chambers published results from a study conducted on 4,807 children as they progressed from kindergarten through fifth grade in the United States and Canada. The test? To draw a scientist. In what must rank as one of the most adorable research experiences ever, the drawings were scored for seven indicators of a “standard image of a scientist:”

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