Cool Videos: Cytotoxic T Cells on Patrol

Love a good science video! Great blog post on NIH Directors Blog

NIH Director's Blog

Cytotoxic T Cell Video screencapture

Wow! It’s one thing to know that the immune system has the power to destroy cancerous cells. But it’s quite another thing to see a cytotoxic T cell actually take out a cancer cell right before your eyes.

This amazing video was produced by Alex T. Ritter as part of Celldance 2014, an annual video series by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). To make this series happen in 2014, ASCB staff contacted cell biology labs known for their sophisticated imaging tools and techniques, asking them to submit proposals for videos. In return, ASCB provided some funding, post-production support from a professional videographer, and an original soundtrack from the up-and-coming Hollywood composer Ted Masur.

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NASA day of remembrance

Fallen astronauts and NASA personnel are pictured on a board displayed in front of the Space Mirror Memorial, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, during NASA's Day of Remembrance. (PHOTO/Jon Shaban, Staff)

Fallen astronauts and NASA personnel are pictured on a board displayed in front of the Space Mirror Memorial, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, during NASA’s Day of Remembrance. (PHOTO/Jon Shaban, Staff)

Hearts are heavy on the Space Coast as NASA marks the most somber week in its history Wednesday.

NASA’s annual Day of Remembrance began with a ceremony in front of the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex containing the names of the 17 astronauts lost in the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia disasters.

  • Apollo 1 — On Jan. 27, 1967 a deadly launch pad fire killed the crew’s three astronauts.
  • Challenger — On Jan. 28, 1986, space shuttle Challenger exploded seconds after liftoff, killing all seven crew members on board.
  • Columbia — On February 2, 2003, the seven-member Columbia crew was lost when the shuttle disintegrated returning from orbit.

Wednesday morning, those 17 astronauts, along with pioneering test pilots who paved the way for space travel, were remembered as a wreath was placed at the foot of the memorial.

The official Day of Remembrance website.

#Science Quotable: Carrie Wolinetz – President of @UMR4NIH… Again!!


We commend Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) for introducing two new pieces of legislation this week that would boost federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – the American Cures Act and the Advancing Biomedical Research Act. With stagnant funding levels surpassing a decade, our nation is falling deeper and deeper into a medical innovation deficit. These steadfast congressional leaders recognize our country’s dire position and the importance of making lifesaving and economy-fueling NIH funding a top priority in the 114th Congress. – Carrie Wolinetz, PhD, President, United for Medical Research

Again, because of this #Science Quotable posted yesterday…. also from Carrie Wolinetz!

RIP Nobel Laureate and Laser inventer Charles Townes

Charles Hard Townes, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for invention of the laser and subsequently pioneered the use of lasers in astronomy, died early Tuesday, Jan. 27. He was 99 and in failing health, and died on his way to the hospital.  Check out his achievements and contributions.

Clockwise from top: Charles & Frances Townes at the Amazing Light Symposium in 2005; Townes early in his career; discussing physics with Reinhard Genzel; 'The Bench' where he sat as his thoughts on how the laser could work became clear; his 99th birthday on the UC Berkeley campus; at work in mid-career. Collage by Sarah Wittmer, physics department.

Clockwise from top: Charles & Frances Townes at the Amazing Light Symposium in 2005; Townes early in his career; discussing physics with Reinhard Genzel; ‘The Bench’ where he sat as his thoughts on how the laser could work became clear; his 99th birthday on the UC Berkeley campus; at work in mid-career. Collage by Sarah Wittmer, physics department.

Gender Bias against women of color in science #WeWantEquality

Professor Joan C. Williams and the Center for WorkLife Law released the report, which demonstrates in startling fashion how subtle—and not-so-subtle—bias shapes the daily work lives of women in STEM, and how women’s experience of gender bias is shaped by race. Summarized here.

Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science was written by Professor Joan C. Williams with coauthors Katherine Phillips of Columbia and Erika Hall of Emory University.

“This is the first time someone has asked women whether they have encountered in actual workplaces the specific types of gender bias documented in social psychologists’ labs,” said Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Hastings, and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law. “The startling result: 100% of the women interviewed reported gender bias. Also, studies of gender bias generally focus on the experiences of White women, leaving unanswered the major question of whether the same patterns of bias extend to women of color. This report finds that women of color experience pervasive gender bias—but in ways that often differ from the ways White women experience it.”

