Hot Jupiters: The OG Exoplanets

Author: Hayley Beltz.
Editors: Alison Claire Ludzki, Callie Corsa, and Sarah Kearns

Take a moment to remember that you and everyone you know live on a small blue orb hurling itself around a hot ball of hydrogen and helium that pays us no mind. Furthermore, we are only one of eight staggeringly diverse planets within our solar system that have been making this trip for billions of years. These planets range from hot rocks too small to even hold onto an atmosphere to cooler, massive gas giants where a day lasts less than 10 hours. Our solar system is only one of many (billions) and is only a small sample of the set of possible planet types and configurations. When astronomers started to look outside our solar system at nearby stars and the planets that orbit them–known as exoplanets–we began to understand just how strange other worlds can be.  Our solar system was unable to prepare us for what we saw first: Hot Jupiters. Continue reading “Hot Jupiters: The OG Exoplanets”

Changing Scholarly Publication Practices: The Open Access Movement

By: Sarah Kearns. Edited by: Srihari Sundar & Whit Froehlich

Online presence and shareability of content are ever-more important in our modern and increasingly digital world, and science and medicine are no exceptions. With published papers still being the standard for disseminating research, journals and publishing companies continue to largely serve as the gatekeepers of scholarly content. Accessibility is a critical component, with journals either labeled as Open Access (OA) or paywalled, the latter implying that readers must pay before being able access the content. The motivation behind OA is that open is better than closed – having access to the complete version of a scholarly paper increases the transparency of research, contributing to a more reliable scientific system. Continue reading “Changing Scholarly Publication Practices: The Open Access Movement”

When venom becomes your painkiller

Author: Attabey Rodriguez-Benitez
Editors: Patricia Garay, Alison Clair Ludzki, and Noah Steinfeld.

Imagine you are not in frigid Michigan but are swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean. The warm waters caress your skin. While you dive past a colorful reef with a plethora of fish, you see an anemone. You know you cannot touch it, because it might sting you with its toxins. Little do you know; these anemones are not the only ones capable of stinging. The reef harbors a far deadlier and more beautiful creature: cone snails. While cute on the outside, these little creatures can contain a venom cocktail of more than 100 toxins.  However, if they do sting, you will not feel any pain at all. This prompted a pivotal change in Professor Baldomero Olivera’s career. Dr. Olivero is a researcher currently at the University of Utah, where he transitioned from studying DNA synthesis to studying cone sails indigenous from his hometown in the Philippines. Continue reading “When venom becomes your painkiller”

The Quantum Tunnel

Author: William Black, Edited by Zena Lapp, Zuleirys Santana-Rodríguez, and Whit Froehlich

Quantum_Tunnel_Blueprint.png

Some say that studying a flower’s structure makes it less beautiful—that it’s best to appreciate the façade at face value, without details of underlying mechanisms. I wholly disagree. Knowledge of how a leaf photosynthesizes gives botanists greater awe for its elegance. Knowledge of how black holes tear at the fabric of spacetime gives physicists greater wonder for the universe. Knowledge of the quantum realm gave me a greater appreciation for Ant-Man and the Wasp. It can even give insights into where the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) may be headed with Avengers: Endgame. To better understand how the quantum realm works, I’ll expound on the powers of Ghost, the main antagonist of Ant-Man and the Wasp, and how they relate to probability clouds, Schrödinger’s cat, quantum tunneling, and the current state of the MCU. Continue reading “The Quantum Tunnel”

So close, yet so far: Why “the pill” for men isn’t right around the corner

Author: Ashley Melnick
Editors: Stephanie Hamilton, Christina Vallianatos

Family planning is an important component in many relationships; this includes preparing for planned pregnancies and navigating ways to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Since prescription-based birth control hit the market, women have mainly been responsible for taking “the pill” and utilizing other methods of pregnancy prevention, such as cycle monitoring, rings, and patches. In December 2018, the CDC released data indicating the pill was the most commonly used form of birth control (12.6%) after sterilization (18.6%), with long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) like intrauterine devices (IUDs) trailing closely behind (10.3%), followed by male condoms (8.7%). With new advances in reproductive health research, a similar breadth of contraceptives is becoming available for men, which will soon give men more family-planning options. Western societies have recently pushed men to take larger roles in raising a family, ranging from paternity leave to being stay-at-home dads, and others beyond and in between. Developing additional options for male contraceptives will give men and women, both in relationships and as singles, more options when it comes to planning for children or preventing pregnancies. Continue reading “So close, yet so far: Why “the pill” for men isn’t right around the corner”

Feminine, Masculine, or Androgynous: How Do We Characterize Science?

