Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
21 November 2014 - Vol. I Issue No. 2
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
CONTENTS 21 November 2014 - Issue No. 2
Editor’s Choice 5-6 Sustainability Dickinson Biodiesel All About ALLARM 6-7 Health & Wellness The Pre-Health Program Vitamin B12 8
Liberal Arts & Science Avoiding “Scientism” and “Fundamentalism”
Editor’s Choice: Q & A
Research 22 23
Student Research Carbon Chains in Young Stel- lar Objects
Forklifts and Photosynthe- sis: The Technology of Plant Physiology
Going Back in Time with Paleolimnology
24 Identification and Charac- terization of Enterococcus faecalis Biofilm Phenotypes 25
Learning How Not to Grow Phytoplankton: A Coastal Oregon Adventure
31 Alan Turing and the Turing Test 32 Bending the Ray: The Dis- covery of the Electron and its Mass
Science News 10
World News A Most Influential Woman: The Immortal Legacy of Henrietta Lacks
Human Impacts on Planet Earn Era a New Title
Cover Graphic by Missy Niblock
Campus News 13 Award-Winning Environ- mental Activist Visits Dickinson Campus
The Parthenolide Response of Leukemia Cells
Communicating Earth Is- sues
Faculty Research Aging Memories
Walking the Tightrope
Newest Faculty Member of the Mathematics Depart- ment
Focal Performance as a Behavioral Metric for Auton- omous Motivation
Legacy Sediments, Mill Dams, Climate Change, and the Future of the Chesa- peake Bay
20-21 A True Renaissance Man: The Life of Benjamin Rush Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
A Nonlinear View of the History of Science
The Naked Eye Astronomers
The History of Science Lives in London
A Ray of Hope: A Concen- trating Solar Power Renais- sance in America
Features 16-19 Zatae Longsdorff Straw
The History of Science
The Psychology of the “Bachelor” TV Series
The Archimedes Codex Sci-Fi Movies
Under the Microscope with David Jackson
Topic Search Biochemistry- p. 25 Biology - p. 24, 27, 30 Chemistry - p. 7, 22, 32 Computer Science - p. 31 Earth Science - p. 14, 29 Environmental Science - p. 12, 13, 25, 30 Mathematics - p. 14 Medicine - p. 6, 11 Neuroscience - p. 23 Physics - p. 34, 38 Psychology - p. 26, 36 Sustainability - p. 5, 12, 32, 34
Letter from the Editor Experimental Biology 2014 In December 1815, chemistry professor Thomas Cooper and his student James Hamilton Jr. conducted one of the first student-faculty research collaborations at Dickinson and published their work in the Philadelphia Port Folio magazine. Since then, generations of Dickinson students have conducted research on campus and worldwide. Their experiments range from the first studies using Joseph Priestley’s burning glass at Dickinson in 1815 to a study
unit of the kidney called the nephron. He has discovered that urea transport in renal collecting ducts, which are the final components of the nephron, occurs through urea channel proteins. Knepper has pioneered methods for applying phosphoproteomics, a branch of proteome studies that distinguishes proteins with an attached phosphate group to signaling systems. From these methods, he and his team have revealed classes of protein kinases, which attach phosphate groups to other proteins through a process called phosphorylation. This led to the further understanding of how vasopressin regulates the phosphorylation of various protein kinases. My research focused on the identification of these kinases that phosphorylate the urea channel protein UT-A1. During my summer at the NIH, I met several of my future mentors, most notably Dr. Chung Lin (Joe) Chou, Dr. Jason D. Hoffert, and Dr. Carolyn M. Ecelbarger.
Identification of protein kinases that phosphorylate the urea channel protein UT-A1 presentation with Dr. Mark A. Knepper (right).
of giant viruses in Zurich, Switzerland in 2013 and the many experiments conducted today. Research continues to be an important part of our science programs. In 1985, Dickinson held its first undergraduate science research symposium. Today this hugely popular event showcases the scientific discoveries of many student researchers. Moreover, Dickinson was the first college to incorporate field studies into its science courses and it continues to add fascinating, hands-on lab experiments to the curriculum.1 During my first two years at Dickinson, I had the opportunity to give poster presentations for Associate Professor of Chemistry Amy Witter’s Analytical Chemistry 243 lab on antioxidants and for Associate Professor of Biology Michael P. Roberts’ Genetics 216 lab on mutagenesis. Last semester, with the support of my professors and the Career Center, I presented my research at the 2014 Experimental Biology Conference in San Diego, California. Over 14,000 scientists from around the world attended the conference. They participated in lectures, poster sessions, career service workshops, and technology exhibits. Some of the research areas represented included physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, mathematics and statistics, chemistry, psychology, environmental studies, and many interdisciplinary fields. My presentation was on the kidney physiology research that I had conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2013 under Senior Investigator Dr. Mark A. Knepper, who has been a scientist at the NIH since 1978 and is currently head of the Epithelial Systems Biology Laboratory. He has received the highest award of the American Society of Nephrology, the H. W. Smith Award, and has published over 400 peer-reviewed papers in renal physiology. In addition, Knepper has co-authored papers and collaborated with Dr. Peter C. Agre, the discoverer of aquaporins, the 2003 Chemistry Nobel Laureate, and Dickinson’s 2005 Joseph Priestley Award recipient. Knepper’s lab studies the hormone vasopressin and its ability to regulate water and salt transport in the basic
In 1809, the founder of the college, Dr. Benjamin Rush, wrote about the importance of research and scientific inquiry when he stated, “Upon all new and difficult subjects there must be pioneers.”2 With this in mind, the editors of the DSM have decided to research the history of science at Dickinson, beginning with the college’s first scientist, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a physician, professor of chemistry, and father of American psychiatry. During his time, Rush was a scholar and author, publishing numerous textbooks in the fields of chemistry, psychiatry, and medicine. And like every student today, Rush studied under great mentors who acknowledged his endeavors and encouraged his success. I continue to be inspired by Rush. I had the opportunity to visit his memorial site at Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia this summer. During my trip, I reflected not only on his many contributions to science but also on his work opposing slavery and promoting reforms in women’s education and mental health treatment. Most importantly, I paid my respects for his many great services to the college and to the rest of the world. Thus, like the start of many research initiatives, the DSM Fall 2014 issue acknowledges what has preceded us, and I would like to thank Dickinson’s Archives & Special Collections for guiding us in our search. We have dedicated this issue to recognizing the history of science at Dickinson and hope that you are informed, educated, and inspired after reading it.
Dickinson Science Magazine Editor-in-Chief Gloria Hwang ’16 Executive Layout Editor Michaela Shaw ’16 Associate Layout Editor Erika Gibb ’18 News Editors Madeleine Gardner ’18 Caio Santos Rodrigues ’16 Sydney Young ’17 Features Editor Tamsin Bradbury ’17 Graphic Designers Callan Donovan ’16 Elizabeth Gass ’15 Executive Research Editor Alissa Meister ’15 Associate Research Editor Trevor Griesman ’15 Science & Technology Editor Sean Jones ’17 Associate Science & Technology Editor Margaret McGuirk ’18 Science & Entertainment Editor Matthew Atwood ’15 Content Editor Tiffany McIntosh ’16 Opinion Editor Zacharia Benalayat ’17 Photography Editor Alexander Dillon ’17 Photographers Matthew Atwood ’15 Madeline Wheeler ’17 Executive Copy Editor Laura Hart ’15 Copy Editors Bridget Jones ’17 Mollyann Pais ’15 Amanda Ratajczak ’17 Elaine Yoch ’15
Communications Manager Emily Fineberg ’16
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a great semester!
Event Coordinator Janice Wiss
Faculty Advisor Missy Niblock Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ DickinsonScienceNews Issuu: http://issuu.com/dickinsonsciencemagazine
Gloria Hwang ’16 Editor-in-Chief For more information, see page 36.
Benjamin Rush memorial site
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Editor’s Choice Sustainability What’s New?
Dickinson Biodiesel Tyce Herrman Projects Coordinator, Center for Sustainability Education Justin McCarty ’15 and Zev Greenberg ’16 Sustainability Biodiesel Shop Interns
Tyce: Dickinson seems to have an uncanny number of opportunities to get dirty. The Biodiesel Shop is no exception. It is certainly “hands-on” learning. Wrangling barrels of used cooking oil in the August heat is not the typical laboratory setting. Zev, as a B&MB major, what is it like working outside of Rector? Zev: Transitioning from a lab in Rector to the Biodiesel Shop in the Facilities warehouse is enough to scare some people away, but when you stick with it (quite literally, as the floors are all very sticky from waste vegetable oil) the Shop becomes a new home. T: Justin, what have you found to be most rewarding about working in the Shop? Justin: I have had the luck of seeing the fuel we make in action and the whole food to fuel cycle. Story time: I was volunteering at the farm during potato season some time ago and while crawling through the soil harvesting potatoes—that would later be
it in the end since I know that the fuel I send to the farm is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Last spring, I was speaking with an entrepreneur in Phoenix, Arizona about his development of a microbial fuel cell. When he started his work on the fuel cell, he was pursing his PhD, but eventually found the applied nature of the fuel cell more attractive than his dissertation. When I think about the applications of what we do in the Shop, I think about that. His fuel cell generates low-carbon electricity while reducing water demand in the dry Arizona desert. We’re constantly experimenting and improving and what we do has tangible results. It moves tractors, it powers trucks, it helps to harvest potatoes. T: Would you recommend volunteering, interning, or doing research in The Biodiesel Shop to others? J: Absolutely. Here are some of the great things about the Shop: 1. You can make it your own. It is a place on campus where you can have a global impact (small biodiesel producers from around the world look at our operation for guidance), while crafting the future of a program; 2. It is not everyday you get to work in a manufacturing plant on a college campus. This is real world experience, the likes of which you can’t get anywhere but maybe a few other campuses in the country; 3. Biodiesel from waste vegetable is a giant moving puzzle. It makes you think, it makes you frustrated, but in the end when you transfer 60 gallons of well-made golden biodiesel into the storage tank, knowing that the farm might use that to harvest food that you might later eat or that facilities could use it to run a snow plow in order to clear ice and snow to keep the walkways safe, it’s worth it. Every scratch, every bead of sweat, every curse word at the moving puzzle is all worth it.
“What we do matters. It moves tractors, it powers trucks.”
All About ALLARM By Julie Vastine Director of ALLARM
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
fried in oil that would later be made into biodiesel for the dining hall—I noticed that I didn’t smell the usual diesel stench coming out of Matt’s tractor. He later mentioned to me that it was running on a batch of biodiesel I had churned out for the farm about a week earlier. T: We are certainly interested in the total lifecycle of our operation. Have you found that the Shop has influenced your studies and intellectual pursuits? J: Working in the shop has definitely given me an appreciation for the value of energy, as well as an interest in working with the energy industry once I graduate. The sheer amount of work it takes to pump out 50 gallons of biodiesel is incredible, but worth Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
For 28 years, the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) has been educating communities about stream health and teaching them to use scientific tools to investigate their local waterways. ALLARM works closely with communities near and far on a variety of stream-related monitoring projects. ALLARM’s Shale Gas Monitoring Program spans the part of the Marcellus and Utica shale gas region (PA, NY, and WV), and focuses on monitoring streams for gas extraction-related pollution events. Currently sixteen communities participate in the program (monitoring 300+ sites), and over 1,400 people have been trained. ALLARM’s most recent workshop was held in the northern tier, the most fracked area of Pennsylvania. When new monitors were asked why they were interested 5
Photos Courtesy of Julie Vastine
in stream monitoring, Alex Loroto replied, “So many people in Susquehanna County don’t know what to do—they have been impacted in so many ways and ALLARM is giving people something that they can do, control, and understand for themselves by monitoring the health of their streams.” ALLARM’s Watershed Monitoring Program supports communities in south-central Pennsylvania in achieving their monitoring goals, including designing and implementing stream monitoring programs. ALLARM’s newest partner group, Friends of Tom’s Creek, is designing a monitoring program to assess the potential impacts of a granite mining operation on their watershed. The group will engage in a number of avenues to monitor stream health, including using macroinvertebrates as biological indicators and evaluating erosion and sedimentation using physical monitoring indicators. Working with communities to address local water quality issues continues to be an evolving and exciting story for ALLARM. With each community and classroom collaboration, lessons are learned, which results in a dynamic, flexible ALLARM program. Each experience represents its own chapter in stream quality and it is exciting for ALLARM to help communities use science as a tool to understand the health of their waterways.
ence faculty from large undergraduate universities, began discussing potential changes in the MCAT. They surveyed medical students and medical school faculty members across the country to see what they wanted future medical students to learn at the undergraduate level, as well as in medical school. These results transitioned into updating the MCAT format and content to help the medical schools secure future medical students who demonstrate the knowledge sought in physicians today. For future physicians, the new test format will last six hours and fifteen minutes with a total “in-seat” time of seven hours and thirty minutes. While the time changes, the testing environment remains as candidates give biometric identification (read: thumbprint) into a computerized pad on arrival before cameras and people watch over test takers. Those pieces are just the initial part of the MCAT challenge. The content itself will become more extensive with the incorporation of biochemistry and statistics into both “sciences” sections of the exam. The two new science sections reflect useful content for future medical students. These two sections are called “Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems” and “Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems.” The “Verbal Reasoning” section will transition into “Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.” A new section called “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior” will evaluate a wide range of questions from these disciplines. To learn more about the changing content, visit www. aamc.org/mcat2015.
Health & Wellness
To prepare for this new material and to earn a successful score on the MCAT, candidates’ study hours should total approximately 500 hours over eight to nine months as they utilize appropriate resources. AAMC developed free materials in partnership with Khan Academy, a virtual preparation program (www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/ mcat). AAMC redesigned the Official Guide to the MCAT Exam (MCAT2015) to benefit candidates prior to the new test. At $35, the book comes with practice questions. If students purchased it earlier without the questions, they can now buy the questions for $10. Debi Swarner Students seeking free preparation resources are welcome to review Associate Director of The Career Center updated materials in the Career Center Library. These materials can Medicine Pre-Health Advisor be signed out on Friday afternoons for weekend use. Many Dickinson Pre-Health Program students dread even hearThe AAMC MCAT team will update additional materials prior ing the phrase “Medical College Admission Test” (MCAT). It means to April 2015 when the new test begins. By next year at this time, intense work, on top of courses, to reach either a longstanding goal or a juniors and seniors who will be applying to medical school should newfound one. To make the admissions process to medical school more have seen the new test version. We will watch to see how the new test challenging, about five years ago, the Association of American Medical design benefits their careers as medical students and prepares them Colleges (AAMC) staff members and a team of MCAT2015 volunteers to become outstanding physicians leading healthcare forward for the representing a number of medical schools, along with a handful of scinext millennium.
The Pre-Health Program: MCAT2015
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Vitamin B12: The Last Discovered Vitamin Cindy Samet Professor of Chemistry
“Aim at a high mark and you will hit it. No, not the first time, not the second time, and maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you’ll hit the bull’s-eye of success.” -Annie Oakley When Annie Oakley spoke these words, she was no doubt referring to her experience as the infamous female sharpshooter who dazzled audiences with her shooting skills and won their hearts with her warm smile and sense of humor. But these words of wisdom also apply to the process of scientific discovery. Sadly, “Little Sure Shot” Annie died of pernicious anemia in 1926 and never lived to witness the bull’s-eye of success that was the discovery of vitamin B12—the molecule that would have saved her life. During the Age of Exploration, when voyages at sea were fraught with disease, there was a vague notion that certain foods had the ability to produce a dramatic cure. In the 19th century, chemists and physiologists learned that the human diet needed to include certain key compounds. In 1910, the Polish biochemist Casimir Funk coined the term “vitamine,” a contraction of the term “vital” (necessary) and “amine” (a nitrogen-containing compound). It was soon realized that these compounds did not always contain nitrogen, but the term stuck and was later shortened to vitamin. In the 1850s, the English physician Thomas Addison described a lethal (pernicious) form of anemia that was somehow related to the stomach lining. There was no treatment for this disease and it was always fatal. In 1926, Georges Minot, William Murphy, and George Whipple reported that those with pernicious anemia were cured by ingesting large amounts of raw beef liver. In 1934, these three men shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine. But there was still much work to do, as the “active ingredient” Figure 1. My vial of methylcobalamin. It in the liver was not known. Several must be refrigerated and stored in a dark years later, it was discovered that liver bag, as it is sensitive to heat and light. did not act as a cure for patients who had their stomachs removed, and so it was postulated that there was an “intrinsic factor” present in the stomach lining that was necessary for the “extrinsic factor”—the vitamin—to be properly absorbed. Thus, it was realized early on that this compound— not yet referred to as a vitamin—was more complex than most. In 1948, a ruby-red crystalline substance was isolated from liver (see Figure 2), and this “extrinsic factor,” or active ingredient, was named vitamin B12. But as with any newly isolated substance, its structure was not known. The crystals were sent to University of Oxford chemist Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, who had already been successful in solving the structure of penicillin. She was able to elucidate the structure of vitamin B12, which turned out to be the most complex structure yet tackled by crystallographers (see Figure 3). The molecule contained 181 Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
atoms, including an inorganic cobalt atom at the center of a ring structure called a corrin ring. These structural features gave the molecule its chemical name cobalamin. This marked the very first example of a carbon-cobalt bond, thus paving the way for advances at the interface of inorganic and Figure 2. biological chemistry. In 1964, Dorothy Hod- Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia gkin won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry—the fourth Nobel Prize for vitamin B12 and the third (of four total to date) for a woman in chemistry!1 Once a structure is known, the next crucial step is to synthesize the molecule in the laboratory. This famous synthesis was achieved through collaboration between the research groups of Albert Eschemoser and Robert B. Woodward, and took approximately 100 chemists working for over a decade! This amazing feat allowed physicians to give this synthetic form of vitamin B12—cyanocobalamin—as injections to patients with pernicious anemia, who could not absorb the vitamin by ingesting it. It is worth noting that Woodward received Dickinson’s Priestley Award in 1962, three years prior to winning a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for unrelated synthetic work. My interest in vitamin B12 was borne out of a passion for stories about molecules that change history as well as my journey to find answers to my own health mysteries. Years of ulcerative colitis caused me to have two major surgeries in 1999 that resulted in the loss of my terminal ileum, the section of small bowel that is responsible for the absorption of vitamin B12. I was told that I needed to be vigilant about monitoring my B12 level because those missing the terminal ileum are at risk for malabsorption of that vitamin. I always tested in the normal range. Four years ago, disturbing symptoms brought me to a neurologist, who mentioned a vitamin B12 deficiency almost immediately. My heart sank. Darn. I’m in the normal range. This just couldn’t be it. Relief followed quickly, as he explained that the normal range (200-1300 pg/ml) wasn’t acceptable. There was a neurological syndrome related to B12 deficiency, and a value below 600 could cause these problems. In fact, the neurological syndrome associated with a B12 deficiency was noted as early as 1849, and it was soon realized that for some, neurological symptoms were present without the other more common symptoms that accompany anemia. The American medical system defines blood levels of 200 pg/ ml and below as an indicator of deficiency.2 This number is based on the level associated with pernicious anemia, which is the Figure 3. The structure of cyanocobalamin most severe manifestation of (cyano-B12). Note the cobalt (Co) atom with the cyano group (CN) attached to it. MethB12 deficiency. In Europe and Japan, the lower limit is 500-550 yl-B12 is identical to this structure but with a methyl (CH3) group attached to the Co. pg/ml—more than twice the
minimum accepted levels in the U.S.—and it is well recognized there that these levels are often associated with psychological and behavioral manifestations such as memory loss and dementia. Interestingly, Japan boasts one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s dementia, and B12 experts believe this to be a direct consequence of treating patients below 550 with B12 injections. 3 Cyanocobalamin, the form of B12 with a “cyano” (or CN) group attached to the Co atom, is the most common available form, both in injections or tablets. This, however, is not the active form that our bodies can use immediately. In fact, this molecule must go through a series of chemical reactions in the body (at least five known steps) before it becomes methylcobalamin, sometimes referred to as methyl-B12. For some, the immune system halts this important conversion, and even high levels of cyanocobalamin in the blood do not necessarily indicate that the tissues have enough active B12 for optimal health. In addition, the blood test most commonly ordered does not detect the active, methyl form. When my neurological symptoms returned, I went on a quest for injections of methyl-B12. I am thrilled to report that a small bottle of methylcobalamin resides in my refrigerator at home (see Figure 1) and weekly injections have significantly improved the quality of my life. The story of cobalamin—the very last vitamin to be discovered—is one of complexity and perseverance. Most importantly, it demonstrates that science is a human endeavor, and success comes on many levels, in the laboratory and in our daily lives. For more information, see page 36.
Liberal Arts & Science
Avoiding “Scientism” and “Fundamentalism” Dan Cozort Professor of Religion
As a recently confirmed Lutheran teenager in North Dakota, I rejected my church because I thought it was hostile to science. I knew the universe was not created in six days; Methuselah did not live 900 years; the sun couldn’t stop moving in the sky; and certainly, no one comes back to life after being dead for three days. Years later, as a student at Brown University, I reconsidered. I immersed myself in courses on Christian theology and ethics. That did not re-Lutheranize me—I found a religious home elsewhere—but I no longer thought religion and science were enemies. I had come to see religion and science as being concerned with “non-overlapping magisteria,” to use the formulation of paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, who spoke at Dickinson’s Commencement early in my career. Science considers only what we can establish based upon empirical observation, whereas religion centers on the numinous world—the non-phenomenal or spiritual dimension of existence. Science becomes “Scientism,” in Huston Smith’s words, when it asserts that the numinous does not exist. Scientism is a pseudo-religion because it involves a belief that cannot be affirmed by the scientific method; there is no way to disprove the existence of the sacred. Religion, on the other hand, becomes “fundamentalism” when it clings to literal
interpretations of ancient stories and regards with hostility the contrary conclusions of modern researchers. One needn’t embrace Scientism to be a scientist, as many religious scientists can tell us, and one needn’t embrace fundamentalism to be religious, as many scientifically oriented believers can tell us. The Dalai Lama is a role model for me in many ways, in part because he respects
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
science. He says, “If science shows that something in which we have believed is not true, we should change our beliefs.” He has come to see ancient Buddhist cosmology, which describes the world as flat, with four continents of different geometric shapes surrounding an extremely high, mostly invisible mountain, as being a fanciful way of explaining the diversity of peoples. It is Buddhism’s Tower of Babel, a myth rich with meaning that requires interpretation. On the other hand, like many other Buddhists, the Dalai Lama thinks there are good reasons to believe in the workings of karma, in reincarnation, and in the continued existence of Buddhas from the distant past. Since science cannot disprove these theories (and, in some cases, as in the work of the scientist Ian Stevenson on past-life recollection in small children, seems to affirm them), there is no need to bend to mere opinions of scientists. For it would be Scientism rather than science to dismiss reincarnation, just as it would be Scientism rather than science to assert that God does not exist and that the Incarnation and Resurrection are impossible. This is a complex topic. I will end with just one more observation. When I rejected religion as a teen, I felt that religious people had nothing but faith on their side. Faith, as I understood it, meant blindly accepting a set of beliefs one was taught as a child. Further contact with different kinds of religious people, especially during the two years I lived in India, changed my understanding of religion. I saw that for most people, now and past, embracing a set of propositions such as we find in the Christian creeds is a small or even non-existent aspect of their spirituality. Rather, they have experience. Although they never receive formal religious instruction, they participate almost daily in powerful communal celebrations of the sacred that confirm for them the numinous dimension of reality. They might not be able to articulate exactly what they believe on the basis of that experience (which I think is why they tolerate a wide range of beliefs), but they have no doubt that material existence is only part of our story. Dismissing religion on the grounds that some religious people do not accept the Big Bang or evolution really misses the point. Rejecting science because it appears to contradict a literal reading of religious texts misses it just as badly.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
What do you think has been the greatest contribution to science in the past century?
Great contributions to science are ones that enable additional great contributions to be made. In April of 1953, three papers were published in the journal Nature that suggested the structure of DNA. The scientists who first proposed the structure and who are credited with Michael P. its discovery are James Watson Roberts and Francis Crick. They proAssociate Prof. phetically state in the second of Biology sentence of their landmark publication, “This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.” They were correct, both in the proposed structure and its biological interest. The great contributions to science that followed this discovery relate to the function of genes, which are encoded in the structure of DNA. Knowing the molecular nature of the gene has advanced our understanding of the origins and evolution of life; how organisms develop, grow and function; and the basis for many diseases. Determining the genetic “blueprint”
of organisms through the sequencing of whole genomes has permitted a new era of scientific inquiry about the relatedness of living organisms (and their viruses), the intricate mechanisms that make them work, and the consequences of genetic changes. Several years ago, students in my first-year seminar, “The Process of Discovery”, wrote a letter to Dr. Watson, asking him questions about the discovery of the structure of DNA. He replied, hand-writing brief responses in the margins of their original letter. To the question “Did you ever imagine that determining the structure of DNA would lead to so many advances in biology at the time of the discovery?”, Watson gave a one word answer: “No.” Even the rarely modest co-discoverer did not realize that this great contribution to science would inspire additional great contributions for decades to come. So, my choice for the greatest contribution to science in the past century is the discovery of the structure of DNA, because it has fundamentally changed our understanding of life on the planet and opened new avenues for future discovery, the importance of which we can only try to imagine.
According to Dickinson students:
0% The Microwave
The concept of stereotype threat is the greatest contribution to science in the past century. This social psychological theory refers to concern and anxiety over confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one’s group, whether racial, ethnic, gendered, cultural, or Sarah age-related. Essentially, simply DiMuccio ‘15 reminding an individual of an Psychology aspect of their identity that Major is associated with a negative stereotype can make them do worse (than they would otherwise) on a test in that domain. One serious consequence of stereotype threat involves academic underperformance due to the physiological, cognitive, and emotional reactions to the threat. This term was coined by Social Psychologists Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson in 1995. In their seminal study they found that when reminded of their race, black college students performed more poorly on standardized intelligence tests than did white students. When not reminded of their race, however, black students performed equally well as white students. Since Steele and Aronson’s initial paper, research on stereotype threat has broadened to other groups and situations. For example, research shows that Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
reminding women of their gender makes them perform worse on driving and math tests and reminding the elderly of their age makes them perform worse on visual acuity tests. Additionally, reminding white men of their race makes them do worse in sports, such as basketball, which are stereotypically dominated by black men. Thus, it is not only minorities that are affected by stereotype threat; everyone can be subject to its negative effects because most people have at least one identity associated with a negative stereotype. More than 300 experiments have been conducted on stereotype threat since 1995 examining who is most affected by it and under what circumstances, the psychological mechanisms, and the consequences of stereotype threat. First, besides underachievement on academic tasks, exposure to stereotype threat can reduce how much individuals value a certain domain. That means that some groups choose to avoid certain areas of study (such as women in math or STEM fields). Thus the effects of stereotype threat might contribute to educational and social inequality. Second, the discrimination associated with stereotype threat can also have negative long-term consequences on individuals’ mental health. To reduce inequality one can consider solutions such as reducing the salience of stereotypes in certain groups, encouraging self-affirmation, providing external attributions for difficulty and providing role models, among other things.
20% Renewable Energy
6% Modern Weather Forecasting
Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
“It is a place on campus where you can have a global impact, while crafting the future of a program.”
▶ JUSTIN MCCARTY ’15
from Tyce Herman’s interview, “Dickinson Biodiesel”
Photo Courtesy of Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections
“I personally wanted an education and that desire and to enter Dickinson were one and inseparable”
▶ ZATAE LONGSDORFF STRAW from Elizabeth Hardison’s ’16 article “Where No Woman Had Gone Before”
Photo Courtesy of Earth Vision Trust
Photo Courtesy of Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections
“I get the profound sense that this other thing out there— the ice—is speaking through the camera. And I’m just the vehicle, the messenger.”
“So, let me urge those of you considering a career in science, or who already follow one, to learn at least a bit about of the history of our grand endeavor. ”
▶ JAMES BALOG from
▶ ROBERT J. BOYLE from ,
Amanda Ratajczak’s article, “Award-Winning Environmental Activist Visits Dickinson Campus”
his article “Don’t Know Much About History”
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
A Most Influential Woman: The Immortal Legacy of Henrietta Lacks Hannah Hartman ’15
y of c rtod ance g ayma .org/
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
convenient form of a personal glucose meter means that, in the near future, the average consumer will have the ability to screen him or herself for cancerous cell activity from home. This new development has the potential to save millions of lives through the early detection of cancerous cells; this development was made possible through the use of HeLa cells. While HeLa cells have become a cornerstone in scientific research, receiving fame for their contribution to the improvement of human health through medical developments that have ultimately saved billions of lives, the story of Henrietta Lacks is one of notably less fame. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who had grown up in Clover, Virginia on the tobacco farming lands her ancestors worked as slaves. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old married woman with five children living outside of Baltimore, Maryland, in the steel mill town of Turner’s Station. Upon realizing she had cancer, Henrietta sought medical treatment at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the only medical center within a reasonable distance that would treat patients of color. Unknown to and without the permission of Henrietta, doctors removed a sample of tissue from her cervical tumor and sent it down the hall to the lab of Dr. George Gey, where Henrietta’s cells would become the first human cells to survive in culture. In the 60 years since they were first cultured, the production and sale of HeLa cells has created a multimillion-dollar industry while the descendants of Henrietta Lacks continue to live in extreme poverty, unable to afford healthcare of their own. Although Henrietta died shortly after her diagnosis, her legacy continues with every medicine and every life touched by the medical developments created using her cells. Though you may have never heard of her, and though you certainly will never know her, she is arguably one of the most influential women in your life.
tes Cour Photo
In 1951, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Hospital successfully cultured a human cell line for the first time. For many years, scientists had relentlessly collected human cells, spending countless hours attempting to grow a line of cells that could be used to advance biomedical research. Ultimately, all attempts to grow a viable human cell line in a research laboratory failed, until Hopkins researcher Dr. George Gey successfully grew a sample of human cervical cancer cells taken from a patient. Unlike all other attempts at growing human cells, Dr. Gey’s cell culture not only survived, but also replicated uncontrollably, doubling in population every 24 hours. The cervical cancer cells would come to be known as HeLa cells, named for the patient from which they were taken, Henrietta Lacks, and they would soon be used in every major research lab across the country and around the globe. Between 1951 when the cells were successfully cultured and the present day, HeLa cells have been used in over 70,000 research studies worldwide and have been instrumental in advancing medical and scientific technologies, from facilitating the invention of the polio vaccine to the creation of in vitro fertilization techniques. Presently, HeLa cells are at the forefront of genome sequencing research and the development of new, effective cancer treatments. Recently, in June 2014, researchers in China utilized HeLa cells to transform the personal glucose meter into a system for the detection of telomerase activity. In normal cells, telomeres, which are segments of repetitious nucleotides, are crucial in protecting the ends of the chromosomes from the degradation of cell division. In cancer cells, however, chromosomes are elongated at the telomeres as telomerase, an enzyme made of protein and RNA, adds repetitious sequences of nucleotides. Telomerase activity is a trademark of cancer, with nearly 85% of cancer cells exhibiting telomerase suppressed in normal cells. The development of a device to detect such activity in the affordable and
Human Impacts on Planet Earn Era a New Title Claire Colburn ’18
Humans are affecting Earth to such an extent that some scientists are introducing a new word to describe the current geological era: “Anthropocene.” From anthropo, meaning “man,” and cene, meaning “new,” this term is intended to reflect the effects of mankind on the planet, including mass extinction of species, depletion of the ozone layer, creation of dead zones, ocean acidification, deforestation, and climate change. Scientists in favor of the new descriptor see these global changes as the beginning of a new epoch— the human age. Officially, the current era is the “Holocene” epoch, which began 12,000 years ago with the end of the last ice age. In 2000, however, Nobel laureate and atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term “Anthropocene” in reference to the millennia most affected by humankind, which has since sparked much debate within the scientific community. Critics of this newly popular buzzword include stratigraphers, geologists who study the layers of rock that delineate changes in epochs over the Earth’s history. One such stratigrapher, Whitney Austin of the SUNY College of Brockport, bemoans the lack of supporting “bare bones facts that fit the code” in order to justify an official change of title. Another criticism of the introduction of “Anthropocene” stems from the lack of consensus among scientists as to when this new epoch officially began. Potential beginning dates include the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and the Atomic Age. Each of these shifts in human history brought with it visible changes in the environment. Without a clear start, it is difficult to accrue convincing data to support the name change.
From anthropo, meaning “man,” and cene, meaning “new,” this term is intended to reflect the effects of mankind on the planet
Despite backlash from some scientists, use of the term “Anthropocene” is spreading rapidly. It can be found in nearly 200 peer-reviewed articles and more than 500 scientific studies from this year alone. The Smithsonian Institution hosted a symposium on October 11, 2014 entitled “Living in the Anthropocene,” and the American Association for the Advancement of Science is displaying an art exhibit titled “Fossils of the Anthropocene.” In order to settle the debate over use of the new term, the International Union of Geological Sciences has formed a group with the mission to accept or reject official use of “Anthropocene” before 2016. The recent and widespread success of the term reflects the attitudes of many individuals in response to humanity’s mistreatment of the Earth. According to John Kress, acting Undersecretary of Science for the Smithsonian, “[N]ever in its 4.6 billion-year-old history has the Earth been so affected by one species as it is being affected now by humans.” Scientists in favor of “Anthropocene” use the title to convey this massive scope of humankind’s influence on the planet. Similarly, astronaut John Grunsfeld, who attended the Smithsonian symposium, believes that “We’re changing the Earth. There is no question about that…” and uses the term to demonstrate that humans are self-aware of the level of impact inflicted on the planet. Hap McSween, president of the Geological Society of America, told the Associated Press (AP) that “Humans are profoundly affecting the environment, probably as much as natural events have in the past.” When one considers the dramatic geological shifts that have occurred in Earth’s past, this statement underscores the scale of humankind’s actions in a relatively short period. Whether or not the term is officially accepted, it speaks for a movement towards environmental consciousness and understanding humanity’s relationship with the Earth. As McSween also stated, “It’s a good way to point out the environmental havoc that humans are causing.”
See page 36 for more information
A Ray of Hope: A Concentrating Solar Power Renaissance in America Nora Krantz ‘15
Unless drastic measures are made to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, the Earth’s environment will continue to deteriorate to the point of no return. When fossil fuels are burned, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are released into the atmosphere and trapped, creating a warming effect. This increase in climate temperature has serious implications for the future, including the melting of ice caps, rise in sea levels, and increase in cyclone storm activity. There are alternatives to fossil fuels, which, while every option has its pros and cons, can be a step in the right direction towards ending greenhouse gas emissions. There has been a revolution lately towards raising awareness and use of renewable energy sources. One type of renewable energy with abundant sources is solar-powered energy. Scientists have been researching ways to convert the energy of the sun to usable electricity for decades. Solar collectors function by absorbing heat from the sun onto metal strips where it is transferred to air, water, or solar fluid, according to an article published in SolarServer. Two common types of solar collectors are flatplate and evacuated-tube collectors. They both achieve the same goal of collecting solar energy, but vary in terms of cost-efficiency and technique. Solar panel technology is constantly changing and improving. In addition to passive solar panels that are completely stationary, there are active solar panels that move to follow the sun and capture the maximum amount of energy possible. While in theory active solar panels sound effective, they come with many maintenance difficulties and costs. With numerous solar collector options, it seems as though none are completely effective and better alternatives to fossil fuels. On the other hand, a
technology that has swept the solar power world over recent years is concentrating solar power (CSP). Based on the report published by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in May 2014, CSP has the potential to provide hundreds of thousands of United States consumers with reliable solar-powered energy. The DOE has coined 2014 as “The Year of Concentrating Solar Power” because of the creation of five new fully operational CSP plants, including the largest in the world, in the United States. These new plants will nearly quadruple this country’s capacity for solar energy use. One of the most significant elements of CSP is the fact that, as opposed to preexisting solar panel technologies, CSP panels can generate electricity on demand to send to the consumer. These solar plants also use large mirrors in different formations to direct sunlight to the panels and capture more light than previously possible. The DOE has a plan called the SunShot Initiative, which aims to lower the cost of solar energy to the point where it is completely economically rational for Americans to use and take advantage of the benefits of solar power. The SunShot Initiative also aims to make the cost of CSP on the power grid completely consistent with that of modern electricity uses and improve CSP-grid compatibility. In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and climate change, scientists have been rapidly researching and creating new technologies, such as CSP, for many years. Harnessing the sun’s abundant potential for energy is one of the most promising ways to use clean energy and protect the Earth.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Award-Winning Environmental Activist Visits Dickinson Campus
Photo courtesy of Earth Vision Trust
Amanda Ratajczak ‘17
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
As the recipient of the 2014 Rose-Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism, James Balog, environmental scientist and acclaimed filmmaker and photographer, visited Dickinson from September 22nd to September 23rd to discuss his latest work. Balog’s documentary, Chasing Ice, provided a unique look at glaciers and treated them as warning signs of the harmful consequences of climate change that our planet is already experiencing, and will only continue to experience as the problem escalates. Balog said on the rapidly changing landscape: “There is no such thing as ‘glacial pace.’ In fact, glaciers can move really quickly. They respond literally by the hour and by the day to what’s going on in the surrounding climate.” Traditionally, the movement of glaciers is studied via satellite images, but Balog was not satisfied with this method: “Human beings don’t live 400 feet up in the air—they don’t live up where the satellites are—so I thought ‘We should bring this down to eye-level.’” Balog and his team stationed cameras alongside glaciers in Greenland and Iceland, and set them to photograph the glaciers at regular time intervals. When combined, these images created a stunning time-lapse of the massive ice formations melting and retreating. Balog’s goal was to go beyond mere aesthetics. Through Chasing Ice, Balog hoped to bring climate change to the forefront of the public’s mind in a way that was both understandable and approachable: “All you can do is hope that they [the audiences] can take the message and amplify it.” His unique blend of art and science left Balog unsure how scientists would receive his work. He feared that the reduction of a multi-faceted issue such as climate change to a series of images might oversimplify or even overshadow the science behind it. “I was worried, but the science community has embraced this project with open arms. They have said that I have taken something they couldn’t give voice to, and have truly told a story with it.” Originally, Balog could not have imagined that this project would go as far as it has, but, as he put it, “these things develop their own momentum.” Following the success of Chasing Ice, Balog’s team has since placed more cameras and planned to place even more in a larger variety of locations to continue their timelapse studies of the Earth’s evolving landscapes. “When I get deep into these big projects…I get the profound sense that this other thing out there—the ice—is speaking through the camera. And I’m just the vehicle, the messenger.”
Communicating Earth Issues
Caio Santos Rodrigues ‘16
This year, the Environmental Studies Department’s annual Earth Issues Seminars are focused on science communication. According to Emily Thorpe, Academic Technician of Environmental Studies, the Earth Issues Seminars allow for intellectual engagement among faculty, students, staff and visitors. Thorpe recalls suggesting this year’s topic: “It just kind of came to me that science communication was a topic that would serve our students in many different ways. I guess it builds off of a couple talks as part of the Clarke Forum last year,” Thorpe said. The Clarke Forum talk Thorpe refers to is last February’s “Global Consequences of Current Lake Warming,” where Dr. Catherine O’Reilly presented her research on the effects of climate change on Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. “[Dr. O’Reilly] is really big on science
Science Symposium Elizabeth Grabowski ‘17
The Social Hall was abuzz with the love of science the afternoon of Thursday, April 17th, 2014. Students, faculty, and community members gathered for the 29th Annual Science Student Research Symposium, a yearly event that provides students from every year with the opportunity to formally present the findings of the research that has engrossed their academic lives for the past semester…or two. Set up around the open space were seventy-four individual and group research projects that had been printed on posters and mounted for easy viewing by countless, enthralled eyes. The researchers presented in two rounds, allowing presenters and viewers alike the opportunity to circulate the crowded hall. Projects spanned all of the science disciplines, from computer science to psychology, and included a variety of topics: mobile applications for the Dickinson community, isolation of protein targets, and studies of college football performance, to name a few. Zev Greenberg, a Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology double major, worked closely with Professor Amy Witter to develop a “robust quantitative method to measure nicotine content in a variety of solid and liquid tobacco products.” The pair’s research sparked a lot of questions, Photo Courtesy of Zev Greenberg ‘16 for which Greenberg was grateful: “I realized that everyone was there to learn about my research, rather than grill me for information…the questions actually provided Professor Witter and me with leads on where we can take the project next.” He, like many of the other students who devoted countless hours to their research, has gained a new level of respect for the science community. If these projects just begin to scratch the surface of Dickinsonians’ science potential, there is no telling what remarkable research will be added to our repertoire next year.
communication and making sure that her research is communicated effectively to the public. It seemed like something that had a diverse enough crowd we could pull from–educators, writers, scientists, just all sorts of people.” One seminar in particular was advertised to all science departments. Tim Howard, producer of Radiolab, presented on October 29th. Thorpe said the hope is that, through these seminars, science students see what their Dickinson education can do for them in terms of fields of study and alternative job paths. “[These seminars are] a way to complement what [students] are already being taught in the classroom in a way that is sometimes more open for discussion and engagement and critical thought,” Thorpe said.
Newest Faculty Member of the Mathematics Department Caio Santos Rodrigues ‘16
The Mathematics and Computer Science department welcomes Holley Friedlander as their new Assistant Professor of Mathematics this fall. Friedlander came to Dickinson after a year teaching at Williams College. Her experience at Williams influenced her to look for jobs at small liberal arts schools. “I was focused on finding a small liberal arts school mainly for the sense of community. I wanted to have a balance between my teaching and my research. I wanted to be at an institution that valued teaching, [where] spending time with your students was not seen as a waste of time.” An accomplished scholar, Professor Friedlander is among eighty Project NExT fellows. According to its website, Project NExT (New Experiences in Teaching) is a proPhoto Courtesy of the Dickinson Department of fessional development program for Mathematics. new or recent Ph.D.s in the mathematical sciences. Each cohort of fellows participates in workshops and sessions where they discuss and explore a myriad of issues that are relevant to beginning faculty, such as balancing teaching and research, involving undergraduates in mathematical research, and preparing future K-12 teachers of mathematics. While she found these workshops helpful, Friedlander highlighted the sense of community among her network of fellows. “What is really cool is that we have a listserv and I’m connected to the eighty fellows that are at all kinds of institutions. The listserv allows us to send each other questions and respond to each other’s questions. That helps me put my issues in perspective and also helps me to get ideas for things to try [in the classroom].”
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Club Updates Math/CS Club
By Sai Grandhi Secretary of Math/CS Club
By Alissa Meister ’15 Vice President of Neuroscience Club
The Math and Computer Science Club is a new and aspiring club on the Dickinson College campus. The main purpose of the club is to act as a platform for the Dickinson community to engage in activities related to mathematics and computer science. The club holds weekly meetings to strengthen members’ knowledge by discussing topics related to math and computer science and comes up with ways to educate the larger Dickinson and Carlisle community. Last semester, we kicked off our weekly meetings by solving Project Euler challenges and by discussing new technologies. This year, we will be attending the Math Museum in New York City to get a historical perspective of mathematics, and there are plans to hold various service-oriented events with the Carlisle community in the coming future. One such event planned for the fall semester of 2014 is teaching elementary and middle school students in Carlisle about career possibilities in the fields of mathematics and computer science, and basic programming skills, too. Math and Computer Science Club is looking forward to becoming a larger presence and an active voice on campus around challenging mathematical and technological issues.
This year, the Neuroscience Club is focusing on promoting knowledge about the club across campus, while spreading awareness of Neuroscience. During the month of September, Neuroscience Club hosted a Movie Night. New club members were able to meet senior club members, while enjoying ice cream along with the movie. We watched Memento, a movie that centers on a person suffering from the inability to form long-term memories. During the remainder of the year, we will focus on hosting events open to the entire Dickinson community. We hope to spread awareness of multiple brain disorders while promoting a sense of community. Neuroscience Club will be hosting an event where professors talk about brain disorders and damage, while the club provides Chipotle to enjoy during the event. We will also be hosting a speaker from Everyday Feminism who will discuss the role of women in male-dominated career paths. We will be having more fun events throughout the rest of the year, so stay tuned!
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Pre-Health Society By Nicole Price ’15 Vice President of PHS The Pre-Health Society is a collective of students with interests in a multitude of health-related careers, including medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and allied-health professions such as physical therapy and occupational therapy. The society seeks to educate and engage students about the diversity of health-related careers via student-led discussions, visits from health professionals, graduate-degree workshops, and visits to medical, veterinary, dentistry, and graduate schools in the region. Throughout the spring of 2014, the society raised money through bake sales and bracelet-fundraisers for the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation, Inspirational Medicine, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. This semester, we have traveled to the Pennsylvania State Primary Care Day and held a “Welcome Back Reception” for Pre-Health students, advisors, and professional alum interaction. We are currently designing and selling Pre-Health Society tee shirts, and will further develop the Panini Press, which was created by the Pre-Health Society in 2012 to educate students about nutritious food options around campus.
Where No Woman
16 18 Photo Courtesy of Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol.2 1
Had Gone Before
By Lizzy Hardison ’16 Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Photo Courtesy of Matthew Atwood ‘15
The Life and Legacy
Zatae was born in Centerville, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Dr. William and Lydia Longsdorff. atae Longsdorff Straw Her father was a member of the was a woman of firsts. Dickinson class of 1856, and her brother, Harold, graduated from She was the first the college in 1879. Zatae mawoman president of the Mantriculated at Wellesley College chester, New Hampshire Mediand completed her freshman year cal Association, and one of the there in 1884, but her family’s first women to operate a private legacy at Dickinson compelled medical practice in the same city. her to seek enrollment at the She became the highest-ranking College as a sophomore transfer woman in the history of New student as soon as it was opened Hampshire politics when she to women. presided over the State Republican Convention, and was the first woman to aspire to a seat in the New Hampshire State Senate when she launched an ultimately unsuccessful run for election in 1926. Zatae Longsdorff’s earliest distinction, however, is as Dickinson’s first female graduate, which she earned when she obtained her bachelors degree in liberal arts from the College in 1887. During her time at Dickinson, Zatae was one of very few female students, and one of a very small number of “co-eds” across the country. She attracted particular attention from her male classmates because of her unwillingness to acquiesce to traditional roles of submissive femininity. Enduring three years of hostility to obtain her degree is an impressive feat in itself, but Zatae’s achievements are doubly inspiring because she pursued a career in the male-dominated world of medicine (later, she would launch an ancillary career as a local and state politician.) Following her graduation from Dickinson, Zatae played the roles of doctor, politician, public servant, wife, and mother. Above all else, however, she was a pioneer for women’s equality in a man’s world. Photo Courtesy of Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections
Above all else, however, she was a pioneer for women’s equality in a man’s world.
“I personally wanted an education and that desire and to enter Dickinson were one and inseparable,” Zatae recalled in 1937. “Dickinson College is a family tradition with us. If we were to be educated of course it would be there. The fact of being a girl was one which I could scarcely be blamed for, neither of course could the trustees, so we just had to compromise.” When Zatae was a student at Dickinson, the College offered two degrees for students to choose from: a bachelor in arts or a bachelor in science. Despite her ultimate career as a family physician, Zatae’s interest in the sciences did not appear to manifest itself during her career as an undergraduate. She obtained an A.B., or a general liberal arts degree, which included train-
ing in classical studies, modern languages, and literature, as well as classes in chemistry, physics, and biology. Both in and out of the classroom, Zatae endured the harassment of male students who resented the “intrusion” of the college’s first co-ed.
“The boys rebelled and tried to force her to leave by intimidating her. They placed garter snakes and mice in her coat pockets,” wrote Zatae’s sister Persis Longsdorff in a 1968 letter to Dickinson historian Charles Cumberland Sellers. Despite their concerted efforts of intimidation, the boys at Dickinson found themselves unable to shake Zatae’s steadfast resolve for a Dickinson education. As Zatae recalled later, her classmates also underestimated the grit that came from growing up in a Central Pennsylvania household with two brothers. “The boys didn’t realize the effect of my country upbringing,” she said. “I really enjoyed [the pranks] as much as [they did].” Nowhere did this grit show itself more clearly than at the 1886 Junior Oratorical Contest. When Zatae entered the competition, all but two of the male students withdrew their participation in protest. On the day of the contest, the boys dimmed the lights in the auditorium and tolled the East College bell in an attempt to drown out her carefully prepared speech. As Persis wrote, however, “[Zatae] raised her voice and continued until the end,” taking the first-place gold medal.
Years later, following a life of success in medicine, politics, and public service, Zatae would recall the day of the junior oratorical contest as the proudest moment of her life. Indeed, the adversi-
Firs Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
of Dickinson’s ty she faced at Dickinson gave Zatae the tenacity that enabled her to succeed as a woman in the male-dominated worlds of medicine and state politics.
“[Zatae] met every challenge with zest as she went through college as she went through life, determined to show a spirit and a competence equal to any man’s and equal to any adversity,” Sellers recalled, connecting her time at Dickinson to her later successes.
Having already once infiltrated a male-dominated world at Dickinson, Zatae decided to pursue a career in medicine after her graduation. She earned her MD from the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia in 1890, and soon after moved to Blackfoot, Idaho as the resident physician to the Fort Hill Native American reservation. It was in Idaho that Zatae met her husband, Dr. Amos Straw. The couple relocated to Manchester, NH in 1921, where Zatae opened a thriving private practice. In 1937, after raising four children and pursuing successful careers in medicine and state politics, Zatae returned to Dickinson for the first time since her graduation half a century earlier. The College conferred upon Zatae an honorary Doctor of Science degree, citing her life as “a fine example of Dickinson ideals.”
In her remarks to the Board of Trustees at the honorary degree reception, Zatae expressed her gratitude to the professors and mentors who led her “across the deep, dark channels” towards her graduation. She also acknowledged the responsibilities she bore as the first woman to hold a degree from the College, and therefore as the role model for future women who would follow in her
“I have always tried to live up to the proud and unique position I obtained [as the first female graduate] and hope the college will never have cause to regret that her loyal trustees... opened this splendid old [institution] to women,” she said.
Zatae are even more numerous, and include scrapbooks, letters, and photographs from her children and friends. One item of particular note is the bound manuscript of Lady Doctor, a novel that Enid wrote about her mother in 1922.
In a 1968 article from the Carlisle Sentinel about the collection, Charles Sellers is quoted on Since her death at the age of Longsdorff Straw’s importance 89 in 1955, the College has undertaken noble efforts to preserve as a historical figure not only for Dickinson, but for American the important legacy of its first female graduate. Longsdorff hall women everywhere. was named in her honor when “Dr. Straw has a conspicuous it opened in 1964, and a plaque place in the history of the coland study space bear her name lege and in the history of womin Rector Science Complex. In en in America as well,” Sellers March 1978, the College comsaid. “Her highly successful life bined with the Central Pennsyldenies with emphasis the belief vania Consortium to host the Zatae Longsdorff Conference in once widely held that women Women’s Studies, which featured could not profit from a man’s presentations from professors of education.” English, history, psychology, and Although Zatae died nearly more. 60 years ago, her legacy lives on, not only in the archives and Nowhere is Zatae’s legacy more potent, however, than in the spaces on campus named after her, but in every female student College Archives and in Waidner-Spahr library, which houses a who has attended Dickinson wide collection of Zatae’s papers thanks to her influence. and personal effects. The archives received the materials as a gift from Zatae’s daughter, Enid Constance Shaw, and prepared a special exhibit of them in preparation for the College’s bicentennial in 1973. Included in the collection is the black moire gown that Zatae wore to the Junior Oratorical Contest, as well as her gold medal from the event. The collection also contains Zatae’s diary from her pre-teen years, correspondences she received upon her graduation from medical school, and a transcription of her 1937 remarks to the board of Trustees upon receiving her honorary degree. The materials written about
“Dr. Straw has a conspicuous place in the history of the college and in the history of women in America as well.”
st Female Graduate Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
A True Renaissance Man: The Life of Benjamin Rush Jennifer Rush ‘15
Jennifer Rush is a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major graduating in the class of 2015. However, she also holds the distinction of being the first Rush descendent to attend Dickinson since its founding by Benjamin Rush in 1773. Although Jennifer did not learn that she was Benjamin’s distant great-niece until she arrived at Dickinson, she is nonetheless following in his footsteps into the medical profession, and will be attending Emory University’s Anesthesiologist Assistant Program next fall.
Benjamin Rush was truly a jack-of-alltrades. Not only was he the most well-known physician of 18th-century America; he was also a Founding Father, psychologist, philosopher, author, professor, lecturer, politician, and abolitionist. Rush graduated from what would later become known as Princeton University at the age of 14 and immediately pursued a career in medicine.
As a physician he was highly devoted and cared deeply for his patients’ welfare. Rush began his medical career as a student of and apprentice to Dr. John Redman of Philadelphia in 1761. He worked with Dr. Redman for five years, during which time he learned to compound medicines, tend to patients, and even master the accounting books for the office. Redman had an extensive library that Rush frequently perused. Rush encountered the lectures of a prominent Dutch doctor by the name of Hermann Boerhave. His teachings about bloodletting and the humors of the human body intrigued the aspiring physician, and later became his claim to fame in the medical world. When Rush finished his apprenticeship in 1766 at the age of 21, he could legally have become a practicing physician. Instead he decided to study abroad and continue his study with Dr. Boerhave, who was a professor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands at the time. Boerhave believed that the body was a machine-like mechanism composed of pumps and pipes. In a healthy person, this system would work correctly, but in the case of a blockage or illness, it would force the “pumps” to work harder and faster to push blood around the obstruction and through the rest of the “pipework.” This phenomenon, Boerhave taught, caused friction and heat resulting in fever. Rush combined the philosophies of Boerhave and other prominent physicians to develop his own explanation for disease. Following his time abroad, Rush returned to the colonies in 1769 and opened his own practice. He soon became the medical consultant for the Philadelphia almshouses and was asked to join the College of Philadelphia as a profes20
sor of chemistry. He wrote the first textbook of chemistry published in America. He became a prolific writer, publishing more medical essays by 1773 than any other physician in the colonies. Rush had the good fortune of attending some of the first anatomy lectures ever held in the American colonies, conducted in Philadelphia by Drs. William Shippen and John Morgan. Interestingly enough, it was Shippen’s nephew for whom Shippensburg, Pennsylvania is named. Since cadavers were not easily accessible for practicing physicians, Dr. Shippen was forced to steal corpses and was formally accused of grave robbing in 1765. Rush’s friendship with Dr. Shippen would eventually gain him an appointment as physician-in-chief of the military hospital of the Middle Department of the Continental Army. As a physician he was highly devoted and cared deeply for his patients’ welfare. Through his medical practice, lectures, and various writings, Rush gained a reputation as one of the leading physicians and medical theorists in the emerging nation, writing the first American chemistry textbook. He was also recognized as a pioneer in physiology and psychiatry. Rush continued as a member of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He was an immensely popular lecturer, and he continued to publish internationally respected works in general medicine and psychiatry until the time of his death. Rush’s main contribution to the medical field was his groundbreaking work in mental health. He is often regarded as the “Father of American Psychiatry” and wrote the famous publication Medical Inquiries and Observations upon the Diseases of the Mind, which was also the first textbook written for the psychiatric field. He named multiple mental illnesses, attempted to classify them and list what might cure them (one of such cures was thought to be bleeding therapies). He also pioneered a therapeutic approach to addiction. During a time when many believed it was a sin to be an alcoholic, Rush believed that alcoholism was a disease and the patient needed to be weaned off alcohol with lighter substances—a practice still highly recommended. By 1780, Rush was the most popular doctor in America. He even patented his own medication, “Dr. Rush’s Pills” which were a combination of calomel (an intestinal irritant) and other powerful purgative substances. His medication was hugely popular for the rest of the 18th century. However, his stellar reputation was greatly upset by his role in the yellow fever epidemic that swept Philadelphia in 1793. He valiantly remained in the city and tended to the
thousands stricken with the disease, utilizing his practice of “depleting” (blood-letting). Since he was thoroughly schooled in the principles that humors—bile, blood, and phlegm—controlled the health of a person, Rush firmly believed that diseases resulted from over- or under-stimulation of the nervous system, to which his remedies were to be applied accordingly. Since he believed that bloodletting was a universal cure for all ailments, he felt that a patient could be bled 6-8 pints over several days and the body would replenish the lost supply in a day or two. However, the body only contains 12 pints and would take a couple of weeks to refill the lost volume. Although bloodletting was considered by many at the time to be an acceptable standard of care, unfortunately for Rush (and his patients), his practice occasionally resulted in death from loss of blood. By the end of the epidemic, only 4,000 people died and Rush was credited with attenuating the outbreak. However, his critics condemned his practices and theories as dangerous and overzealous and eventually drove Rush to resign from the Philadelphia College of Physicians at the end of the 18th century. Rush’s influence on American medicine remained largely unchallenged for decades after his death in 1813 despite the criticism that ultimately ended his medical career. Rush was not only a well-regarded physician; he was also known as an abolitionist, philosopher, politician, environmentalist, and advocate for women’s rights and against capital punishment, among other things. Thomas Jefferson contacted him for information to help Lewis and Clark on their transcontinental journey and Rush taught the explorers blood-letting and other medical practices for survival and outfitted them with the medical supplies for the trip, including his famous pills. Rush was appointed treasurer of the Mint in 1797 and elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1788. He also continued to lecture and was a beloved professor by all of his students. Rush pursued these occupations until the time of his death from typhus fever at the age of 68. Despite Rush’s many important contributions to society, due to his intensely private nature, his life and legacy are not easily found in many historical records of his time. It is at Dickinson that his legacy is most visible, and even here it has only been in the past 15 years that Rush’s role in history has become wellknown. It is in the college archives, the statue of Rush in the middle of campus, and most importantly, in the scholarly work of professors and students that Rush’s legacy lives on. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Photo Courtesy of Matthew Atwood â€˜15
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Student Research Carbon Chains in Young Stellar Objects Olivia Harper Wilkins ‘15
The question of where life came from has intrigued humankind for ages. While it is generally accepted that life on Earth is made from the same chemistry as the stars, the intricate details of a prebiotic chemistry remain a mystery. By studying the interstellar medium (ISM), including embedded protostars and other young stellar objects, astrochemists seek to understand how the numerous components of the Universe—galaxies, stars, planets, and even life—were formed. The Öberg Astrochemistry Group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is working to understand chemical evolution through the lens of complex organic molecules (COMs; molecules of six or more atoms, at least one of which is carbon) and unsaturated carbon chains. There are several theories about how these compounds are formed, including the sublimation of methane off the surface of ice grains in protostellar envelopes and cold, gas-phase ion chemistry
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). involving molecules such Photo Courtesy of The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for as methanol. Astrophysics During the summer of 2014, I worked with the Öberg group to study this problem by looking at six low-mass protostars from three different molecular clouds. The first weeks of my research project involved looking at spectra obtained from
the IRAM 30 m telescope in Spain. For each protostar, I looked for molecular lines between 93 to 101 GHz and 109 to 116 GHz. The frequency of each peak was cross-referenced with Splatalogue—a molecular spectroscopy database for astronomy—to determine the chemical formula and extract information about energy levels and degeneracy in each species. Using the information from Splatalogue, I calculated rotation [excitation] temperatures and column densities for unsaturated carbon chains and associated isotopologues and carbon chain families. The rotation temperatures of the carbon chains averaged at about 12 K, reasonable for a low-mass cold-core protostar. Looking at chemistry at such extreme temperatures by Earth standards was something new in my chemistry career, as was looking at abundances in terms of column density. Because the actual size of the observed protostars was uncertain, density could only be calculated in two dimensions, giving number of molecules over area in units of cm2. Even more bizarre than the calculations were the molecular species themselves. In my research, I focused on three groups of unsaturated carbon chains: sulfur-bearing species (CCCS, CCS, CS), nitrogen-bearing species (HC3N), and pure hydrocarbons (C4H, l-C3H). In contrast with the unsaturated carbon chains on Earth where all but a few possible hydrogens are present, I was looking at chains with a maximum of one hydrogen atom and even multiple triple bonds. I was studying molecules that I never knew existed before, but molecules that may give insight to chemical foundations in the Universe nevertheless. In addition to the amazing opportunity of working with the Öberg Astrochemistry Group, my summer at the CfA also exposed me to a different way of seeing chemistry. The differences in the meaning of “complex” astounded me: things like ethanol—which is considered a rather simple solvent by Earth standards—are considered to be complex in space. Furthermore, a metal to astronomers is not just a member of the d-block on the periodic table; rather, the term “metal” is often defined as any element other than hydrogen or helium. While I am not able to answer the question of where life comes from, I was able to gain insight to how some of the most seemingly basic molecules come together in some of the most extreme conditions. By making correlation plots of the abundances of different species, I was able to study relative abundances of different groups of molecules and gain insight to how these different molecules are formed. For instance, the preliminary results of the correlation between gas-phase and ice-bound chemistry indicate that the formation of unsaturated carbon chains may take place on the surface of protostellar ices. Even more amazing than studying chemistry between 400 and 600 light-years from Earth was being exposed to the vast reaches of the discipline. It was fascinating to see firsthand how chemistry truly studies everything. It was also challenging but rewarding to learn how to apply one area of science to another in an interdisciplinary field. While my experience at the CfA brought up more questions than it answered, it only reinforced the fact that being creative, flexible, and critical are essential for producing interesting (and even out-of-this-world) science.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Clinical Neuroscience Krista Dionne ‘15
I participated in research at the University of Connecticut Medical School as part of the Summer Student Fellowship Program in Summer 2013. I found this program on the University’s website and upon applying I contacted individual Principal Investigators asking them to allow me to work in their laboratories. Looking specifically in the field of Neuroscience, I ended up securing a position with Dr. Nada Zecevic’s lab studying human fetal developmental neuroanatomy. Specifically, the lab was interested in GABAergic interneurons, a group of cells that are incredibly important for balancing the excitation of the brain. The disruption of the neural balance provided by these interneurons has been implicated in disorders such as autism and schizophrenia and could account for issues with learning and memory in these disorders. Calretinin-expressing cells are an important subtype of GABAergic interneurons. During development, the expression of a cascade of transcription factors leads to the differentiation and specification of each subtype of neural cell. My project studied the role of Genomic screened homeobox gene (Gsx2) as a transcription factor expressed in progenitor cells of claretinin-expressing GABAergic interneurons. Using immunohistochemistry, I found that in the human fetal cerebral cortex Gsx2 transcript was observed in the cortical ventricular/subventricular zone, intermediate zone, subplate, and cortical plate regions from 18 to 24
I learned that research requires concentrated energy, especially while reading scientific literature and that this reading can easily lead to new discoveries and new areas of interest for research. gestational weeks. The localization of Gsx2 to the ventricular surface suggests that these cells are proliferating during this time period. My results also showed that approximately one-third of all calretinin-expressing cells during midgestation were colabeled with Gsx2, suggesting that Gsx2 expression is important for the development of calretinin-expressing cells. My results were published within a paper entitled “The complexity of the calretinin-expressing progenitors in the human cerebral cortex” found in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy (Radonjic et al., 2014). The paper ultimately concludes that further studies on the origin and specificity of interneuron subtypes in the human cerebral cortex are needed to better understand and eventually prevent or treat psychiatric and neurological disorders. The research experience gave me early exposure to the field of Neuroscience and gave me a great network of individuals in my field. The PI and postdoc fellows in my lab were from all over the world and gave me a unique and global perspective of the scientific community. I learned that research requires concentrated energy, especially while reading scientific literature, and that this reading can easily lead to new discoveries and new areas of interest for research. I certainly also learned the importance of asking questions and helping with everything that I could. Participating in this research experience was an essential part of my education and my off-campus Dickinson experience. Photos Courtesy of Krista Dionne ‘15
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Identification and Characterization of Enterococcus Faecalis Biofilm Phenotypes Biology
Jerone Stoner ‘15
Enterococcus faecalis is the third-leading cause of hospital-acquired infections and is linked to several chronic, biofilm-mediated diseases, including infective endocarditis and indwelling medical device infections3,5. This bacterium regularly persists in the human gastrointestinal tract and remains largely non-pathogenic unless translocated into the bloodstream and to distant organs and tissues4,5,6. Unfortunately, mechanisms describing this commensal-to-pathogen switch are not fully understood. It is believed that upon loss of host-bacteria homeostasis and subsequent tissue invasion, enterococci encounter environments unlike their original colonization sites. However, recent studies suggest that biofilm formation permits these infecting enterococci to differentially express genes promoting cell survival, dispersal, and colonization in new and extreme niches2. Because E. faecalis forms robust biofilms in the laboratory and in clinically relevant settings, Kristich et al. (2008) hypothesized that the E. faecalis genome must encode unidentified genetic determinants that promote biofilm formation. Therefore, they constructed a library of E. faecalis mutants via random transposon mutagenesis. Screens of this library revealed biofilm-defective mutants carrying transposon insertions both in genes known to regulate biofilm formation and new genes lacking any known function. The work of Kristich et al. (2008) therefore prompted our hypothesis that there are many E. faecalis genes that affect various aspects of biofilm formation and ultimately the ability of E. faecalis to persist in the gut. Thus, my research aimed to identify which genes are involved in E. faecalis biofilm formation and to characterize how these genes influence biofilm formation. Using a colony biofilm assay approach, part of the E. faecalis transposon mutant library mentioned above was screened to identify mutants with biofilm phenotypes differing from wildtype OG1RF E. faecalis. After full growth, all mutants were analyzed via microscopy, and particular mutants demonstrating unique biofilm phenotypes were characterized by appearance. These unique biofilm-forming mutants were then re-cultured
and re-plated to assess reproducibility. To identify causal genes, chromosomal DNA from mutants-of-interest was prepared and subjected to semi-random PCR. PCR products were then sent for sequencing and the results were BLAST-searched to identify which genes were disrupted by transposon insertion. Additionally, biofilm microtiter assays were conducted to determine if these mutants were characteristically increased or decreased biofilm-formers compared to wild-type and ΔrpoN, a recently identified E. faecalis mutant with consistently increased biofilm formation. A few mutants-of-interest were analyzed via confocal microscopy for the purpose of determining potential differences in the production of biofilm matrix components. Colony biofilm assays revealed twelve potentially unique biofilm phenotypes; however, only seven were reproducible. Nonetheless, these assays demonstrated biofilm variety in size-/ spread-patterns, wrinkled-/smooth-edges, outward-projections/ spill-over regions, development of internal microcolonies, etc. 63.84% of the 1,344-screened mutants shared the wild-type phenotype, while the remaining 36.16% displayed atypical phenotypes. Unfortunately, semi-random PCRs to identify causal genes were largely unsuccessful. Moreover, biofilm microtiter assays revealed that all mutants were increased biofilm formers when compared to wild-type E. faecalis, but produced significantly less biofilm than ΔrpoN. Lastly, confocal microscopy of three unique mutants and wild-type revealed variations in biofilm matrix component production. In short, screening this library could facilitate the identification and characterization of many diverse E. faecalis biofilm phenotypes and their causal genes. If specific genes and aspects of biofilm formation can be consistently linked to phenotypes, this could provide a comprehensive method for clinical isolate classification. Thus, clinicians and scientists could better predict how E. faecalis strains behave, in terms of increased/decreased ability to persist in the gut, and therefore determine the best approach for treatment. For more information, see page 34.
Photo Courtesy of Jerone Stoner ‘15
Using a colony biofilm assay approach, 1,344 E. faecalis mutants were screened from a transposon mutant library constructed by Kristich et al. in 2008. This screen revealed twelve potentially unique biofilm phenotypes, eight of which are shown and characterized by appearance. Note that ΔrpoN and ΔpglA were two mutants very recently identified before my research and thus have been named by the mutated gene causing their unique phenotypes. Also, note that the majority of the biofilms shown have a black background for easier visualization.
Photo Courtesy of Jerone Stoner ‘15
One wild-type and three unique E. faecalis biofilm mutants were selected for cryo-sectioning and staining in preparation for confocal microscopy in order to visualize and compare production levels of biofilm matrix components. As indicated, carbohydrates and polysaccharides were stained green, proteins were stained red, and DNA was stained blue. Here, only one of the three mutants selected was compared to wild-type, however, differences in production of these biofilm matrix components (especially carbohydrates/polysaccharides and proteins) were discovered, which suggests more ways to characterize E. faecalis biofilms. For more information, see page 36.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Learning How Not to Grow Phytoplankton: A Coastal Oregon Adventure Environmental Science
Tabea Zimmermann ‘15
Photos Courtesy of Tabea Zimmermann ‘15
Zimmermann out on the boat in Yaquina Estuary collecting phytoplankton to bring back to the lab (and grow unsuccessfully!).
I could tell you that I had a perfect internship this summer, one with a beautiful research question, smooth data collection, efficient lab analyses, and data that supported my hypotheses. Or I could tell you the truth: phytoplankton are really hard to grow; power tools require experience that I don’t have; and nothing in science ever goes as planned. However challenging the research process may be, working with the Environmental Protection Agency in coastal Newport, Oregon was extremely rewarding. Stationed at the head of Yaquina Estuary where it meets the Pacific Ocean, I worked under Drs. Jim Kaldy and Cheryl Brown. I studied how phytoplankton from algal blooms affect the growth of seagrasses, which are important coastal aquatic plants that control sediment erosion, provide fish habitat, and filter nutrients. Seagrasses are very sensitive to environmental changes, especially water clarity. High nutrient inputs from human activity and naturally-occurring ocean upwellings cause algal blooms which can reduce the amount of light available deeper in the estuary. I quantified how much light phytoplankton absorbed when it was present at different concentrations in the water. I then predicted the impact of algal bloom phytoplankton on sensitive seagrasses in the estuary. I first built a chamber out of PVC tubing to hold water samples containing different concentrations of phytoplankton. Light sensors at the top and bottom of the tube measured how much light was absorbed. Ideally, I would have used phytoplankton from the Yaquina Estuary to represent the native community, but there was not enough time to become an algae-culturing expert. After accidentally killing about 25 big containers of algae, another lab gifted us some of their phytoplankton so I could complete my project. I established a relationship between the concentration of phytoplankton and how much light it absorbed. In comparing my results with previous research on seagrasses, we discovered that some nutrient standards in Oregon are not currently protective of seagrass habitat when considering the effects of large algal blooms on light availability. This preliminary study can be used as a baseline for future research on how to best protect and manage seagrass communities in coastal ecosystems. My summer research experience challenged me to apply my knowledge and skills in a completely new setting. I learned to advocate for myself when I needed help and to troubleshoot unexpected issues that arose in my project. I’m thankful for the skills I gained with the EPA and pleased with the work I contributed to their body of research. This internship reinforced my passion for protecting and advocating for the health of aquatic ecosystems via scientific research while letting me explore a new and beautiful region of this country!
The Parthenolide Response of Leukemia Cells Abby Flinchbaugh ‘15
This summer, I performed biochemical research with Professor Rebecca Connor that was funded by a Research Corporation Cottrell Science Award. I am very excited to continue this research throughout the academic year, studying the heat shock response of THP-1 (human leukemia) cells when treated with parthenolide. Parthenolide is a compound in the class of drugs called sesquiterpene lactones that are naturally found in the feverfew plant and are potential chemotheraputics. The heat shock system controls the cellular response when exposed to changes in the environment such as heat or toxins. Professor Connor’s research group has shown previously that heat shock protein 70 (hsp70) is covalently modified by parthenolide derivatives in vitro. From this data and comparison to the effects of similar compounds, we predicted that parthenolide will induce a dose-dependent heat shock response in the THP-1 cells. In order to test this, we used quantitative RT-PCR (real time-polymerase chain reaction) to study the increase in gene expression of the marker genes hsp 70 and hsp 90. These two genes are up-regulated by the heat shock transcription factor (Hsf1) when the heat shock response is induced. For these experiments, we treated THP-1 cells with parthenolide and then isolated their mRNA. We then reverse-transcribed the mRNA into cDNA and performed RT-PCR analysis for the hsp70 and hsp90 genes. The Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
many steps in this process and the sensitivity of the RT-PCR method itself make it difficult to obtain suitable results. This summer, we spent a lot of time perfecting these procedures for reproducibility, as well as finding housekeeping genes that are not affected by heat shock. Our preliminary data points to heat shock induction of THP-1 cells with the treatment of parthenolide, with a dose-dependent response. We plan to test other genes that are known to be up-regulated through the heat shock promoter, such as bag3 and hsp 40, with the hopes of obtaining more data to support what we have already found. We also plan to verify our results through another method, by performing in situ luciferase assays. The in situ luciferase assay will detect activation of heat shock transcription factor, Hsf1, in transfected THP-1 cells. We anticipate that promoter activation will also be dependent on the concentration of parthenolide incubated with cells. In July, I presented our preliminary results at the Disappearing Boundaries conference at Elizabethtown College, a regional science conference for undergraduates that allowed me to learn more about other projects in the field of biochemistry. This research has proven beneficial to me by helping me to learn lab techniques and procedures, gain independence and confidence in a scientific lab, and expand the horizons of my scientific world. 25
Faculty Research Aging Memories
Teresa Barber Associate Professor of Psychology
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in this country. It is a progressive, incurable disorder, whose hallmark symptoms are impaired memory and cognition. In Alzheimer’s disease, there is a dramatic reduction in the levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Many studies have determined that acetylcholine is important for memory formation. Memory is associated with increased levels of acetylcholine, and agents that reduce acetylcholine are associated with memory impairment. Given the relationship between acetylcholine, memory, and Alzheimer’s disease, it’s not surprising to find that the most common treatment for memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease are drugs that increase acetylcholine activity. Donepezil (Aricept®) helps memories by increasing the amount of acetylcholine available at the synapse, and is an effective treatment for early to mild Alzheimer’s. However, the effects of donepezil are transitory, and eventually the drug treatment is ineffective and memory impairments become increasingly debilitating. We fear developing Alzheimer’s disease, particularly because the only known risk factor is age. We fear losing our minds, our memories, and our ability to remain healthy as we age. It’s therefore not surprising to find that many people use herbal remedies and food supplements that purport to increase memory abilities. Search the Internet for “supplements”, “improve”, and “memory”, and you will get over 13 million results. Do any of these supplements actually work? Is there scientific evidence that supports the use of these supplements? Most of the evidence for their effectiveness is based on testimonial evidence. Very few of these agents have been tested in the laboratory, mostly because few models of memory impairment exist. In my laboratory, we explore memory through the use of a paradigm called “taste-avoidance learning” in the day-old chick. In this task, a chick pecks a bead coated with an aversive-tasting liquid, such as methylanthranilate (MeA), and consequently expresses a well-defined ‘‘disgust” response. Because the chick associates the bead with the bad taste, it will avoid pecking similar looking beads at test. Training, which can occur with only a single 30-second presentation of the MeA-covered bead, results in reliable memory retention lasting at least 24 hours, accompanied by well-known discrete biochemical and physiological consequences. Learning of the taste-avoidance task requires activity in the cholinergic system. When chicks are trained on the task, measures of acetylcholine activity increase. Inhibition of acetylcholine release produces significant amnesia in the taste-avoidance task. We inhibit acetylcholine by giving the drug scopolamine. In both humans and non-human animals, memory under the influence of scopolamine is very similar to that seen in Alzheimer’s disease, in which memory is strong for a few minutes, but the conversion of memory from short-term to long-term memory does not take place, and a few hours after learning, amnesia is present. 26
I’ve used this paradigm to study aspects of acetylcholine and other known drugs that are used in Alzheimer’s treatments. But what about all of these “alternative” treatments? My first thought was to ignore them. I was a “scientist”; I studied the effects of drugs on behavior. I didn’t study herbs and supplements. It finally occurred to me that, as a scientist, I was in the best position to study these. I knew how to do a proper experiment, I knew about the use of control groups, and I knew how to use statistical procedures to compare results. I also realized that a “drug” and an “herb” may both work on the nervous system, and if something turned out to actually work as well as donepezil, the world should know that. So, my path down the alternative medicine trail began. And, it turns out the scopolamine-induced memory impairment paradigm that we use in the laboratory is ideal to test these types of “alternative” treatments. So, using the paradigm of scopolamine-induced memory impairment, we began to study some of these herbs and supplements. In 2007, Ashley Young (‘07) and I conducted a study to examine the effects of Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. In our study, Ginkgo did not significantly improve learning in control animals. However, chicks given scopolamine and Ginkgo biloba showed significantly more learning than chicks given scopolamine and then saline. These results were surprising and verified folklore that Ginkgo can ameliorate memory impairment when tested in the laboratory. In additional studies, we looked at the effects of phosphatidylserine in the scopolamine-induced amnesia model. Phosphatidylserine is a component of cell membranes and is thought to perhaps help in restoring proper nerve function. The FDA actually gave a “qualified health claim” status to this food supplement because some studies had shown that it “might” make memories better, especially in the elderly. Ed Edris (‘12) and PJ Levinsky (‘12) also showed that phosphatidylserine ameliorated scopolamine-induced amnesia in a dose-dependent manner. This study suggested that phosphatidylserine might protect against neurodegeneration such as that found in Alzheimer’s disease. As strange a trail as this makes for a scientist dedicated to “real” medicine, I wasn’t quite done. What to test now? The spice turmeric, most often found in curry, has been used as a medicinal herb in China and India. I ran across references to turmeric in the introductory textbook that I use in Psychology 125. Surprisingly, there are a few studies that have shown that this spice may help alleviate memory impairment found in both the normal elderly and in Alzheimer’s patients. Time to test this agent in our scopolamine-induced amnesia model. Justin Williams (‘13) and Ari Brouwer (‘13), and I found that curcumin (the main chemical in turmeric) did not, by itself, improve memory. However, curcumin did attenuate scopolamine-induced amnesia. Curcumin didn’t produce any generalized motor deficits and this suggests that the curcumin works to ameliorate scopolamine-induced amnesia through its effects on memory. It’s been a strange journey. I’ve shown clearly that these three herbs and supplements do have an effect on amnesia produced by scopolamine. Does that mean I’m taking Gingko, phosphatidylserine, or curcumin? I do like Indian food. But no, I’m not taking these things. I wouldn’t even begin to suggest you do. I don’t know dose relationships for humans. I don’t know if these actually work in Alzheimer’s disease. But, now, after the long trail through memory, I can say that there are studies that show that some of these alternative treatments do ameliorate scopolamine-induced amnesia. In day-old chicks—maybe not mice, rats, humans. We’ll wait for others to make those important connections and to further the trail. My trail now has veered back to the role of other neurotransmitters in memory formation. Might be something even better out there, but you’ll need to stay tuned. Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Walking the Tightrope Tiffany Frey Assistant Professor of Biology
You can’t do science on a schedule. This was the advice I received from my post-doctoral advisor during one of our meetings. Of course I received tons of advice from this individual throughout my training, but this particular piece of advice has stayed with me over the years. It was one of those pivotal moments in my life when I seriously contemplated my career choice. I thought of my advisor as a brilliant and successful scientist, and he was telling me that I couldn’t do science on a schedule. Given the context of our conversation, I interpreted this to mean that I should be doing science all the time. This was a problem for me. Why? I had many commitments in my life in addition to my research. For one, I wanted to pursue a career in undergraduate education and was teaching as an adjunct professor to gain experience. This took time. I also have two small children that were only one and three years old at the time. I wanted to be an involved mother—this took a lot of
The top photo is at the Spring 2014 Dickinson College Science Symposium with my research students Eric McKnight (‘14), Yeana Jang (‘15), and Jaimee Perlmutter (‘14) and the bottom is with my family (husband Erik and kids Gabe and Lily). It is a challenge on a daily basis to balance my work and personal life, but well worth it for such a fulfilling career. Photos Courtesy of Tiffany Frey
time. I also had personal interests such as reading novels, jogging, and cooking. Despite not having time for these things, I made time for them for fear of losing what brings me pleasure in life. I have always wanted a balanced life and had not considered the possibility that this would not be possible in a research career until I heard those words. This same advisor scheduled lab meetings at 6pm and randomly suggested headDickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
ing for coffee to discuss experiments—always at the end of the day. These seemingly small things culminated to a challenging work environment for someone with other commitments. For the first time, I contemplated whether a research career was for me. My experiences up until this time had all been positive. Despite the fact that women have been long underrepresented in science, I did not think much (or at all) about the barriers women face in a research career as an undergraduate majoring in microbiology at a large research institution. I graduated in the year 2000 when 55.8% of bachelor’s degrees in the biological sciences were awarded to women1. After college, I joined a research group at the National Institutes of Health comprised of more women than men, and went on to a PhD program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where 85% of my entering class was women. While this group was clearly a bit unusual, the overall number of women earning a PhD in the biological sciences has increased from 33.7% women in 1991 to 52.2% women as of 2010. Not only was I surrounded by women, but by both women and men who valued balance in life. One of my graduate school colleagues was a professional flamenco dancer and both performed and taught flamenco while earning her PhD in molecular medicine. Many of us, myself included, had our first child during graduate school. My advisor was incredibly supportive. In the last two years of my PhD, I volunteered at the Maryland Science Center, took education classes, taught medical students, and stayed home when my child was sick. I was also 100% dedicated to my research career—I got the long experiments done, traveled to conferences, and published two papers during this time. It wasn’t always easy, but due to the supportive environment I never felt like I couldn’t do it…until my post-doctoral years. Unfortunately, according to the data, my internal struggle was bound to happen. While women have achieved parity with regard to earning a PhD in the biological sciences, the statistics are staggering after this point. Although the share of full time, full professorships held by women has risen over time from 9.8% in 1993 to 22.3% as of 2010, women still represent less than one-fourth of all full professors. In fact, many women decide not to apply for tenure-track positions with the perception that a tenure-track job is incompatible with having children. In a study conducted among University of California doctoral students, 70% of women and more than 50% of men considered faculty careers at research universities as not friendly to family life. These perceptions matter for everyone and I would argue that we could replace the words family life with living a balanced life. Cultivating a supportive, balance-friendly work environment will likely increase career satisfaction for both men and women and retain a larger diversity of talented, creative individuals in the research field. I know it is possible to have work-life balance because I had it as a graduate student. My ability to manage my career and personal obligations did not dramatically decline between graduate school and postdoctoral research. The environment was the major thing that changed. Fortunately, this is something we can all work on improving. I ultimately decided to continue my pursuit of a career in scientific research. Mostly because I love science and making new discoveries, but also to serve as a role model for future scientists and work to cultivate a culture where it is possible to have balance. Research is an exciting and fulfilling career path that should not feel off-limits to anyone. We should all be fighting for policies that are friendly not only for women and parents, but for everyone. For more information, see page 36.
Focal Performance as a Behavioral Metric for Autonomous Motivation Stephen E. Erfle Associate Professor of Business and Managment
Histograms of push-up and curl-up performances of 10,000 middle school students collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as part of its Active Schools Program to combat pediatric obesity, show that students stop at multiples of five more often than random processes suggest (Figure 1). The
natural question arises: do these students stop at multiples of five because they settled for those outcomes or did they strive to achieve them? The evidence suggests that the latter is true and that these students are more motivated than their less focal peers. Erfle & Gelbaugh (2013) define a push-up performance as focal if it ends in 0 or 5 and a curl-up performance as focal if it ends in 0. We based our analysis on the initial fall assessment and restricted our analysis to those who perform at least one push-up and one curl-up. If last-digit performance were random, then a focal push-up outcome would occur 20% of the time, a focal curl-up outcome would occur 10% of the time, and a focal outcome on both (what we called Focal00) would occur 2% of the time (2% = 20%*10%). In actuality, focal push-up proclivity is 29.9%, focal curl-up proclivity is 19.8%, and Focal00 proclivity is 6.7%. Proclivity varies by age and sex (Focal00 proclivity is 3.3% for 6th grade girls and 10.0% for 8th grade boys). We estimate that Focal00 behavior produces an increase in performance of 6.3% in curl-ups (p < .001), 13.8% in push-ups (p < .001), and 2.2% in mile run (p < .05), all else held equal. Erfle (2014) expands to the second (spring) assessment. I examine whether focal performance across time (AT) for a given activity differs across activities and whether students who are focal across activities (AA) for a given time have a greater performance bump than those obtained from students who are focal AT for a given activity. The strategy we used to analyze 50 remainder pairs is untenable given 2,500 remainder four-tuples (2,500 = 5·10·5·10). Nonetheless, it is worth noting that one would expect 4 students in 10,000 to be focal on all four events due to
random processes. The 9,345 middle school students studied had 86 such students. Figure 2 shows proclivity across the 50 fall and spring remainder pairs and Figure 3
depicts the proclivity across these 2,500 fall × spring alternatives. Instead of examining non-focal outcomes individually, I categorized each event as focal or not focal. Given two potentially focal activities per assessment time, moving from one to two assessment times quadruples the number of possible outcomes. The four possible outcomes (4 = 22) implicit in Erfle & Gelbaugh (2013) expand to 16 possible outcomes once the second assessment is introduced to the analysis (16 = 24). I examine these 16 outcomes using 3 systematic focal partitions (AA, AT, and AA ∩ AT) in (Erfle 2014). The picture that emerges regarding performance is more complex than found in Erfle & Gelbaugh (2013). The rank ordering of performance across the 10-way AA ∩ AT partition is shown in Figure 4. The results suggest a performance asymmetry between those who are focal on push-ups and those who are focal on curl-ups. The 86 students who were focal on all four events had superior performance to those with lesser degrees of systematic focal behavior. Systematic curl-up performers AT performed no better than those with no systematic focal performances and those who were systematic on pull-ups AT had performance profiles more in line with those who had two systematic focal outcomes, one AA and the other AT. Focal pull-up performances translate to superior mile performance but focal curl-up performances do not. These results pose as many questions as they answer. For example: What motivates focal students in the first place? Would coaching toward focal outcomes produce results similar to those obtained via the internal mechanism of counting by fives and tens used by focal striving middle school students? Does focal behavior in the gym transfer to increased performance in academic subjects? For more information, see page 36.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Legacy Sediments, Mill Dams, Climate Change, and the Future of the Chesapeake Bay Jeffrey Niemitz Professor of Earth Science
For the last several years, my students and I have been focusing on the chemistry of sediments trapped behind mill dams. From the late 18th into the early 20th centuries, thousands of mill dams were built on streams throughout the U.S. mid-Atlantic region for agricultural and early industrial purposes (e.g., grinding grain or sawing wood). For more than 200 years, sediment accumulated in the mill ponds behind these dams. Erosion, the result of agricultural practices and extensive deforestation, supplied large volumes of sediment to fill these numerous ponds. Today, many of these dams are in an advanced state of decay or have been removed. Though stream incision of the sediment post-dam removal is almost instantaneous, at many sites the majority of the trapped sediment mass persists. These sediment repositories are known as legacy sediments. Legacy sediment is defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as fine-grained sediment eroded from upland areas and deposited in valley bottoms along stream corridors behind low-head century-old dam reservoirs. The legacy sediment is exposed and subject to erosion after dams are removed and the reservoirs are drained. The land use in the sub-watershed above a mill dam determines the chemical constituents of the legacy sediment deposit. For example, in Mountain Creek watershed, iron ore mining and smelting was prevalent during the late 18th to early 20th centuries. One very large legacy sediment deposit we have been studying contains iron slag from the smelting process and pieces of charcoal used to fire the furnaces, but no potentially harmful
Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey Niemitz
pollutants because of the forested land use. Another deposit contiguous to agricultural land use has been found to contain large amounts of phosphorus and the trace metals lead, zinc, and copper. We have determined that these elemental excesses above what would normally be found in unimpacted soils come from fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, and atmospheric deposition of leaded gasoline by-products. Why are these discoveries important? From the moment the dam is removed, these sequestered nutriDickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey Niemitz
ents and trace elements have the potential of being remobilized back into the stream environment, especially during flooding events. The high density of mill dams in the mid-Atlantic region creates a cumulative effect downstream as the combined effluent from multiple former dam sites all flows to a single river-estuarine environment; in the case of our study, the Susquehanna River Watershed and Chesapeake Bay. There are potential downstream problems associated with legacy sediment remobilization. The release of the sediment itself can end up choking smaller tributaries and degrading stream habitats. While the use of best management practices for fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide application and for soil conservation is relatively recent, many of the nutrients from fertilizer application and other chemicals used in earlier Industrial Age farming practices have been sequestered behind dams and are now being released into the environment. Historically, these pollutants have been the cause of the degradation of Chesapeake Bay from hypoxia and eutrophication, yet this new and presumably significant source of pollutants may be unaccounted for in EPA models of nutrient flux to the Bay. Another aspect of our studies involves the role of climate change in remobilizing legacy sediments. We are now looking at the flooding records of over 95 â€œunimpactedâ€? streams in the Chesapeake Bay watershed for evidence of an increase in the frequency and magnitude of floods not caused by watershed development. So far our results suggest that since 1970, the number of flooding events has increased sometimes substantially while the magnitude of those floods has not changed significantly. This would suggest that shifts in storm tracks due to global warming are creating more storminess and heavier precipitation events. The most recent National Climate Assessment (U.S. Global Climate Change Program, 2014) shows that the U.S. Northeast has experienced an increase of 70% in heavy precipitation since 1958. We have learned that what was unknowingly done in the past few hundred years can have a profoundly negative effect on ecosystems today. As we add more and more CO2 to the atmosphere, we should be mindful of the implication of our actions for the generations yet to come.
Forklifts and Photosynthesis: The Technology of “Plant Physiology” Laura Hart ‘15
This semester, Professor Arnold has incorporated a number of tools and technologies into his BIOL 325 course, Plant Physiology. One of the aims of the course, as stated in the syllabus, is to think critically about the relation of plant sciences to “efforts to address issues such as global climate change, extinction and migration, resource usage, and the use of new technologies—including transgenic crops—to feed the world’s population of 10 billion people.” Part of this process is learning how to apply different technologies in the conceptualization of vital plant processes, as well as in the collection and analysis of relevant data. Interestingly enough, one of the first steps in the class’ introduction to this technology was a forklift. One Thursday in early September, the class gathered around a forklift under a large sycamore tree on the Academic Quad in front of Old West. There they met Mark Scott, one of Dickinson’s two arborists, who talked about his role in caring for the many trees on campus. Scott also graciously operated the forklift, which came in handy as single members of each group ascended with plastic tubes of different lengths and diameters and used them to suck up water from a jug, modeling the role of water pressure and bulk flow in xylem. This proved to be a challenge, and the wide-eyed and red-cheeked volunteers often took breaks from sucking up the water to breathe and laugh at the unexpected difficulty of their task. The purpose of this lab, according to Arnold, was trifold: to develop mastery of equations learned in class, to conceptualize how impressive it really is that trees can effectively transport water to their uppermost branches against the force of gravity, and to have some fun with a piece of equipment many students had never experienced. Arnold followed this creative, conceptual use of equipment with a more practical (albeit at times less exhilarating) one: that of using the LI-6400 photosynthesis system to measure plant transpiration. When attached to the leaf of a plant, the LI-6400 machines take measurements including air and leaf temperatures, water vapor concentrations of ingoing and outgoing air, driving force of transpiration, and transpiration rate. This equipment is used outside Dickinson in plant science labs and on farms to assess plant health. According to Arnold, the purchase of the machines was funded in part by a grant from Li-COR Biosciences. In explaining how the availability of this technology affects the course, Arnold stated that “the nice thing is that it [the LI-6400] brings the plants and the environment together. We hear a lot about sustainability and climate change, so the fact that it [measures atmospheric] CO2 is really nice.” Students are able to see exactly how much CO2 is in the air, and how that affects plant health and photosynthetic performance. When asked about her experience in the course, Kerri Bergin ’15 asserted that “The most interesting part of lab so far was learning to use the [LI-6400] machines. It was cool how we could see how that technology that we learned about in class was applied outside in the real world.” Experience with programming and using the LI-6400 has the potential of being applied to future plant-related internships and jobs; it will undoubtedly be helpful at an even sooner date, in the self-designed experiments students will perform after Fall Pause on seedlings already growing in the Kaufman greenhouse.
Going Back in Time with Paleolimnology Environmental Science Max Egener ‘16 and Kristin Strock Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
The study of paleolimnology is inherently historical in two ways, just like its etymology has two parts. “Paleo” comes from the Greek word palaios, meaning ancient; “limnology” comes from the Greek word limnē, meaning lake. Therefore, paleolimnologists study the environmental history that is archived in lake sediments. As rainwater washes both organic and inorganic matter from the land into lakes and aquatic organisms within lakes die and excrete waste, lakes accumulate sediments layer-by-layer. Since lakes are positioned at the lowest points in landscapes, they can record the environmental conditions of both the lake itself and its surrounding terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem. Today, as researchers all over the world search for ways to shed light on climate change, lakes have become the perfect setting to see how our ecosystems have changed over time. Within lake sediment cores, paleolimnologists look for a major unicellular group of algae called “diatoms.” There are over 12,000 species of diatoms and they are a focal point of paleolimnology because they are sensitive to environmental conditions like pH and nutrient concentrations. Diatoms are unique because they have an outer cell wall made of silica. This glass-like outer wall allows diatoms to be preserved in lake sediments and then later analyzed by paleolimnologists. Once researchers have a lake sediment core, they can reconstruct the historic conditions of the lake and its surrounding landscape by analyzing which diatom species are present during which eras. Scientists interested in explaining lake ontogeny—the development of lake ecosystems over time—have been looking at lake sediments since the early 20th century. With nearly a hundred years of progress within the field, paleolimnologists have also improved the equipment they use to extract lake sediment. Most lake corers are long metal or hard plastic tubes ranging anywhere from two to 50 ft, depending on how far back in time researchers want to go. Some surface sediment corers look like enclosed versions of the crane claw arcade game and simply scoop up lake sediment. More advanced corers use high pressure or rapid vibrations to drive through coarse sediment layers. We use both modern aquatic ecology and paleolimnology to understand how lakes are responding to climate change. On a recent trip to the Pocono Mountains, we used a new gravity coring device, which simply uses heavy weights dropped and driven into the sediment, to collect two sediment cores about 25 cm deep. species of diatoms These cores will each give us roughly 200 years of data. Lakes in this region of Pennsylvania have been getting less transparent, potentially because of refeet (depth of lake cores) cent increases in precipitation, and as a result, lakes’ surface waters are increasing in temperature. With this historical and current lake data, we may be able to years of data given by sediment cores further explain the ecological implications of our changing climates.
12,000 2-50 200
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Alan Turing and the Turing Test John MacCormick Associate Professor of Computer Science
If you’re a fan of the British TV show “Sherlock,” you might be interested to hear that the lead actor in that show, Benedict Cumberbatch, will be starring as the legendary English scientist Alan Turing in a movie to be released this fall. The movie is called The Imitation Game. Why? We’ll get back to that in a minute. First, who was Alan Turing, and why would anyone make a movie about him? He’s sometimes described as a mathematician, sometimes as an engineer, and sometimes as a computer scientist. All are true. His university degrees were in mathematics; he essentially founded the field of theoretical computer science with a breakthrough paper in the 1930s; and he later helped to engineer some of the earliest real computers. But for something worthy of the big screen, we can turn to Turing’s contribution during the Second World War: he was a key member of the team that cracked the German naval Enigma code. It’s generally accepted that his work saved many lives and considerably shortened the war. It also makes for an exciting movie script, especially when you consider that the work was done on a shoestring budget by a secret team operating at an English country mansion called Bletchley Park. (Many Dickinson students have visited Bletchley Park as part of the Norwich science program). But where does the “imitation game” come into it? Well, it turns out that Turing didn’t stop after his seminal work on the theory of computation and cryptography. In the 1950s, he also wrote one of the founding documents on artificial intelligence. In a paper called “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” he gave a beautiful description of what it might mean for a machine to “think.” At the heart of the description is the imitation game, which we now know as the “Turing test”: a computer plays a game in which it tries to fool a human interrogator into thinking it’s human. The Turing test remains strikingly relevant today. I was reminded of this a couple of years ago when I was lucky enough to be in Cambridge, England for the centenary celebrations of Alan Turing’s birth. Two of the talks I saw there focused on interesting variants of the Turing test: in one, we ask if a computer could imitate a mathematician; in the other, we ask if a computer could imitate a computer programmer. These are profound questions that take us far beyond the slippery chat bots that dominate attempts to pass the generic Turing test. Imagine, instead, if a computer could prove interesting new mathematical theorems, or write useful new computer programs. These are imitation games that could really change the world.
Photo Courtesy of media.visitbritain.com
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
Heliostats: Free Heating Through Solar Energy
Bending the Ray: The Electron and its Mass
Margaret McGuirk ‘18 and Byron Tannous ‘14
Chris Fritz ‘17
In the traditional sense, a heliostat is a stationary device containing a mirror that reflects sunlight toward a specific location by tracking the motion of the sun. Heliostats are used in solar power plants to focus sunlight onto a solar tower and produce electrical energy. However, Michael Vecchio and Byron Tannous ’14 have developed another use for the heliostat: to provide natural lighting in rooms that do not normally receive sunlight. The original concept was developed by Professor Pfister as a capstone project, after he was inspired to repurpose the heliostat to light his own house. Vecchio and Tannous worked to design an electrical tracking circuit that would allow the heliostat to follow the sun and redirect its light. Ultimately, Vecchio used information from his Analog and Digital Electronics class to create an in-house constructed circuit that incorporated discrete electronic components. Tannous created a single-board microcontroller using Arduino Uno. This new and improved heliostat tracks the sun by use of four light-dependent resistors (LDRs) located adjacent to the base of a rectangular prism attached to the body of the prism. If the heliostat is properly aligned, then all four LDRs will receive the same light intensity and no shadows will be cast on the LDRs. If shadows are cast on any of the LDRs, then the tracking motors will be activated to realign the heliostat. This new type of heliostat can be used in many ways around the house. First and foremost, the heliostat can replace non-renewable energy sources, namely coal-powered electricity, by lighting a room with free, natural light. By micro-adjusting the mirrors in the heliostat with felt padding, the device can actually light several rooms at once. Although it was not fully explored in the project, the heliostat can also heat rooms naturally, further reducing energy costs and carbon footprints. Beyond indoor uses, this heliostat could be used to light places in a yard that are usually in full or partial shade. This is especially useful for gardens or flowerbeds with plants that require more sunlight than is naturally available.
Byron Tannous (Left) and Michael Vecchio (Right) in front of the Heliostat. Photo Courtesy of Carl Socolow ’77
Electrons are some of the most important particles in the universe. The electromagnetic forces that affect electrons and other charged particles are an integral part of our existence. In 1897, British physicist J.J. Thomson identified the electron as a particle. Thomson used cathode rays: an evacuated tube with wires (cathode and anode) fixed at either end. When the cathode was heated, a beam projected visually onto a fluorescent screen. The first televisions produced images like this. As experiments show, Thomson’s bold speculation turned out to be correct: cathode rays are in fact beams of electrons, and electrons are indeed fundamental parts of every atom. How much does an electron weigh? Is there a scale to measure a particle 1000 times smaller than an atom? The answer lies in the Helmholtz Coil and the interaction between electrons and the magnetic field. Any charged particle moving perpendicular to a magnetic field experiences the Lorentz Force proportional to the charge of the particle, its speed, and the strength of the magnetic field containing it. From kinetic energy and Lorentz force, we derive the ratio of the electrons’ charge to mass based on the radius of the circle formed by the arc of the electron beam. Why a circle? The Lorentz force acts perpendicular to the velocity of a charged particle, directing it to the center of the circular motion of the electron. Consider a ball attached to a string that you twirl in a circle. One would think Thomson would have all he needed, but there is still one problem: the Earth’s magnetic field. The Earth has its own magnetic field that encircles the entire globe. Since the Lorentz force depends on the strength of the magnetic field, Thomson needed a way to neutralize the magnetic field due to the Earth and create his own measured field. This can be achieved through the Helmholtz Coil, (which is pictured below) named after German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz. The Heimholtz Coil consists of two coiled rings of wire that produce a uniform magnetic field when current runs through them. With this tool, Thomson had everything he needed to calculate the mass of the electron. Thomson was thus able to solidify the existence of an electron as a particle.
The Helmholtz Coil before activation.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Fritz ’17
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
A Nonlinear View of the History of Science Lars Q. English Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy
I have a colleague in the Math Department who, for all I know, has managed to tap into an inexhaustible well of ideas. I don’t know how Jeff does it, but he just appears to come up with one brilliant connection after another, effortlessly. Multiple times a week he bursts into my office to share one of them. So one day, dispensing with any unnecessary niceties of “Hi, how are you”, he walked into my office announcing: “You don’t actually believe that if Einstein had never gone into physics, we would still all be fervent adherents to Newtonian gravity, right? Or that if Watson, Crick and Franklin hadn’t discovered the double helix, we would still be baffled about how genetic traits are passed down from generation to generation?” In a nutshell, his thesis was that in the history of science, individual scientists routinely get way too much credit, as if without these rare and precious visionaries we would still be stuck in some kind of Dark Age of science. It’s an interesting question. How much of science’s long-term trajectory is significantly influenced by individual contributions and personalities? What if Einstein hadn’t published those four seminal papers in 1905, his annus mirabilis? Would the special theory of relativity never have been uncovered? Unlikely. Okay then, by how many years would physics have been held back? In this instance, a compelling historical case can be made that relativity was ripe for discovery, that the times were ready for it, that others were hot on Einstein’s heels, and that within a few years it would have been published by someone else. In the case of Einstein’s general relativity, most scholars agree that the scientific delay would have been longer, perhaps as long as 50 years. But nobody seriously believes that we would still be ignorant of the curvature of space-time near massive bodies. If we examine the lives of famous scientists, it is clear they did not work in a vacuum. To the contrary, they were educated and later taught at the premier universities of the day, read scientific papers in prestigious journals, went to popular science conferences, and generally kept in constant dialogue with peers and mentors. The same is also true of, say, hyper-successful entrepreneurs—people like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg come to mind. We realize that in addition to remarkable talent, they also had access to superb educational institutions, start-up grant money, a talented pool of employees, a consumer market, manufacturing and transportation infrastructure, and the internet. Most of all, they had an idea that would resonate with the larger public—they had customers. The time was ripe for the kinds of products that they envisioned, and they seized the opportunity. Had they not, similar products would have eventually found their way to market, designed and sold by other companies. The magnitude of people’s success, be it scientific, political or entrepreneurial, does not correlate with the degree of exceptionalism on the part of the individual. The non-proportionality in this relationship is what Duncan Watts coined the “nonlinear view of history.’’1 In this nonlinear view, the exceptional success of the world’s rich and famous cannot be linearly traced back to their extraordinary talent or the vastly superior quality of their work. It has much more to do with the dynamic processes of amplification within society, or cumulative advantage, as Watts calls it. As such, the success says more about those feedback processes than about the individual contribution in isolation. We can ask, “Why wasn’t chaos theory discovered much earlier?” After all, chaos is a feature of many systems strictly governed by Newtonian mechanics, and Newton’s laws had been known since the late 17th century. Indeed, Henri Poincaré had come close in the late 19th century when he observed that some dynamical systems seemed to display an extreme sensitivity to initial condition—the hallmark of chaotic evolution. However, his times were not ready for the idea. People were not Photo Courtesy of www.physics.uc c.ie open to the message, and neither were the institutions of science. Computers, which eventually proved so pivotal in the numerical exploration of chaos, had not been invented. And so it took until the 1960s before the idea germinated again, and it fell to an obscure meteorologist/mathematician—Edward Lorenz—to initiate a larger paradigm shift. Was he destined to be the one to do so? In hindsight, it can easily appear that way. But, more realistically, it could have been any one of many scientists. Nonlinear science tells us that if a complex system is ripe for an instability, any small fluctuation could tip it into the new phase.
Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
How. Not how many. Anthony Underwood Assistant Professor of Economics
Don’t Know Much About History Sustainability
The United Nations (UN) recently projected world population to increase from the current 7.2 billion people to 9.6 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion in 2100. These updated projections generated new calls to address “the elephant in the room” of human over-population. The size of the human population is considered unsustainable in terms of its impact on earth’s current and future climate, its ability to distribute food production equitably, population and species extinctions, the provision of life–supporting ecosystems services, and economic, sociological, and epidemiological well-being. Environmental conditions are threatened primarily because of human activity: land-use changes, resource exploitation, invasive species introduction, air and water pollution, climate change, and their interactions. While it is abundantly clear that a smaller population would reduce most of these threatening processes, separating the effect of consumption rates and population growth is actually quite difficult, due mainly to their combined effects and the variation in consumption patterns among regions and socioeconomic groups. Our only real policy tool available to reduce the human population humanely is to encourage lower per capita fertility. Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook of the University of Adelaide in Australia recently published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asking how long it might take for fertility reduction to have a meaningful impact on world population. They found that even a rapid transition to one-child policies worldwide would lead to a population similar to that of today by 2100 and a catastrophic mass mortality event (2 billion deaths in a five year window mid-21st century) would still yield a population around 8.5 billion by 2100. While we cannot deny the urgency with which the impacts of humanity must be mitigated on the global scale, the current momentum of the global human population precludes any demographic “quick fix”. So what can we do? While we certainly should continue to pursue lower fertility rates through female empowerment and education, especially in Africa where population is expected to rise to 4.2 billion people by the end of the century, fertility reduction is by no means a cure-all solution. It cannot happen in isolation. Research in environmental sociology, demography, and economics shows that falling fertility is associated with rising affluence, urbanization, aging populations, shrinking household size, an increased desire for privacy, delayed marriage and reproduction, and increased per capita consumption. These trends and their synergistic interactions could just as easily counteract and outweigh any long-run reduction in environmental impacts resulting from fertility reductions. Our efforts toward sustainability should be directed toward adapting to a growing global population by rapidly reducing our footprint as much as possible through technological and social innovation, devising more effective ways to conserve species and ecosystems, and reducing per capita consumption of irreplaceable resources. This means not only accelerating the transition away from fossil-fuel energy to renewable sources but also rethinking the ways in which we build our cities, homes, and workplaces. The UN projects nearly all global population growth this century to occur in urban areas with 66 percent living in cities by 2050. Sustainable urbanization is therefore the key to sustainable development. If families are going to be smaller, we need smaller houses. If we will be living closer together, we need better public transportation. If we desire more privacy, we need more spaces of interaction to maintain social cohesion. If we are consuming more per person, we need to reduce the pollution intensity of goods and services. With sustainability as our goal, our focus should be on the behavior of the population—how we consume and how we live— not its size.
Robert J. Boyle Associate Professor of Physics
Should a working scientist know anything about the history of science? Scientists are obliged to know the recent history of their own science! Most peer-reviewed journal articles contain an introduction, which lays out the topic and describes the history of past investigations. In some sciences (for example, my own of astronomy) where new technologies can yield increased insights into old problems, or useful comparisons can be made with older data, it is not uncommon to reference papers that go back several decades. I myself have used 1937-vintage references to a seminal paper by the dean of early 20th century astronomy, Henry Norris Russell. In fact, I can remember one of my graduate faculty telling the story of how he had been admonished by one of his own mentors that “Struve looked at that star in 1930 and he did a more thorough job than you did!” But should the working scientist know anything about the distant history of science? Should the working astrophysicist care about how Copernicus or Tycho or Newton did science, or even who they were? My own answer is a resounding “yes”! Let me give you three reasons: It is worthwhile to remember what drove our ancestors. Copernicus was passionate about the fundamental beliefs of his time, based on the Aristotelian concept of a perfect firmament: natural celestial motions were circular and uniform. He was scandalized by what he saw as Ptolemy’s departure from Aristotle: the introduction of the off-center equant point as the only location from which motion appeared uniform. He was driven to look for a different solution to the problem of planetary motion. Tycho was passionate in his belief that only better data could lead to an understanding of the true nature of the cosmos. He spent his life perfecting the tools for measuring planetary positions. Science today requires that same passionate commitment to solving the problem at hand. It can keep us humble. Even the greatest of scientists can get it wrong, usually while
still doing perfectly good science. The great Newton, without the benefit of bright monochromatic light sources and carefully machined slits, could not observe the effects of diffraction and hence, perfectly reasonably, concluded that light did not have a wave nature. Tycho knew he had the best equipment ever made for measuring the positions of the stars and planets. When he could not detect the “retrograde motion” (parallax) of the stars that was predicted by Copernicus, he quite reasonably rejected the idea that the earth moved around the sun. He had no way of knowing that the effect he was looking for was at least 40 times smaller than anything he could hope to measure. Even doing the best we can do as scientists, we can still get it wrong. It reminds us that science is a human endeavor. Science is a human endeavor, carried out by fully human actors whose personal lives can certainly influence their careers. Copernicus, whose “day jobs” were those of canon (an administrative position under a bishop) and medical doctor, delayed publishing his theory in part because he feared opposition from professional astronomers, all Aristotelian academics. But he also delayed risking controversy because of friction with his Bishop, Dantiscus, with whom he had battled over his keeping a mistress. Tycho Brahe left Denmark ending the most productive period of his career, at least in part because of the Danish court’s unwillingness to legitimize his children by his much-beloved common-law wife Kirsten. As Dava Sobel makes clear in her wonderful book, Galileo’s Daughter, the first telescopic astronomer and father of modern science received crucial emotional support from his eldest daughter, even from behind her convent walls. Scientists are made of flesh and blood, with all the strengths and weaknesses that implies. So, let me urge those of you considering a career in science, or who already follow one, to learn at least a bit about of the history of our grand endeavor. I guarantee you will find things to both inspire and fascinate.
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The History of Science Lives in London Grant Braught Associate Professor of Computer Science
Over the past two years, as the Director of Dickinson’s Norwich Science Program (NSP) in England, I have had the incredible experience of immersing my students and myself in the history of science in and around London. While this experience was new to me, and is new to a different group of students each fall, it is not new to Dickinson science students and faculty who have been sharing it for the past 24 years. Each of those years in late August, the NSP Director has collected a group of travel-weary and jet-lagged Dickinson science majors from London’s Heathrow airport. Unable to contain our enthusiasm, we Directors (and I am particularly guilty) would immediately have the group out in London, seeing places where our scientific heroes and heroines lived and worked and discovered! Even on our first walk, luggage still in tow, we passed a statue of Joseph Priestley and an iconic blue plaque indicating that Charles Darwin had lived and worked literally across the street from our hotel. A major goal of the fall NSP course is to develop a history of science perspective—an appreciation for the ways in which science has been influenced by the political, social, economic and/or cultural climates of its time. To this end, a popular first stop for the group has been The Ritblat Gallery at the British Library. This gallery presents an almost perfect microcosm of the course: Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks are steps away from Shakespeare’s first folio, which is near a cabinet holding letters by Isaac Newton and maps by Mercator, which is across the room from musical scores by Handel and Mozart, which are just outside the room containing the Magna Carta, which is just beyond Guttenberg’s Bible, which is near a display of letters by Darwin and illustrations by Hans Sloan. And I could go on and on… but I’ll reign in my enthusiastic reminiscence. Over the next weeks, we expanded this microcosm with a wide range of site visits. We visited the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and learned how the need to measure longitude advanced both astronomy and timekeeping, but that political alliances also played a significant role in the story. We toured Darwin’s home and discovered how his wife’s strong religious beliefs caused him to reflect on his work and that some of his experiments were inspired by fear that the ill health of his children was due to inbreeding (he was married to his first cousin). We wandered Soho and saw how Victorian social stratification helped hide the flaws of an incorrect theory of cholera transmission, and how the scientific evidence compiled by John Snow ultimately ushered in his correct theory. Building on the experience gained from these and many other activities, the centerpiece of the course was a research paper putting our history of science perspective into practice. Everyone registered as Readers at the Royal Society, granting us access to the Society’s archives—and when it comes to investigating the history of science, it doesn’t get much better than that. The Royal Society began in 1660 when Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke and nine others founded a “Colledge for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning” in London. This group believed that logical thought, observation, and experimentation together were the way to understand their physical world, making them arguably the world’s first scientific organization. When King Charles II issued a charter in 1662, this “Colledge” became The Royal Society. Today the list of Royal Society Fellows is a who’s who of British science including: Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Edward Jenner, Edmond Halley, Leonard Euler, Charles Babbage, Kathleen Lonsdale, Michael Faraday, Carl Gauss, Dorothy Hodgkin, and some more recent additions—Peter Higgs, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee. For their papers, each student selected an artifact from The Royal Society Archives and set out to tell its story. Why was it in the archives? Who was associated with the artifact? Why were they interested in that topic at that time? What social, cultural and political factors played into the story? I wish I could talk about every paper, but I’ve had to select just a few Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
that illustrate the spirit of the assignment and the wide range of topic areas explored: • Reed Salmons (Biology ’14) wrote on a collection of letters from Isaac Newton to Edmond Halley in which Newton expressed, among other things, his great disdain for Robert Hooke. Reed investigated the sources of Newton’s animosity toward Hooke and how it may have contributed to his success. • Jonathan Jackson (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology ’14) focused on a letter from Antoni van Leeuwenhoek to Henry Oldenburg, from 1676, in which Leeuwenhoek reports the very first observations of single-celled organisms. Jon traced Leeuwenhoek’s path from a Dutch linen draper through that discovery to his crowning as “the Father of Microbiology.” • Kevin Rosenberg (Computer Science ’15) chose an 1822 letter written to Sir Humphry Davy, then President of the Royal Society, by Charles Bab-
Photo Courtesy of Grant Braught
bage, describing his design for one of the very first mechanical computers. Kevin explored how the troubled relationship between Babbage and his engineer Joseph Clement ultimately led to the project’s demise. • Abby Flinchbaugh (Chemistry ’15) started with a 1737 letter from David Hartly to the Royal Society discussing Dr. Trew’s dissertation on differences between fetuses and adult humans. Abby examined cultural and scientific factors that influenced the repeated debates of preformation versus epigenesis in human development. • Sarah McEvoy (Psychology ’15) began with a letter from Francis Galton to the Secretary of the Royal Society in 1893, which appears to be a veiled attempt to further his research in eugenics (“high breeding”). Sarah considered how societal misinterpretations of eugenics may have tarnished Galton’s image and limited the impact of his other scientific work. The students from Fall 2012 summarized their experiences with this assignment in an invited posting to The Royal Society blog as follows: “Researching in the Royal Society archives was a unique and extraordinary experience. … Holding, examining and reading the original hand-written works of these famous scientists has awed, inspired and motivated us, and will influence us as we continue our academic and professional careers.” I couldn’t have wished for more!
Sci & Entertainment
Entertainment The Psychology of the “Bachelor” TV Series Diane Brockman Professor of Psychology
I have a confession: I actually watch the television shows “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” However, I watch these programs for research purposes and not for entertainment. Okay, maybe a little bit for entertainment. I study heterosexual human mating behavior, specifically, what men and women are looking for in long-term and short-term relationships. I also study the effects of sex ratios on relationships. The sex ratio is a measurement of a given population in terms of the number of men per 100 women. For example, a low sex ratio is 95 and a high sex ratio is 105. When the sex ratio deviates significantly from 100 at the ages when men and women most commonly marry, certain characteristic changes take place in their relationships that have effects on the family and other aspects of society (Guttentag & Secord 1983). In societies with a high sex ratio (more men than women), men are more attentive to women, there are lower divorce rates (Rhyne 1981), there is a greater commitment by males to secure economic resources (Pedersen 1991; Green 1989), and men display a greater willingness to engage in active parenting (South & Trent 1988). Conversely, in low sex ratio societies, the two dominant male behaviors are a reluctance to make marital commitments and a trend toward brief, easy sexual encounters outside of marriage (Guttentag & Secord 1983). Declining sex ratios also result in increased out-of-wedlock births, separations, divorces, and female independence (Guttentag & Secord 1983). One of the contexts in which the ratios are skewed is at colleges and universities. My research students studied the sex ratios of all of the colleges and universities in the United States and found that 80% of the schools had low sex ratios, 4% had even sex ratios, and 16% had high sex ratios. This means that there are more women than men on 80% of the college and university campuses in the
United States. Additionally, 58% of the schools had extremely low sex ratios that were lower than 80, meaning there were fewer than 80 men for every 100 women. When the sex ratio deviates from 100, the competition for mates, or intrasexual competition, often becomes fierce among the majority sex. Intrasexual competition occurs when members of the same sex compete with each other for access to the opposite sex. When competing with their same-sex rivals, both women and men derogate their rivals, but in different ways. Men will not only attack other men’s statuses and reputations, but pick fights with them as well. Women usually denigrate their rivals by insulting their physical appearance or accusing them of being sexually promiscuous. What does this have to do with “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”? Well, if ever there were skewed ratios, they are definitely present on these programs. For example, on the first night of The Bachelor, there are usually 25 bachelorettes for the one bachelor, equating to a sex ratio of 4. This means that if this same ratio occurred in the real world, there would be 4 men for every 100 women—fierce competition indeed! “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” provide great examples of extreme sex ratio situations and the resulting behaviors of these contexts. For the men, the behaviors usually involve attacks on reputations (“He is not here for the right reasons!”), and for the women, the attacks are often about appearances (“She isn’t even pretty!”). So in January, when you are watching Chris Soules (the next Bachelor) decide on his “future bride,” you won’t just be indulging your guilty pleasure. You will be watching intrasexual competition in a very low sex ratio environment, just as I will.
For More Information: Letter from the Editor, p. 4 1. The Dickinson Story. (n.d.). 2. Rush, B. Medical Inquiries and Observations (Vol. 1, p. 5). Vitamin B12: The Last Discovered Vitamin, p. 7-8 1. “The Nobel Prize and the Discovery of Vitamins”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 10 Sep 2014. http://www. nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/themes/medicine/carpenter/ 2. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. (2014, October 9). Retrieved September 10, 2014. 3. Mitsuyama Y, Kogoh H. Serum and cerebrospinal fluid vitamin B12 levels in demented patients with CH3-B12 treatment--preliminary study. Jpn J Psychiatry Neurol. 1988; 42(1): 65-71. Human Impact on Planet Earn Era a New Title, p. 12 Borenstein, S. (2014, October 14). With their mark on Earth, humans may name era, too. Retrieved October 15, 2014. http://news.yahoo.com/having-made-mark-earth-humans-may-name-era-071816013.html Stromburg, J. (2013, January 1). What is the Anthropocene and Are We in It? Retrieved October 14, 2014. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-the-anthropocene-and-are-we-in-it-164801414/?no-ist Iacurci, J. (2014, October 14). Leaving Our Mark: The Age of Humans. Retrieved October 15, 2014. http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/9580/20141014/leavingour-mark-the-age-of-humans.htm Identification and Characterization of Enterococcus faecalis Biofilm Phenotypes Article , p.24 1. Blum JE, Fischer CN, & Miles J. (2013). Frequent replenishment sustains the beneficial microbiome of Drosophila melanogaster. mBio, 4(6). 2. Hall-Stoodley L, Consterton JW, & Stoodley P. (2004). Bacterial biofilms: from the natural environment to infectious diseases. Microbiology Nature Reviews, 2: 95-108. 3. Iyer VS & Hancock LE. (2012). Deletion of σ54 (rpoN) alters the rate of autolysis and biofilm formation in Enterococcus faecalis. Journal of Bacteriology, 194(2): 368. 4. Jett BD, Huycke MM, & Gilmore MS. (1994). Virulence of enterococci. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 7(4): 462. 5. Kristich CJ, Nguyen VT, Le T, Barnes AMT, Grindle S, & Dunny G. (2008). Development and use of an efficient system for random mariner transposon mutagenesis to identify novel genetic determinants of biofilm formation in the core Enterococcus faecalis genome. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 74(11): 3377. 6. Mason KL, Stepien TA, Blum JE. (2011). From commensal to pathogen: translocation of Enterococcus faecalis from the midgut to the hemocoel of Manduca sexta. mBio, 2(3). Walking the Tightrope, p. 27 1.National Science Foundation Survey of Earned Doctorates. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctorates/. Accessed October 17, 2014. 2. Mason, Mary Ann, Nicholas H. Wolfinger, and Marc Goulden. Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower. New Brunswick, NJ : Rutgers University Press, June 2103. Print. Focal Performance as a Behavioral Metric for Autonomous Motivation, p. 28 Erfle, S. E. (2014). Persistent focal behavior and physical activity performance. Measurement in Physical Education & Exercise Science, 18(3), 168-183. Erfle, S. E., & Gelbaugh, C. M. (2013). Physical activity performance of focal middle school students. Measurement in Physical Education & Exercise Science, 17(2), 150-166. doi:10.1080/1091367X.2013.761034#.UjXzxH9huSo
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Sci & Entertainment
The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity’s Greatest Scientist, by Reviel Netz and William Noel Review by David S. Richeson Professor of Mathematics
Photo Courtesy of Da Capo Press
In 1229, a monk erased a tenth century parchment manuscript by scraping the text off the pages. He then removed the pages, turned them 90°, folded them, bound them as a new book, and transcribed the text of a prayer book onto the nearly blank pages. In creating this palimpsest— as such objects are called—he destroyed a rare copy of some works of Archimedes of Syracuse (287–212 BCE), the greatest mathematician, physicist, and engineer of antiquity. In 1906, the Danish historian Johan Heiberg discovered the palimpsest. He could see the faint Greek writing under the text of the prayer book, and he identified it as the mathematics of Archimedes. He transcribed the text the best he could, but afterward the palimpsest was lost again. The book reappeared, moldy and damaged, in a Christies auction in 1998. It was not purchased by a museum or university, but by an anonymous individual, for a staggering $2 million. Fortunately for science, the new owner did not place the pa-
limpsest in his private collection. He took it to William Noel, curator of manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, for restoration, investigation, and dissemination. Noel turned to the Walters’s conservator, Abigail Quandt, to painstakingly disassemble the fragile manuscript, clean it, and halt the deterioration. As pages became available, physicists from various academic and private institutions employed 21st century imaging technology to extract the hidden writings of the great scientist, and Reviel Netz, a professor of classics and philosophy at Stanford University, began translating and interpreting the hidden Greek writing. The palimpsest contains seven works of Archimedes, including the only known copies of The Method of Mechanical Theorems and Stomachion. The former provides an ingenious use of ideas from physics—such as center of mass and levers—and early notions of the calculus to solve mathematical problems. The latter is a combinatorial analysis of a children’s game. The palimpsest also contains speeches by the Greek politician Hypereides, a commentary on Aristotle’s Categories by Alexander of Aphrodisias, and more. This fascinating tale, told by Noel and Netz, brings together physics, mathematics, classical studies, history, art, and document conservation to create a gripping detective story. The conservation is finished, and images and transcriptions of the palimpsest are available online at ArchimedesPalimpsest. net. But the story is not over. Netz and other scholars are still examining the text to see what we can learn from the great Archimedes.
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Review By Matthew Atwood ‘15 Science and Entertainment Editor
The science fiction genre has been a staple in the cinematic world since 1902. It has shown audiences endless possibilities of the future, many times in space, expanded culture, and advanced the art of film. I will attempt to cover some of the most important films of this genre in 300 words (well, now 246, ugh 244, ahhh! Stop!). Film began in the 1890s, and by 1902 the sci-fi genre was born with George Méliès’s silent film, A Trip to the Moon. This short showed a group of scientists build a rocket, launch it to the moon, get captured by aliens, escape, get back to their ship, and go back to earth. Also, it had the first example of special effects (a technique that has never been used to take a basic plot and make it interesting… shout out to James Cameron’s Avatar). A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Mark Hamill acted in live action films (and soon he will again! Episode VII here we come!). The significance of Star Wars (yes, all of them) cannot be overstated. This franchise has dominated culture like no other. From films, to TV, to toys, to merchandise, to video games, to EVERYTHING, people have heard of Star Wars, and will see it once again thanks to the all-powerful Disney and J.J. Abrams. Another important franchise, Star Trek, nope, the Alien series. The first of these films created a female lead who could handle herself without the assistance of any man, pushing the gendered norms of cinema. With fewer than fifty words left, here comes the speed round. The Back to the Future franchise needs only three reasons: Marty McFly, DeLorean, and Hoverboard. Blade Runner blurs the lines of good and evil, while making us question our own existence. Super speed round: The Terminator (first and second only), Wall-E (an animated film that shows the almost demise of the human race, yes please), Her (a commentary on modern romance), and the Jurassic Park franchise (here comes Chris Pratt wasn’t he in something else recently?) This list is far from complete, and to try to define the most important films of a genre dating back to the beginning of the 20th century is no easy task, especially in 300ish words. There have been so many important films for this genre that have affected both culture and cinema that I look forward to see what will happen next. Oh wait, we already know, all the sequels.
Sci & Entertainment
Under the Microscope with David Jackson Physics Professor David Jackson is an associate professor from the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He graduated from the University of Washington and received his Ph.D. from Princeton University. He arrived at Dickinson College in 1994 as a visiting assistant professor, and officially joined the faculty in 2001. In 2002, Professor Jackson published a textbook titled Explorations in Physics: An Activity-Based Approach to Understanding the World, and he is currently the Editor of the American Journal of Physics.
I know that you are very busy now with the American Journal of Physics. What are your chief responsibilities as editor? Basically, my duties are to oversee the review process and the publication process. Right now, we are getting something like 70 papers submitted per month, from all over the world. What I do is take a first look at the paper and decide if it is even appropriate for the journal. The American Journal of Physics has an educational focus, but we often get research papers that have no educational focus at all, and such papers are rejected without review. Ultimately, the decision on what to publish rests on me, but I largely trust reviewers for their opinions on the technical aspects of the article because I am not an expert in all the different areas of physics. Once the reviews come back, I personally go through each paper very carefully, making detailed edits and suggestions for improvement.
stuff in there is a liquid, but it’s a magnetic liquid. I would call that “unpatterned.” It’s just a blob. But, in the presence of a magnetic field, a pattern forms. [Professor Jackson moved a magnet under the black blob in the tube, and immediately the black blob reoriented itself and jumped into cone-shaped forms.] Out of nowhere comes a very structured, organized pattern. That process of how it goes from one [orientation] to another is what I study. What role do Dickinson students play in helping with your research? Lately, I have been working with students in quantum mechanics, which is a theory that governs the very, very small, like atoms, neutrons, electrons, and protons. Such
objects are so small that they can’t be seen, so we have to do careful experiments to learn about how they behave. When we do these experiments, we see results that don’t seem to make sense! At least, it doesn’t make sense with our preconceived notions of the world. With regard to students, in my opinion, the best educational experiences are when students are involved in the every aspect of the project. Then, by the time we get to the end, they will have helped construct the entire experiment, so they will know the purpose of every item, why it was put there, and hopefully they will then really understand the results. What motivated you to write an activities textbook like Explorations in Physics? When I got a job here at
Educational articles can be research articles, but they need to focus on the bigger picture so that someone who is teaching a physics course can say, “Ah! Here is something I can discuss in my class!” Educational articles typically take the time to explain things that would be valuable to physics educators and offer applications of physics concepts.
Outside of physics, what do you like to do in your free time? What is on your bucket list? I love playing soccer and have played for many years. I also coach my son’s team. My wife and I both play guitar, and we often play together. I’d still like to do more traveling. Specifically, I’d like to really see Africa.
What is the basis of your current research here at Dickinson?
Is there a scientist whose work you particularly admire? I admire Richard Feynman. He was a brilliant physicist who was able to think outside the box in a way that would in some cases essentially eliminate the mathematics from the physics, and still lead to the correct answer. He studied quantum electrodynamics, and he came up with a pictorial way of doing calculations called Feynman Diagrams. In fact, you can add up layers of Feynman Diagrams pictorially to make specific predictions.
What counts as an educational article, versus a research article?
My main research is in pattern formation in magnetic liquids. [Professor Jackson proceeded to grab a tube filled with fluid from a counter in his office. It was mostly filled with clear fluid, but there was a glob of black liquid at the bottom of the tube.] The black
Dickinson, one of the projects I was hired to do was to develop a course for non-science majors using an activities-based format. Explorations in Physics was the result. However, as much as I love science for non-science majors, it appears to me that across the nation, such courses are being devalued. Personally, I think this is terrible. Unfortunately, courses and books like Explorations in Physics are not in high demand. I think the Department of Physics and Astronomy does a good job of offering courses designed to appeal to non-science students and to give them a sense of why science is useful. Examples include the astronomy courses, “Explorations in Physics,” and a new course called “Climate Change and Renewable Energies.”
-Madeleine Gardner ‘18 Photo Courtesy of Cassandra Garcia ’15
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5. The Archimedes Codex 7. Quartz; calcite
8. Regulates food products, vaccines, medications 10. Plato’s student
11. A scientific top
15. Cancer treatment
17. Biological preparation to produce immunity
18. “The Wizard of Menlo Park”
19. Creator of the Periodic Table
21. Alliance that has been ed-
ucating communities about stream health since 1986
24. Major unicellular group
of algae; outer wall made of silica 25.
27. A blood thinner patented by Bayer
29. Chemical waste; ammonia; pesticides
31. First woman to receive a Nobel Prize (1903)
34. Created planet-like model to describe electron
35. Launched by Russia on October 4, 1957
38. Invented the English word “scientist”
39. Chasing Ice (2012) 40. Malignant tumor
Crossword Created by Tiffany McIntosh ’16
Down 1. Blood levels of 200 pg/ml and below 2. The Day the ____ Stood Still (1951) 3. Era of mass extinction of species, depletion of ozone layer, etc. 4. Polio vaccine 6. Self-feeding organism 8. Discovered electromagnetic
induction in 1831 9. Henrietta Lacks’ cells 11. Complete set of DNA 12. Asserts that the numinous does not exist 13. Dickinson dorm named after Chair of Chemistry Department 14. Standardized test started in 1928 16. Not depleted when used 18. Agency to protect human
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health and environment since 1970 20. Observable data 22. Described a lethal form of anemia in the1850s 23. “Father of Taxonomy” 26. Died of pernicious anemia in 1926 28. Solved the structure of penicillin 30. Middle Ages’ “chemistry”
32. “Pioneer for women’s equality in a man’s world” 33. “Father of American Psychiatry”; statue 35. Of or relating to stars 36. “Founding Father of genetic engineering” 37. Stereotype threat; heliocentric model Answer Key on Page 36.
Interested in Studying Science Abroad? Consider the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia
For more information contact Moira Kelley at email@example.com or the Center for Global Study and Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org Dickinson Science Magazine Vol. I Issue No. 2
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