Significant findings of the report include:

  1. 100% of the women interviewed reported gender bias.
  2. Black women are more likely (77%) than other women (66%) to report having to prove themselves over and over again.
  3. The stereotype that Asians are good at science appears to help Asian-American women with students—but not with colleagues.
  4. Asian-Americans reported both more pressure than other groups of women to adhere to traditionally feminine roles and more pushback if they don’t.
  5. Latinas who behave assertively risk being seen as “angry” or “too emotional,” even when they report they weren’t angry; they just weren’t deferential.
  6. Latinas report being pressured by colleagues to do admin support work for their male colleagues, such as organizing meetings and filling out forms.
  7. Both Latinas and Black women report regularly being mistaken as janitors.

The implication: women leave STEM in response to pervasive and persistent gender bias.

To download the complete report, Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women of Color in Science, please click here.

What is Science Journalism worth??

A two part post on The Open Notebook about the value of science journalism.

Part I

Part II

Definitely check out the posts in entirety.  Here is a preview:

The money in this job sucks. Let’s get that out up front.

Even from my first days of grad school I knew that a majority of my college classmates working in the corporate and finance worlds were making scads more money than I was—and probably ever would. But, as I smugly told myself, I love my job.

And I still do most days.


After 11 years of freelancing, I’ve added a mortgage and two kids to the mix. As science journalism tosses about in the current (everlasting?) economic maelstrom that is publishing, it gets harder and harder to sustain myself financially. And I’m not the only one.

The combination of the collapse of print advertising, declining magazine subscriptions, the enormous availability of free content online, and the rise of the gig economy, has led to pay rates that have stagnated for the last 30 years, says Robin Marantz Henig, freelance writer and president of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). This malaise has writers of all kinds talking and writing about their job security fears and inability to make a living wage in journalism.

The current economic state of science journalism is making it increasingly untenable to do serious and thoughtful work. Low and even declining pay rates are also pushing many of us to become what we’ve always feared—the harried reporter who turns in subpar copy that rests on thin reporting and shaky fact-checking because we literally can’t afford to spend one more minute on it. It’s also keeping the gates closed to more diverse perspectives from those who are less privileged—those would-be writers who must choose a career track with a real paycheck over a writing internship or a newsroom job.

“There is the disappearance of the idea that you can live the life of the mind and actually make a living at that,” says Henig. “None of us got into this profession for the money, but we did expect to make a living wage.”

It’s good that writers are talking about the problem with each other, in the halls at conferences, on online private forums, and on blogs. While much of that may be intended as venting, sharing knowledge also increases our collective power. We need to continue to shine a light on this issue. Barring a miraculous influx of cash to the system, this is the reality that freelance science writers and editors must work within. The challenge for all of us will be finding ways to continue to produce quality work under these financial constraints.



New movement to achieve scientific reproducibility

Highlighted in the Washington Post, a new movement aimed at ensuring scientific reproducibility- primarily by making data more publicly available.  Unfortunately, some amount of fraud and irreproducibility have been plaguing the current scientific system for some time (as mentioned in previous posts), and now there’s a drive to fix these issues.

And so there’s a movement afoot, and building momentum rapidly. Roughly four centuries after the invention of the scientific method, the leaders of the scientific community are recalibrating their requirements, pushing for the sharing of data and greater experimental transparency.

Top-tier journals, such as Science and Nature, have announced new guidelines for the research they publish.

“We need to go back to basics,” said Ritu Dhand, the editorial director of the Nature group of journals. “We need to train our students over what is okay and what is not okay, and not assume that they know.”

The pharmaceutical companies are part of this movement. Big Pharma has massive amounts of money at stake and wants to see more rigorous pre-clinical results from outside laboratories. The academic laboratories act as lead-generators for companies that make drugs and put them into clinical trials. Too often these leads turn out to be dead ends.

Some pharmaceutical companies are now even willing to share data with each other, a major change in policy in a competitive business.

Continue reading

See the Future of SpaceX – Super cool video animation of Falcon Heavy liftoff and flight!!

Falcon Heavy | Flight Animation

When Falcon Heavy lifts off later this year, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. Thrust at liftoff is equal to approximately eighteen 747 aircraft operating simultaneously.