18 April 2014 - Vol. I Issue No. 1
CONTENTS 18 April 2014 - Issue No. 1
Editor’s Choice 5 Sustainability The Dickinson Farm The Center for Sustainability Education The Greenhouse 6 Health & Wellness The Wellness Center Nutrition The Pre-Health Program 7
Liberal Arts & Science Education Political Science History
Editor’s Choice: Q & A
The Role of the Inflammatory Response in the Cholesterol Pathway
Portable Molecular Diagnosis Device Using Surface Acoustic Waves
Student Research Investigating the Breathing Mechanism of Snakes
Ultrafast Lasers Solar Air Heaters
Measuring Global Warming Writing Code for a New Generation
32 SEM/EDS Harboring the Heat 33 Monitoring Brain Function Lake Laboratories
Opinion 34 Should the U.S. Ban Bisphenol-A? It’s a No-Brainer!
World News Bionic Hand Allows Man to “Feel” Again
Breaking Bad: Respect the Chemistry
Mood-Stabilizing Effects of Exercise
Medication Found to Reduce Heavy Drinking
Elysium: Inaccuracies Abound Blade Runner: Old One but a Good One
Ending Alzheimer’s at its Roots
A Qualitative View of Substance Use Initiation
Campus News Students Impress at the Biology Symposium
Can Lawns be “Bad”?
Faculty Research At the Interface of Organic and Inorganic Chemistry
Cancer Cells on the Move
Moralization and Smoking
15 Jamison Lecturer Explores Artistry and Mood Disorders 16-17 Club Updates Features 18-21 The Joseph Priestley Award 22 Dr. Nancy Roseman Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Cover Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
The Joseph Priestley Award p. 20
Under the Microscope with David Richeson
Topic Search Biology - p. 14, 23, 27, 31 Chemistry - p. 26, 32, 36 Computer Science - p. 31 Earth Sciences - p. 32, 35 Environmental Science - p. 25, 33 Health & Wellness - p. 6, 11, 12 Mathematics - p. 38 Marine Science - p.10 Medicine - p. 10, 12, 13 Neuroscience - p. 13, 33 Physics - p. 15, 24, 29, 30 Psychology - p. 15, 24, 28 Sustainability - p. 5
Letter from the Editor Lunch with NASA’s Scientists “Space exploration,” “final frontiers,” and “Mars exploration” are phrases not too commonly heard on Dickinson’s campus but were the words uttered repeatedly at the NASA conference I attended last year. On December 17th, I had the privilege of dining with NASA’s top scientists and members of the Maryland Space Business Roundtable and meeting brilliant minds. Among them was Harold Stinger, founder and chairman of Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies (SGT), one of the many aerospace services companies in the conference room. I was also able to meet the speaker of the lunch, Dr. James B. Garvin, who served as NASA’s chief scientist and is known for his work with NASA’s Mars exploration programs. He is currently NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Sciences and Exploration Directorate Chief Scientist and had his work featured on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2004.
The last conversation I had was with Dr. Dorothy J. Zukor, who is the Deputy Director of Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. As a member of the Earth Science Division, Dr. Zukor studies the interactions of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and land, measuring different parameters of the Earth’s system to understand how the Earth functions and changes. Moreover, I was surprised to learn that while Dr. Zukor was leading the Earth Sciences at the Space Flight Center, Dr. Hansen was leading the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, which has been a part of Dr. Zukor’s division for 32 years. Dr. Zukor also mentioned that she has known Dr. Hansen since 1989, the year she started working in the Earth Sciences Center. After I told her that Dr. Hansen was awarded the Joseph Priestley award at our college, she was thrilled to hear how her former colleague was doing and stated that “Dr. Hansen is an excellent and conscientious scientist.” I then asked Dr. Zukor about her thoughts on Dr. Hansen’s work with climate change.
Dickinson Science Magazine Editor-in-Chief Gloria Hwang ’16 Managing Editor Lydia Marks ’14 Executive Layout Editor Michaela Shaw ’16 Associate Layout Editor Piper Moore ’15 Executive News Editor Elizabeth Hardison ’16 Associate News Editors Samantha Bellissimo ’16 Melissa Rifkin ’17 Features Editor Rachel Suppok ’16 Executive Graphic Designer Carolyn Helfand ’16 Graphic Designers Callan Donovan ’16 Luke Kang ’16 Kaylee Mueller ’16 Executive Research Editor Kathleen Collins ’16 Research Editors Samantha Gulick ’16 Emily Miller ’14 Grace Mulcahy ’16
Science & Technology Editor Kathryn Davison ’16 Science & Entertainment Editor Kevin Doyle ’16
Dr. James B. Garvin
(left) and Harold Stin
During the lunch, I contemplated how I could share my experience with the Dickinson community. I thought about my friend who loves Planet Earth movies. Then I thought about the Astronomy Club members and how they might like to know about the mobile lab on Mars that Dr. Garvin spoke about. I wanted to tell my first-year advisor, Professor Hans Pfister, and the Center for Sustainability Education about NASA’s plans to add 6 square-meter solar panels on the Mars 2020 rover. Perhaps I could even talk to the Earth Sciences Department about the layered volcanic sedimentary Shaler outcrop within the Gale Crater on Mars and if Earth presents anything similar. Dr. Garvin also spoke about the idea of collecting biological samples from Mars to be purified by his team. I thought I could ask what the biology department thinks about the kinds of microorganisms that these samples could bring to Earth. Furthermore, Dr. Garvin spoke about the theory of “collisional universe,” referencing the Mistastin Crater 36 million years ago in Labrador, Canada, formed by the collisional energy of about 10 to 20 hydrogen bombs. I would like to ask the Chemistry and Physics & Astronomy Departments about this kind of energy and force. Finally, I thought about the Priestley awards and our latest recipient, Dr. James Hansen. Perhaps Dickinson might like to know about Dr. Hansen’s colleagues and others in his field.
Dr. Zukor began by stating that her division’s satellite data shows climate change occurring. “For example, there has been a dramatic decline in summer arctic sea ice coverage over the last few decades. These changes are consistent with a rise in atmospheric CO2, which we have seen increase steadily since the industrial revolution,” says Dr. Zukor. Dr. Zukor also attested that “the Earth is an extremely complex interconnected set of systems... NASA can provide the data and the analysis and the models.” Lastly, as I asked her how young people should respond to climate change, she responded, “Stay informed—talk to people in the field, read about it.” With this first issue of the magazine, I am delighted to be able to share this experience with Dickinson and I want to thank you for reading the Dickinson Science Magazine. We are a student-run media organization which will print every semester and we feature science-related news, research, technology, entertainment, and opinions on campus. Our staff list illustrates all of the brilliant minds involved in the production of the magazine. Furthermore, I hope you are informed, educated, and inspired after reading it. Have a great rest of the semester!
Gloria Hwang ’16 Editor-in-Chief
Content Editors Zacharia Benalayat ’17 Gabrielle Frenkel ’16 Opinion Editors Tiffany McIntosh ’16 Caio Rodrigues ’16 Photography Editor Alexander Dillon ’17 Photographers John Vetromile ’17 Madeline Wheeler ’17 Executive Copy Editor Elizabeth Lanigan ’16 Copy Editors Allison Charles ’14 Laura Hart ’15 Secretary Jessica Sinchi ’14 Communications Manager Jessica Sykes ’16 Business Manager Andrew Nissman ’15 Event Coordinator Janice Wiss Student Advisor Matthew Korb ’14 Faculty Advisor Missy Niblock Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ DickinsonScienceNews Issuu: http://issuu.com/dickinsonsciencemagazine
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Editor’s Choice Sustainability What’s New?
The Dickinson Farm Jennifer Halpin Director and Farm Manager I am not a scientist. I am a farmer. My training in this profession took place mostly outdoors on farms and through the senses: seeing, listening, smelling, and tasting the changes in the soil, crop health, and plant vigor and most importantly, taste. Farming is a practice that combines the sciences with keen observational skills, trial and error and dogged perseverance. Farming does not take place in a controlled environment. Instead, it requires constant adjustments and the ability to anticipate what has not yet happened, like the smell of a distant rain in the air. These are skills
Photo Courtesy of dickinson.blogs
that take years to develop, no doubt requiring a longstanding commitment to working the land and observing nature for subtle clues. Many farmers have come to realize that following nature’s lead is the best way to build resilience within a landscape. The act of managing a farm as an ecosystem and a living organism has fueled the sustainable agriculture movement worldwide. Theories and practices that encourage the coexistence between soil and humans inspire farmers to work with the land and the billions of bacteria, fungi, enzymes, macro- and microorganisms that support soil and crop health. This is done through mimicking nature and building a farming ecosystem that creates space and habitats for that which ensures resilience: plants for pollinators, wildlife corridors, polycultures, and even renewable energy applications. As opposed to a “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to growing food, sustainable agricultural systems seek to sustain the natural environment through innovation, diligence, and an appreciation for how their actions will impact future generations of farmers and eaters. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
The Center for Sustainability Education Lindsey Lyons Assistant Director, Center for Sustainability Education “The nature principle holds that a reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival” (Louv). To that principle, years of environmental education studies and experiences have led me to connect the natural world to education, both as a tool and a necessity for the health and happiness of myself, my children and my students. Environmental educators believe that teaching others how to learn about and investigate their environment to make intelligent, informed decisions about how they can take care of it is the foundation for creating the world we want. David Orr shared in Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect, “the plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it” (12). One educational pedagogy that helps connects these principles is place-based education. Though the term place-based education made its way into educational research almost 25 years ago, I believe we have grown further from mastery of this practice in education as we grapple with more pressing global issues. The basic thinking is, as we educate, creating a relationship between the learner and the characteristics that make a place special or unique will help foster a sense of authentic human attachment and belonging, ultimately improving the learning and motivation to remain connected. Place-based education invites students to become active citizens, energizes educators, transforms educational institution culture, connects institutions with communities, and encourages stewardship (Placebased Education Evaluation Collaborative, or PEEC). Comprehending the science and challenges of global issues such as climate change, poverty, water security, and biodiversity loss can be overwhelming. Technology and globalization have changed the way we think, learn, and function. David Gruenewald (2003a) states that placebased pedagogies, the counterpart to globalization, “are needed so that the education of citizens might have some direct bearing on the well-being of the social and ecological places people actually inhabit.” Where you live determines how well you live, and who you are determines how you interpret that place. Sense of place has been shown to be influenced by exposure to nature, freedom to play during childhood, the role of family, culture and community in one’s life (Sobel, Gruenewald 2003b, Gustafson 2001). We see in a place what is important to us, be it art, people, plants, animals, change, tradition, or equity. Place-consciousness has entered many disciplines, but remains complex as an educational pedagogy as we move past geographic location and into a realm of connectivity. Understanding place and using knowledge of this
consciousness in educational practice can lead to vital understanding of our relationships with each other and with the physical world. It is critical to not only know where we are, but why that place matters in order to learn and be driven to act. This relates not only to the mission of Dickinson College in creating a useful education, but to those struggling to understand what sustainability means to them. Know your place, connect to it, find ways to improve it, and you will better not only yourself but the world around you. Place matters.
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
The Greenhouse Ann Dailey Greenhouse Manager
What do butterflies, salamanders, salt water, and grape vines have in common? They are all part of new or ongoing projects at the Dr. Inge P. Stafford Greenhouse at Dickinson College. Last September, this state-of-the-art research facility was officially dedicated, and the first “full” semester is now underway. The three independent research modules, as well as the main room, house projects which are either hands-on labs for classes, or are being conducted in partnership with other schools and entities. One example is an ongoing project between Dickinson College, Penn State, and the Department of Defense to help save the Regal Fritillary Butterfly, a large orange and black butterfly that was once prevalent throughout the eastern U.S. Because the butterfly relies on just four types of plants during its life cycle, habitat destruction has now reduced the butterfly to one colony located at Ft. Indiantown Gap, PA. Due to our new facility, Dickinson College has been tasked to grow the plants needed for their survival: violets, milkweed, thistle, and grasses. These plants will be studied and then planted at various locations throughout Pennsylvania to foster new butterfly colonies. As part of the project, students learn about conservation, habitat formation, and the environment. Peek into Zone 2 and you will find bubbling aquariums in which Professor Wingert’s Wildlife Ecology class is raising various invertebrates, the larva of salamanders, and various species of tadpoles which breed in vernal ponds. This project is part of a larger program to assess the diversity in an archipelago of six vernal ponds located on South Mountain, about ten miles from campus. The students also hope to discover the various interactions of predator and prey in these ecosystems. As greenhouse projects continue to grow, stop by and see what our students and our college are up to- it changes constantly!
Health & Wellness Theoretical and Scientific Underpinnings of the Wellness Model
The Science Behind Healthy Weight Management
The Pre-Health Program: Guiding Students to Careers in the Health Professions
Dr. Alecia Sundsmo
Executive Director of The Wellness Center
In 2011, the College merged the Counseling and Health Centers into the Wellness Center. The reason for this was two-fold. First, to integrate the healthcare provided to students. Second, to emphasize that health is more than the absence of illness. Services would therefore be provided that help students maintain their well-being. After all, we are an educational institution, not a clinic or a hospital. We should therefore help students learn about their health, both in terms of how to treat illness and to promote well-being. People have different associations with the term wellness. For some, it calls to mind a primary education of eating right and exercising. For others, it is a fluffy term associated with self-indulgence and an excuse not to work hard. What we mean by wellness is more in line with the Socratic idea of an examined life. We are asking students to look at themselves, their relationships with others, their decision-making, their values, etc. It is hard work to turn the lens inward and be accountable for making changes. The scientific literature supports a variety of approaches to well-being. Keyes (2002) proposed a continuum
Our weight is regulated by our body’s energy balance, the energy content of food eaten (measured in calories) and energy expended by the body to maintain life and to perform physical activity.2 Energy comes from the food we eat and is contained in the food’s own molecular structure.1 When this energy is absorbed in the body, it is either used as fuel or will be stored for future use in the form of adipose (fat) tissue. Energy output is dependent on multiple factors including the basal metabolic rate (BMR), physical activity, and the thermic effect of food. BMR accounts for 60 to 70% of our body’s energy expenditure and is defined as the amount of energy required to maintain life, i.e. breathing, maintaining heartbeat, digestion, sustaining body temperature, and excretion of body toxins.3 Physical activity accounts for 20 to 30% of our energy output and thermic effect of food, the increase in metabolic rate after ingestion of a meal, accounts for less than 10% of energy output.3, 4
“People have different associations with the term wellness.” of mental health, from flourishing to languishing, that is separate from that of mental illness. He also created a measure of this continuum that rates the emotional, social, and psychological components of mental health (Keyes, 2009). Cloninger (2006) describes an approach to well-being focused on character traits, identified as self-directedness, cooperativeness, and self-transcendence. These traits are not static factors but are ones that can be improved through intervention. Most of these models are focused on well-being from a mental health perspective, but literature also indicates these factors impact our physiological well-being, such as the meta-analysis on mindfulness-based stress reduction (Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, et al., 2004). While the Wellness Center does not subscribe to one particular approach to well-being, we work with students to help them meet their goals. Students interested in improving their well-being are encouraged to call for an appointment at 717-245-1663. *See page 37 for more information
Every year, new students arrive at Dickinson with plans to pursue health-related professions following graduation. Most of the professional programs they want to pursue require specific science courses within the application, so it is important that program participants begin considering academic major and course options early in their time at Dickinson. The Committee for the Health Professions (CHP), a group of seven faculty members and two Career Center staff members, operates the Pre-Health Program to help students explore major and course options to reach their goals following graduation. The CHP members serve as Pre-Health Advisors for students in the program, assisting them with course selections and getting to know them personally. The Career Center PreHealth Advisor is also a part of the program and assists students with healthcare career exploration and experiential opportunities, as well as with all facets of the lengthy application processes. Pre-Health Advisors assist students with prepar-
Photo Courtesy of Debi Swarner
Photo Courtesy of Kathryn Davison ‘16
Ultimately, to maintain weight, one would need to create a zero balance between the amount of energy eaten and the amount of energy expended. When weight loss is desired, one would need to create a negative energy balance, thereby creating a calorie deficit. It is important to know that creating too large of a deficit, in which the amount of energy consumed does not meet the BMR, leads to the overall decreasing of metabolic rate and under-nourishing of the body. This explains why fad diets that are overly restrictive can have such adverse effects. Similarly, when weight gain is desired, the balance tips in the other direction, which results in a positive energy balance. Regardless of direction, energy balance (zero, negative, or positive) is highly variable over a one-day period, and the desired energy balance is achieved only when averaged over longer time periods.2 If you have questions or concerns about weight management, please contact the Wellness Center at 717245-1663. *See page 37 for more information
Associate Director of The Career Center Pre-Health Advisor
ing for life after Dickinson beginning their first year. This year, group advising was instituted and has worked well for first-year students. In subsequent semesters, committee members advise students’ selections of classes individually and collect evaluations from other faculty members who share insights into the academic successes and personal qualities of students. These evaluations then support each faculty pre-health advisor as they assist students with sections of their applications in pursuit of professional school after graduation. Watching our students graduate and pursue professional education and careers in the health professions provides the reward for our work. We are proud to have a network of alumni serving the community in a variety of health professions that includes medical doctors in many specialties, optometrists, podiatrists, physician assistants, and nurses, along with other members of the healthcare system. If you are interested in considering health professions and joining the Pre-Health Program, please contact the Career Center at 717245-1740. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Liberal Arts & Science The Importance of Science Education
Priceless: Problems of a Managed Death
Why Global Health Needs Liberal Arts Graduates
James M. Hoefler
Hilary A. Smith
Science is a series of processes used to answer fundamental questions about our universe. As new scientific information is acquired, this information is applied as technology. A positive feedback develops and the loop becomes a spinning wheel, flinging new products of civilization in all directions. The information gained through science and the ensuing technology has virtually turned the world of scientific knowledge upside down during the twentieth century. The world has been shrunk to a 3-inch screen, we wear wristwatches that can communicate with the world, and we are probing the edges of our universe and
Death can be a creepy topic, right? If you are a student, maybe the topic seems more irrelevant than anything else. But consider this before you stop reading: A little over three million people die in the U.S. every year, and well over two million of them die a “managed death.” The concept refers to a death that occurs after a decision is made to withhold or withdraw a treatment at the end of life. In about half of these “managed deaths,” the patient will be incompetent to make decisions about end-of-life care. In those cases, family members are left to make these all-important decisions for the patient. Judgments about what life-sustaining treatments a loved one will or will not receive can be some of the hardest and most heart-wrenching decisions one will ever make. If you decide to forgo life-sustaining treatment early on, you may worry that you are “jumping the gun.” On the other hand, if you decide to prolong life-sustaining treatment for any length of time, you may worry that you are subjecting your loved one to unnecessary, unwanted, uncomfortable, and maybe even painful procedures that the patient would never choose to undergo if able to voice an opinion. There are two things that are certain. First, end-of-life decisions will have to be made in the majority of cases. Second, family members who have to make decisions in the blind, not knowing for sure what their loved one would want, run the risk of being tormented with doubt about the right thing to do, perhaps for the rest of their lives. Most Americans want to die at home, but most die in an institutional setting. Most Americans want to have loved ones around them when they die, but most are alone when they pass. Most Americans want to have their pain and other symptoms controlled when they die, but many suffer uncontrollably at the end of life. In the end, most Americans do not get the death they want or deserve because they have not made it clear to their loved ones what it is they would want when death come knocking. What can you do about this? Tell your parents what you would want at the end of life so they will know if they have to decide for you. Ask them what they would want so you will know if it falls to you to decide for one of them. Also, encourage your parents to have conversations with your aunts and uncles and grandparents about all this. The results of these conversations could be the best gift you could ever give them: peace of mind. Peace of mind will come from the knowledge that they were able to honor that loved one’s preferences and priorities when the time comes (as it surely will) for them to help make end-of-life care decision on that person’s behalf. Can talk about managing death seem creepy? Sure. Will it be hard to broach this subject with your parents? Almost certainly. But the payoff – peace of mind - promises to be, as they say in the credit card ads, priceless.
We can’t understand some things about disease without knowing something about history. Take malaria, for example. Intergovernmental and philanthropic organizations have recently launched Roll Back Malaria (RBM), a campaign to eradicate the disease from the tropical world by funding insecticide-treated bed nets, drugs, and vaccine development. Admirable as this campaign is, it ignores the global history of malaria in consequential ways. Malaria has not always been a tropical disease. Not too long ago, it bedeviled parts of the U.S. and Europe, and has appeared in such un-tropical settings as Siberia. What these places have had in common is not climate but social and economic features: exploitative labor regimes that placed workers among mosquitoes in poor living conditions, maximizing exposure; or wars and economic deprivation that displaced large numbers of people. Where such conditions persist, malaria persists. Moreover, where malaria has been eliminated, it has primarily been through socioeconomic change, not biomedical solutions. Malaria declined in England and the U.S. mostly because increasing prosperity and equality allowed those countries to “grow
Visiting Professor in Biology
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
looking inward to the nature of matter and energy. The science fiction of Star Wars has become reality. Life processes are being manipulated and speculation of biorobotics and the extension of life for centuries seem within the realm of possibility. We are able to measure every square centimeter of our planet several times each day with regard to temperature and the composition of the atmosphere. We can note the movement of any place on Earth to a centimeter. The excitement of current science is greater than any time in history and shows no evidence of slowing down. Every aspect of our lives depends on science and technology. As this dependency grows, it is imperative that we understand the consequences of our population growth and the influence that we have on our biosphere. However, a consortium of economic, political, and religious groups has begun to confuse the public about scientific discoveries. These groups are educating our population that science is something you can believe in selectively and that anyone’s opinion is credible science. Nearly half of the American population denies evolution and global climate change, and refuses flu shots. Science education is at a crossroads and needs quick and defined actions or we will find ourselves heading into another “Dark Age” of knowledge. Every student should graduate with a secure knowledge of scientific processes and the literature of science. High quality science teachers are necessary to accomplish these goals. We must bring the public back to the excitement of discovery that permeated our education system in the 1960s and 1970s following the launch of Sputnik. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Professor of Political Science
Assistant Professor of History
“Malaria has not always been a tropical disease.” out of ” the disease, as the scholar Randall Packard puts it in his book The Making of a Tropical Disease. We have tried a narrowly biomedical approach to malaria eradication before, and it has failed. In the 1950s and 1960s, the World Health Organization launched the Malaria Eradication Program (MEP), using the powerful insecticide DDT to wipe out the mosquito vector. But mosquitoes developed DDT resistance, the parasite developed resistance to malaria drugs, and funding faltered. Most significantly, the program did not address underlying factors of poverty, poor living conditions, and displacement that fueled the disease. So the MEP ended in quiet failure. Today, mission statements by proponents of RBM might lead one to think that malaria had been reduced primarily by medical means, and that RBM is the first international effort to control the disease. Fortunately, as liberal arts students, Dickinsonians know better; they master scientific techniques essential to future breakthroughs, but also develop the historical understanding necessary to avoid repeating previous missteps. With their help, we stand a better chance of truly rolling back malaria.
Editor’s Choice: Q & A
What do you consider to be the largest problem with our current healthcare system?
National health systems are complex, multi-sector networks of individuals and organizations collectively responsible for the delivery of health care services. The United States current system of health care is characterized by high levels of dysfunction within and between system components. These include financing, insurance, delivery, and payment components. A root cause of dysfunction is related to competitive strategies employed by health care providers. David Sarcone Although these strategies are rewarded within the current health care system, they fail to match proAssociate Prof. vider incentives (payments) with health system of International performance goals that incorporate a balance of Business and access, quality, and cost objectives. Management Two key competitive strategies negatively impact the current system. First, driven by payment mechanisms which pay for each discrete service provided, revenue-generating strategies encourage investment and consolidation of capital assets almost exclusively targeted toward creating capacity to build service volumes across a broad range of care. Payments on a per unit basis of care for these services are received primarily from third party payers with limited out-of-pocket contributions from the direct recipients of care. Lowered consumer price sensitivity coupled with volume based provider incentives results in heightened volumes of care, spurring growth in costs but not necessarily promoting higher quality or increased system value. Second, in order to reduce operating expenses, individual system participants engage in cost shifting practices which increase individual organizations’ profitability in the short term but do not encourage collaborative efforts to implement system-wide efficiencies targeted at overall system cost reductions. The alignment of incentives with performance goals is a challenging undertaking for numerous reasons including, but not limited to, the variation in service delivery models ranging across the continuum of care from prenatal to palliative care and the difficulty of reaching consensus on specific metrics for each. Provisions to better align provider incentives with system performance goals are part of the recent health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act. These provisions are slowly and cautiously being implemented, but much work remains. Given the underlying American belief in a market ideology, the system will remain troubled until mechanisms are found which best tie provider incentives to goals which lead to a sustainable system of care.
I echo T.R. Reid’s view (The Healing of America) that our greatest problem is failing to regard health care as a right that we are morally obligated to protect and advance. Because of our reluctance to apply the rhetoric of human rights to health care in the U.S., we fail to regard J. A. Skelton our methods of providing Associate Prof. and financing health care as of Psychology a unified system. Instead, we enact policy changes directed toward one part of the system (e.g., insurance), hoping such changes will indirectly improve accessibility, quality, and cost of care. It is an inefficient way to make policy. Because we do not recognize a human right to health care, we discuss its provision and financing in terms of “balancing” economic interest with the public interest. The latter should establish the boundaries for the former. Yet we place at least as much weight on costs and benefits to insurers, hospital corporations, and other providers as we do to costs and benefits for members of the public. We do not act swiftly and decisively against suspected threats to public health because “health” has less status than “property” in our scheme of rights. It is no wonder that common sense proposals to limit portion sizes of sugary drinks are shot down for interfering with vendors’ commercial prerogatives. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) did not define health care as a human right, and so we still lack universal coverage in the U.S. However, if we see health care through the lens of “rights,” then there need be no arguments about how to provide care to those left out behind by the ACA. The U.S. has signed numerous international agreements that hold health care to be a human right. It is long past time for us to act as if those signatures were more than mere symbolism.
As a sociology major pursuing the health studies certificate, my passion for understanding society informs many of my beliefs, including my perception of American healthcare. I believe that disparities in healthcare access are one of the biggest problems with the current system because the prevalence of social disparities has prevented the equal availability of quality health care. For example, individuals of low socioeconomic status are less likely to be able to afford expensive but life-saving treatments. Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act alleviates some financial burden, not all procedures are covered. Moreover, people who cannot afford physician-based care may abuse free emergency care, costing hospitals time and money. Individuals of racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to remain undiagnosed and untreated for major diseases than non-minorities because, among other reasons, of lack of cultural competence among physicians. Historically, communication between white, wealthy doctors and their minority patients has been littered Sara Tyberg ’16 with mistrust and discrimination. Subsequently, these individuals avoid professional treatment, seeking more Sociology Major personalized—but sometimes less qualified—care. Lastly, while strides are being made for LGBTQ marriage equality, members of the gay community also face health challenges. In areas where non-heteronormative identities are harshly marginalized, LGBTQ-identifying individuals may be reluctant to release their sexual history to physicians out of fear, compromising their ability to receive proper care. Regarding American healthcare, social issues are just as relevant as financial, economic, or political issues. Marginalization in society carries over into the healthcare system, where I believe more consideration should be taken to provide adequate resources for marginalized groups.
According to Dickinson students:
13% I t’ s
18% It Needs Further Reform
29% It’s Not Covered For Some
6% Unavailable for Immigrants
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Photo Courtesy of PNAS
“Restoring the sense of touch will dramatically improve the dexterity of amputees whilst improving their ability to perform daily activities.”
Photo Courtesy of John Vetromile ’17
“Student researchers stood proudly by their semester’s worth of work, prepared to answer any questions regarding their procedure and results.”
▶ JONATHAN JACKSON ’14 ▶ ELIZABETH GRABOWSKI ‘17 from “Bionic Hand Allows Man to ‘Feel’ Again”
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
from “Students Impress at the Biology Symposium”
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
“We need to change course,” says Pfister, “and we need to make the change from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”
“That was my only requirement in my contract with Dickinson, my only demand was to still be considered a professor and be a member of the faculty.”
▶ PROFESSOR HANS
▶ PRESIDENT NANCY
PFISTER from Sahil Naayar’s article, “The Power of LED”
ROSEMAN, on the prospect of
teaching at Dickinson
World News All articles in the World News section were taken from the blog, Atoms Up, associated with the Writing Science News Class (SCIE 259) taught by Professor Missy Niblock biannually in the spring. To learn more “news about science from molecules to marine life to medicine,” visit http://blogs.dickinson.edu/ writingsciencenewssp14/.
Humpback Whales Threatened by Oil Rigs
By Kellianne Peterpaul ’14
On February 4th, 2014, Conservation Biology published the findings of Howard Rosenbaum and colleagues who discovered that humpback whales are being threatened by their proximity to oil and gas rigs off the coast of Africa. Researchers found that humpback whales migrating from their breeding grounds towards feeding grounds in the Antarctic are forced to navigate around oil rigs, causing them to ingest harmful toxins. Scientists used satellite tags to track the migration of 15 humpback whales in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Humpback whales were located mostly in Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria, and Angola, the coastlines of which overlap with offshore hydrocarbon operations and major shipping lanes. They found that humpback whales spend about 40% of their time near oil rigs and gas platforms. Seventy-six percent of their time is spent within 200 miles of the coasts of countries that have the rights to exploration and use of marine resources for energy production. According to Howard Rosenbaum “there are indications that oil production in these coastal regions has and will increase in the coming years. So gaining a better understanding of the movements of whales and quantifying the degree of overlap with anthropogenic activities will help assess the potential risks to this population, and identify migration strategies that should be considered to better protect whales.” Their results and the population-level data suggest that the pollution levels in the whales’ migration path pose a threat to the humpback population. The authors of the study point to human behavior as a key factor in affecting change for the Humpback populations. According to Sara Maxwell, co-author of the study, “knowing not just where animals are going, but what kind of human activities and potential threats they are facing gives us insight into how we can effectively help them while still maintaining the services that we as humans rely on in the ocean.”
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
Bionic Hand Allows Man to “Feel” Again By Jonathan Jackson ’14
What was once science fiction is now reality. In early February, bioengineers in the lab of Silvestro Micera achieved a breakthrough in bionic prosthetic development, according to results published in Science Translational Medicine. The loss of an appendage is debilitating, and even with prosthetics, amputees still experience a loss of “lifelike” sensations. A bidirectional pathway in the human nervous system allows for motor control and manipulation of appendages through concurrent sensory feedback to the brain. The researchers’ aim was to return real time sensation from a bionic hand to the amputee. Clinical trials demonstrated that their bionic hand, called LifeHand2, could successfully renew sense of touch in an amputee patient. Dennis Aabo Sørenson lost the lower portion of his left arm during a fireworks accident on New Year’s Eve. Researchers tested their product on Dennis because preliminary studies suggested he had retained functional nerves in his left arm. A surgical procedure implanted four electrodes at the base of his arm, which were connected to artificial sensors in the hand. These electrodes received electrical signals from his nervous system. Computer algorithms were developed to convert electrical signals from the nervous system into motion of the mechanical hand. Simultaneously, any sensation felt by the hand would be sent back towards the brain, connecting the bidirectional loop of the sensation. In subsequent trials, Dennis was blindfolded and required to wear headphones. A series of trials assessed his ability to autonomously control force when applied to a sensor. The crux of the research demonstrated that Dennis was able to discern between differing objects through touch. Restoring the sense of touch will dramatically improve the dexterity of amputees whilst improving their ability to perform daily activities. Because of the research’s novelty, further trials need to be conducted before LifeHand2 can be considered for commercial use. In the meantime, the bionic hand will be amended to provide optimum performance. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Football Helmets Reduce Risk of Concussion by Only 20% By Todd Smolinsky ’14
By Lydia Marks ’14
Health & Wellness
Health & Wellness
In February, the American Academy of Neurobiology published a report by Doctors John Lloyd and Frank Conidi that modern football helmets only reduce the risk of concussion by 20%. This study, associated with the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology and the Florida State University College of Medicine, tested ten different types of modern helmets to measure their ability to reduce concussions. Surprisingly, football helmets only reduce the risk of concussion by an average of 20%. Researchers modified the drop test system, which is approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment to test impacts and helmet safety. In this study, sensors were placed in crash test dummies’ heads in order to measure linear and rotational responses to repeated 12-mph impacts. Football helmets are effective at providing protection from linear impacts, which are associated with bruising and skull fracture. On average, helmets reduce the risk of skull fracture by 60 to 70% and reduce the risk of focal brain tissue bruising by 70 to 80%. However, linear impacts are not the mechanism associated with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). “Biomechanics researchers have long understood that rotation forces, not linear forces, are responsible for serious brain damage including concussion, brain injury complications, and brain bleeds,” explained Dr. Conidi, “Yet generations of football and other sports participants have been under the assumption that their brains are protected by their investment in headwear protection.” The difficulty with reducing the risk of concussions stems from the inability to reduce the effects of the rotational and side impacts that are so common on the football field. Further studies are needed observe how helmets can reduce these risks and help limit TBIs, which are increasingly becoming the most detrimental injuries in sports.
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Mood Stabilizing Effects of Exercise
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
In a February study published in Neuroscience, researchers from different universities in Ontario, Canada, collaborated in a study showing that melatonin and exercise could prove to be effective treatments for reducing mania-type symptoms in individuals with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by states of mania, abnormally intensified moods and energy levels, which are sometimes accompanied by states of depression. Pharmaceutical drugs may provide some relief of symptoms, but they are not effective for everyone, and are certainly not a cure for the disorder. Thus, scientists are still searching for potential treatments. The Canadian researchers in this study found that melatonin and exercise are independently capable of stabilizing mood in individuals with bipolar disorder. Typical mania-type symptoms of bipolar disorder include increased activity, increased risk-taking behavior, and reduced sleeping. The researchers used a strain of mouse called Myshkin that carries a gene mutation that makes the mice show mania-type symptoms that are typical of bipolar disorder. The Myshkin mice in this study were compared to wildtype mice, which show ‘normal’ mouse activity, risk-taking, and sleeping behaviors. The researchers found that when the Myshkin mice were given access to a running wheel, and thus performed voluntary exercise, their mania-related behaviors were reduced. This result signifies that exercise was successful at relieving the Myshkin mice of some mania-type symptoms, which is promising evidence for exercise as an effective treatment option for bipolar disorder. Similar to the effect of exercise on the mania behaviors, the Myshkin mice that were given melatonin showed reduced mania-related behaviors in certain behavioral tasks used to measure risk-taking behavior, anxiety, and hyperactivity. The melatonin treatment was also effective in alleviating disturbed sleeping patterns in the Myshkin mice. This research provides evidence for the efficacy of two treatments, melatonin and exercise, for alleviating mania symptoms of bipolar disorder. Since exercise is a low or no-cost treatment, the ramifications of this research could affect a wide array of individuals who have bipolar disorder. Exercise could be used independently as an effective way of alleviating mania-related symptoms, or it could easily be used to supplement existing treatments, such as pharmaceuticals.
Happier and Heavier:
The Costs and Benefits of Labeling Obesity as a Disease By Daisy Bodman ‘15
Health & Wellness
Being fat in America comes with more costs than health. Obese people face discrimination and stigmitization, and are often perceived as lazy or unwilling to take control of their lives. Due to negative perceptions of obesity, obese individuals often face personal blame and dissatisfaction with their bodies. In June 2013, however, the American Medical Association officially labeled obesity as a disease. One intended result of doing so was to reduce the personal blame that obese Americans tend to experience. Curious about how the new public health approach would affect obese individuals, researchers from the University of Richmond and University of Minnesota conducted a study to investigate potential costs of the disease-based public health messaging. As predicted, the study, which was recently published in Psychological Science, found that obese individuals had a more positive self-image when presented with information about how obesity is a disease than when presented with no such information or information about why it is not. The researchers labeled this reaction as a decreased concern for weight, and predicted that the reduced concern would cause individuals to make unhealthier food choices. In fact, participants chose sandwiches that were higher in calories after being told about why obesity is a disease, even when presented with additional information about the importance of exercise and healthy eating. The researchers claim that while they fully recognize the benefits of labeling obesity as a disease, the new public health messaging can skew perceptions of self-accountability in abstaining from unhealthy behavior. One question remains: is it more important for obese individuals to have a positive body image or to be motivated to lose weight? Before jumping to a conclusion, it would be beneficial to investigate whether the two choices are mutually exclusive. The researchers claim that while they recognize the benefits of the new approach, labeling obesity as a disease has “weakened the importance placed on health-focused dieting and reduced concern about weight among obese individuals—the very people whom such public-health messages are targeting.” However, perhaps the obese individuals are not the primary, or at least only, people the message should be targeting. Instead, reducing stigma amongst the entire population, fat and thin, may produce greater positive outcomes for the obese individuals and matter more in the long run.
Medication Found To Reduce Heavy Drinking By Kayleigh Makoid ’16
A Hep-C Vaccination May Be On the Horizon By Bryan Lerner ’14
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
Henry R. Kranzler, M.D. and his team of researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine found that topiramate, a medication used to treat seizures, helps patients who aim to curb alcohol consumption because of the damage alcohol causes to their bodies, their families, and the community. The effects of the drug were significant compared to the placebo in individuals carrying a single nucleotide polymorphism known as rs2832407. Other scientific studies have shown this nucleotide polymorphism to be associated with alcohol dependence. “This study represents an important next step in understanding and treating problem drinking,” Kranzler, M.D. asserts. “Our study is the first we are aware of in which topiramate was evaluated as an option for patients who want to limit their drinking to safe levels, rather than stop drinking altogether.” Approximately 14 million Americans, which is 1 in every 13 adults, abuse alcohol or are deemed alcoholics. Additionally, millions of more adults exhibit drinking habits that could potentially lead to alcohol problems. These habits include binge drinking and heavy drinking on a regular basis. Furthermore, 53% of men and women in the United States report that they have a close relative with a drinking problem. As a result, topiramate may help people to drink at safe levels, especially those people who are struggling with heavy drinking but do not wish to abstain from alcohol completely. Kranzler’s research team worked with 138 individuals who were randomly assigned to receive treatment with topiramate at a maximum daily dose of 200 mg or a matching placebo. Both groups received counseling to aid with reduced drinking. Kranzler’s team hypothesized that topiramate-treated patients would be better able to abstain from alcohol. He predicted that this ability to abstain would be due to the moderation of the single nucleotide polymorphism (rs2832407). The results showed that topiramate significantly reduced heavy drinking days and increased days of restraint from alcohol compared to the placebo. During the last week of treatment, the odds of having a heavy drinking day in the placebo group were 5.33 times greater than in the topiramate treatment group. Additionally, the number of patients with no heavy drinking days during the last four weeks of treatment in the topiramate group was double that of the placebo group. Finally, patients in the topiramate group reported many more abstinent days than the placebo patients. The effect on heavy drinking days was only seen in those patients with the rs2832407 polymorphism, which was congruent with Kranzler’s hypothesis. “The moderator effect of rs2832407, if validated, would facilitate the identification of heavy drinkers who are likely to respond well to topiramate treatment and provide an important personalized treatment option,” the research team stated. “Our hope is that the study will result in additional research that focuses on helpings patients who have struggled with heavy drinking and the problems it causes, but who are unable or unwilling to abstain from alcohol altogether. topiramate may help people to drink at safe levels,” Kranzler states. Furthermore, because it was found that only patients who carried the rs2832407 polymorphism were significantly affected on heavy drinking days, Kranzler hopes that this will “allow us to predict, in advance, who may benefit from treatment, thereby avoiding the unnecessary use of the medication.”
Scientists from Rutgers University and other institutions recently characterized a protein on the surface of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and published their research in the journal Nature on February 19th. Discovering this new information may help lead to the development of a vaccine for this debilitating virus, which affects an astounding 160 million people worldwide. The protein, called E2, is what scientists call a viral surface protein, or a protein that is present on the outer shell of viruses. In most cases, these proteins serve to help viruses interact with receptors on human cells in order to gain entry into the cells and infect them. Learning the extensive biochemistry of these types of proteins can help scientists better understand how viruses infect cells, and in turn can be useful for producing vaccines and other anti-viral drugs. Vaccines often utilize viral surface proteins in order to prime the immune system, so that when a person is actually infected with a virus like HCV, the body already has antibodies (proteins produced by B cells in the immune system that help fight off pathogens) ready to attack the virus. A possible vaccine is of great interest in terms of public health, due to the number of worldwide infections and the associated health risks from infection by the virus. HCV infects hepatocytes (liver cells) and produces a chronic infection that can result in cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and cancer of the hepatocytes. Look for more studies in the near future that follow up on this research and for development of a vaccine that utilizes this information about the E2 protein. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Writing Science News Ending Alzheimer’s at its Roots By Alec Schwartz ’16
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease has for a long time been believed to spread by leaking into less resilient parts of the brain, thereby pooling and causing cell death in nearby areas. Researchers at Columbia University have discovered that this is not the case: Alzheimer’s plots a much more predictable path, transmitting itself neuron to neuron in the brain. Their work has a major impact on possibly all degenerative brain disease research, and could lead to clinical breakthroughs for patients.
“Alzheimer’s disease... takes decades to begin before the first symptoms appear.” Genetically altered mice capable of making abnormal human tau proteins were used to confirm the mechanism by which tau spreads. The researchers used biochemical staining techniques to watch the disease as it began in the entorhinal cortex of the brain (responsible for memory and navigation) where cells first started dying. After tangling up and killing the brain cells there, the tau proteins spread
Can Diuretics Be Used to Prevent Autism? By Wes Dean ‘14
On February 8th, French researchers published an article in Science with data supporting the hypothesis that diuretic drugs can be used to prevent autism onset at birth, as the drugs lower chloride levels in the brain. Scientists believe that abnormally high levels of chloride in nerve cells at birth may be a cause of autism. In the womb, chloride levels are kept high in neuronal cells to assist in normal development. However, during birth and delivery, the mother releases the hormone oxytocin, which dramatically decreases the chloride levels. The decrease in chloride is fundamental for normal brain development. This is commonly known as the autism “switch” – the switch is on in the womb, and must be flipped off at birth for normal brain development. Children with autism have a problem turning the switch off. To show that high levels of chloride correspond with autism onset, the researchers looked at two rat models of the disease. In both, the blocking of oxytocin at birth resulted in high levels of chloride and future development of the animal version of autism. Along with blocking oxytocin, the scientists administered the mother a diuretic right before delivery, which in turn caused lower levels of chloride in the neurons and no development of the disease. The findings may implicate future treatment, and possibly even prevention, of autism spectrum disorders. The data also support a previous study in 2012 in which autistic children were given diuretic drugs and saw generally improved symptoms.
The Dog Nose Knows By Carly Pierson ’16
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
Figure 1. Progressive spread of tau to regions of neurons in the brain’s hippocampus in mice.
outward to other cells in the same network, inflicting cell death upon contact. While the study was conducted on mice, they possessed human tau proteins, giving researchers the idea that the same phenomenon occurs in humans. Past research on hypotheses for how Alzheimer’s spreads have involved autopsies and brain imaging studies. Doctors Karen Duff and Scott Small and their colleagues at the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center found these past studies “indirect and inconclusive.” They were not able to differentiate between whether or not tau proteins spread by leaking into weaker areas of the brain, or whether they indeed travel along networks of neurons to spread cell death. Tau spreads from regions in the brain that handle memories into more crucial areas that involve reasoning and remembering. Normally, tau proteins stabilize the networks of healthy neurons that process and transmit electrical signals throughout the body. However, tau can detach and form clumps that can disrupt the flow of these networks and kill surrounding cells over time. In the study, tau was only capable of undergoing transmission from nerve cell to nerve cell. Researchers also focused on the spread of another protein called beta amyloid, which forms plaques that enable the transmission of tau. It may be possible to block the production of beta amyloid and the spread of tau by targeting this cell-to-cell transmission. Alzheimer’s disease has long been hypothesized to take decades to begin before the first symptoms start popping up. Therefore, longitudinal studies of biomarkers for the disease take years to provide the pathology leading to dementia. For future studies, researchers can focus on long-term evaluations of human subjects for a greater insight into the disease. Nevertheless, this research is very useful as a biomarker trial and provides opportunities for expansion into designs for clinical trials, more effective drugs, and even prevention trials. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Researchers from University of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Medicine, in Doctor Nick Jeffrey’s lab, were able to restore movement to the hind legs of paralyzed dogs by injecting olfactory cells (cells taken from the nose) into the injury site. Jeffrey’s researchers found that the disconnections in the spinal cord were bonded using the nose cells to form and support nerve growth and repair. After the cells were injected and bonded to the injury site, the neurological puls-
“These findings are groundbreaking for veterinary science and all neurologists” es were able to flow freely from the brain to the spinal cord. All 34 dogs injected with the olfactory cells were able to walk within six months of treatment. None of the dogs had any adverse effects. The cells were taken from the lining of the dog nose and injected into the injury site with only the blood in which the cells were suspended. The cells proved to be regenerative and to mimic the healthy nerve cells that the dogs were missing. These findings are groundbreaking for veterinary science and all neurologists ,but it is unclear why these specific cells function in such a miraculous manner. This is the first effective spinal cord repair in “real life” without the use of prosthetics. Jeffrey predicts that this technique will restore some movement in paraplegic humans. With over 200,000 Americans suffering from spinal injuries, the parallel of this technique in humans would be revolutionary. The researchers assessed the dogs’ mobility on treadmills before, during and after treatment. For example, a 10- year-old Dachshund named Jasper made a full recovery in just six months. Before the injections, Jasper’s hind legs dragged on the treadmill as he used his front two legs to walk. Six months after the injections, Jasper was able to walk at a steady pace on the treadmill, without the help of a harness and with little to no difficulty.
Students Impress at the Biology Symposium By Elizabeth Grabowski ’17
Photo Courtesy of John Vetromile ’17 Samuel Mandl ‘14 chats with Biology Professor David Kushner.
The Dickinson Biology Department pulled out all the stops for the 14th Annual Biology Student Symposium on February 21st. Students and faculty were invited to enjoy refreshments, stimulating conversation, and professional poster displays presented by students during the three-hour event held in the Rector Atrium. The festivities began with two fifteen-minute presentations by Elizabeth Austin ’14 and Rosy Palmieri ’16 on the research they completed over summer vacation. Elizabeth Austin, presenting first, shared her experience researching the damage caused by boat strikes on the humpback whale population off the coast of Massachusetts. Austin, who will be studying veterinary medicine in Scotland next year, enlightened her audience about the threat that irresponsible boating practices pose to these animals on a daily basis. Rosy Palmieri followed on a lighter note with an overview of the research she conducted at Yale University on genetic variation in Mongolian populations. Palmieri enthralled the audience with her enthusiasm on the subject and remained optimistic that continued studies would answer the plethora of questions still clouding the study of genetic variation. After a short break for refreshments, the first cycle of poster displays was opened for presentation. Student researchers stood proudly by their semester’s worth of work, prepared to answer any questions regarding their procedure and results. In fact, questions were welcomed as practice for the professional fairs and conferences at which some students were preparing to present their work later this semester. Seniors Mary DiGiorgi and Leigh Ratino admitted that while it was hard to fit three months worth of work onto one poster, they were grateful for the dry run before their trip to Cedar Crest to unveil their work before the scrutinizing eyes of professional researchers later this spring. Similarly, Professor Scott Boback of the Biology Department expressed that the work of planning the event was worth the opportunity students gained of experiencing presenting research in a semi-professional environment. Of the benefits Professor Boback listed to presenting at the symposium, practice with communication skills and public speaking were at the top of the list. Spending hours with specimens in the laboratory does not necessarily prepare you for the personal aspect of research science. However, one would not doubt the social abilities of these science students! For the remaining two hours of the event, students, faculty, and even President Roseman questioned, answered, and mingled—all in the name of science. I cannot, however, overlook the incredible amount of work that went into making this event possible. Professor Boback and Janice Wiss, a.k.a. the dynamic duo, were able to host a Dickinson College event that surpassed all expectations. The one regret I have about attending this phenomenal event is that I will have to wait an entire year until the next one!
Water, Conflict, and Peacebuilding By Amanda Ratajczak ‘17
In his March 5th Clarke Forum presentation entitled “Water, Conflict, and Peacebuilding,” author and environmental lawyer Carl Bruch outlined the interwoven natures of water and conflict. The presentation was one of five events in the Clarke Forum’s Spring 2014 semester theme of “water.” Bruch has penned and edited a multitude of works regarding environmental law and policy. He also serves as Co-Director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute of Georgetown University and contributes to policy adaptations in Maryland. According to Bruch, water and conflict are inextricably related; water can be seen not only as a cause of conflict, but also as a target during conflict and as an integral piece of successful short-term peacemaking and post-conflict negotiations. In his presentation, Bruch explained that water leads to conflict as a direct result of greed. Only 2.5% of the Earth’s water is potable, and of that, only 5% is properly treated. Due to the limited supply of freshwater, the ever-increasing demand for this invaluable resource leads to scarcity. This shortage is only exacerbated by climate change and population growth. The limited amount of available freshwater is subject to gross inequities, and disagreements often form over the distribution of water and the use of trans-boundary rivers and other bodies of water. Despite these tensions, Bruch dismisses the myth that major wars are to be fought over water in the coming years, because “people cooperate around water much more often
than they fight over it.” Data regarding water disputes show a trend of mainly local conflicts that rarely escalate into anything larger. During conflicts, water becomes a target for biological warfare. As early as 1720 B.C., water was used as a weapon in combat, with rivers being diverted to flood cities and destroy enemies’ livelihoods. Historically, military combatants have been known to employ strategies such as the poisoning of drinking water sources, mangling of water infrastructure, and tampering with irrigation systems. These terroristic acts cause already scarce supplies of water to be stretched thinner. Bruch argues that the excessive degradation of water and the surrounding environment is not a necessity. “Indiscriminate, disproportional damage to water and other resources is illegal under the Law of War. The real issue comes from a lack of enforcement,” says Bruch. Peace dividends are an integral part of the peacemaking process, and ultimately, the long-term peacebuilding process as well. In conflict-torn areas, safe water may become a rare commodity, and thus water services are of the utmost importance and hold heavy political sway. Bruch proposes, “If you are able to deliver water to where it was originally, or rebuild water infrastructure, you can build legitimacy.” Only once infrastructure has been reestablished can one hope to “lay the foundation for durable peace.” The underlying causes of the conflict must be addressed in order to secure longterm peace through peacebuilding. While each of the four pillars of Bruch’s lecture are of equal interest and importance to scholars and policymakers, more
Photo Courtesy of Madeline Wheeler ’17 Carl Bruch speaks at the Clarke Forum.
is understood about the first two: water as a cause and target of conflict. As Bruch noted, examples of these situations are abundant throughout history, whereas the processes of peacemaking and post-conflict peacebuilding are far less concrete. Says Bruch of his work: “This is a cutting-edge field. We are still writing the rules and finding what is effective.” He acknowledges that peacemaking is largely an “imperfect process,” and summarizes his work and similar efforts to create lasting peace around water as a “growing area, but a very promising one.”
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
The Power of LED
By Sahil Nayyar ‘16
Did you know that you could save over $240 just by replacing a light bulb? On February 22nd, I had the pleasure of attending the second session of the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Sustainability Workshop Series, sponsored by the Department of Physics and Astronomy and hosted by Dr. Hans Pfister. These workshops are hosted every fourth Saturday of the month, 9 a.m.-noon, January through April, with each session focusing on a specific topic related to renewable energy. Each session begins with a general overview of project-related physics topics followed by hands-on activities in which participants apply the principles they have learned. This session’s focus was on “Saving Hundreds With Energy-Efficient Lighting.” The day began with a brief lecture on electricity, the relationship between voltage and current, and electrical power. To aid in explanations, Pfister made use of fun and interactive demonstrations, having participants form a circle and juggle steel bolts to explain the concept of current. He also exhibited many of his unique contraptions, such as the hydraulic circuit model, to demonstrate the relationship between voltage and current. Having solidified these electrical concepts in our minds, we then proceeded to evaluate the monetary and power differences between “dinosaur” incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), and the highly efficient LED light bulbs. Don’t be deceived by the numbers! Although these LED bulbs are much more expensive than their “dinosaur” and CFL brethren, they save more in the long run due to their higher energy efficiency and longer lifetime. In addition, LED bulbs are the most environmentally friendly of the three, since their energy-efficient design requires fewer CO2 emissions by coal-powered electrical power plants. After performing some calculations, we proceeded to directly measure the power output of various light bulbs. “We need to change course,” says Pfister, “and we need to make the change from fossil fuels to renewable energy.” Although mainly a plasma physicist, Dr. Pfister has research interests in energy, and has made efforts to educate the Dickinson community on issues related to renewable energy, and the effects of fossil fuels on climate change. Last semester, he taught an introductory-level course on the physics of climate change and renewable energies, and he regularly teaches a junior/senior-level course on energy and environmental physics. If this workshop sounds interesting, there is one more in the series you can attend:
Calculations of the amount of money saved using LED bulbs.
Photo Courtesy of Justin McCarty ’15
“The Q-Box: A Thermal-Storage Device to Reduce Heating and AC Costs” on April 26th. Please call 717-245-1413 to register. For more information, please contact Hans Pfister at 717-245-1307 or email@example.com. All events are free and open to everyone!
Jamison Lecturer Explores Artistry and Mood Disorders By Sahil Nayyar ‘16 & Melissa Rifkin ‘17
On February 27th at 7 p.m. in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter (ATS) Auditorium, Dr. Kay Jamison presented “Mood Disorders and Creativity” as part of Dickinson’s Morgan Lectureship series. Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, was this year’s Morgan Lecturer. The Morgan Lecture is a yearly event featuring a scholar-in-residence who comes to campus, meets with students, and gives a lecture on a topic in the social science and humanities fields. The New York Times bestselling author Jamison, who is widely regarded as the world’s authority on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness, discussed the link between mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, and the apparent prevalence of creativity among those afflicted with such mood disorders.
Dr. Kay Jamison speaks at the Clarke Forum.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Photo Courtesy of Kathryn Davison ’16
Jamison began her talk with a brief overview of the clinical features of mood disorders. Mood disorders generally fall into two categories: bipolar disorders and major depressive disorders. Once described as “a magical orange grove in a nightmare” (Robert Lowell), bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating periods of elevated temperament known as “mania,” followed by those of severe depression. Those afflicted by depressive disorders, on the other hand, experience symptoms more related to depression with a nonetheless recurrent nature. According to Jamison, it is this “orange grove” that has given many of these writers and artists the drive to produce creative material, as their productivity has been statistically determined to be higher during manic periods. Jamison then presented evidence for increased rates of mood disorders in writers, artists, and other creative individuals, while presenting possible reasons for these cases. She first focused on the lives of creative individuals such as Edgar Allen Poe, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf. She then presented the results of larger group-based studies, ranging from those of specific groups of people to those of entire populations. According to Jamison, the rate of mood disorders for writers and artists is much higher than those for the general population, with elevated rates of lethal symptoms such as suicide. The audience was then presented with an analysis of possible relationships between the effects of mood disorders and creativity. Jamison argued that the inclination to “share” is one of the characteristics of mania that accounts for the creativity of many of those afflicted with bipolar disorder. In addition, those with mood disorders tend to demonstrate high levels of introspection, and therefore develop a deep understanding of and sympathy for the human condition. The element of “defiance” that pervades many mood disorders pushes many afflicted individuals to defy standards and think and act creatively. In spite of all these features, Jamison makes it clear that we should not “romanticize” such disorders. Bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder, along with related syndromes, are fatally dangerous in nature, and are deserving of proper treatment through medication. Nonetheless, it is enlightening to examine the links between mood disorders and creativity. Suffering, in Jamison’s own words, is integral to the human condition. By studying the emotional and psychological underpinnings of creativity, we therefore gain a deeper understanding of the human condition and how we are driven to create.
Club Updates Reinvest Dickinson By William Kochtitzky ’16
Reinvest Dickinson (RD) is a student group that came together in November 2012 to ask Dickinson College to divest its endowment from fossil fuels, and to reinvest that money in a Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund and other socially and environmentally sustainable investments. In May of 2013, in conjunction with RD and the Student Senate, the Board of Trustees (BOT) created the Sustainable Investments Task Force (SITF) to review divestment from fossil fuels. SITF completed their work in January of 2014 and has submitted a list of recommendations to the BOT for consideration. At this point in time, Dickinson College will not be divesting, but RD will continue to encourage the school to take steps forward in creating a more sustainable investment portfolio. In addition to pushing the administration towards divestment, RD has worked to educate students and staff about Dickinson’s endowment, its investment strategies, and how it uses fossil fuels in general.
Photo Courtesy of Reinvest Dickinson
Psychology Club By Anna Holmblad ’14
Photo Courtesy of the Psychology Club
By Sam Bogan ’16
The Psychology Club is a group of students and faculty who enjoy discussing psychology in both social and academic contexts. Last semester, the Psychology Club held several meetand-greet events in collaboration with the Dickinson Psychology faculty. During these events, students met with these staff members and had the opportunity to ask them about anything from research opportunities to study abroad classes. This was a great way to not only get psychology-related questions answered, but to additionally connect with the psychology faculty in an intimate setting. Similarly, the Psychology Club hosted several guest speakers from Gettysburg College, the Army War College, and the University of Indianapolis. The presentations of these participants covered a wide range of topics such as child development, psychoanalytic theory, organizational psychology, and human trafficking. Lastly, the Psychology Club held the annual Love Your Body Week, during which body satisfaction is promoted through different uplifting events on campus. This year, it sponsored a talk featuring Nicole Johns, a prominent author known for her memoir, Purge. After her lecture, the “Let’s Eat” dinner followed in Allison Hall and students and faculty were able to speak with Nicole about her experience and the work that she is involved in now.
The Treehouse, otherwise known as the Center for Sustainable Living, is a special interest house at Dickinson that strives to foster a community centered around sustainable living. The house itself is a renovated duplex situated on 532 West Louther Street that is crafted from recycled parts of the campus’s old buildings, and is the home to an array of students of all majors, years, and personalities. While some of these “Treekids” wish to expand their understanding of sustainability, others seek to begin living in a more environmentally friendly way. Despite being known for its mandatory three-minute showers, solar panels, and bike generators, the house’s primary goal is to simply give sustainably a social and residential face at Dickinson. It is a living experiment in communal living, conservation, and student empowerment. The Treehouse hosts a series of events open to all students, including Meet the Treekids, Open Mic Night, and Soup and Bread (a lecture on sustainability issues accompanied by a delicious dinner). Even when these happenings aren’t going on, the Treehouse encourages visitors and its Treekids are always willing to show students
Photo Courtesy of the Treehouse
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Earth Now By William Kochtitzky ’16 This year, EarthNow has been active in eliminating the sale of single-use plastic water bottles, encouraging conversations around fossil fuel divestment, and planting fruit on campus. Hydration stations have been installed in both academic and residential buildings as a convenient way to encourage reusable water bottles. EarthNow recently joined efforts with Reinvest Dickinson in an attempt to convince the Board of Trustees and Administration to divest Dickinson’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Thus far, Conversations with Investure (EarthNow’s investment manager), the BOT, and the college administration have all been successful in educating the Dickinson community about its aforementioned investments in fossil fuels. In the fall of 2013, five apple trees were planted outside of the Dickinson Children’s Center to provide fruit for the community. Finally, EarthNow is in the middle of a campaign to educate members about the benefits and drawbacks of genetically modified organisms. EarthNow is looking forward to continuing to be an active voice on campus about environmental issues.
Physics Club By Justin Brown ’14
The Society of Physics Students (SPS) is an active group on campus that aims to generate excitement about physics. Members of SPS meet weekly to plan and work on physics-related projects used for community outreach. Once a year, SPS holds an event called the Science Spectacular, in which students, faculty, and the Carlisle community are invited to gather in Tome Hall and learn about the group’s latest inventions. Current projects include the Time Fountain (a device that appears to make a falling drop of water stand still), Tome Tag (a homemade version of laser tag), and the Ping Pong Cannon (a device capable of launching ping pong balls at high velocities.) Weekly meetings are a blast and typically include forty-five minutes of experimentation followed by forty-five minutes of project research or construction. Past club experiments have included hovercraft bowling, homemade shocking devices, and creating liquid nitrogen ice cream. SPS enjoys being a part of the Dickinson and Carlisle communities and looks forward to new projects and members in upcoming years.
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By Silvana Kreines ’16 The Astronomy Club is a student-run group that encourages an appreciation of astronomy within both the Dickinson and Carlisle communities. Club members work to further their knowledge by taking advantage of the college’s available observational equipment and educational resources. Each semester, the Astronomy Club holds “Star Parties” that consist of planetarium shows, planet and star cluster viewing through our telescopes, and stargazing from the roof of Tome. The group also collaborates with the Physics Club to host a Science Spectacular in early April. At this event, students, professors, and their families are able to witness different experiments and demonstrations that both clubs have been working on all semester. Some of these include playing with oobleck (a non-Newtonian) fluid, making ice cream using liquid nitrogen, and viewing what the sky will look like in the upcoming months. During weekly Wednesday meetings, the leaders of the Astronomy Club present about the constellation of the Photo Courtesy of the week and end the meeting with a planetarium tutoriAstronomy Club al based on interest.
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Pre-Health Society By Breanna Goldner ’14
The Pre-Health Society (PHS) is a student-run group that caters to those who are interested in pursuing a profession in healthcare. Anyone who is pre-med, pre-vet, pre-dental, or simply interested in an allied health profession is welcome to join. PHS meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month and partakes in a variety of activities, including discussing current issues in healthcare and even inviting speakers to visit and talk about their careers. Previous speakers include a number of alumni who spoke about their current employment and how attending Dickinson helped prepare them for the field of healthcare. Additionally, some of these guests even showed videos and pictures of surgeries they have done and patients they have treated in order to incorporate PHS’s classroom learning with what happens in the real world of medicine. Another component of most meetings is practicing with surgical and instructional equipment. Each April, PHS holds an annual “Seniors Tell All” event in which seniors share why they decided apply to professional schools along with stories about the application processes. Anyone, regardless of their major, is welcome to join the PHS so long as they are interested in healthcare and are eager to learn.
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Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
THE PRIESTLEY AWARD Sustaining the Spark of Scientific Curiosity in the Dickinson Community By Laura Hart â&#x20AC;&#x2122;15
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77 ‘77 Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow
ickinson’s Annual Priestley Lecture is hosted each fall semester by the Clarke Forum and is co-sponsored by the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Environmental Studies, Physics & Astronomy, Psychology, and Mathematics & Computer Science. The purpose of the lecture is to bring to campus a notable scientist whose work has contributed to human understanding and well-being, an achievement for which he or she receives the Priestley Award. The award itself is a ceramic medallion bearing Joseph Priestley’s likeness, cast in the original 1779 Wedgwood mold. It is accompanied by an honorarium, as well as the invitation to come to Dickinson and speak to members of the college and the surrounding community. The Priestley Award Lecturer is selected by the individual science departments on a rotating basis, ensuring both that a diverse range of scientific disciplines is well-represented over the years and that the selection committee is undoubtedly interested in and qualified to understand the full implications of the candidates’ pursuits and discoveries. This award is given in memory of Joseph Priestley, an eighteenth-century Englishman and friend of Benjamin Rush who is best known for his discovery of oxygen. Priestley, however, wore many hats. A Unitarian minister, he also taught English, anatomy, and history, and made many important scientific inquiries beyond those for which he is best-known. He began as a naturalist, collecting plant specimens and fossils with his students. He later performed a series of experiments concerning electricity and published his findings in his 1767 The History and Present State of Electricity, which was of sufficient scientific interest to be translated into several European languages. Priestley later explored the effects of gases such as nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide on obligate aerobes; analyzed the physical and chemical properties of a number of minerals, gems, and other precious
1773 - 1804
materials, including ivory; and even published another work, The History and Present State of Discoveries Relating to Vision, Light, and Colours, in which he discussed his theories on the luminous nature of subjects ranging from glow-worms to rainbows. Several of the tools and apparatuses he used in his investigations can be found in the Dickinson Archives today. Interestingly, Priestley neither conclusively named nor correctly described the combustive role of the element for which we remember him (those were later tasks for Antoine Lavoisier). He was a strong proponent of the now-defunct phlogiston theory, which explained the oxidative phenomena of rusting and combustion with the existence of a fiery, combustive element called “phlogiston;” accordingly, he named his newly-discovered un-combusted element “dephlogisticated air.” Despite evidence to the contrary, he held firmly to this theory throughout his life. He also remained remarkably engaged with the scientific community, even after moving to the United States after his home and lab were burnt down by religious conservatives who disagreed with his scientific and religious views. Priestley argued against Erasmus Darwin’s theory of spontaneous generation and defended the position that microscopic living matter floated in the air (a position later supported by Louis Pasteur). He continued exercising his passion for discovery up to the time of his death, publishing his final paper on atmospheric nitric acid a mere three months before his death at the age of eighty. More than any single discovery, it is this active, lifelong engagement with the scientific community and this bright spirit of inquiry that cement Priestley’s importance to Dickinsonians today. That same spirit of inquiry lives on: in our study nooks, in our compost bins, in our greenhouse, in our fume hoods, and perhaps most pointedly of all, in our yearly decision to invite a scientist to our campus to share with us how he or she is engaging with and changing the world through
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scientific exploration. The Departments of Geology, Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Studies selected our four most recent Priestley recipients. In 2010, the Department of Geology brought Steve Sparks, leader of the Volcanology and Geological Fluid Dynamics Research Group at the University of Bristol, to deliver the Priestley Lecture, “Volcanic Eruptions.” During his talk, he discussed the general mechanism of volcanic eruption, the specific eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano on Montserrat, the role of volcanic activity in shaping the geography of the world as we know it, the development of new computer technologies to model volcanic activity, and the importance of anticipating volcanic eruptions in order to reduce damages to people
The Life of Joseph Priestley
George W. Beadle
Linus C. Pauling
John G. Kemeny
W. Frank Blair
Francis H.C. Crick
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Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
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and property. Sparks is currently completing a five-year-long project on the method of magma chamber formation, which builds on his past research. George Whitesides was selected by the Department of Chemistry to receive the 2011 Priestley Award. His lecture, “Low Cost Diagnostics,” focused largely on the inability of many people in developing countries to pay for healthcare. His proposed solution, a single card which filters blood through several different diagnostic tests, was in a prototypic stage of development at the time of the lecture. He encouraged students to consider careers in the development of low-cost diagnostic tests for those who would not otherwise receive healthcare, warning that such a career would offer little wealth or prestige, but
could truly change the world. The Biology Department awarded the 2012 Priestley to Joan A. Steitz, Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry at Yale. Steitz’s lab is dedicated to researching RNA structure and function. Accordingly, in her lecture entitled “Lupus and Snurps: Bench to Bedside and Back Again,” she discussed her research on RNA splicing, with particular reference to her discovery of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) and the future implications of her research for disease treatment. Despite their varied scientific backgrounds, each of these scientists made obvious in his or her lecture a clear desire to change the course of humankind and create a better world—one with a better understanding and anticipation of natural disaster, more affordable healthcare, and more effective disease treatment. The most recent recipient of the Priestley Award, James Hansen, was invited to campus by the Department of Environmental Studies this past November to deliver his lecture, “White House Arrest and the Climate Crisis.” Over the course of his academic career, Hansen initially pursued physics and astronomy, and his research in the 1970s led to the identification of sulfuric acid in the clouds on Venus. He then turned his attention toward anthropomorphic climate change on Earth. In his lecture, Hansen discussed several aspects of our “climate crisis,” emphasizing government inaction and public disbelief. He then elaborated on the necessity of today’s young adults setting aside their feelings of desperation and unfairness regarding the current state of anthropogenic climate dysfunction and boldly taking action. Hansen is currently in the process of writing and publishing Sophie’s Planet, a compilation of a series of ecologically-centered letters from Hansen (endearingly called Bopa) to his eldest granddaughter, Sophie. In it, he elucidates some of his concerns about the world,
offers some advice for what should be done, and shows the quintessential relevance of scientific inquiry rooted in real-world action. He begins his first letter to Sophie by reflecting on how proud he is of her determination and drive, noting that she will need it to deal with the problems he later discusses, including the present rapid decline of the North American Monarch butterfly and the narrowly evaded extinction of the Whooping Crane. Hansen expresses his concern that species so iconic may become extinct in his lifetime and that interactions we do not even see now will come to a halt. He worries that laws may not come soon enough, that people may not notice what is happening until extinction and climate change are irreversible, and that his granddaughter may have to live in a less diverse world than his own. He expresses his own distress over not being able to fix everything for her generation and attributes much of the problem to a lack of communication between researchers and the public. The needed actions that could change the planet’s course are not being enacted as quickly, or on as large a scale, as they need to be. But just because our scientists have not yet fully communicated, and we, the public, have not fully understood, does not mean that we are without hope. Hansen believes that, with the help of widespread public education on climate change, effective incentivizing of scientific and technological research, and the genuine commitment of our generation, we can literally save the world. If that isn’t the application of notable scientific work to the betterment of humankind, then what is? For more information about the Priestley Award visit: http://www.dickinson.edu/info/20043/about/1973/dickinson_awards/2
Jacqueline K. Barton
Joan A. Steitz
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Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Features Dr. Nancy Roseman: President of Dickinson, Professor of Biology Interview By Taylor Weilnau ‘14
President (and Professor) Nancy Roseman graduated with a B.A. in Biology from Smith College in 1980. After, she acquired her Ph.D. from Oregon State University in Microbiology and continued at Oregon State for her postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics. During this time she studied Vaccinia virus and continued to research this virus through her years at Williams College. Professor Roseman began teaching at Williams College in 1991 in the Biology Department and eventually became Dean of the College in 2000. She continued to work in administrative positions at Williams until becoming the president and a professor of biology at Dickinson College. At that time, molecular biology was not really mature yet. I got swept up in the excitement of this new molecular world and ended up going to graduate school for microbiology. Now, you went to graduate school at Oregon State, if I am right? I started at the University of Texas in Austin, and the professor I was working under got this incredible offer from Oregon State. So I followed him, and we packed up our lab and drove all the way from Texas to Oregon. What was your specific graduate research in microbiology?
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Why did you choose science and, specifically, why biology? It’s interesting actually—I started college not knowing what I wanted to do. I had no preconceived notion of what I wanted to major in. I went to Smith, a liberal arts college. I took a non-majors course in biology called Human Biology. I had this fantastic teacher, and I honestly just fell in love. I loved all the things I was learning in that class, so I just kept taking more and more biology classes. It’s also interesting, [when I did declare], I would always run into people and they would ask what my major was and I would respond “biology,” they would automatically answer, “Oh, so you are pre-med?” Whenever I would respond that I did not want to go to medical school, people would be so confused [about] why I would major in biology! I just honestly really loved biology. I always found that to be such a narrow perspective on being a science major. I took all types of classes with my science courses. Did you have any professors or classes that influenced your future intentions in science? One class that I took that I really loved was Immunology. It was really unusual in 1978 that a small liberal arts college would offer such a specific class such as Immunology. It was truly fascinating to me.
I researched Vaccinia virus, which is a member of the smallpox family, but is actually the vaccine strain of the virus. It was used to eradicate smallpox from the planet. It is the only infectious disease that has been eradicated from the human population using this virus. Smallpox has such a horrible history, from decimating populations of people [to] leaving disfiguring scars. At one point in history, parents would not count a child until the child had survived through smallpox, because its mortality rate was incredibly high. It was also used as an agent of war. Smallpox-infested blankets would be left behind as armies of men were dealing with the French and Indian and even Revolutionary War in the United States. I worked on this virus for my entire career. Your entire career—so even your postdoctoral work was with Vaccinia virus? Yes! So I was minding my own business, finishing up my Ph.D. and I was in the Microbiology Department. I received a phone call from a professor in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department at Oregon State. This woman had written a grant using Vaccinia virus in a completely different way than the work I had been previously doing. It was an opportunity for me to stay in the same university system but learn a whole new approach and set of skills. I spent four years in that postdoc position, and we were absolutely prolific. We made a great team. We truly complemented each other and published a lot of our work. It was like being in a completely different world in that department compared to my graduate work. It was a wonderful experience. After your postdoc at Oregon State, you went on to accept a position at Williams College as a professor of
biology. What did you do in your time there? I started at Williams in 1991 and taught, then became dean in 2000. Even while I was dean, I taught for three semesters. I taught an interdisciplinary course called Society, Culture, and Disease. It was taught with the president of the college, who is an economist and an English professor. It was that kind of teaching that gets me so excited about the interdisciplinary work here [at Dickinson]. I understand the power of this kind of work, and how difficult it can be to teach well. I had so much fun teaching it though. What other courses did you teach while you were at Williams? The very first course I taught was Immunology, but I also taught Virology, seminars on HIV, Introductory Cell Biology, and Biochemistry. In my time there, I also developed a seminar on the biology of aging, which was a completely new discipline for me. I did it on purpose though because I wanted to do something different. Do you see yourself doing any research or teaching while you are here at Dickinson? I will not be able to research while I am here. I am really hoping to get into the classroom. I am very proud of being a professor. That was my only requirement in my contract with Dickinson, my only demand [is] to still be considered a professor and [to] be a member of the faculty. Last question—how do you feel about being a woman in science? That is a very good question. It really depends upon the context. When I attended my very first national meeting at the University of Michigan, a prominent woman scientist came and gave the keynote presentation. I did not really think anything of it until later when I heard people talking in the hall. They were making comments about it that were not relevant to what she discussed. Rather, [the comments were] about her personal attributes and [stated in] ways [that] no one would ever talk about a man, which is sad. Maybe it was attending a women’s college and having that kind of support, but I just remember how heartsick I was, how deflated and disillusioned I felt. Over time though I have seen things change. But the playing field is not quite level.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Investigating the Breathing Mechanism of Snakes
Photo Courtesy of Wes Dean ’14 One of the boa constrictors used to examine the muscles used for breathing. This snake is approximately 3 months old.
By Wes Dean ‘14
Muscles are either stimulated or relaxed by signals sent from nerve cells that begin in the spinal cord. This mechanism is currently being investigated: which neurons in the snake’s spinal cord tell the key muscle used for breathing that it must stretch to allow air into the lung. Unlike humans, snakes do not have a diaphragm and therefore must use a different breathing mechanism. Spanning from the vertebrae and attaching to each
rib is a muscle known as the levator costa, which is a key breathing muscle. Essentially, the snake lifts up its ribs with this muscle, which increases the snake’s volume, and air flows into the singular lung. To exhale, the levator costa relaxes, forcing the air out of the lung. To study this, baby boa constrictors (less than a year old, approximately 1 ft in length) are used for the experiments. The snake is knocked out with anesthetics, and then three separate injections of a tracer are made on the right side of the snake. Only one side of the snake is injected to prevent confusion when examining the spinal cord. The injection is targeted specifically to the levator costa, which is approximately 2mm into the side of the snake, and the tracer is picked up by the neurons in the muscle. The snake is kept alive for one week which allows the tracer to travel up the neuron, back to the spinal cord, where the cell bodies will display the staining. After one week, the animal is killed and the tissues are preserved. The area around the injection site is sliced into very small increments, placed on slides, and then stained in a way that allows the neurons in the spinal cord to be viewed easily under a microscope. The lab has tried two different tracers. The first was a fluorescent labeling, which proved difficult to examine due to the fact that snake tissue actually fluoresces by itself. The second tracer proved to be more effective; neurons were found labeled in the spinal cord. As of now, it is uncertain if these neurons are the ones that are activating the levator costa. More data needs to be examined to confirm these preliminary results. Further investigations would include looking at where exactly the neurons are originating and where they are extending. There is a great possibility that these neurons do not extend directly down, but they may extend diagonally towards either the head or tail and still activate the levator costa at this particular level. Professor Niblock and Professor Boback both oversee this research. Professor Boback has an elaborate background working with snakes, while Professor Niblock brings her neuroscience experience to the lab. The idea for this project came about when John Capano, class of 2013, presented his research on the snake lung last spring. The presentation sparked the discussion between the two professors, and eventually led to their interest in the neuronal activation of breathing muscles. It has been a pleasure working in the lab with these two professors.
The Role of the Inflammatory Response in the Cholesterol Pathway
By Jaimee Perlmutter ‘14
Participating as a research student under Professor Frey for three semesters has been a great experience. My first semester, we started with the basics and I learned how to treat and harvest cells. I was able to collaborate with Sam Silvershein, who was working with murine macrophages. We treated these cells with lovastatin followed by stimulation with lipopolysaccaride (LPS) to induce an inflammatory response. This allowed us to study the inflammatory response within Professor Frey’s main interest, the cholesterol pathway, which is necessary for all animal life. In addition to cholesterol, which is crucial to membranes and used to synthesize vitamin D and steroid hormones, the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway also produces non-steroid intermediates that are necessary for cellular physiology and are known to impact the inflammatory response. We attended the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting in San Francisco in 2012, where we presented our poster during the student portion of the meeting. This was a great experience for me, as it opened my eyes to the public speaking and the communication aspects of research. Last semester and currently, I am working with mice in Professor Frey’s lab. Last semester, as part of Professor Frey’s physiology class, I helped with the class lab experiment, which further investigated the role of the cholesterol pathway in the lung inflammatory response. The class was trying to determine the effect of lovastatin on the inflammatory response of alveolar macrophages (AMs) from both female and male wild-type mice. In order to further investigate the AM inflammatory response, Professor Frey maintains surfactant protein A transgenic mice. Currently, I am organizing the mice colonies and genotyping them. When the pups are old enough to wean, I clip their tails Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
and ears. The ears are clipped in different positions in order to identify them individually. The tails are used for genotyping, because we need to know what strain of mice we have before doing further experiments. Future studies are needed to continue the investigation of the role cholesterol pathway intermediates play in the inflammatory response.
Photo Courtesy of Jaimee Perlmutter ’14 Megan Stekla ’15, Sam Silvershein ’14, Jaimee Perlmutter ’14, and Professor Frey presenting their research at the annual American Cellular Biology Conference in San Francisco, California.
Portable Molecular Diagnosis Device Using Surface Acoustic Waves By Justin Kiehne ‘14
I spent the summer at Pennsylvania State University working with graduate students in Dr. Tony Huang’s Biomedical Nano-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (BioNEMS) lab. A Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from the National Science Foundation funded my experience, along with that of many other students. The Penn State BioNEMS lab focuses primarily on the use of Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) technology for application in lab-on-a-chip (i.e., small-scale bio-analysis) and microfluidic devices. By combining specifically patterned transducer arrays (interdigital transducers, IDTs) with the unique properties of piezoelectric materials, the BioNEMS group is able to achieve biocompatible, contact-free, fluid, and particle manipulation. Due to their unique molecular structure, piezoelectric
Figure Courtesy of PSU IDT-generated standing waves leak into the liquid on the substrate to induce streaming within the droplet.
materials experience mechanical deformation under an applied voltage and, conversely, produce a voltage under mechanical deformation. When a time-dependent sinusoidal voltage is applied to the IDTs, small mechanical deformations propagate through the surface of the piezoelectric substrate. Placing opposite facing IDTs on the substrate produces standing waves. When a liquid is placed on the surface of the substrate, the SAWs produce pressure nodes and antinodes that can be used for manipulation of the fluid and any particles or cells within the fluid. Easy and inexpensive to fabricate, SAW technology has a variety of potential applications in the miniaturization of biological sample testing for point-of-care diagnostics and field use.
I spent the summer designing and testing the SAW device shown in the picture for use in DNA amplification. DNA amplification is an essential step in molecular diagnosis and is the primary method by which opportunistic viral infections such as Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis, Herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), human cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), BK virus (BKV), adenovirus (AdV), and many others are detected. Currently, DNA amplification is performed using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method, which requires extensive, costly equipment and particular, specialized sample treatment procedures. Because of these drawbacks, PCR has failed to become widely available, especially in small laboratories and field diagnostics. Recent innovation in nucleic acid amplification has provided a novel method of DNA amplification that eliminates many of the technological disadvantages of laboratory PCR. Recombinase Polymerase Amplification has significant potential as a fast,
Figure Courtesy of Justin Kiehne ’14 Focused interdigital transducers (F-IDTs) placed on a LiNbO3 piezoelectric substrate. When a sinusoidal voltage is applied, mechanical deformations in the substrate (red lines) form standing waves that heat and mix the liquid in the center.
portable, sensitive, and specific method of DNA testing for use in diagnosis and research. By exploiting recombinase-driven primer targeting, RPA enables low temperature DNA amplification and eliminates the need for cumbersome machinery or extensive pretreatment of DNA. SAW-driven fluid manipulation, when combined with RPA, provides the ability to perform small scale, on-chip DNA amplification. By optimizing SAW device de-
sign to apply sheer force to small volumes of fluid, we were able to achieve the efficient mixing and heating of solution necessary for RPA.
A Qualitative View of Substance Use Initiation By Emily Knight ‘14
Most of the time in research, the end goal is to produce cold, hard data— facts, figures, raw numbers, and significance levels. However, the research that I do with Professor Sharon Kingston confronts situations where raw data doesn’t tell the whole story: the world of qualitative research. This type of research is very time consuming as it largely involves interviews and surveys which can be quite lengthy and must be sifted through in great detail. However, it tends to be helpful in revealing the mechanisms behind various psychological phenomena— the how and the why behind the facts and figures. What Professor Kingston and I do deals specifically with the use and abuse of substances, such as alcohol or illicit drugs. Our study began with the goal of studying substance use initiation— when, why, and under what circumstances people first try tobacco, alcohol, or another drug. We also wanted to find out how this affected their use of substances in the year after they first tried substances in an attempt to pinpoint factors that contribute to problematic use and addiction. We began with a sample of 30 Dickinson students; however our study quickly expanded, and in the interest of adding diversity in lifestyle and substance use history, we added 2 more sample populations. One consisted of 30 local community members ages 18-26, and the other consisted of 26 people in the same age range who had attended or were currently attending a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. With the addition of the Recovery sample, we hoped to find out what the experience of young adults is like in 12-step, what works for them and what does not, as well as why they enter treatment in the first place. Our study encompassed a wide range of ethnic groups, occupations, and socioeconomic statuses.
All participants were interviewed in a semi-structured format for anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes. Then I, along with other research assistants that have been part of the project along the way, transcribed the interviews from tape recordings. We then used the MAXQDA coding program, a new tool that allows us to computerize our findings, to code the interview for common trend. Trends included the environment in which participants first used substances and who they were with when it happened, as well as benchmarkers such as frequency of use and what age participants began using. Professor Kingston developed the coding system that we used to evaluate the substance use initiation in all three samples, and I developed a coding system to evaluate participants’ experience in treatment and 12-step, as well as what motivated them to seek help. The initiation part of the project culminated in a poster called “‘He asked me how my hangover was’: a qualitative study of parental response to substance use” (Cohen-Serrins, Knight, & Kingston 2013). While developing the coding system, I noticed a trend that led me to my own branch of the project. I observed that many participants in the Recovery sample, as well as some in the Community sample, had undergone transitions in their childhood such as moving to another town, another school, going to live with a different parent or relative, or being involved in a custody battle. It seems that people who are problematic users lead more transient lives, and may associate transitions with use. Thus, I decided to use the interviews to search for a reason for this. So far, quotes from participants seem to support the idea that children who move tend to be marginalized at first and encounter substances as a way of fitting in or forming friendships. My hope is to have a poster on this topic admitted to a research conference in the spring.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Can Lawns be “Bad”? By Elizabeth de la Reguera ‘14
As an environmental science major, my specific interest is rather peculiar for Dickinson: soil science. Although I have never taken a soil science class, I managed to gain experience through internships starting in high school. This past summer, I had the greatest exposure to soil science research I could have ever imagined. I was accepted into the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, where I worked with Dr. Peter Groffman, a microbial ecologist, for twelve weeks. Coincidently, he knows my high school biology teacher who initially sparked my interest in soil ecology. He also knows my mentor at the Marine Biological Laboratory whom I conducted research with during my semester off campus on the effects of fertilization and mowing on urbanized lawns with respect to nitrous oxide. At the start of the summer, Peter and I tossed around ideas for different projects I could do, but I ultimately decided that I wanted to look at lawns in Baltimore, as I had grown up in the county and had experience with lawn research. We collaborated with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long Term Ecological Research team at University of Maryland Baltimore County. We focused on lawns classified as “bad” because they have tightly compacted subsoil with a veneer of topsoil and then sod. We originally believed this would cause runoff or leaching of nitrogen resulting in a significant hydrologic loss, or that the compacted subsoil would act as an impervious surface and lead to water and nitrogen ponding between the sod and subsoil, creating an anaerobic environment (no oxygen). We collected soil samples from a few different locations: the Long Term Ecological Research plot (which studies have shown to be a healthy lawn), a sports field on the UMBC campus (which we knew had compacted soil), and on treatment plots where there had been composting to remediate the compaction, unremediated compaction, and swales next to the treatments. There were a lot of findings, but what I found most interesting was that compaction is not as bad as we originally believed. There is typically a swale where there is compaction, resulting in horizontal runoff from the compaction into these swales where water is ponding. Wet soils have
Dickinson Physics & Astronomy Department
The Q-Box- A Thermal Storage Device to Reduce Heating and AC Costs Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Sustainability Workshop Saturday, April 26 9 a.m.-noon in Tome 101 Events are free and open to everyone but pre-registration is required. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-245-1413
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth de la Reguera ’14 Elizabeth de la Reguera tracking her nitrate samples through the Lachat.
less oxygen, which stimulates denitrification. This means that swales are important denitrification “hotspots” in the landscape and if we construct them in surrounding lands that receive high amounts of nitrogen, it is possible they can help to decrease leaching and promote more gaseous losses. At the end of the summer, I presented at a symposium with other Cary Institute REU students and handed in a paper for consideration for publication. This summer experience opened my eyes to different research opportunities available, introduced me to scientists around the nation conducting research I am interested in, and showed me what it takes to be a researcher. I would not trade my summer experience for any other internship and I hope to make it back to the Cary Institute one day.
Dickinson Earth Sciences Department Classes for Fall 2014: • ERSC 204 (Climate Change) • ERSC 141 (Planet Earth) • ERSC 301 (Field Geology) • ERSC 142 (Earth History) • ERSC 311 (Intro to Soils) Additionally, the Earth Sciences department is planning two faculty/
student field trips during the next year. In the Summer 2014 faculty and students will travel to Greenland/ Iceland to study volcanoes glaciers and climate change, and in January 2015 faculty and students will travel to Costa Rica (supported by departmental funds) to study natural hazards.
Faculty Research At the Interface of Organic and Inorganic Chemistry By Michael S. Holden Professor of Chemistry
My interest in chemistry revolves around reactions. Those who were in my organic classes probably remember having to learn to “push arrows” to describe how a reaction worked. In the laboratory, I focus on reactions that involve organometallic species, compounds that contain both carbon-based organic and metal-based inorganic fragments. Lately, I have paid particular attention to reactions in which the product is a biologically interesting organic molecule, but with an organometallic fragment replacing part of the naturally-occurring carbon framework. My efforts during my sabbatical leave during the Fall 2013 semester centered around just such a project. Like a lot of chemistry, this work was based on chemistry that came before it. In 2005, Natalie Martin Shwaish ’06 was working with me in lab. One of her projects was to discover easily synthesized iron-containing reagents to study. She developed a synthesis of an iron-containing β-enaminone; the reported synthesis did not work as published and Natalie was able to dig out the essential parts and make a repeatable, high yield process. With no obvious use for
the compound at the time, we moved on to other projects and the synthesis sat in the back of my mind for a long time. Fast forward to 2012. I came across a series of publications in which chemists were using β-enaminones to synthesize a variety of aminopyrimidines. These particular compounds have biological activity, having been shown to be tyrosine kinase inhibitors. With a method for synthesizing iron-containing β-enaminones and a pathway for using β-enaminones to create aminopyridines, the obvious project was to combine the two and to make the first examples of iron-containing aminopyrimidines of this sort. Jerone Stoner ’15 spent the summer of 2012 working out the methods for making the other components needed for the desired reaction and updating 40-year-old published procedures for use in a modern lab. He was also able to show that the synthesis of the desired aminopyrimidine was a viable process, successfully completing a synthesis of an iron-containing aminopyrimidine. So what did I do during the fall of 2013? Essentially, I was the closer. Several students had put down the groundwork and my job was to finish it off. During the semester, I worked out the best reaction conditions to allow for the highest yields, expanded the scope of the reaction to include half a dozen of the desired iron-containing aminopyrimidines, and poked around the edges of the process to see how it could be expanded. From the experience, I have a completed project and several leads on projects for students to pursue in the future.
A diagram of an iron-containing ß-enaminone.
Photo Courtesy of John Vetromile ’17
Photo Courtesy of John Vetromile ’17
Photo Courtesy of John Vetromile ’17
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Cancer Cells on the Move By Michael P. Roberts Associate Professor of Biology
“Metastasis” is the word that no cancer patient wants to hear, and justifiably so, since 90% of all cancer deaths are due to metastasis, which is the spreading of primary tumor cells to distant locations in the body. The notion that most cancers are highly treatable if detected early is founded in the reality that metastasis is the consequence of tumor progression. Successful early intervention, before metastasis has occurred, greatly reduces the risk of reoccurrence and cancer mortality. A vivid illustration of these principals is evident in breast cancer. Worldwide, breast cancer has the highest incidence and mortality rates due to metastasis among cancers seen in women. To date, breast cancer treatment has focused on destroying the primary tumor through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. However, if the spread of cells from the breast tumor to other organs of the body is responsible for breast cancer deaths, why has more attention not been paid to preventing metastasis? The reason is that only recently has progress been made in understanding why some primary tumor cells leave their origins, colonize in new locations, and grow into secondary tumors. As the molecular mechanisms of metastasis are being uncovered, new treatments are being developed that are designed to interfere with the tumor cells’ voracious desire to spread. Recently, I spent seven months working in the laboratory of a leader in the field of breast cancer metastasis research, Dr. Yibin Kang, in the Molecular Biology Department at Princeton University. Through a post-tenure sabbatical leave, the college afforded me this opportunity. The Kang lab destination was determined by me, based on (1) my familiarity with the Molecular Biology Department, as I was an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton for four years prior to my arrival at Dickinson, (2) the fact
that one of my former research students, Ben Tiede ’05, completed his Ph.D. in Dr. Kang’s laboratory, and (3) I received a generous offer from Dr. Kang to join his research team as a visiting faculty member. The project that I worked on was an extension of previous research from the Kang lab examining how highly metastatic breast cancer cells differ from breast cancer cells that are non-metastatic. This line of research investigates one of the remarkable new insights in cancer biology: an individual tumor, while arising from a single transformed cell, is ultimately heterogeneous, composed of cells exhibiting very different properties. With regard to metastasis, not all cells of the tumor are created equal; some divide continuously in the microenvironment of their origin, while others are able to migrate. These cells break into blood or lymph vessels only to exit at a distant point, into a new microenvironment that may or may not support continued growth. Specifically, my research centered on using both mouse and human breast cancer cell lines, which showed different metastatic potentials even though they were derived from single mouse and human primary tumors. The goal of this research was to define the molecular variations that define the different metastatic behaviors. The fundamental question being addressed was: why do some tumor cells metastasize while others do not? The simple answer to this question is that the genetics of the metastatic cell are different from those of the non-metastatic cells during the evolution of the tumor as individual cells acquire new gene mutations. My research focused on a relatively unknown gene with an odd name, Tinagl1. This gene produces a protein, which is secreted or released from the cells that make it. Several observations made by the Kang lab attracted their attention to this particular gene. First, a highly metastatic mouse breast cancer cell line produced very little of the Tinagl1 protein, while a non-metastatic line produced a lot. Furthermore, when the non-metastatic cells were genetically engineered to reduce their production of this protein, they became highly metastatic when injected into mice. This led to the hypothesis that Tinagl1 is a metastasis inhibitor, which may have obvious clinical implica-
Photo Courtesy of Michael P. Roberts
The Lewis Thomas Laboratories: Princeton’s Molecular Biology Department and location of Professor Robert’s sabbatical research.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Photo Courtesy of Michael P. Roberts Professor Roberts in his newly opened Rector North research laboratory culturing human and mouse breast cancer cells.
tions. I was able to show a strong correlation between the level of Tinagl1 expression and the ability for several mouse and human breast cancer cell lines to metastasize—the higher the level of Tinagl1 produced, the lower the metastatic potential and vice-versa. In collaboration with Dr. Brian Ell, we obtained preliminary results, which showed that when mice were injected with the purified Tinagl1 protein, the number of metastatic tumors found in the lungs was decreased among mice with highly metastatic breast cells. These early results suggest that the Tinagl1 protein might ultimately serve as an anti-metastatic drug in women with early stage breast cancer. While the observation that this protein inhibits metastasis is interesting and important, the fascinating question that remains is: how does the Tinagl1 protein exert its effect? The part of science that I feel is the most creative and fun is thinking about these types of questions and designing ways to address them. For example, what is the mechanism by which Tinagl1 inhibits metastasis; how does it work? By exploring the literature and having the time to think deeply about this problem, I have come up with a testable hypothesis to explain the mechanism by which Tinagl1 exerts its anti-metastatic effects. Cancer cells receive external signals, which are interpreted as a directive for continuous growth. They also receive signals that promote metastasis. My hypothesis is that Tinagl1 intercepts a specific metastasis-stimulating signal called Wnt and blocks its ability to trigger metastatic behavior. Recent experiments conducted in the Kang lab and in my lab at Dickinson have yielded results that support this theory and suggest additional targeted approaches to inhibiting the spread of breast cancer in patients. My Microsoft Word thesaurus offers “vacation” as a synonym for “sabbatical.” While my time in the Kang lab at Princeton may have been a “vacation” from teaching, it was not a break from work. Instead, my sabbatical was a purposeful research expedition that was challenging and demanding, while also being exciting and rewarding. The best aspect of my sabbatical expedition is that it is not over, and that I am able to continue this research in the company of my Dickinson student co-researchers. Cancer is a devastating group of diseases that have proven difficult to overcome, but we appear to be at the beginning of a new era of significant progress in translating the basic understanding of cancer cell behavior into treatments that will manage these diseases and maybe even provide cures. Being even a very small part of that effort is both humbling and gratifying.
Moralization and Smoking By Marie Helweg-Larsen Associate Professor of Psychology
When smokers are huddled around doorways, obeying the rules to smoke outside, people walking by sometimes give an annoyed cough or wave away the smoke indignantly. Such public displays of moralization have become common as smoking in much of the Western world has moved from an appropriate and cool behavior to one that is marginalized and moralized. Moralized sentiments include expression of disgust toward the smoking and smoker, agreeing that smokers are less desirable to hire or date than nonsmokers, and the idea that it is immoral to expose non-smokers to the harms of tobacco. (See Figure for examples of moralized health messages.) Nonsmokers might feel justified in moralizing smokers because they wish to convey their heartfelt concerns about the health risks of smoking. However, smokers often feel that they already know all they need to know about the dangers of smoking and do not think moralization expressed by strangers is all that heartfelt. Importantly, moralization might have negative consequences for smokers (similar to the negative effects of other types of stigma) but moralization might also encourage smokers to quit. Because moralization is embedded in cultural values and tobacco politics, it is difficult to fully examine moralization and its effects without comparing cultures that differ in these respects. Thus, my research compares moralization of smoking in the U.S. (a smoking-prohibitive culture where smoking is moralized) and Denmark (a smoking-lenient culture where smoking is much less moralized). This research was supported by a 3-year grant from the National Cancer Institute (via the National Institutes of Health). During my yearlong sabbatical, I am writing several scientific articles that report on my research on moralization. I have researched how to best measure moralization (I have developed a moralization of smoking scale and found it to be reliable and valid in the US and Denmark), how smokers feel about being the targets of moralized sentiments (they don’t like it—Danes especially find it unjust and unnecessary since Danish smokers feel that second hand smoke is not that dangerous and that nonsmokers are already protected from such exposure), and whether smokers who agree with such moralized sentiments are more motivated to quit (they are in Denmark but not in the U.S.). This research shows that moralization might be disliked by smokers but can
also (at least among Danes) serve as a motivating factor in quitting. But research on stigma shows that there are many negative aspects of stigma, some of which can actually make it less likely that people engage in healthy behaviors (e.g., eat better or exercise more). In the new NIH grant I am writing, I propose two cross-cultural experiments examining the immediate effects that stigmatizing smokers have on their smoking cognitions and behaviors. I predict that stigmatizing smokers will cause increased stress, reduced cognitive resources, reduced perceptions of personal risk, and increased smoking. Federal research funding is quite difficult to obtain and applications are often 100 pages long, detailing every aspect of the background, methodology, innovation, and significance of the research, as well as the quality of the research environment and the investigator. It has been helpful for me to serve in the fall on an NIH review panel, during which I wrote detailed critiques on eight grant applications and participated in an all-day discussion and scoring of the applications. It has been good to be reminded of what the typical reviewer concerns are as I prepare my own grant application. I am also moving my research on moralization and perceived risk in a new direction by combining it with research on public health policies and tobacco industry interference. Denmark has poor life expectancy and increasing inequality in health, both largely as a result of smoking. Denmark has also had lackluster tobacco control policies. In this review paper, I discuss three key explanations for the tepid tobacco control in Denmark: (1) Danes’ low perceived risk of active and passive smoking, (2) Danes’ low levels of moralization of smoking and smokers, and (3) effective tobacco industry interference with tobacco control. Individual beliefs about tobacco risks and moralization might make politicians and lay people more vulnerable to the influences of the tobacco industry. These factors can in turn help explain tepid tobacco control policies in Denmark. An important part of any creative or scientific process is to connect with other researchers to get feedback and inspiration. Thus, during my sabbatical I am visiting researchers to present my research and discuss my grant ideas. During the summer, I met with four different tobacco researchers in Denmark. In the fall, I presented my research at the tobacco branch at the National Cancer Institute and to dental researchers and psychologists at the University of Florida. In the spring, I also gave research talks and met with faculty and graduate students at UCSB and UCLA. I also attended two conferences—the Society of Personality and Social Psychology Conference in Austin and the Eastern Psychological Association Conference in Boston—where I connected with colleagues and learned about current research in my field. It is exciting this year to have time to devote to my research—the time is passing much too quickly.
Figure Courtesy of Marie Helweg-Larsen Examples of Graphic Warning Labels from the European Union. These pictures illustrate how health messages can provide objective and factual information (the text) while also showing moralized images suggesting that smokers are (respectively) bad parents, disgusting, bad lovers and addicted. Source: European Commission. http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/products/health-warnings/index_en.htm
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
By Lars English Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy
My research explores “the nonlinear dynamics of complex systems” and falls broadly into the burgeoning field of “nonlinear and statistical physics.” More specifically, in recent years I have studied systems as varied as nonlinear electrical transmission lines, chains of coupled pendula, networks of neuronal oscillators, and spin lattices. In all of these systems, nonlinearity plays an important role, as it enables processes of patterns formation. Patterns will sometimes spontaneously emerge in these systems, quite often turning on abruptly as the result of a bifurcation in the underlying differential equations (see Figure1). So, for instance, in a simple pendulum chain (where neighboring pendula are connected via springs), we can start out with all pendula swinging in unison in response to a gentle rocking of the chain as a whole. Perhaps one would at first guess that this motion should persist forever. In reality, however, this state is unstable—soon enough, spatial modulations are observed, and they keep growing until they destroy the initial state of uniform pendulum motion. Instead, we now get a few of the pendula swinging wildly while the rest of them are relatively stationary. Which pendula get selected as the holders of the system’s energy is not predetermined (although boundary conditions do constrain things somewhat), and it can change from run to run. You can perhaps think of this system as developing an extreme case of “income inequality” when driven below resonance. Similar things happen in a model of a neural network incorporating learning (via network plasticity) that we studied numerically. Here again, we found that under certain conditions, intricate spatial patterns of synchronized response can arise spontaneously out of a system initially found in a uniform state (see Fig. 2). We observe an instance of what is aptly called self-organization of response, as well as self-assembly of network structures. The words “self ” and “spontaneous” in this context are meant to underscore that the patterns and networks we observe are not enforced by an outside agent, but are intrinsic to the system itself. The rocking of the pendula is completely uniform in space, and there is no
Figure Courtesy of Lars English
Figure1: A pattern-forming instability in a nonlinear electrical lattice is seen in this experimental data to destroy the initially uniform state leading to an incoherent pattern from which finally a single traveling mode is formed.
“conductor” that would coax the neurons to synchronize in a particular manner. The phenomenon is a property of the collective dynamics of the system. During my sabbatical year so far, I was able to publish three research papers with student co-authorship on two of the systems just mentioned, namely the electrical lattices and the neuronal networks. I also wrote a book chapter on the pendulum chain and its connection to the discrete sine-Gordon equation for a book to be published by Springer-Verlag. Last year, after having been asked to give a colloquium at my alma mater, I started to do some scientific “soul-searching.” Usually, as scientists we tend to be so immersed in the minutia of the projects we are working on that we don’t have time to think about broader ramifications or implications. But when you are asked to give a lecture to an audience of non-specialists, as opposed to a conference presentation, you owe it to the people sitting through your talk to
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
touch upon broader themes. And so it occurred to me that on a foundational level, everything I do really revolves around the notion of emergence. That was the common philosophical thread running through all of my research. So I became intrigued. What do we exactly mean by emergence? How did scientists make sense of it? What did philosophers think of it? To what extent did recent developments in science clarify the notion of emergent behavior? From such early contemplations, I gradually decided that the topic was rich enough to expand into a book. I have currently completed a first draft of this book with the preliminary title, Emergent Truths—the power of emergence in science, society and religion. In a nutshell, emergence holds that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. As physicist Philip Anderson once famously said: “More is different.” The properties of a system cannot be understood from the Figure Courtesy of Lars English properties of its parts Figure 2: Final self-organized pattern in a network of 20x20 neuronal alone. Both diamond oscillators. Color indicates phase of oscillation and color-clusters and graphite are com- indicate synchronized response. prised exclusively of carbon atoms, yet their attributes are nothing alike. Instead, new phenomena arise when parts combine and interact—new in the sense that they could not have been predicted based on the behavior of the parts in isolation. In fact, separate worlds can arise across different spatial scales and levels of complexity, governed by effective laws that work well within their confines but lose meaning outside of them. Within science already there are many such worlds; biology is not reducible to string theory in physics, for instance. Emergence allows the biological sciences to carve out separate realities by effectively shielding them against encroachment by laws operating at lower levels. As I argue, we can extend this principle to religion as well. Here, morality cannot be reduced to human psychology or neurobiology. The structure of religious practice, as well as the mental phenomena arising from it, cannot be explained objectively from the outside, but must be experienced from within to make sense. My book begins by charting the rise of emergence in the physical sciences while bringing to life a number of consequential discoveries within modern statistical and condensed-matter physics. The common thread is that such things as structure, network connectivity, self-organization, and renormalization are central to explaining some of the most interesting real-world phenomena. Concrete examples from the younger disciplines of neuroscience and dynamical systems are also discussed with the aim of establishing emergence as an important guiding principle in much of contemporary science. These examples further serve to define and circumscribe what we mean by emergence more sharply. Having thus demonstrated the limits of reductionism even in the physical sciences, the aim of the book is to show the reader the importance of emergence more broadly. In the process, questions about the larger role of science in society, the relationship between the various sciences, as well as the relationship between science and religion are addressed. Here, emergence is seen as providing a bridge between the physical and the social sciences, both methodologically via shared concepts such as feedback, network structure, and downward causation, as well as philosophically via the rejection of scientific hierarchies based on categories of “fundamental” versus “applied.” Finally, I argue that a full appreciation of emergence may offer a way out of the seemingly endless science-versus-religion debates and the antagonism that often characterizes them.
Ultrafast Lasers: Fast Times and High Intensities in the Optics Lab By Brett Pearson Assistant Professor of Physics and A stronomy
Much research in contemporary physics, chemistry, and biology involves studying matter on the atomic and molecular scale. Atoms and molecules are small (typical dimensions of 10-10 to 10-9 meters), and the electrons that help make up atoms and molecules are even smaller. This means that at room temperature, the dynamics (motions) of these particles are extremely fast. For example, the vibrational period of nitrogen gas in the air in the lowest energy state is less than 15 femtoseconds (1 femtosecond = 1 × 10-15 seconds). In order to learn about the dynamics of these systems, one needs a device that can examine them on this timescale. Conceptually, this is similar to taking a picture of a fast-moving object (such as a professional athlete hitting a tennis ball) with a camera; in order to resolve the motion and avoid blurring, the exposure time of the photograph should be short compared to the timescale of the motion. As one might expect, there are very few ways to produce anything on a femtosecond timescale. However, relatively recent developments in pulsed laser technology have enabled scientists to create laser pulses that achieve these short durations.
Fortunately, many molecular systems respond to laser light, and by using a very quick pulse of light, we can take “snapshots” of the system as it evolves in time. The Optics Lab at Dickinson College has an ultrafast laser oscillator that can produce pulses 30 femtoseconds in duration. These pulses are well suited to studying dynamics on the 100s of femtoseconds to picosecond time scale. Such studies include the observation of highly excited states in atoms, vibrational motion in heavier molecules, and lattice vibrations in crystals. The laser light arrives in a very short duration of time, so even though there is not much energy in each pulse, the intensity (energy/time/area) is quite high. This has led to Dickinson’s pursuit of experiments in biologically-relevant systems where the high laser intensity can initiate “multi-photon” transitions in molecules. Students doing research in the lab over the past few years have helped to design and build a laser pulse shaper that is used to manipulate the laser pulses for tailored interactions with the molecules of interest. For example, by controlling properties of the laser light, we can rapidly measure enzyme binding in a biomolecular system. We would like to acknowledge generous support from the College for helping make such a resource available for student-faculty research on Dickinson’s campus.
Photo Courtesy of Alexander Dillon ’17 The ultrafast laser in operation in the optics lab.
Reducing your Carbon Footprint with Solar Air Heaters By Hans Pfister Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Solar Air Heaters (SAHs) are devices that convert solar energy directly into thermal energy. While today’s photovoltaic (PV) panels have solar to electric energy conversion efficiencies of about 17% to 20%, SAHs can easily achieve solar to thermal energy conversion efficiencies of upward of 50% and 60%. A SAH consists, in essence, of a thermally insulated box that contains a suitably designed, blackened absorber surface. Its sun-facing surface is either a single or double layer glazing. The glazing can be ordinary window glass, a glass with a “fancy” coating, or a more lightweight polycarbonate or Plexiglas sheet. In either case, the glazing is meant to let as much of the visible, short wavelength sunlight into the SAH where it hits the absorber and heats up the absorber. In turn, the absorber emits infrared (IR), long-wavelength light, as described by the Stefan-Boltzmann radiation law. The glazing is meant to keep this IR radiation from escaping the SAH. Therefore, the optimal glazing should let as much short-wavelength radiation into the box and keep as much of the long-wavelength radiation inside the box as possible. In short, a Solar Air Heater is a mousetrap for solar
energy. Now that we have the solar energy trapped, we let cold air enter the SAH at one end of the box and pass it over the hot absorber surface. As the air molecules come in contact with the hot absorber, they gain kinetic energy, and so they become hotter. The air heats up and emerges as hot air at the other end of the SAH, sort of like the hot air that comes out of a blow dryer. This hot air can then be used to heat the room of a house, a garage, or a workshop. To heat an entire house, several SAHs would be needed. However, as the heating of the air only occurs when the sun is shining, SAHs can only be supplemental heating systems. Nevertheless, while the sun is shining, every joule of energy they produce is one joule of energy that we do not have to obtain by burning a fossil fuel. Therefore, every bit of energy that SAHs provide immediately reduces the amount of CO2 emissions and thus creates a reduction of our carbon footprint. Two years ago, I designed and built a SAH, working with physics majors Sung Woo Kim ’13 and Ilia Pappas ’13. Our design was not only guided by what the physics equations dictated but also by economics. We
Photo Courtesy of Hans Pfister An experimental Solar Air Heater pointed at the sun on the roof of Tome collects solar energy and converts it into thermal energy.
strove to build a SAH that would be as cost-effective as possible, such that it could pay for itself in a matter of about a year and a half. Our solar air heater has a power output of about 2 kilowatts. Presently, Prof. Pfister is refining the design in collaboration with physics majors Eli Blumenthal ’14, Kylie Logan ’14, and Benjamin
Kimock ’15. In India, solar air heaters are used to dry fruit, in Israel they are used to desalinate water, in Carlisle they could be utilized as supplementary heaters for homes, and at Dickinson they could provide supplementary heat for academic buildings and dorms.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Measuring Global Warming By Michael Potthoff Department Technician of Biology
The LiCor LI-6400XT System is an innovative and high quality instrument that the Biology Department utilizes when instructing students on how to measure certain aspects of plant physiology—namely, photosynthesis, fluorescence, and respiration. The advanced technology of the LI-6400XT is extremely well-suited for the classroom, but this instrument is also compact, portable, and highly durable, allowing for vital student instruction and research taking place in the field. The Li-Cor system will benefit Dickinson students and faculty studying climate change. The Free Air Carbon Enrichment (F.A.C.E.) Experiment, which scientists are currently conducting to study climate change, is an example of an experiment fitting for the LiCor-6400XT.
Photo Courtesy of Licor.com
The LiCor LI-6400XT contains different compartments for sampling purposes.
In conducting F.A.C.E. experiments, the LI-6400XT permits Dickinson students to study the potential harmful effects of global warming and impacts of current increases in global carbon dioxide emissions. F.A.C.E. experiments are intended to scientifically mimic and compare settings that would be considered “normal CO2” and those environments that would be considered “elevated” with respect to C02 concentrations. For example, during F.A.C.E. experiments in Plant Physiology (Bio 325), students utilize the LI-6400XT to measure plant growth and crop yield as well as the efficiency of photosynthesis and transpiration in two extremely different CO2 environments. Such experiments were made possible by the recent construction of the new state-of-the-art Inge P. Stafford Greenhouse for Teaching and Research located at Kauffman Hall. The LI-6400XT system is not only used in academic teaching and research, but also by highly recognized organizations in the private sector to calculate photosynthetic efficiency of genetically engineered plants. Understanding what type of crop is most efficient at utilizing the available resources for photosynthesis is now the best way to maximize crop yield and ultimately profit. This LiCor system is extremely versatile and recent developments demonstrate that it also has the ability to measure CO2 concentrations in soil, air, and water vapor as well as the respiration of insects. The LiCor LI-6400XT is a high tech system that can evolve with the needs of the growing climate research and the changing times. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Writing Code for a New Generation By Mamadou Balde ’16
I always find it interesting when people ask me the question, “What is your major?” I pause for a while, take a deep breath, and reply with a smile, “I am a computer science major.” Then I see the shock in their eyes, a fear from the lack of understanding about the things we do as computer scientists. I tell them, “It is not as complex as you think it is.” It always makes them feel better when I say so and it prompts them to ask more questions about the major. Truly, what do computer scientists do in Tome all day? Well, the short answer is that we write programs. Actually, there is more to it than that. As computer scientists, we solve problems and analyze algorithms as well as conduct other computations. Since programming plays a big role in our work, I will focus on one application that every computer science major at Dickinson has used at least once to help him or her write programs. However, before I begin I would like to briefly explain more about the programming process. How do you write a program that makes sense, both to people and to the computer? Well, in order to communicate, we need a language and rules that go with it. The computer requires the same. In computer science, there are many languages used to write programs and you do not have to know all of them to be a good programmer. A few computer languages that we learn here at Dickinson are C, C#, C++, and Java. We mostly use Java, which is an object-oriented programing language that represents relations as objects. As a beginner, it is very useful to write your Java code in an application that checks your codes for mistakes, alerts you of any syntax errors and allows you to run it as a Java application. For these reasons, we need another software application that
The image above represents a program written in Eclipse.
can facilitate the writing and execution of a Java program. At Dickinson, we use Eclipse. So, what is Eclipse and what does it look like? Eclipse is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that provides the programmer the ease of programming with tight-knit tools for application development. It started as an IBM Canada project and was later developed to become an open-source software. Eclipse’s development kit contains a workspace where files are stored and extensive plug-ins that helps modify the environment of the software. It is easier to use an IDE than other tools to develop an application because the IDE have a source code, a debugger, and both a compiler and interpreter. The advantage of the source code is that the programmer can directly modify his or her code and get instant feedback about syntax error. The debugger lets the programmer screen step-by-step through the program for errors while the compiler and interpreter translate the code into machine language that the computer actually understands and can execute. The main idea behind Eclipse is to provide many of the tools needed to develop software into one single application. That application contains the functionality of running different applications written mainly in Java. Another advantage of Eclipse is that its platform can be extended to allow other programming language such as C and Python to be included as needed. The Eclipse platform has its own user interface and its own plug-ins, which can be modified by the programmer to support more features. In short, using Eclipse to program makes learning easier and spares the programmer from having to piece together all the tools needed to run the program. This is an exciting first step for computer science majors and draws many of us to the major.
Photo Courtesy of Mamadou Balde ’16
SEM/EDS in Earth Sciences By Robert Dean Department of Earth Sciences
The Department of Earth Sciences houses a JEOL JSM 5900 Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) with an attached Oxford Systems Energy Dispersive Spectrometer (EDS). In principal, the SEM uses a beam of focused electrons to image subject material, as opposed to the photons used in traditional light microscopes.
Photo Courtesy of Alexander Dillon ’17 The SEM/EDS machine produces radiation in the form of X-rays for analysis.
That beam is rastered (scanned in pattern) across a field of view and the electrons interact with atoms in the sample, producing various signals that can be read by different detectors. The signals also contain information about the sample’s surface topography and composition. Because of the disparity in wavelength (electrons have a much shorter wavelength than photons), the SEM is able to image much finer detail than a light microscope and we routinely work in the 100X-10,000X range and are able to push into smaller scales under optimal working conditions. By bombarding the solid sample with a focused beam of electrons, it is possible to use the created X-ray spectrum to obtain a localized chemical analysis. All elements from atomic number 6 (C) to 92 (U) can be detected. Qualitative analysis involves the identification of the lines in the spectrum and is fairly straightforward owing to the simplicity of X-ray spectra. Quantitative analysis (determination of the concentrations of the elements present) entails measuring line intensities for each element in the sample and for the same elements in calibration standards of known composition. The SEM/EDS is able to perform both in situ point analyses on the sub-micron scale and broader intensity maps that cover up to the field of view. Both techniques are relatively non-destructive and the full range of detectable chemistry can be analyzed concurrently. While the SEM/EDS is frequently used for research by members of Earth Sciences, faculty from other departments including Archaeology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies as well as students and teachers from local high schools and individuals from the community have been common visitors. We try to make the instrumentation as available as possible. Recent projects have included geochemistry and crystal size distribution of Icelandic anorthosites, morphology and husk thickness of quinoa seeds from an Andean archeological site, and metal typing of a World War II artifact brought back by a U.S. soldier. For further information or to schedule time on the Scanning Electron Microscope, contact Robert Dean at email@example.com.
Harboring the Heat By James Kuenzie Instrument Support Technician of Chemistry
Two Mettler Toledo M50 melt index testers have replaced the six older individual melt index testers at the beginning of the fall semester in the organic chemistry lab, much to the delight of students who have previously used the old machine. The software records the melting point and the melting range automatically and displays the values on the screen on the front panel. The M50s are fully automatic and are capable of running four samples simultaneously. No longer does the student have to watch the melting of a sample through the small eyepiece. The M50 records the melting automatically by means of an internal video camera. Additionally, the screen shows the melting of the samples if one wishes to observe while the test is being done. The student simply loads the sample tube into the instrument and presses the “start” button. The instrument provides both visual and auditory feedback to alert the user that the test is finished. When compared to the older style devices, the M50 takes the guesswork out of how soon or how much the temperature should be adjusted. The instrument is programmable and the user simply enters the rate of temperaPhoto Courtesy of Alexander Dillon ’17 ture increase desired for the material being evaluated. Since the operation is fully automatic, the instrument has additional benefits of calculating statistics for research students testing multiple samples. Of particular interest is its ability to generate standard deviations, which is helpful in determining variability among multiple samples as well as showing reproducibility among multiple runs of samples. Should the user wish to see the melting progress after the run has finished, it can be reviewed from the video taken as the samples were being run. This investment in equipment is an example of how the chemistry department is continually evaluating its equipment for what is best for the students to prepare them for their next challenges as they leave Dickinson and pursue employment or advanced studies elsewhere.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Monitoring Brain Function with the EEG By Claire Preble ’14
Jon Page is a professor of psychology and neuroscience here at Dickinson. His main focuses are linking specific brain functioning to higher-order cognitive processes. Recently he has expanded on his work to look at how these processes differ under stressful situations. Professor Page’s lab has a 64-channel EEG laboratory system and a portable 32-channel system. An EEG system measures electrical activity along the scalp, which can detect abnormalities. It specifically measures brain waves and their patterns. Professor Page uses them to measure brain activity related to cognitive functioning such as recognition, imagination, decision-making, and visual processing such as looking at optic nerve functioning and subtle changes
in visual processing for persons diagnosed with ADHD. Sara Patterson ’14 is undertaking this project as her honors thesis. Previously, Professor Page, along with a group of Dickinson students, ran a study on the experience of pain and coinciding neural signals in the brain. They used the EEG to record brain responses to the stimulation of painful and non-painful areas of the body. They used their data to create algorithms to detect differences between the two conditions. They wanted to find an objective, electronic method for detecting pain perceptions by measuring cortical processing for future analyses. Professor Page is also interested in how cortical activity may change when under stress, such as the stress a police officer or military personnel may feel when there is threat
Photo Courtesy of Madeline Wheeler ’17 A student applying the receptor of information to the sensors on the skullcap of the EEG.
By Kathryn Davison ‘16 & Kristin Strock Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
In Limnology labs and in environmental science in general, Dickinson faculty, technicians, and students use electronic meters to measure lake water temperature (degrees Celsius), conductivity (micro Siemens/ cm), dissolved oxygen levels (mg/L), and pH of the water to monitor its quality. In order to compile water nutrient samples, a Kemmerer sampler collects water from a particular depth. The samples not only measure the nutrient concentration (nitrogen, phosphorus, etc.) in the water, but they also measure the amount of chlorophyll A (which is a pigment produced by algae to perform photosynthesis and can be used as a measure of total algal biomass). With a finely meshed net, zooplankton and phytoplankton may be caught to obtain quantitative and qualitative data on the health of the environment. Plankton are highly responsive to the environment in which they live, and as a result, can be used as indicators of water quality. For example, a large amount of nutrient runoff into lakes and streams can increase the growth of algae and lead to a bloom of cyanobacteria (a particular type of algae). These algal blooms can Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
to life (often referred to as survival stress). Professor Page spent time with the London Metropolitan Police Department to study the impact of stress on police officer behaviors. He found that the public might expect more from the police than they are able to perform in certain stressful situations. To remedy this, he believes it is beneficial if police are trained to better understand the impact stress can have on their behaviors. Obviously, Professor Page cannot create threat to life stress in the lab, but he does create a small level of stress by the choices of visual objects (different types of weapons) and by shortening the amount of time provided to respond to the objects. He has continued his research in the cognitive psychology and neuroscience fields throughout the past academic year on sabbatical and hopes to continue in this research field in the future.
Photo Courtesy of Madeline Wheeler ’17 The program used to record and synthesize the data involved in each experiment.
lead to negative ecological effects (such as low levels of dissolved oxygen and fish kills) and can have negative effects on recreation and drinking water quality. The combination of measurements of the lake in its entirety is necessary in order to understand the lake’s health and the effects of global climate change. By measuring these various parameters and looking at the organisms living in the lake, we can better understand how this ecosystem will respond to environmental change. For example, the figure below represents lake water temperature from the top of the lake to the bottom from June until August. With the availability of this technology, researchers are able to distinguish warm water at the surface from cold water below in this lake. Over time, increasing air temperatures and wind speeds resulting from global climate change can alter the availability of different warm and cold-water habitats. Routine monitoring has already identified changes in the algae in response to these changes in lake habitat. If the cold-water habitat is reduced over time, we could also expect long-term effects on fish species in this lake. Using the tools described above, students and faculty will be able to detect changes in lake ecosystems and monitor the effects of environmental change on freshwater resources.
Photo Courtesy of Kathryn Davison ’16 Kristen Strock used the Kemmerer device to collect water samples of the frozen lake.
Should the U.S. Ban Baking Cookies Bisphenol-A? It’s a No-Brainer! By Meredith Rauhut Adjunct Faculty in Psychology
A conversation with Theo Colburn was all it took for my graduate mentor, Sandra Petersen, to start a new line of research in the lab. Dr. Petersen, and I by association, became fascinated with the potential impact of environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on reproductive function, a premise of Colburn’s book, Our Stolen Future. EDCs are compounds found in the environment, either naturally (like soy) or synthetically (like PCBs), that can interfere with the functioning of the endocrine system. While some EDCs mimic our endogenous hormones (e.g., thyroid hormone, estrogen), others can block hormone function or synthesis. Sometimes, a single EDC can affect all of these processes. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is arguably one of the most controversial EDCs. Commercially available since the 1950s, it can be found in many items, including polycarbonate plastics, epoxy resins lining many of our food and beverage cans, and cash register receipts. Over 8,000 papers have been published on BPA, and while some warn of the imminent danger of this compound, others shrug off BPA as no big deal. This controversy stems from several issues. On one side, many toxicologists believe that the lack of an effect of BPA on physiological functions at moderate or high doses means that low doses cannot be threatening either. In addition, BPA does not bio-accumulate and has a relatively short half-life, suggesting that it is eliminated too quickly to have an effect. The other side, made up primarily of endocrinologists, points out that like endogenous hormones, low doses can have profound effects on physiology, sometimes even the opposite effect of a high dose. In addition, because BPA is ubiquitous, chronic low exposure has the potential to build up and become toxic. Indeed, evidence appears to support the latter view that low dose exposure, especially during development (in utero through infancy and into adolescence) can generate adverse effects. While developing, our brains are quite “programmable.” This means that many factors can alter the overall structure and function of our brains. Mounting evidence suggests that BPA (at low doses) can interfere with the normal developmental processes of our endogenous hormones and thus, potentially alter the risk for many childhood and adult disorders/diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, cognition, and behavioral problems. Recently, the Federal Drug Administration decided that BPA warrants “some concern” for fetuses, infants, and young children and instituted a ban of the chemical from all baby bottles and sippy cups. While this is a step in the right direction, it barely scratches the surface of effective ways to reduce developmental exposure. As BPA is found in so many of our food and beverage cans, it would be impossible for pregnant women, infants, and/or toddlers to truly avoid exposure. If we want to safeguard our young population (and our adult population!), then we need to eliminate as many sources of BPA as possible. Banning BPA from all food and beverage cans is the obvious solution to truly limit exposure and protect the developing brain.
By Chauncey Maher Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Xanthippe: Chocolate chip cookies it is. But which recipe should we follow? Should we use all white sugar? Or should we use brown sugar? Stephen H.: I’ve got a great chemistry book that discusses sugar. It even has a special discussion of the differences between white, light, and dark brown sugar. I’ll get it! Jacques D.: What?! Your chemistry book is not going to help. It’s just going to say lots of stuff about molecules. It won’t tell us what we like. Stephen: Actually, I just got another book discussing surveys of people’s tastes for all sorts of things. Together with my chemistry book, we’ll have our answer. Jacques: But even if there were a survey that showed a consensus in favor of, say, brown sugar, it would not tell us what to like. It would just be a sign of what some group of people likes. Facts about molecules and surveys don’t dictate our preferences. It’s up to each of us to decide what to make of the facts. Simone B.: Now, now. Stop this bickering. We just want to know which sort of sugar we should use. I think you’re both onto something. It would be helpful to know about the differences between the sugars, and even what other people tend to prefer. We can then use that to decide which sort
we like. Stephen: Fair. Jacques: Judicious! Xanthippe: Simone is judicious, and I don’t want to delay the cookies, but I think I disagree with all of you. Simone: What do you mean? Xanthippe: You all seem to think facts are one thing and interpretations another. Stephen: But aren’t they? Xanthippe: I do not believe so. There are no factfree interpretations, and there are no interpretation-free facts. Facts and interpretations are inextricably mixed. Consider our cookies. Should we beat the eggs? Our answer should have something to do with what happens when eggs get beaten. Our interpretation, our preference, should not float free of the facts. Stephen: But how are facts mixed with interpretations? Xanthippe: Right. Think about how we specify the recipe. Maybe it could be specified completely in molecular terms. That would not be helpful to most of us. We have a preference for thinking in terms of eggs, butter and sugar, not proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. We cannot understand, and do not need, that level of detail. And think about why we have a recipe for cookies at all. At least part of the story is that people like cookies, and desire to make them from time to time. Simone: Quite a speech, Xanthippe! Jacques: I don’t know what to say. Stephen: Let’s discuss it over some cookies.
Cartoon Courtesy of Geoffrey Hartman ‘14 Jacques D., Stephen H., Simone B., and Xanthippe baking cookies.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Energy, Global Warming, and Student Behavior By Marcus M. Key, Jr. Professor of Earth Sciences Joseph Priestley Professor of Natural Philosophy Since 1991, I have taught 181 students from across the academic divisions in my Energy Resources class (ERSC 202). I have noticed some positive changes in how we explore for energy, how we as a college acquire/convert that energy, as well as some disturbing intransigence in how we as individuals use that energy. As part of the class, we do a personal energy audit for one week. We estimate our own personal contribution to global climate change on how much electricity, hot water, and gasoline we consume. Below, I outline two interesting temporal trends I have noticed. One promising trend is a 60% decrease in energy consumption through hot water use. This is good news considering the high heat capacity of water. Unfortu-
nately, this gain has been more than offset by a statistically more significant increase in my students’ percent of energy consumption from electricity use. Electricity replaced hot water as their main use of energy in 2001. This was a function of switching to low flow showerheads in the residence halls combined with increasing electrical appliance use. Back in 1991, my students did not all have smartphones and personal computers. Now that is the norm, and those devices mostly run on the most inefficient form of energy: batteries. While their electricity consumption is increasing, the percentage of that energy coming from greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels has increased from 65 to 68% and renewable sources have stagnated at 12% (Energy Information Agency’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014). That means my students’ contribution to global warming has increased during my tenure at Dickinson. Have I failed as a professor? Presumably, students have become better informed about the correlation between both agricultural deforestation combined with fossil fuel use and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Since 1991, the science of
BY THE NUMBERS
anthropogenic global warming has matured. I would think that my students now are more aware of the connection between their energy use and global warming than in 1991. But their behavior has not changed. In fact, it has gotten worse. Divestiture is a much more popular (and easier?) topic of discussion among my students than inward-looking behavior modification. Reducing personal energy consumption is the most effective way to reduce anthropogenic global warming. But my experience is that this is not easy. We seem to want a technological solution to the problems created by our unsustainable energy-intensive lifestyle so we don’t have to change our behavior. But all technological fixes have unintended consequences. For example, agriculture and coal-fired steam engines got us into this global warming mess, and smartphones and computers are keeping us here. New technological fixes will also have unintended consequences. What to do? Sorry, but I don’t have time to answer that. My kids just called, and I have to drive them to their Sky Zone session that they just booked online.
Percentage of energy coming from greenhouse gas emitting fossils fuels has increased from
(Hydropower, wind, biomass, and solar)
Energy consumption through hot water use has decreased by
65 to 68%
from 1990 to 2012
from 1990 to 2012
in the past 23 years
has stagnated at
Energy Information Agency’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014
The Damaging Practices of Big Pharma
By Jake Agliata ’14
The debate over healthcare in America has been one of the most important political and economic discussions of the 21st century. One of the core components of this debate is the rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs, which has not only put essential medication out of reach for the vast majority of the population, but has allowed pharmaceutical companies to consistently ignore ethical, moral, and health laws. The biggest moral violation undertaken by pharmaceutical companies is misleading patients concerning the side effects of their products for the sake of pushing drugs onto people without revealing the full extent of their side effects. Johnson & Johnson, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, recently settled a lawsuit in which it was forced to pay $2 billion in compensation for falsely marketing drugs to people who did not need them. Risperdal® is a drug created Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
to combat the effects of schizophrenia, yet Johnson & Johnson was marketing it as a safe, effective treatment for elderly patients with memory loss. The drug ended up causing severe dementia in several patients, all while the company turned in a huge profit by advertising it as a sedative to nursing homes looking to make their patients calmer. One reason the pharmaceutical companies have been able to get away with such blatant violations of health laws is because of complicity by the government. The pharmaceutical industry as a whole spent $855 million on lobbying between 1996 and 2006, far more than any other industry. Among the top contributors to political campaigns in 2012 were Pfizer ($618,750), Amgen ($467,690), Merck ($391,365), and Johnson & Johnson ($294,850). Additionally, among the government agencies responsible for monitoring the pharmaceutical industry, such as the Food and Drug Administration, there is a revolving door of ex-employees of the pharmaceutical industries who work to combine the interests of the government regulators and the pharmaceutical industry. Public pressure has compelled several government
agencies and independent research groups to look more closely at the industry. An investigation by the non-profit group ProPublica found that at least 21 prominent doctors in the biomedical field had been paid more than $500,000 each for speeches or lectures endorsing favored products. Recently, the authors of a study conducted in 1999 reporting that 43% of women were suffering from female sexual dysfunction admitted that they were paid by Pfizer to fabricate the study in order to help Pfizer promote a female version of Viagra. The ethical and moral violations undertaken by the pharmaceutical companies need to be made more publically known. The federal government has been overwhelmingly ineffective in taking action. Public pressure on government regulators to make drug testing more transparent and controlled is the only way to fight an industry that has grown far too powerful. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the major obstacles in the fight for more accessible, reliable medical care in America.
Sci & Entertainment
Entertainment Breaking Bad: Respect the Chemistry By Sarah St. Angelo Assistant Professor of Chemistry
In one of the most gruesome scenes in the AMC series Breaking Bad, a partially dissolved body crashes through the ceiling and onto the floor in Jesse’s house. Chemical disincorporation is what Walt called it, and he specifically instructed Jesse to purchase a plastic storage bin for the disposal of what would be the first of many bodies. Jesse, in a naive act of problem-solving, decided to use his bathtub instead. As a chemist, I recognized Jesse’s error just as Walt did—just in time for the remains of Emilio to enter the scene. That moment and the decisions leading up to it combined the toxic, corrosive, especially hazardous hydrofluoric acid and a chemist who would ultimately become as toxic, corroded and as dangerous as his chemistry. The chemistry in Breaking Bad is generally very accurate—the producers had an organic chemist as a consultant, and she provided expert advice regarding the science at the heart of the series.1 Dramatic devices certainly required some liberty—and some of the specifics regarding the agent of chemical disincorporation, hydrofluoric acid (HF), were not strictly accurate. The materials safety data sheet (MSDS) for HF is one of the scariest MSDSs you are likely to see. Relatively little exposure to the skin can be life- threatening due to HF’s ability to penetrate and attack tissue. It can extract calcium from the body, destroying bone and disrupting muscle function. The initial damage can be painless too, so HF can continue unchecked before a victim may notice the exposure. While I have not done the experiment myself, I would expect that HF, given sufficient time, would dissolve a body. It would likely burrow through a fiberglass bathtub— HF is not stored in glass containers because it does slowly attack silicon oxides. Like I have mentioned to my Chem 132 class this semester, HF would not be my choice for dissolving a body, but I am sure it would be effective. A few things were technically incorrect about HF, and a few others were just plain weird. First of all, as those same Chem 132 students could tell you, HF is not a strong acid like Walt says when he describes it to Jesse. Strong acids dissociate completely in water, forming H+ (more correctly, hydronium ion, H3O+) and the conjugate base anion. HF is a weak acid because it only partially dissociates in water. It is exceptionally corrosive and nastier than just about any acid solution, but, technically, it is a weak acid. You won’t catch me telling HF that it is weak—I prefer my face to be un-chemically disincorporated. One of the odd things I noticed about HF’s appearance was how much of it Walt
seemed to have in his high school chemistry stockroom! I have no idea what legitimate use a high school would have for HF, especially in those quantities. HF is useful for etching decorative patterns into glass and for dissolving silicates in rocks, but having gallons of the stuff on hand for high school work is completely outlandish. Strangely, Walt, ever concerned with safety and proper procedure, is extremely cavalier with his handling of HF. While he often wears protective equipment like goggles and aprons, the risk due to even a small exposure warrants much more respect. The fumes generated by HF are hazardous as well, so open vats of the stuff—or the nightmare of a body’s-worth crashing and splashing into Jesse’s hallway—would have been overwhelming to Walt and Jesse. The ongoing use of large volumes of HF for disposal of bodies (and more) seems like it would have resulted in someone getting burned or injured. Given how accident-prone Jesse was in his early days as a chemist/cook, he certainly would have suffered an exposure. Guilty bystanders, like Mike, would have risked exposure as well in later episodes when gallons of HF glugged into plastic barrel
after plastic barrel. At the very least, a chemist like Walter should have changed his approach to chemical disincorporation like he changed his cook when they needed to scale up production and pseudoephedrine proved to be too limiting a reagent. Hydrofluoric acid became an important character in Breaking Bad. It may have been somewhat melodramatic and liberties were taken with the science, but the bathtub scene alone was worth the scientific indiscretions. I can think of two or three ways to dissolve what Walt needed to dispose of, but little else would partially consume a bathtub in the process and provide one of the most enduring visual—and visceral—images of the series. Also, combining metaphor with science, at the first instant that Walt decided to use HF, it began to destroy him. The corrosion continued until he was a no more than the red acidic sludge he so often created. HF, cancer, hubris, and any number of other faults consumed and disincorporated Walt’s life. He may not have been literally destroyed by HF, but HF was there from the beginning and couldn’t have done a better job itself. *See page 37 for more information
Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons
By Kevin Doyle Science and Entertainment Editor Her is a curious blend of science and the humanities. It is billed by Spike Jonze as a “love story,” but that is obviously the most controversial aspect of the film. Many will react differently to this film. Some will think of Joaquin Phoenix’s relationship with an operating system as cute, if not a little unorthodox. Some (like myself) will look in horror at the relationship as shallow and disturbing. Jonze creates an interesting and compelling sci-fi world somewhere in the “near future.” He cleverly strays away from showing any cars (minus a fleeting glimpse of a taxi), which are often the benchmark of a futuristic society (think of the cars in Blade Runner, Star Wars, etc.). I enjoyed the absence of cars, since often the cars look very dated upon viewing ten years later. Along with the absence of cars, Jonze somehow manages to make a “timeless futuristic” movie (as oxymoronic as that seems). If there was one humorous aspect of Jonze’s future, it is his idea of what fashion will look like (think lots of pastels and mustaches). While this movie shields itself well from the potential scientific inaccuracies of creating far-fetched future inventions, many computer science people may have a nit to pick. About midway through the movie, Her introduces the concept of “singularity,” or the idea that someday technology will be able to transcend biology. This controversial theory has just as many philosophical ramifications as it does scientific. While many computer theorists like Stuart Armstrong see an impending progress towards singularity, other computer scientists see singularity as a whimsical prediction that has more novelty than reality. What Her does so well is push the limits of potential artificial intelligence. In some ways, it is not even artificial intelligence that Jonze is talking about, but “artificial humanity,” which may be a more accurate term. In this movie, computer systems love, laugh, form friendships, and write songs, but all without the restraints of the human body. Obviously, a machine that can do everything that a human can do raises important questions about the nature of our own humanity. Are the machines in Her mere reflections and mimicries of humanity, or have the humans created new, self-sustaining, rational life? Her may be the perfect sci-fi movie for a science major. It manages to restrain its creativity and predictions while still tackling thought-provoking issues. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Sci & Entertainment
Movie Reviews Elysium:
We are now in the year 2014, with technology that only a few decades ago was considered science fiction: How have the movies kept up? Most science fiction films made today are remakes of movies and comic books from 30-50 years ago, like the Marvel super-franchise, The Thing, Star Trek, etc. However, with the recent demand in science fiction movies, other movies managed to push into new territory, like Gravity, or Another Earth. Elysium was one of the few science-fiction movies of recent times that has stuck in my head, not necessarily because it did all the science well, but because it had nearly all the science wrong. In the world of the movie, the wealthy live in a luxurious torus-shaped spacecraft that orbits the earth (called Elysium), while the poor live on the barren earth. The main character, Max (Matt Damon), is subject to an accident involving radioactive materials, causing him die within four days unless he travels to medical robots on Elysium that can cure any illness. So, Max decides to strike a deal with a resistance leader, going through an operation giving him mechanical arms. With these, he kidnaps an Elysium computer scientist and downloads security information into his brain, so that the resistance leader can adjust the computer virus, which he plans to release onto Elysium, allowing the robots to fly to earth and heal the sick. The story seems very implausible, on both a social and scientific level. The torus-shaped Elysium spacecraft creates gravity by the centripetal force by spinning around its center and staying balanced on a tabletop. This concept was
When science fiction first started out, most stories and novels revolved around space travel to distant stars, meeting new civilizations on different planets, aliens invading earth, etc. Alien, Star Wars, and The Day the Earth Stood Still were all entertaining science fiction movies, however, most of them are not realistic scenarios (Forbidden Planet did not take atmospheric pressure, oxygen or gravity into account). The words themselves, science fiction, suggest that there should be some realistic element to the whole story, or at least some science to back it up. This is when Phillip K. Dick’s books, one of which was made into the famous movie, Blade Runner, revolutionized science fiction to this day. Blade Runner is concerned with how empathy and love differentiate humans from robots, instead of the usual Alien Invasion/Space Odyssey. The story is set on future earth in 1992 (the book was written in 1968), where nuclear warfare caused the planet to be plagued by radioactive storms. All wildlife has died due to contamination, and humanity is living mostly on other planets, with only a fraction of the population still living on earth. Because wildlife has died, robotic replicas of animals and especially humans are being built as a sign of status and slavery. However, when six androids (the human robots) escape from their owner’s spaceship, they escape to earth where Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is assigned to hunt them down. The problem with the assignment, though, is that these androids are so similar to humans that one can only differentiate them with a very precise questionnaire measuring device. First off, the movie portrays the unnatural
By Michal Burgunder ’15
An Old One but a Good One
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
developed long ago in the 1950s. Unfortunately, in the movie, the inside of the torus is not closed off from space, so the pressure we humans are used to could not have been created, even with the powerful centripetal force. The mechanical arms and downloading computer information into one’s brain also seem severely unlikely, as the brain does not function based on just ones and zeroes (neurons can be damaged for example). Overall, with its widespread availability of spaceships (that are expensive due to fuel) and ignorance of security systems (one would imagine Elysium to have firewalls, preventing computer viruses), the movie fails to provide any reasonable scientific ideas, in addition to using concepts that were developed long ago, bringing nothing new to the science-fiction genre.
Photo Courtesy of IMDB
faces due to the radiation excellently, creating a more desolate environment, and also presents an increasingly multicultural society, which is true about the world today. However, the portrayal of robots as humans, which scientists are working on today, comes across as almost nightmarish with its film noir elements. Robots with human features are being researched around the world today. Just a few months ago, a Japanese scientist created a robot that could respond with facial feedback. Cell creation is also very advanced today, so a combination of robotics and biology is not a too far-fetched idea. Consciousness is also being researched, including an immortality project, transferring one’s consciousness to a computer, and then transferring it to a robot. So far, how good is Blade Runner’s science? I would it is say pretty sound. Only it would require much more time for scientists to create even an android prototype.
For More Information: The Center for Sustainability Education, p.5 Gustafson, Per. (2001). Meanings of Place: Everyday experiences and theoretical conceptualizations. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21(1), 5-16. Gruenewald, D. (2003a). The best of both worlds: A critical pedagogy of place. Educational Re-searcher, 32(4), 3-12. Gruenewald, D. (2003b). Foundations of Place: A multidisciplinary framework for place-conscious education. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 619-654. Louv, Richard. 2011 The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books. Orr, D. 2004. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Island Press, USA. Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC). Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative. 2010. The Benefits of Place-based Education: A Report from the Place-based Education Evaluation Collaborative (Second Edition). Retrieved [1/17/14] from http://tinyurl.com/PEECBrochure. Sobel, David. 2004. Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities (Great Barrington, MA: Orion Society. Theoretical and Scientific Underpinnings of the Wellness Model, p. 6 Cloninger, C. R. (2006). The science of well-being: An integrated approach to mental health and its disorders. World Psychiatry, 5(2), 71-76. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A metaanalysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35-43. Keyes, C. L. M. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Research, 43, 207-222. Keyes, C. L. M. (2009). Atlanta: Brief description of the mental health continuum short form (MHC-SF).Available: http://www.sociology.emory.edu/ckeyes/. [On–line, retrieved February, 10, 2014]. The Science Behind Healthy Weight Management, p.6 1. Calorie. 2014. In Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calorie 2. Hall, K.D., et al. (2012). Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight regulation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95 (4), 989-994. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.036350 3. National Institute of health and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: (2005). The Science of Energy Balance; A Teacher’s Guide. In The Science of Energy Balance: Calorie Intake and Physical Activity Retrieved from http://science. education.nih.gov/supplements/energy/ 4. Reed, G.W. & Hill, J.O. (1996). Measuring the thermic effect of food. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63 (2), 164-169 retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org Breaking Bad: Respect the Chemisty, p. 34 1. Kemsley, Jyllian. C&EN Talks with Donna Nelson. Chemical & Engineering News. 2013, 91, 32.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Sci & Entertainment
Under the Microscope with David Richeson David Richeson is an associate professor of mathematics at Dickinson College. He is the editor of the MAA publication Math Horizons, the author of the book Euler’s Gem, and he runs a blog called “Division by Zero” (divisbyzero.com). What is editing a publication like Math Horizons like?
concepts they normally wouldn’t even attempt to learn?
It is a unique publication. With most scholarly journals, research articles are submitted, reviewed, and then the editor decides what is published. Math Horizons is a magazine intended for undergraduate math students. My job is to receive submissions, but also to recruit article writers, putting it somewhere between an academic journal and a popular magazine.
That’s right. Euler’s Gem is not going to bump Harry Potter off the bestsellers list, but I did write it for a popular audience. I would say that the book’s target audience is people who love math, but perhaps have been away from it for a while. I imagine a doctor or lawyer who took some math courses in school and miss it. With Math Horizons, we have orders from mathematics departments, who distribute copies to their students—undergraduates who like math and want to learn more. It is also read by professors. So it needs to be interesting to a wide variety of people.
How do you go about finding people to write, and what types of articles can you normally find in Math Horizons? Math Horizons focuses on mathematics and the culture of mathematics. Some of the articles are mathematical, some are about mathematical people; we have interviews, students writing about their study abroad experiences, as well as humorous pieces and puzzles. I find authors in unusual ways. Sometimes they are recommended to me, other times I see a talk at a conference that intrigues me. In one issue, we have an article written by a student whose professor discovered that Robert Galbraith was J.K. Rowling’s pen name. She worked in a computational linguistics lab her professor said, “What if one of my students writes the article?” and I agreed. That’s just an example of how these articles come about.
Why do you believe that it is important for young people today to learn math formulas and the concepts behind them? We have a lot of tools that help us do mathematics, but it is hard to use them if you don’t understand what you’re doing. This is an increasingly quantitative
world and it’s good to have some exposure to mathematical ideas. It’s important to have a basic understanding of quantitative reasoning. It’s important to get kids involved early so that they have this grounding. Even if they won’t end up using math often, it’d be a shame to close those doors too early. How important do you think it is for mathematicians to learn the stories behind the core concepts? It is important for students and professors to know that there is a story behind the mathematical concepts. Giving math a human face can help students understand it better, and it shows that these theorems and ideas didn’t come easily. People struggled with these ideas; battles were fought over who got credit for this or that theorem, things like that. Context is also important. “Why was this important at the time, and why is it still important today?” I think that the history of the subject makes the math more meaningful.
What inspired you to write your book, Euler’s Gem? Euler’s Gem is about a beautiful theorem on polyhedra (cubes, pyramids, soccer balls, etc.) that Leonhard Euler discovered in 1750. It was surprising that the ancient Greeks did not know this theorem because they loved polyhedra. I didn’t learn about it until late in my mathematical career. I thought that was a shame, and that it would be good to bring the theorem to the attention of a popular audience.
Would you say that math has an image problem? Do you think that higher-level mathematics is useful to the average person? There is some truth that higher-level math isn’t going to be used by every person. Many people do use it, because it is useful for their job: engineers, statisticians, and actuaries, for example. But I think it would be a good idea to rethink the curriculum. The image problem is due in part to the linear nature of mathematics education. I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me and said “I loved math until…” and if they happen to have had one bad year, then it can ruin math for them. Math is hard. Teachers need to do a better a job at admitting that math is hard but that the challenge is part of the fun.
Yes, there are different kinds of math and people learn math in all kinds of different ways. When I teach my multivariable calculus class, there are some students who love imagining these 3D shapes. There are students who struggle with it, and those students benefit from holding physical models. 3D printers are opening lots of possibilities for making it easier to create visual representations of the mathematical objects. I worked last semester to do some 3D printing for that class. So we can use these [shapes] for students to manipulate, and I can ask the students questions about them. It helps.
You have to write for your audience, and for both [Euler’s Gem and Math Horizons] the goal is to make it accessible to a wide audience. It takes a lot of work and effort to write complicated things in an understandable way. As a visual person, I feel a good illustration can go a long way to making a complicated concept easy to understand. Also, a lot of the mathematical machinery that has been developed to make mathematics rigorous has obscured some of the core concepts. Part of my job is to make these more visible.
Blogs, and social media in general, are a new arrival on the scene, and it’s very exciting. There is a whole community of people who are excited by these ideas, and now they can discover or learn new mathematics every day. There are high school teachers, professors, and students who are writing blogs. Then you’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. There are a lot of conversations going on in these places. It creates a community that is diverse— an international community of people who can talk about mathematics—and it brings people together.
Do you hope that in the future using works like your blog, Euler’s Gem, and Math Horizons can get people to think about math in more visual terms?
What kind of challenges did you face writing the book?
Would you say that your work seeks to help people understand mathematical
You also run a blog called “Division by Zero.” Do you feel blogs offer a unique opportunity to teach people mathematics in a way that the more traditional mediums cannot?
- Zacharia Benalayat ’17
Photo Courtesy of John Vetromile ’17
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
Sci & Entertainment
Crossword Created by Tiffany McIntosh ’16
Down 1. Unit of sound level 2. b2-4ac=_____ 3. Fusion of sperm and egg to create a zygote 5. Male hormone 6. Movement that applies feminist principles to ecological issues 7. Molecule that has genetic material 13. Reading disorder Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. 1
14. Gradually paying less attention to a stimulus 15. Phylum of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish 16. Plays an essential role in memory formation 17. Inventor of the reflecting telescope 20. Planet named after Roman goddess 21. Part of the brain that controls coordination and balance
25. Dickinson’s sedimentary rock 26. Breakdown of food into smaller parts 28. Features that are similar in function 30. Injury at time of death 32. Repetition of a process or sequence in a computer program 35. Theory used to explain the beginning of the universe (2 words)
Across 4. 2001: A _______ Odyssey (1968) 8. Movement from an area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration 9. Number multiplied by a variable 10. Heart doctor 11. Physical expression of a genotype 12. Green pigment in plants 18. Process used to make alcohol, yogurt, etc. 19. Formatting style in psychology 22. “Higher Primates” 23. E=mc2 24. Substances that cause cancer 27. Movement with two legs 29. Blood disorder 31. Mg 33. Microsoft Office, Windows 8, Adobe Photoshop 34. Study of relationships among organisms and their environments 37. Symbol for iron 39. Movie title based on nucleotide bases of DNA 40. Famous 3.2 million year old female hominid 41. Changeable value 42. Connects the forebrain to the spinal cord 45. Division by 0 47. Moles of solute divided by liters of solution 48. Idea used to explain a fact or phenomenon 49. Chemical that has a pH less than 7 50. Soft gray alkaline earth metal
36. Hard surface of teeth 38. Inhumane movement to improve genetic qualities of human population 43. Severe loss of explicit memory 44. Biotin; Riboflavin 46. Evolution by natural selection
Answer Key on Page 37.
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