Should auld classrooms be forgot? Reshaping the classroom to fight childhood obesity

By Alison Ludzki

While many adults are making resolutions to get back into shape in the New Year, what about our kids? With our children trading tee-ball for tablets, 12.7 million children and youth in the United States are obese. Could the classroom be a good place to start combating childhood obesity?

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Peanuts and probiotics

By Ada Hagan

Image Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/peanuts-nuts-food-peanut-healthy-316608/
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George Washington Carver, probably without realizing it, was one of the first proponents of plant probiotics. Carver was a faculty member at the Tuskegee Institute in the early 1900’s and re-introduced the concept of crop rotation with peanuts, soy, and other legumes to U.S. agriculture. By alternating corn and cotton crops with peanuts, farmers could replenish the nutrients in the soil but continue harvesting a cash crop. Legumes are an intriguing type of plant since they rely on bacteria, such as Rhizobia, that grow in specialized nodules on their roots to provide them with nutrients, like nitrogen. In return, the plants supply the bacteria with sugars and oxygen for growth, a symbiotic exchange for nutrients the legumes cannot produce themselves.

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The budding brain: How yeast give rise to treatments for neurodegenerative diseases

By Sara Wong

What do humans and baker’s yeast have in common? Surprisingly, they share a massive amount of genetic information and are governed by many of the same cellular processes. Although yeast do not have organs or limbs, they work like human cells and can be used to study a wide range of human diseases. Yeast are cheap, grow quickly, and are easily manipulated. These qualities allow scientists who study yeast to discover new genes and pathways relatively easily compared to other model organisms, like mice. One area of yeast research focuses on understanding neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

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Terrified by math? Don’t pass it on.

By Kimberly A. Brink

For some, math is a terrifying ordeal. Fractions provoke anxiety. Splitting the bill with friends is a stressful affair. And don’t even ask what the tax will be on that discounted shirt. I had a friend who found math so anxiety-inducing that the night before every math exam she developed what she affectionately called her “math rash”. If this sounds familiar (excluding perhaps the rash), you might have what it is known as math anxiety. Math anxiety is the feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear at the prospect of doing math. What’s more, if you’re a parent, you could be at risk of passing it on to your kids.

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The how and why of a universal flu vaccine

By Shauna Bennett

A new school year has started, crispness is returning to the night air, the maple leaves are reddening, and everything is pumpkin spiced. This can only mean… flu season is coming.

The influenza (flu) virus is associated with thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year, and flu season has become synonymous with the winter months. The best way to combat flu infections is the vaccine offered each fall. The seasonal flu vaccine has its limitations, however, due to its extensive development process.

What would it take to make a vaccine that doesn’t need to be revamped every year? Scientists are getting close to an answer, but it’s easier said than done.

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“Thinking fluids” and the science of studying crowds

By Molly Kozminsky

Although we have to wait until December 18 for the next Star Wars movie, some characters have already made an appearance in our lives as toys. Eager fans lined up for the release of the new toys at midnight on Force Friday, September 4, giving retailers a taste of the Black Friday crowds to come. So how should stores prepare for the upcoming sea of shoppers craving Star Wars swag?

Holiday shoppers on the warpath
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The brain game

By Ellyn Schinke

What if you could play a game to improve your memory or rehabilitate after a stroke? And I don’t mean Sudoku or crossword puzzles either. I’m talking video games!

It’s no secret that gaming systems that involve whole body movement like Wii and Microsoft Kinect could be used as a tool to battle obesity in children in the United States. But many people have legitimate fears that video games could lead to addiction, social isolation, or excessive violence. Despite these concerns, research has shown that video games may be beneficial for reasons other than weight loss or hand-eye coordination. This research has suggested that there are neurological benefits of video games that could vastly outweigh the cons!

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What the nose wants: Why the scent of gasoline is irresistible to some

By Shweta Ramdas

A month or so ago, I casually mentioned to my labmates that I can’t get enough of the smell of gasoline, and that I had stolen a whiteboard marker from our lab to sniff when I was particularly frustrated with research. This had two results: my labmates now tease me mercilessly, and I realize that not everybody is as enamored by these smells as I am.

The latter was quite an epiphany: I had imagined that everyone finds the smell of gasoline ambrosial. So why isn’t it true? Being a geneticist, of course my first thought was that it must be all in the genes.

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Health literacy — It ain’t just about education

By Silver Lumsdaine

Literacy Drug_Package_Insert
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Drug Package Insert (FDA 115)

“The great enemy of communication…is the illusion of it.” –William H. Whyte

What if 9 out of every 10 Americans had trouble understanding and responding to ordinary traffic signs? It would be a national emergency, of course. Imagine the chaos, the crashes, and the loss of life that would occur if people didn’t know how to interpret stop signs, one way signs, do not enter signs, speed limits, and sharp curve ahead warnings. The public’s health and safety would be in grave danger and immediate action would be required.

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