New elements on the block

Author: David Mertz

Editors: Tricia Garay, Irene Park

Ever since an interactive display was built in my high school chemistry lab (one of only six such installations in the world), I’ve found the periodic table of elements to be a fascinating fixture of science. I remember watching the scientists prepare little displays for each individual element, including the metal gallium which they let me hold in my hand. It was different than most of the metals familiar to us. With a melting temperature just below 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), the metallic cube began to melt right on my palm. Continue reading “New elements on the block”

Communicating science: From Michigan, across the world (wide web)

By Ada Hagan

“Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone” – Albert Einstein

We’ve discussed it on the blog before, but science has a communication problem. Sure, research is performed and shared via research articles or at scientific conferences, but rarely do scientists directly relay results outside of their academic niches. Few scientists disagree with broader science communication in theory, especially since much of the funding for research is provided by taxpayer dollars. And we learned in our first “Science behind-the-scenes” post that the final step of the scientific method is to “communicate your results.” So why is it that researchers don’t interact more with non-researchers regarding science? Part of the issue is that the intense specialization of researchers into a narrow topic, combined with a lack of effective communication training, makes effective communication a difficult task.

Continue reading “Communicating science: From Michigan, across the world (wide web)”

Science and social media: How “oversharing” is helping human genetics

By Christina Vallianatos

We live in an age where oversharing is overabundant. From your best friend’s artsy food pictures (#boozybrunch), to your coworker live-Tweeting her labor experience (“C-section in 20 minutes!”), it seems like we know the intimate details of everyone’s lives, all the time.

But what if some of those TMI moments weren’t necessarily “too much information”? What if they’re actually helping to solve one of the biggest dilemmas in human genetics: the identification of disease-causing genes?

Continue reading “Science and social media: How “oversharing” is helping human genetics”

Virus vs. Bacteria: Enemy of my enemy

By Ada Hagan

In 1917, almost a century ago, a French-Canadian scientist, Felix d’Herelle, and his colleagues discovered bacteriophage. As I discussed in a previous post, bacteriophage (phage) are the viruses that prey on bacteria, turning them into viral factories. The battle between phage and bacteria has raged for millennia, resulting in a beautiful co-evolution where predator and prey each grapple for a temporary upper hand.

We’ve been exploring the depths of this complex relationship, searching for ways to use this enemy of our enemy as a tool against the bacterial infections that plague us. Along the way, we’ve found a number of different techniques to exploit these micro-allies.

Continue reading “Virus vs. Bacteria: Enemy of my enemy”

Michigan Meeting 2016 Coverage

microbe mtgs

MiSciWriters is proud to partner with the UM Center for Microbial Systems to provide live coverage of the 2016 Michigan Meeting “Unseen Partners: Manipulating Microbial Communities that Support Life on Earth.” In lieu of our traditional Tuesday post, we will be live-blogging the event at the links below, and live-tweeting from @MiSciWriters during the following times:

  • Monday, May 16 9:00am-3:30pm, 7:00-8:30pm
  • Tuesday, May 17 9:00am-3:30pm, 7:00-8:30pm
  • Wednesday, May 18 9:00-12:00

We hope you’ll join in the conversation by commenting on the blog, or tweeting with the hashtag #MiMicrobe. Enjoy!

Update: Live blogging coverage is released as an event unfolds, placing the posts in reverse-chronological order. So if you want to read everything, start from the bottom of the page.

Monday, May 16 Coverage – https://misciwriters.com/portfolio/michigan-meeting-2016-monday/ 

Tuesday, May 17 Coverage – https://misciwriters.com/portfolio/michigan-meeting-2016-tuesday/

Wednesday, May 18 Coverage – https://misciwriters.com/portfolio/michigan-meeting-2016-wednesday/

Don’t sweat the small stuff: Exercise is Medicine® for stress relief

By Alison Ludzki

April is Stress Awareness Month

April is a natural fit for Stress Awareness Month, playing host to inevitable final exams and tax season. But is there a way to avoid the stress that comes along with them?

Stress means different things to different people, making it hard to define. Most importantly, stress is a hormonal response to danger. However, stress can also occur in response to not-so-dangerous occasions in our day-to-day lives, including routine events like work, family interactions, and other daily responsibilities. When these stressors are ongoing, they can have physical and mental health consequences. Continue reading “Don’t sweat the small stuff: Exercise is Medicine® for stress relief”

Induced stem cell power: The power to reset a cell’s career path

By Shirley Lee

Featured image: Induced pluripotent stem cells stained red, their nuclei are stained blue. Source.

When I was first taught the process of embryonic development in biology class back in high school, I was amazed by the complexity of the process. Each one of us was derived from a single cell (the result of the joining of an egg and a sperm), which then went through countless cell divisions. It amazes me that something so small is packed with so much biological potential!

Naturally, scientists set out to get to the bottom of this phenomenon. In the 1990s, people discovered how to extract these cells (called stem cells) from developing human embryos in order to study the process underlying stem cell development in research laboratories. Continue reading “Induced stem cell power: The power to reset a cell’s career path”

The fecal frontier

By Kevin Boehnke

Written for the prompt: What is the most important fundamental mystery in biology today that, if unlocked by basic research, would yield the greatest dividends for human health?

Poop. For good reason (it harbors deadly pathogens), this ubiquitous, noxious substance provokes an instinctive reaction of disgust. Despite the near-universality of poop and fart jokes, humans have spent much time, energy, and money to avoid contact with feces. Yet poop has great potential to improve human health through medical treatments,prevent disease through microbiome maintenance, and mitigate effects of antibiotic resistance. A better understanding of poop could improve millions of lives and save billions of dollars per year in healthcare costs. Continue reading “The fecal frontier”

Water splitting part II: Research at University of Michigan

By Jimmy Brancho

You know what they say: “You can’t store solar energy without cracking a few water molecules.”

Or, at least, many scientists around the world are working to make that so. As was discussed earlier on this blog, solar water splitting could enable a cleaner energy future by storing energy from the sun’s rays in a stable chemical fuel like hydrogen that can be used on-demand. Ideally, the only inputs needed would be water and sunlight, and the only waste product oxygen. However, the current state of technology is a long way off. Bart Bartlett, Charles McCrory, and Neil Dasgupta are among several faculty here at the University of Michigan that are working to make solar water splitting devices a reality. Each of them approaches the  problem from a diverse angle.

Continue reading “Water splitting part II: Research at University of Michigan”

Coding in the classroom: The next generation of computer literacy

By Hillary Miller

Remember when “computers skills” meant you could type a certain number of words per minute while keeping your hands on the home row? Back in the early 2000’s, I took a keyboarding class where they taught us how to type and said, “You’re good!”. Looking back, though, there was so much more to learn.  I don’t believe my teachers were intentionally withholding information about computers and all their uses, but additional training would have been useful later in life.

Continue reading “Coding in the classroom: The next generation of computer literacy”