Author: Kristina Lenn
Editors: Isabel Colon-Bernal, Jessica Cote, and Whit Froehlich

Being confronted with our own biases is a humbling experience. I hate to admit it, but for most of my life, even when I was in college, the images I had of scientists and engineers were typically of men. Growing up, the parochial school I attended taught us that men are supposed to be providers and women are supposed to be nurturers. According to my teachers and pastors, men are more logical and women are more emotional; therefore, men are more reliable for leadership roles. Popular culture at that time, which is unfortunately not very different from today’s, was full of references to dumb blonde women, women’s “excuse to be crazy” once a month, and men’s mistrust of “anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn’t die.”

Continue reading “Feminine, Masculine, or Androgynous: How Do We Characterize Science?”

 Who owns cells and DNA?  Property rights get messy in biology

Author: Sarah Kearns
Editors: Genesis Rodriguez, Zena Lapp, and Whit Froehlich

Scattered around your house or apartment, lightly coating the surface of your coffee table and lurking in the nooks and crannies of each room, discarded layers of yourself can be found in the form of skin and hair cells. Regardless of how much of clean-freak you are, it’s unlikely you miss the over one million cells you shed per day. One might go so far as to say that they aren’t even yours in the first place as you sweep them up during a spring cleaning before irreverently dumping them in the waste bin. But what if someone came into your house and took them? Continue reading ” Who owns cells and DNA?  Property rights get messy in biology”

Girls Who Code take on Computer Science Education Week

Author: Brooke Wolford. Editors: Zena Lapp and Whit Froehlich

It is not directly apparent, but a lot of computer code is working behind the scenes to allow you to read this article! In fact, computer code runs a lot of the modern world. Computer and mathematical occupations are the sixth-fastest-growing of 22 major occupational groups in the U.S., and are projected to account for 4.3 million American jobs in 2020.

This week (December 3-9 in 2018) is Computer Science Education Week, an effort to encourage K-12 students to take interest in computer science, frequently observed with Hour of Code events. Unfortunately, only 35% of high schools teach computer science. Furthermore, fewer than one-fifth of Computer Science graduates are women, and the gender gap is getting worse. To try to bridge this gender gap, a University of Michigan graduate-student led organization, Girls Who Code at University of Michigan Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics (UM DCMB), pursues computer science education year-long through K-12 educational outreach efforts primarily serving young women. GWC at UM DCMB is a recognized Voluntary Student Organization (VSO) founded by doctoral students in the Bioinformatics graduate program in 2017. The organization, led by an eight-woman Executive Committee, coordinates a weekly Girls Who Code (GWC) Club as well as extensive K-12 educational outreach efforts. Continue reading “Girls Who Code take on Computer Science Education Week”

The Mental Health Toll of Graduate Education: How Lack of Support and Work-Life Balance Affect Graduate Students

Author: Isabel D. Colón-Bernal; Editors: Callie Corsa, Zena Lapp and Irene Park

When I first came to the University of Michigan for recruitment weekend back in March of 2015, I was shocked to hear other recruits commenting on how Michigan graduate students seemed more cheery than graduate students at other institutions. I was even more shocked to learn students at other institutions have died by suicide recently; these include but are not limited to Anna Owensby from Scripps Research Institute, Jason Altom from Harvard University, and Han Nguyen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Continue reading “The Mental Health Toll of Graduate Education: How Lack of Support and Work-Life Balance Affect Graduate Students”

Benefits of Nutrition in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship

Author: Lei Wan
Content Editor: Zena Lapp, Kristina Lenn; Senior Editor: Sarah Kearns

Disclaimer: The opinions in this post belong to me. Patients should consult their own physicians about what will work best for their treatment and recovery plan.

When I volunteered in a cooking class for cancer patients and cancer survivors, I was often asked about nutrition and dietary supplement choice. For example, patients with colon cancer would ask if they should take omega-3 fatty acids; patients with prostate cancer were interested in taking lycopene and vitamin E. I pondered the same questions when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and when her cancer recurred—would she recover faster if she ate more cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts? These questions are also of interest to the public, given increasing evidence supporting the role of nutritional factors in cancer development. Continue reading “Benefits of Nutrition in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship”