Healthcare, Uncovered

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Healthcare Uncovered

Volume III, Issue IV

August 2017

The University of Miami’s FIRST Undergraduate Scientific Magazine

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The University of Miami’s FIRST Undergraduate Scientific Magazine

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c o n t e n t s

Cover Illustration: Samantha Mosle

News Healthcare Uncovered, 6 Sahara Desert, 10 Auto Revolution, 13 Millenial Brain, 14 Discovering Planets, 17

Health Miniature Labs, 19 Whats in a Smile, 25 Elusive Healthy Tan, 26 Be Sun Smart, 28

Ethics in Science Autism, 20 UnScientific American, 22

Innovations in Science Fountain of Youth, 30 Telomeres, 32 New Elements, 33

Research Descent into Oblivion, 34 Mental Health, 37 Profile: Shwetha, 38 Profile: David, 40

Featured Story: Healthare Uncovered The House of Representatives has recently released their plan for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, called the American Health Care Act. This article discusses the changes that the AHCA makes and how it would make it impossible for millions of Americans to afford health care.


Healthcare Ucovered, August 2017 Last semester, I had the pleasure of participating in the March for Science with this publication. Having never attended an event of this kind, I was a bit hesitant but nonetheless optimistic of our meaningful strides. I witnessed our local community come together for a common cause. Despite the topics, all participants were respectful and mindful of others as well as each other. The turnout was sizable and had made me proud to be in our great city and a member of our scientific community. Being surrounded by so many like-minded individuals was an inspiration to both me and this magazine. Following our March for Science, media sources covered similar protests nationally, which gave our involvement strength in numbers. Much has happened in our country since and it is our responsibility as citizens to ensure that the ideals of this great nation are upheld. Unfortunately, we have recently seen violent protests across

the world. We must all place humanity and civility ahead of ideals. As a media source, Scientifica serves to educate and inform. The awareness that comes from reading our articles enriches our local and surrounding communities. Please enjoy this issue and find comfort in knowing that we can all make a difference in this world by simply taking a stand. Please extend a warm welcome to our new Editor-in-Chief, Steven Lang. I am certain that he will continue to improve and build on what this publication has accomplished and lead us to new experiences.

“What do we want? Evidence-based research! When do we want it? After peer review!”

In line with the March for Science, this issue’s theme is “Taking a Stand.” Our feature article “Healthcare, Uncovered” (p. 6) challenges policy makers to use empirics and scientific reasoning to inform healthcare policy. “How Humans Created the Sahara Desert” (p. 10) sheds new light on the issue of contemporary climate change by discussing recent research revealing how man left its first “footprint” on the planet long before the Industrial Revolution. Finally, “Unscientific American” (p. 22) explores how brain circuitry that evolved to make decision-making easier ironically makes us more susceptible to believing and accepting false information as truth.

April 22nd -- Earth Day -- marked the long-anticipated worldwide March For Science. It was my great privilege to join hundreds of thousands of marchers to stand in solidarity for science. Marchers brought out their signs, lab coats, knitted “brain” caps, and most of all, their tremendous concern for the state of science in the current political climate. The Miami march began in Museum Park and ended in Government Center, where marchers descended on an expo organized in part by UM’s very own STEM librarian, Bill Jacobs. The expo included more than twenty booths where activists could engage with the public and share their passion for science. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Barbara Colona, Scientifica hosted a “Food Science” booth where we cooked up burrata “caviar” to serve on a “molecular caprese.” The expression of wonder and intrigue on the faces of children and their parents as they bit into their science experiment is something I won’t soon forget.


Board of Advisors Adina Sanchez-Garcia

Associate Director of English Composition Senior Lecturer

Barbara Colonna Ph.D. Senior Lecturer Organic Chemistry Department of Chemistry

Catherine Newell, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Religion

Charles Mallery, Ph.D.

Associate Professor Biology & Cellular and Molecular Biology Associate Dean

*Eckhard R. Podack, M.D., Ph.D.

Roger I. Williams Jr., M.S. Ed Director, Student Activities Advisor, Microbiology & Immunology Editorial Advisor, UMiami Scientifica

I hope you’ll join us in taking a stand for science.

Professor & Chair Department of Microbiology & Immunology University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Geoff Sutcliffe, Ph.D.

Chair Department of Computer Science Associate Professor of Computer Science

Richard J. Cote, M.D., FRCPath, FCAP Professor & Joseph R. Coutler Jr. Chair Department of Pathology Professor, Dep. of Biochemistry & MolecularBiology Chief of Pathology, Jackson Memorial Hospital Director, Dr. JonnT Macdonald Foundation Biochemical Nanotechnology Institute University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Mathias G. Lichtenheld, M.D.

Associate Professor of Microbiology & Immunology FBS 3 Coordinator University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Michael S. Gaines, Ph.D. Assistant Provost Undergraduate Research and Community Outreach Professor of Biology

Leticia Dropesa, D.A.

Coordinator Department of Mathematics

Steven H. Lang Neuroscience Class of 2020 Editor-In-Chief, UMiami Scientifica

Yunqiu (Daniel) Wang, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer Department of Biology

* Deceased

Healthcare Ucovered, August 2017

Scientifica Staff 2017 Steven Lang, Editor-in-Chief Nimesh Nagururu, Managing Editor Devi Nallakumar, Managing Editor Samantha Mosle, Design Director Elizabeth Whitson, Photo Chief Sneha Ramasamy, Copy Chief Sumanth Potluri, Business Director Corey Feldberg, Distribution Manager Ryan Steinberg, Business Associate Roger Williams, M.S. Ed., Editorial Advisor Victoria Pinilla, Founder, Board of Advisor’s Chair Justin Ma, Editor, Ethics in Science Siena Vadakal, Editor, Innovations in Science John Tsatalis, Editor, News Catherine Huynh, Editor, Research Ramya Radhakrishnan, Editor, Health Melissa Huberman, Graphic Design Alexis Paul, Graphic Design Shruti Karnani, Graphic Design Rachna Rahul, Graphic Design Trevor Birenbaum, Staff Writer Grant de la Vasselais, Staff Writer Akshata Gunda, Staff Writer Sammy Roberts, Staff Writer Alyssa Laffitte, Staff Writer Carolene Kurien, Staff Writer Ashley Lin, Staff Writer Chidera Nwosu, Staff Writer Marc Levine, Staff Writer Parv Gondalia, Staff Writer Jarelis Cabrera, Staff Writer Amruth Alluri, Staff Writer Joshua Kleinman, Copy Editor Angelica Rodriguez, Copy Editor Ryan Moon, Copy Editor Morgan Greene, Copy Editor

Roger I. Williams Jr., M.S. Ed

Steven H. Lang


HEALTHCARE: - Trevor Birenbaum




Healthcare Ucovered, August 2017


HE AMERICAN PUBLIC is currently enjoying its lowest uninsured rate in the history of the United States. However, the passage of the original version of the American Health Care Act would have put 14 million people at immediate risk of losing their health insurance. How? Because the Republican majority in Congress finally had the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with their own health insurance plan, which would have cut $337 billion from the deficit at the expense of health care for 24 million people by


eliminating federal subsidies that provide for this coverage over the next ten years. On June 23, 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama promised, “I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as President.” And on March 23, 2010, he signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law in one of the defining moments of his presidency. President Obama wanted to expand health care to all Americans who didn’t have it, and according to a 2015 Politifact analysis, 27 million previously uninsured people would enter the health insurance marketplace by 2020. As it turned out, writing the law was not as complicated as rolling it out to the public, as implementation of the Affordable Care Act encountered several significant problems. Soon after the rollout of the ACA in October 2013, the website encountered problems with the overwhelming number of people trying to access the site, delaying the sign-up process by months. Furthermore, President Obama failed to deliver on his promises that beneficiaries of the law could keep their doctors and maintain their health care plans if they liked them. While well-meaning, these proved impossible to implement. Another obstacle to the success of the ACA, dubbed “Obamacare,” was the constant and continual Republican opposition to the law in Congress. Republicans particularly disagreed with the “individual mandate” requiring most people to either buy health insurance or pay a fine; to them, this represented overreach by the federal government. The mandate was taken to the Supreme Court and upheld in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius in 2012. Despite this, Congress has voted to repeal or alter Obamacare more than 50 times. Despite the initial rollout problems, the ACA worked. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than 8 million people had entered the health insurance

marketplace by May 2014. Today, about 11.4 million people have health insurance policies through Obamacare. The ACA also greatly increased the number of private coverage options, facilitating competition to drive the prices of healthcare down, prevented insurance companies from dropping a person’s coverage because of a preexisting condition, and allowed children and young adults to stay on their parents’ healthcare plan until age 26. The ACA, as with every other policy implemented under the Obama administration, still draws the ire of the Republican party. The idea of subsidizing a service that the poor and middle class could otherwise not afford goes directly against the conservative tenet of a party wishes to minimize government involvement in individual affairs. To make matters worse, the ACA was paying for the subsidies by increasing taxes on wealthier Americans, a voter bloc that swings significantly towards the right. One could even speculate Republicans want to repeal and replace the ACA for the sake of fixing a legitimate problem or out of spite for President Obama. After 8 years of unsuccessful attempts to repeal the ACA during Obama’s presidency, Republicans finally have the opportunity to remove the signature achievement of a President they vehemently opposed, and they are valuing party politics more than the health insurance of millions of Americans. The official 2016 Republican National Convention platform read, “Any honest agenda for improving healthcare must start with repeal of … Obamacare.” Republicans recently presented their replacement for the ACA: the American Health Care Act (AHCA), also known as Trumpcare. Republicans claimed that the AHCA will reduce federal spending on healthcare while increasing access to health insurance. So what is Trumpcare, and how does it differ from Obamacare? The thinking behind Trumpcare is to cut federal spending on healthcare in the long-term. One of the ways Trump plans to do this is through freezing Medicaid expansion, a government program that helps low-income Americans pay for health insurance. Instead, states would receive block grants for existing Medicaid programs, resulting in fewer low-income Americans receiving health coverage over time, since states decide if they want to allocate the funds towards Medicaid. Trumpcare also eliminates government assistance for out-ofpocket expenses related to copayments and deductibles, which lowered the amount Americans paid under one Obamacare plan. This, along with income-based tax credits where low-income families would receive a greater subsidy for medical expenses, is being replaced by an age-based subsidy where older Americans would receive a greater subsidy than younger Americans. This presents two problems. First, the lower subsidies for younger Americans would result in more frequent purchases of less comprehensive insurance plans that do not include “catastrophic insurance” for unexpected serious medical emergencies. So if such a person were, for example, involved in a car accident, they would not receive nearly as much help from their insurance company as they would under the ACA. Second, while older people would still receive a small subsidy, a provision allowing insurers to charge older people five times as much as younger people (as compared to three times as much under the ACA) would cause the average premium for 64-year olds and older to increase by as much as $13,000 according to a Standard & Poor’s analysis. Finally, Trumpcare does away with the


News, August 2017 individual mandate upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, which lowered healthcare prices by encouraging competition among healthcare providers to sell insurance. What do all of these changes have in common? They all make it more difficult for low-income Americans to gain access to healthcare. Costs go up, and benefits go down. For lowincome Americans switching from Obamacare to Trumpcare, thousands of dollars hang in the balance. According to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, as a consequence of these reductions of benefits, 14 million people immediately and 24 million people over the next ten years will lose the health insurance plan that they gained under Obamacare because they won’t be able to pay their premiums. Average premiums would increase by 15-20% and the uninsured rate would return to almost the level it was when President Obama took office. And while all of this is taking place, the richest Americans would find themselves with massive tax cuts, including repeals of payroll taxes and taxes on net investment income. Households making $250,000 a year or more would collectively receive a $275 billion tax break, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. While this $275 billion could otherwise be spent on continuing the ACA’s progress towards providing insurance to the uninsured, the GOP has decided that the money is better left in the pockets of those who can more than afford to pay it. It’s no surprise that some Republican members of Congress were hesitant to fully endorse the American Health Care Act before it was voted on by the House. In addition to the outcry raised by Democrats, healthcare advocates, hospitals, doctors, the AARP, the AMA, Trump-voters who called for a better healthcare plan than Obamacare, and even Republicans in the House and Senate have called for a revision of the AHCA. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) tweeted “House health-care bill can’t pass Senate w/o major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don’t get it fast.” House Speaker Paul Ryan’s health care bill in its current form wasn’t the replacement Republicans wanted for Obamacare. Ultimately, the original version of the AHCA failed to even be put up for a vote in the House and was subsequently withdrawn because Republicans couldn’t agree on the verbiage of their own healthcare bill. Trumpcare is touted as the solution that provides access to healthcare for all Americans. However, this is extremely misleading, because it does not guarantee that all Americans would receive coverage. That’s like saying that all Americans have access to Rolls-Royces because we can all visit a RollsRoyce dealership, but in reality, most of us can’t afford to buy one. Trumpcare is also touted as the solution that creates jobs and lowers healthcare prices, but a George Washington University study suggests that a total of 3 million jobs (including 181,000 in Florida) would be lost within four years under Trumpcare in all sectors of the economy. But none of this seems to matter to supporters of the bill who want to replace Obamacare at all costs. Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Budget and Management, has said that “Insurance is not really the end goal here” and that people should instead consider whether they should buy insurance based on if they can afford to see a doctor. But isn’t the whole point of having insurance making it possible to afford to go see the doctor? One would hope it remains so.


Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017



OR MILLENIA, the prevailing paradigm of man’s relation to the Earth has been one of insignificance. Philosophers, naturalists, artists and writers from Homer to Hume to Hunt promoted a mythos of the natural world as static, unchanging, and separated from the sphere of human activity. The supremacy of nature over humankind went unquestioned across cultures until the growth of Enlightenment philosophy and empiricism, which bred a generation of intellectuals and scientists who believed that nature was something that could be harnessed and bent to our will. Over time, these two viewpoints merged in popular thought to produce the incredibly shortsighted and toxic view that humans could use the environment in limitless ways to their own ends, with no consequences. Recent scientific research, however, indicates that human activity has had a profound impact on the biosphere since at least the early Neolithic period. It is already well documented, for instance, that the spread of Homo sapiens into Eurasia, Australia, and the Americas is chronologically consistent with the extinction of megafauna such as mammoths, camelids, and ground sloths in these regions. The extinction event at the end of the Pleistocene, or the most recent Ice Age, once attributed to the warming climate and glacial recession, is now acknowledged by most to have been caused at least in part by overhunting. Paleontological researchers John Alroy and A.D. Barnosky concluded, independently, that subsistence hunting in Clovis cultural regions in the Americas

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played a major role in mass extinction, using mathematical models that correctly predicted the fate of 32 and 34 of 41 large mammal species, respectively. However, a new study published in the scientific journal Earth goes a step further, and reaches the dramatic and surprising conclusion that Neolithic humans may have contributed to the changing climatic conditions of the Sahara region from 8000 to 4500 years ago. The study, “Humans as Agents in the Termination of the African Humid Period”, by David K Wright of the Department of Archaeology and Art History, at Seoul National University, explores the hypothesis that human agricultural activity accelerated the increasing aridity of North Africa. Both paleontological and archeological data confirm that the region that is now the Sahara was once far wetter than it is now and received much higher rainfall, referred to as the African Human Period. Northern Africa during this time was occupied by rolling grasslands and woodlands dotted with inland lakes, which supported sizeable populations of wild game that included the giraffe and rhinoceros. Wright noted long-established theories that in East Asia, deforestation and terraformation associated with agricultural activity changed the landscape so profoundly that monsoon rainfall stopped penetrating the interior of the continent. Having examined previous studies that documented local human-driven climate change in Europe, New Zealand and the Americas, he hypothesized that agricultural activity in the Sahara could have

been a contributing factor in the desertification in the region. As happened in Asia, it is generally surmised that the desertification of the Sahara was due primarily to the weakening summer monsoon season. The decline in monsoon rainfall was a product of the increasing light reflectivity of local terrain in these regions, also known as albedo. Oceans and heavily vegetated regions such as forests reflect only about 10% of sunlight, giving them an albedo coefficient as low as 0.1, while conversely, sandy and glacial regions reflect most sunlight and have albedo coefficients as high as 0.9. As the area that is now the Sahara lost vegetation in the Neolithic period, it increased the albedo of the region, which changed atmospheric conditions enough to significantly decrease rainfall. This in turn caused a further decline in vegetation, prompting a feedback loop which, over a process spanning thousands of years, resulted in the formation of the world’s largest desert. Wright decided to closely monitor the westward migrations of pastoral peoples into the Sahara, beginning around 8,000 years ago in area surrounding the Nile. He found that every time a new herding community appeared, the area in which they lived would experience an increase in scrub vegetation associated with arid regions, and a decline in overall plant diversity and abundance. Other vegetation, particularly grasses, were rapidly removed by intensive grazing by domesticated livestock such as sheep and cattle, to which the fauna of the region were not accustomed. Wright summarizes the net effects of human activity as a


News, August 2017

“reduction in net primary productivity, homogenization of the flora, transformation of the landscape into a shrub-dominated biozone, and increasing xerophylic [arid] vegetation overall.” This reduction in vegetation cover was, at least locally, a direct contributor to the increases in the aforementioned albedo and weakening of summer monsoons. While the study acknowledges that human activity was not the only factor to drive the dramatic ecological and climatic changes seen in Africa, it strongly refutes the idea that humans played no role in the creation of the Sahara Desert, and in prehistoric climatic change generally. Wright concludes that, “Human-induced landscape pressures are as old as humanity itself. Although there is little doubt that post-Industrial anthropogenic activities have placed more global stress on the environment than for the millions of preceding years, human impacts are not concisely restricted to the post-Industrial world.” This new examination of prehistoric humans provides an important refutation to our innate view of global society as a passive creature in regards to the environment and climate, and bolsters the already solid scientific case for anthropogenic climate change. The new revelation may prove helpful in swaying public opinion towards the reality of contemporary climate change, and towards taking actions to reduce greenhouse emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.





THE AUTOMOTIVE - Nimesh Nagururu



News, August 2017


N THE UNITED STATES, driving is the most commonly used form of transportation. Motor vehicle transportation, however, is not without its own litany of issues. Driving is monotonous, roads are filled with terrible drivers, and trafficfilled commutes are time-wasting! As such, most people have wished teleportation as a viable alternative. While technology doesn’t allow for instantaneous point to point transportation, it does allow for autonomous driving which is almost as cool. Autonomous vehicles use a variety of methods to detect surroundings and interpret road rules in order to navigate. Cutting edge technology such as GPS, odometry, computer sensing, and radar are the “eyes” and “ears” which feed data into the advanced “brains” of these new cars. The advent of autonomous vehicles brings a slew of advantages to society: roads will be safer as sensor-controlled cars are not prone to “human error,” traffic will decrease, fuel efficiency will increase, and the monotony of driving is eliminated as attention can be diverted from the road. As is often the case with emerging, highly innovative technology, the law lags far behind. Companies have permits to test autonomous vehicles on the road, but these permits are only valid in certain states, and a driver must be present behind the wheel during testing. The reality of a driverless road is not too far away as the state of California has recently introduced legislation to allow fully automated cars to drive on public roads. In fact, Tesla has promised to have driverless technology ready by 2018. Other big names in the automotive industry such as Nissan, BMW, Ford, Volvo, and Toyota are racing to put a fully autonomous car on the streets. Selfdriving technology has reached farther than just the automotive industry. Uber, one of the largest companies in the ride-sharing industry, has been developing autonomous driving technology; and in September of last year, Uber launched a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.

Despite the rapid technological innovation of the 21st century, the automotive industry has remained relatively unchanged for the past 125 years. Now, finally, the development of autonomous cars could lead to a dramatic transformation of the mechanics of society, a transformation which some compare to that which followed the advent of the smartphone. The automotive industry - which has been relatively isolated in the past - is now becoming increasingly integrated into the modern technological society. This is shown by the rapid investment from technological giants such as Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA, numerous artificial intelligence companies, Samsung, and even Apple. This future of roads filled with autonomous cars would transform car ownership, automotive insurance, car manufacturing, policing, legislation and the general view of transportation. A road filled with driverless cars will not appear anytime soon, however, there is no doubt that it is definitely in our future.


Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017

Millenial Brain 14 -


Attention deficit or primed for the 21st century workplace?

John Tsatalis


HE INTERN IS A 2015 comedy about a retired executive (Robert DeNiro) who joins an e-commerce fashion startup as part of a senior-citizen outreach initiative. DeNiro finds himself in a work environment radically different from the one that he left only a few years ago, leading to a few laughs. By the end of the film, however, DeNiro not only learned to thrive in this new environment, but also coached his young co-workers in the traditional values that allowed him to succeed. The Intern is a clear expression of the zeitgeist, conflicts, fears, and hopes of the modern workplace. The juxtaposition between DeNiro’s experiences with those of his junior counterparts reveal the age-defined divide in the workforce, and exaggerates the stark realities of the 21st century workplace.

Enter us youngsters: Ask anyone over the age of 50. They will tell you that we are obsessed with technology, that we lack discipline and social skills, and that we are lazy and entitled. Our elders have chided us for our participation awards, and perpetually forwarded emails warning that we are too distractible to compete in a global economy. You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it. We have a bad reputation. It seems that the world has already written off Millennials (born 1980-1994) and Generation Z (born 19952009).

They could not be more wrong. Our generation is, in fact, perfectly primed for the modern economy. We are well adapted to change, technologically savvy, and innovate like no others before us. Exposure to a constant stream of ads and information from the Internet has imbued us with the ability to field information at a rate that would dizzy our predecessors. Studies have corroborated that we filter distractions and act on data faster than anyone before us. The same studies also indicate that we are masterful multitaskers. Anyone who has tried to explain to their parents how to use their new phone immediately knows that our generation also holds an edge in adapting to using the latest devices. We have evolved to meet the demands of a digital world. We innovate with developing technologies, and learn new skills rapidly and without hesitation. Our “addiction” to social media has also made us the ideal collaborators. In a world dominated by data processing, we are the perfect interpreters—our skills honed and tailored to compete against the best in the world. Perhaps where the greatest disconnect between generations occurs is in our expectations for the workplace. Bruce Tulgan, a writer and speaker on generational diversity in the workplace claims that our generation “will be the most high maintenance workforce in the history of the world, but they may also be the most high performing.” It could be catalyzed by our well-documented entitlement or our overblown self-esteem brought on by those pesky participation awards, but our generation shows no signs of assimilating to work conditions we don’t like. Contrast this with Generation X, born after the post WW2 baby boom. When that generation entered the workforce, they were perceived as lazy and underachieving. Today, they have morphed into one of the hardest working groups in the world. Americans spend more hours working in the office than their German, Dutch, and Japanese counterparts. Too often, we hear of workers conflating their overwork with a sense of pride. Even worse, this hard work often goes unrewarded. Wages have stagnated and individuals delaying their retirement are limiting opportunities for younger employees seeking promotion. Signs indicate we won’t fall victim to a similar fate. With Millennials and Generation Z, it is never business as usual.

Our generation is looking for engaging and meaningful work, schedule control, flexibility, work relationships built on respect, recognition from our bosses, and creative input on projects. This itself is not unique, but at a higher rate than ever before, when we don’t get what we want from our bosses, we quit. Pollak—a consulting firm that specializes in Generation Y— determined that 50% of Generation Y employees would rather be unemployed than dissatisfied with the job they have. Despite a grim economy, our expectations have not been damped, and our resolution is beginning to have an impact. Many of the world’s most valuable companies (think Apple, Alphabet, Facebook) are renowned for being great places to work. These companies understand how to engage our generation, leverage our talents, and give us meaningful work. It is no coincidence that they achieve this while remaining highly competitive, profitable, and innovative. Inevitably, their model will trickle down to other businesses. The changes we initiate will be good for employers, employees, and the economy: better two-way communication, high-tolerance for risk taking, reduced roadblocks to innovation, equal decision-making opportunity, and fair prospects for promotion. Paradigm shifts in the workplace are often catalyzed by and linked to economic booms and busts. The weekend was only established during the heyday of the turn of the 20th century and the Fair Labor Standards Act was introduced in reaction to the depths of the Great Depression. As we push our way out of the shadow of the Great Recession, our values and desires will shape the workplace once again. To continue this impact, we need to realize our influence and growing clout in the workplace. Despite what convention would tell you, Millennial and Generation Z represent the plurality of the workforce today. By 2025, we will represent upwards of 75% of the workforce. It is already our world. In response to our devotion to friends, family, and hobbies, companies are now more likely to offer flexible scheduling, paid sabbaticals, and paid volunteer days. Such accommodations as massages, and fitness classes, which were once unheard of are growing in popularity. Corporations are keen on retaining the best, most talented Generation Y employees. According to a 2009 study by Deloitte, Generation Y workers are perceived as an energetic and high tech source with huge potential. Our insight is becoming increasingly valued in today’s interconnected world. It would be imprudent to ignore the criticisms that accompany our generation. Interpersonal skills will always be valuable and we could all stand to put our phones away for a little longer throughout the day. Ultimately though, we will define the workplace we exist in, as our assets give us a decided value in a metamorphosing world. As DeNiro retrospectively mused in The Intern, “the key is to keep moving.”

Hubermn & Mosle

News, August 2017

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Discovery of 7 Earth-Size Planets Around a Nearby Star



OR CENTURIES MAN has looked up to the heavens in search of answers to some of life’s biggest existential questions: Who are we? How did we get here? And perhaps most importantly, are we alone? Until recently, it was considered impossible for any other planet to share earth’s unique life-sustaining qualities. On February 22, 2017, however, this paradigm shifted when astronomers at NASA revealed their discovery of seven earth-size planets orbiting a nearby star. Using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile, NASA was able to detect several planets in an exoplanet system, a planetary system outside of our own. The exoplanet system, named the TRAPPIST-1 system after the telescope, was found to contain 2 planets that were, in a later investigation, confirmed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Further, an additional five planets were discovered for a total of seven planets in in this system. These seven planets are similar in size to Earth, and three of them orbit in a habitable zone. Habitable zones are areas around the parent star that have conditions where a planet could possibly contain liquid water and sustain life. The size of a habitable zone differs with each planetary system, depending on the size and hotness of the central star: hotter, smaller stars have small habitable zones; smaller, cooler stars have larger ones. The large number of planets located in a habitable zone can be predominantly attributed to the TRAPPIST-1 star, the parent star of the exoplanet system. The TRAPPIST-1 star is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf. Although it


News, August 2017

- Samantha Roberts is similar in size to the sun (a yellow dwarf), it is a cooler classification, and as a result, planets are able to closely orbit it while still maintaining the potential to contain liquid water. All of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system orbit closer to the TRAPPIST-1 star than Mercury does to the sun. Following the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system, astronomers have used the Hubble telescope to characterize the atmospheres of four of the planets in the system, including those in the habitable zone. The scientists focused on identifying the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres (an atmosphere like Neptune’s). In its earlier years, Earth possessed a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere prior to the development of current atmospheric conditions. Similarities to early-Earth atmospheric conditions would increase the likelihood that the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system hold life-sustaining qualities. In May 2016, however, they observed that the two innermost planets contained no such atmosphere and hence likely unsuitable for life. Future studies will utilize NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope which is set to launch in 2018. The Webb Telescope will be highly sensitive and have the ability to detect the chemical signatures of water, oxygen, methane, ozone, and other atmospheric components thought necessary to sustain life. These seven planets present a great opportunity to study potential exoplanet system habitability, and even perhaps expand the possibility for extraterrestrial life.




Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017

He’s Got The Whole Lab in His Hands


Health, August 2017

- Nimesh Nagururu IMAGINE GOING TO A HOSPITAL to check out that new mole you found whilst you were in the shower. You enter the pearly white waiting room and you see groaning, wheezing, and coughing patients. As you sit down upon the hard waiting room chair the acrid smell of antiseptic fills your nostrils, you ask yourself, “All this for a mole?” After what feels like a ridiculously long wait time you are called back to see the doctor. White coats flash in the corner of your eye. And suddenly, that tiny mole you see doesn’t appear to be just any mole. Anxiety sets in. When the physician finally attends to you, a pithy examination results in an unresolved mole case and a painful biopsy. The physician then lets you know that test results will take a few days. In those few days, the pea sized mole becomes your whole world. As the hypothetical scenario demonstrates, even the most benign hospital visit can result in extreme emotional distress as patients anticipate the worst-casescenario. Current diagnostic processes are typically slow, painful, and scary which only add to hospital disdain. However, recent developments in “lab-on-a chip” technologies are changing this paradigm. A lab-on-a-chip is a palm-sized device that can perform analyses typically reserved for the labsetting, such as biochemical assays. Lab-on-achip devices use developments in the rapidly growing fields of microfluidics and microelectronics to dynamically assess molecular biology samples by miniaturizing components. For example, some labon-a-chip devices are able to perform the thermocycling technique Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, to amplify the amount of DNA in a sample at a very high rate. PCR is more effectively done at the micro level as the millions of microfluidic channels in a lab-on-a-chip device are able to perform high speed thermal shifts. In addition to a fast diffusion of heat, at the micrometric scale, diffusion and flow shift are extremely rapid. Developments in lab-on-a-chip technologies also allow for integrated protein analysis. Cell components are extracted by fractionation, separated by electrophoresis, and analyzed by

mass spectrometry all in minutes rather than hours. Lab-on-a-chip technology is truly the future of medicine with applications far past PCR and proteomics. The material cost of the lab-on-a-chip devices are low, are easy to use, compact, have low volume requirements, reduce human error, and have almost instantaneous results. Although current technology places limits on technique integration, the ideal device would be able to incorporate thousands of biochemical operations to perform a complete diagnosis in the palm of your hand. Diagnosis can then be performed real-time, preventing avoidable fear generated from, say, just a mole. Less qualified professionals can then discern the malaise, leaving doctors to attend more pressing cases. This leaves us with more efficient hospital systems. Additionally, due to the cheaper cost of these lab-on-a-chip devices, early detection is more feasible and diagnostic materials are more readily available to people all over the world. Developments in lab-ona-chip technology will surely revolutionize the global healthcare system.


Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017

- Ashley Lin


HE TERM “REFRIGERATOR MOTHER” is so obscure nowadays that it is difficult to even believe its origin story. Coined in the 1950’s, the Refrigerator Mother Theory, championed by Bruno Bettelheim, claims that cold and unaffectionate mothers “chilled” their children into an autistic state. Once “chilled”, these children are unable to open up and communicate due to the trauma experienced in early childhood. However, increasing genetic and neurological research throughout the following decades began to reveal that the refrigerator mother theory is full of hot air, and that the causes of autism are more deeply rooted in biology, rather than the environment. More importantly, researchers have shown that autistic children are highly aware of their surrounding and are, in fact, capable of learning. I had the great privilege of working with special education preschool students for four years and their stories have helped me understand the research done on autism in a new light. One hallmark of autistic behavior is failure to respond to one’s own name. Because of this, it was thought that autistic children lacked awareness and insight into their surroundings. However, pioneering research done by O’Connor and Hermelin showed that autistic people display a large sense of curiosity to their surroundings, despite seeming to ignore people. In their classic experiment, O’Connor and Hermelin painted the inside of a box black and cut a hole in it large enough for a child to put their head through. They also cut a small peephole to allow themselves to observe their subject’s eye-movement in the box. The experiment


began with a subject (either an autistic child or a control, non-autistic child) being lured to putting his or her head in the box. Periodically, O’Connor and Hermelin turned the lights on and off to observe their subject’s actions in light and dimness. During periods of light, images such as photographs, abstract images, or geometric shapes became visible in the box. They found that the autistic subjects, when compared to their control counterparts, showed significantly more attention to detail. While curiosity was shown equally in the control and experimental groups when the box was brightly lit, only the children with autism displayed attentiveness to the shadows and darkness when the box was dimly lit. By observing eye-movement, O’Connor and Hermelin determined that the autistic children in their experiment found curiosity in the shadows and confined environment - revealing that the brains of children with autism process information about the world in a fundamentally different manner than their neurotypical counterparts. One of the students I worked with, Joanna, proved as an example the findings of the 1963 experiment done by O’Connor and Hermelin - she was highly aware of her surroundings . The teacher was reading a story to the class one day about a vibrant and colorful puppet, followed by a coloring activity of that same puppet. Unlike some of the non-autistic students in the class, Joanna - to the great surprise of both myself and the teacher - matched the colors of the

puppet from the story onto her coloring sheet from memory. Sixteen years old at the time, I didn’t remember the exact colors on the puppet, whereas Joanna, who was six, did to the finest level of detail. Even though Joanna probably didn’t learn too much from the intended lesson (which was on the letters of the alphabet), she was still able to learn through sight (observing the characters of the story) and touch (transcribing the details she learned onto paper.) It is a prevalent idea that many autistic kids who fall behind in social and verbal communication skills tend to excel in other aspects. Their memory and attention to detail is amazing and truly unbelievable. Joanna exemplifies O’Connor and Hermelin’s conclusion by showing that autism stems from a biological basis because the behaviors observed in autistic children are highly predictable and that autistic kids have intellectual curiosity which they satisfy through means other than verbal person-to-person communication. Much research has been done into the development of therapies to increase verbal communication in autistic children. One highly controversial study was performed by Ivar Lovaas, who pioneered applied behavior analysis (ABA) on autistic children. ABA is derived from Skinner’s findings on operant conditioning, which uses a series of timely rewards and punishments to increase the frequency of a desired behavior and decrease the frequency of an undesirable behavior. A child psychologist, Lovaas used ABA to increase the communication skills in autistic children. Relying on familiarity and consistent schedules, Lovaas was able to dramatically increase speech and decrease undesirable behavior in autistic children. Using Skinner’s findings on punishment, Lovaas turned to aversion therapy, often hitting, slapping and even using shock therapy in order to rid undesirable behavior such as self-harm, which is common among people with autism. However, media coverage of Lovaas’s aversion therapy led to widespread outcry. A modified form of Lavaas’s ABA which only uses positive reinforcement has an average success rate of 47%, and is now a commonly used therapy. Although Lavaas’s guidelines are strict, the preschool class I worked in used a more relaxed approach in ABA. Students get one-on-one time with speech therapists


Ethics, August 2017 and other specialists who use rewards in the form or stickers or candy to condition a desired behavior in kids. I remember days when a student would come back from a session with a specialist and have a row of stickers placed neatly side by side on his or her shirt. Students get warm, heartfelt responses and encouragement when they do something right instead of the quick and lukewarm congratulations given in typical classrooms. Because these kids are classified as highly functional, many are capable of speech as soon as they begin preschool. However, through continuous social interactions and positive reinforcement, many kids begin speaking more, crafting better sentences and bettering their communication skills. They also become better at responding to commands and interacting with others. Although it takes many students about two years of preschool to finally catch up, many of the students graduate and are placed in traditional kindergarten classrooms the next fall. By this, we are able to use timely positive reinforcement to increase communication levels in autistic children. The history of autism is dark and has been filled with large obstacles. People with autism have historically been institutionalized, abused, and ostracized by society. But through the efforts of scientists and activists, autistic people have slowly gained rights and better social acceptance. After years of working with autistic children, I realized that although these kids don’t conform to the conventional description of social normality, they are still wonderful and intelligent human beings. Their primary ways of communication and perception may be different, but they add a uniqueness to society that results in a more diverse environment. Their uniqueness is a value in our society that should always be embraced.


Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017

The Unscientific American - Steven Lang


HE GREAT PHYSICIST and science advocate Richard Feynman once said that science is “a culture of doubt”; meaning that it is only through skepticism and the constant re-evaluation of the available evidence (including one’s own theories) that the wheels of scientific progress may turn. This skeptical approach to problem solving is as important in daily life as it is in science would you invest your money in a “too good to be true” business venture? However, it seems that a culture of credulity has become increasingly commonplace in America, as is demonstrated by the pestilent and the seemingly unrelenting spread of so called “fake news.” The effects of which are far from innocuous, the spread of misinformation has indeed been shown to have profound effects in politics, and science alike. The naming of “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year by Oxford Dictionary captures the ethos of the American people and speaks volumes to the ever-widening rift between scientific reasoning (critical evaluation of evidence) and the public. Although “fake news” as a buzzword has only recently entered the lexicon, the problem of passing off bogus information as legitimate is far from novel, and is an issue which has plagued science for decades. Climate science in particular has been the subject of a two-decade long attack by pundits of the conservative media who view


environmental regulation as the bêtes noire to free market capitalism. Vaccines and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) both represent great scientific achievements which have been brought to their knees by noxious clouds of misinformation. So why is it that people believe these false narratives? Researchers at Northwestern University set out to answer this very question in a recent review published in the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The researchers wanted to investigate how factually incorrect information was encoded (processed), retrieved, and subsequently relied on by the brains of study participants. The scientists found that our brains quickly “download” (encode) information without careful consideration of quality or accuracy of the claim. For example, when you read the following statement: “We had to go to Russia, because her family lives in the capital city, St. Petersburg,” you store it in your short-term memory. If I were to then ask you, “What is the capital of Russia?”, you would be more likely to incorrectly answer St. Petersburg, even if you knew the correct answer (Moscow) before reading the statement! The authors suggest that this type of reliance on inaccurate information (even in the face of prior knowledge)

is due to our brain’s love of shortcuts. It’s easier for our brain to access the more recently viewed information, so it assumes that it’s also reliable. So, what can be done to reduce one’s reliance on previously presented inaccurate information? Does warning a reader that they are about to view material which may contain factual inaccuracies work? What about doing background research beforehand (e.g. being instructed to google the capital of Russia)? Surprisingly, these seemingly effective methods have been shown to be ineffective in reducing use of the inaccurate information. It’s believed that these strategies fail because reliance on even obviously inaccurate information is a consequence of the biological mechanisms underlying memory formation and comprehension. In other words, the same processes which so effectively help to recall and rely on accurate information also help us (to our detriment) to retain inaccurate information. So what are some empirically proven ways to avoid falling into this so called “misinformation trap”? One such strategy involves actively modifying any incorrect information to accurately reflect the correct ideas. For example, study participants who actively corrected the incorrect assertion that, “George Washington was not the first president of the United States,” demonstrated markedly


Ethics, August 2017

lower rates of reliance on the inaccurate claim on subsequent examination. Another proven method is to consider the source that is delivering the information. Research into cognition has shown that our brains don’t routinely consider the credibility of a source prior to committing information to memory; and when the source’s credibility is unknown, the source is usually assumed to be credible. Therefore, actively considering the credibility of the source, coupled with the critical evaluation of the claims made, can greatly reduce one’s reliance on inaccurate information. In our increasingly complex world it is understandably more comforting to blindly trust a familiar face on our preferred news network than it is to critically evaluate every claim we encounter. However, we live in a country which, like science itself, was founded on the pursuit of truth. It was the very conditions of the American Enlightenment which led our founding fathers to form a more perfect union through the application of scientific reasoning. Therefore, it is our responsibility as Americans to question everything and seek the truth.




HAT IF I TOLD YOU that I could predict your longevity, material success, and fulfillment in life just by looking at your school picture? That is precisely what scientists at UC Berkeley determined over a 30 year timespan. Their longitudinal study has since served as an exclamation point illustrating the social, medical, and psychological impact of smiling. The conclusions from UC Berkeley’s study are as wide reaching as they are surprising. Scientists were tasked with quantifying smiles by physically measuring facial expressions, such as the width of a smile, and were able to use this information in a predictive manner. They found that the widest smilers consistently ranked at the top of categories that included well-being, fulfillment in marriage, success, happiness, inspiration to others, and—get this—standardized test scores. A similar study from Wayne State University in 2010 reached comparable conclusions and further legitimizes the aforementioned conclusions. Investigators analyzed the smiles on MLB baseball cards and found that players who were smiling in their picture lived on average seven years longer than those who were not (79.9 years versus 72.9 years). Evidence also indicates that smiling is a biological reaction with common evolutionary origins present in all humans. Ultrasound technology has revealed that babies smile while still in the womb, and even blind babies--who have no reference for mimicking facial expressions--smile upon hearing voices. Paul Ekman, a pioneer in the study between emotions and facial expressions, asserts that a smile also shares common cultural significance across the world. Ekman’s observations of tribes that were completely severed from Western culture in Papua Guinea provide poignant support for his assertation. The people of these tribes (made infamous by their cannibalistic rituals) used smiling in a social role that aligned with other cultures around the world. Ekman thus concluded that smiling is not a socially learned act but has deeper biological origins.

Yes, smiling is biologically hardwired as a means of expressing emotion, but it also has deeper implications for communication. The sight of a genuine smile signals our brains to suppress control over our own facial muscles, causing us to feel happy and return the smile. This is the reason why you sometimes find yourself returning smiles to complete strangers. Research conducted at the University of Clermont-Ferrand in France looked deeper into this response, and determined that our ability to subconsciously mimic someone’s smile allows us to discern fake from genuine expressions. The protective evolutionary advantages conferred by this ability are easy to imagine. Even in the 1800s, Charles Darwin recognized the influence of smiles. In his Facial Feedback Response theory, Darwin suggested that physically smiling could make us feel emotionally better. A 2009 study conducted in Echnische Universität in Munich, Germany utilized functional MRI scans to test Darwin’s theory. Researchers found that smiling activated reward mechanisms in our brain through the release of endorphins that reduce stress and make us feel happy. Scientists also discovered that your facial muscles are solely responsible for triggering this chemical response; emotional state has no discernible impact. Therefore, faking a smile has, to an extent, the same effect as the real thing. The functional MRI additionally revealed that the stimulation provided from a smile is equivalent to 2,000 chocolate bars or $25,000! In summary, these advantages read like a magical cure-all. Extend your life. Maintain your marriage. Increase your popularity. Instantly become happier. So next time you are struggling to finish your run, talking to your crush from class, or just holding the door for a stranger, lend a smile. Brighten a day. Flash your pearly whites. :)

What’s In a Smile?


Health, August 2017

- John Tsatalis & Andrea Tsatalis

The benefits of smiling are seemingly endless: • Smiling is linked to reduction of stress hormones, uptick in healthy hormones, and declining blood pressure. • The social paybacks of smiling are also well documented. Smiling people are percieved to be more competent, courteous, likeable, and attractive. • It also makes those around us happier!


Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017


Elusive Healthy Tan - John Tsatalis - John Tsatalis



T’S NOT JUST THE PRESIDENT. We all love it. Take a look at Zac Efron’s tan lines (if you can find them) or check out one of Kim Kardashian’s selfies (no seriously, you should check them out). Sun-kissed, bronze skin is decidedly in fashion and for obvious reasons. Glowing skin connotes health, an active lifestyle, and ample leisure time. Surveys show that people are both perceived as and feel more attractive when they are tan. Some scientists have even suggested that we are genetically hardwired to prefer tan skin, as it is an indicator of fitness. Regardless of the reason though, who isn’t looking to trade their pasty skin for a little more color? The discussion of tanning is highly dependant on each person’s natural skin color. Caucasians and those of lighter skin types (those who are most likely to seek out a deeper tan) are more likely to burn than tan under solar radiation, while those of darker skin types are more likely to tan in the sun without risk of burn. While it is desirable in the United States, tanning is rejected in many Asian cultures where tan, dark skin can be linked to a lower socioeconomic status. From a physiological perspective, tanning is simply the process of the skin producing more melanin (the pigment that gives skin and hair their color) in order to protect cellular DNA from UV radiation and damage. But while the sun might be sharing some of its glow,

science has clearly demonstrated that it exacts a cost as well. Since the 1980s, the dangers of solar UV radiation have been well known. From a cosmetic standpoint, even regular exposure to solar radiation will result in photoaging of the skin. Common outcomes include sunspots, wrinkles, and saggy skin caused by loss of elastin fibers. As if that does not supply enough reason to avoid excessive sun exposure, research has shown that the majority of melanomas (86%) can be attributed to prolonged exposure to solar UV radiation. After only five successive sunburns, the risk for developing melanoma doubles in an individual. Contrary to popular belief, practicing sun-smart habits is recommended for those of intermediate pigmentation as well. Hispanics and Asians share dermatological features with both dark-skinned individuals and Caucasians, and therefore should take steps to limit UV damage. As the ozone layer continues to be depleted, many scientists expect the incidence and severity of sunburns to increase. Tanning beds—which are classified by the FDA as moderate-risk devices—are even worse. Using tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma in people who use them before age 35 by 75%. This association is stronger than that between lung cancer and smoking. Currently, more people develop skin cancer from tanning than people develop lung cancer from


Ethics, August 2017

smoking. Trying to establish a “base tan” prior to going on vacation will cause more damage than it will prevent. There are alternatives to an otherwise dark outlook on tanning. The formulas used in spray tans have been continuously improved to the point where many celebrities and models swear by their chosen brand. For those wary of the chemicals involved in the process, several all-natural products are available. Self-tanners have also proved an increase in popularity; these products work by dyeing the dead cells on the surface of the skin. And for those of us who need to get out into the sun—we are in Miami after all—there are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of permanent damage. Trade in the tanning oil for sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, stay hydrated while in the sun, and avoid the most direct sun rays between 10 AM and 2 PM. Also check to ensure your sunscreen is broad-spectrum coverage. It is best to apply sunscreen 15 minutes prior to going outdoors. Reapply every two hours and immediately after swimming or sweating (as it can get washed off). So the next time you hit the beach or are making preparations for vacation, skip the tanning bed and long hours in the sun. Grab a bottle of self-tanner or throw on some sunscreen to keep your skin healthy for years to come.


Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017



Ethics, August 2017






Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017

A Possible Fountain of Youth? Telomere Therapy May Hold the Solution to Anti-Aging


HE CONCOCTION FOR YOUTH is something man has been after ever since he became gripped with the fear of death. A groundbreaking study from the Stanford University School of Medicine has been able to extend telomeres in human cell cultures, essentially resetting their internal aging clock. Could this possibly be the long sought after elixir of youth? Telomeres are caps on chromosomal ends that serve a protective function. With each cell division they progressively get shorter and shorter, which studies suggest speed the rate of aging and risk of age-related diseases in individuals over time. Various studies have shown that young individuals have telomeres that are around 8,000-10,000 nucleotides long. With each shortening and cutting of nucleotide bases through cell division, telomeres get shorter until a critical limit of length is reached. When this limit has been achieved, biochemical signals tell the cell to either halt cell division, or to undergo cellular senescence, that is, cell death. This regulatory biological mechanism, similar to the falling sand in an hourglass, places limits on growth for lab cell culture as they cannot divide for


- Jason Truong

more than a few cycles. The lab of Helen Blau at the Stanford University School of Medicine researched telomeres in hopes of ultimately resetting the internal aging clock. The experiment started with the genetic engineering of a specific type of RNA, modified to encode for a type of protein that has the potential to lengthen telomeres in human cells. The scientific team utilized skin cells as the target cells because of their ability to rapidly turnover and undergo cell division when sloughed off. Results showed these skin epithelial cells whose telomeres were lengthened using this method managed to divide up to 40 times more than regular control skin cells; an extremely significant result. This research may yield novel and innovative therapies to treat diseases caused by or correlated to shortened telomeres- such as dyskeratosis congenita and certain pediatric cancers. When the skin cells underwent this therapy, they were immediately renewed and acted with characteristics of much younger cells; they gained the ability to rapidly multiply and divide in cell cultures rather than

becoming inactive and eventually dying like they would have otherwise. Helen Blau, PhD, is a professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford and also directs the Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology. She serves as the principal investigator for these projects. She stated that this method has the capacity to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, which can slow the biological clock in human cells and potentially extend human life by a number of years. She also adds that there are possibilities for scientific innovations in drug discovery and disease modeling as this technique can be used to greatly proliferate many more cells for study. Essentially, the scientists in the lab engineered a modified form of mRNA to encode for telomere extension. The role of RNA was to carry genetic instructions from DNA genes to the ribosomes, which serve as the protein manufacturers of the cell. The specific RNA that was used to encode for the telomere extending protein was a unique coding sequence for a catalytic subunit called TERT. TERT, or telomerase reverse transcriptase along with TERC, or the telomerase RNA component, make up the entire telomerase unit. TERT is the active component of a telomerase, which is expressed by pluripotent stem cells. These stem cells are what develop into specialized cells, such as reproductive cells differentiating into sperm or ova needed to create a fetus. They also help to maintain genetic fidelity and integrity to guarantee that the telomeres of inherited cells are in working condition for successive generations of reproduction. In contrast, most other cells that do not pass on genetic information do not express very high levels of telomerase at all. The role of telomerase is to lengthen telomeres in DNA strands, to help cells which would undergo apoptosis, or programmed cell death, to live on. If telomerase allows cells to exceed this limit, the cells could eventually become biologically immortal and divide indefinitely without restraints. While this may sound beneficial, it actually can be maladaptive, as cancer cells frequently develop in this form. The TERT subunit is used to catalyze a set of nucleotides to add and lengthen the ends of telomeres, which prevents degradation after many rounds of replication. The reason why this new and innovative technique is so revolutionary is because it is not sustainable like previous methods, it is only a temporary measure. Although this may seem counterintuitive, it is rather advantageous. A frequent drawback to many previous and existing therapies is that the body’s immune system usually reacts in a harmful and violent manner to the therapy. Immune cells recognize the injected genetic material as foreign and attack it which can bring great harm to the body. The lab’s engineered RNA reduces immunosuppression by allowing the TERT to work for a little while longer (no longer than 48 hours after which it is rapidly degraded). Once that period is over, the telomeres that


Innovations, August 2017 were lengthened by this procedure begin shortening with each successive cell division once again.

The advantage to this is that this mechanism serves as a control to ensure that the experimental cells do not divide indefinitely, which would compromise the therapeutic potential of this treatment due to the increased risk for cancer development. It was shown that only three trials of using the modified

RNA over a few days significantly increased telomere length by a 1,000-nucleotide addition. This proportion is more than a 10 percent increase in overall telomere length. For example, if the life expectancy of a human is proposed to be 80 years, this could potentially add eight more years in life if the hypothesis holds true. In muscle and skin cell models, the cells underwent much more turnover and division cycles than the control cells, with the skin epithelial cells turning 28x more, and the muscles cells dividing 3x more. Due to the high regulatory binding of TERT, previous trials to deliver TERT in an mRNA caused immune disorders. Although most existing therapies take place over a long while, this therapy works over a few days to reverse telomere shortening, which can occur over the span of multiple years. Thus, this could be a quick and efficient therapy to treat accelerated aging disorders such as progeria, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, pediatric cancer, and other diseases that involve accelerated shortening of telomeres. While more trials must be conducted, particularly with other cell types and diseases, this genetic therapy proves to be an important step in the right direction.




Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017

Welcome to The Family


Innovations, August 2017

Four New Elements Have Joined the Periodic Table

- Sammy Roberts


T’S A HAPPY AFFAIR for the periodic table following the addition of four new members to its family: elements 113, 115, 117, and 118. Located on the seventh row of the table, each element has over 104 protons - classifying them as “superheavy.” The new elements were made by using particle accelerators, shooting high energy nuclei toward target nuclei. Although the new additions are man-made and exist only briefly in the lab, the discoveries remind us that science is never static.

Nh Mc


Og Element 118:

Element 113:

Element 115:

Element 117:

From the Land of the Rising Sun

From Russia With Love

Southern Roots

The first new addition hails from Japan’s largest comprehensive research facility - The Riken Institute. 113 is the first element discovery from Asia, so in celebration the researchers named it nihonium (Nh) after the Japanese word for “Japan”- “Nihon.” The team led by Professor Kosuke Morita discovered Nihonium using high speed zinc ions to blast a thin layer of bismuth. Theoretically, two atoms fused and formed our new family member, element 113.

Element 115 was found by an American-Russian team working at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research located in Dubna, Russia. It was named Moscovium (Mc) in honor of its Russian birth place.

Element 117 was also found by an American-Russian team, however, this team was based at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In honor of the location of synthesis, 117 is called Tennessine (Ts).

A Nod to the Avant-Garde Similar to 115 and 117, element 118 was found in a joint American-Russian research effort. Conducted in the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory based in California, element 118. 118 is named Oganesson (Og) in honor of Professor Yuri Oganessian - who conducted pioneering research that led to the discovery of superheavy elements.


Healthcare Uncovered, August 2017

On The Descent of Man (into Oblivion) - Akki Gunda


RIDDLED with the bones of Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Neanderthals- all of which are extinct. Homo sapiens, us, however, have survived and thrived thanks to our highly developed brains. Unlike our primate cousins, our technology has allowed us to “cheat” certain evolutionary pressures. Modern medicine has allowed individuals who may not have survived past birth in nature, to thrive until reproductive age. Humans are still evolving, but ever so slightly. But it may not be for the better. From an evolutionary perspective, our species may be becoming increasingly ill-equipped to survive without our technology. Consider the ability to break down lactose. Prior to the domestication of cattle, humans needed lactase only during infanthood to break down lactose in milk. As we grew older, our bodies stopped producing lactase, indicating that there really was no further need for the enzyme. However, despite the loss of lactase 34

production, cattle domestication promoted the adult consumption of milk. Many adults were however “lactose intolerant”; that is, they were unable to break down lactose. Those who were still able to digest milk into adulthood had an evolutionary advantage. This ability arose through a mutation in the LCT gene, which allowed for lactase persistence into adulthood. Because of the immense nutritional benefits of milk, the frequency of the mutated gene increased and is now present in nearly 80% of the European population. This adaptation, however, does pose a problem. The rise of lactase persistence in humans was accompanied by a sharp increase in cattle domestication. There are a few implications of cattle domestication, including a growing co-dependence between humans and cows. Humans depend on cows for leather, meat, and milk; while modern domesticated cattle depend on humans for protection and sustenance. In this relationship,

cows have little chance of survival without humans. The cow’s heavy reliance on humans leads us to consider a scenario where cows cease to exist by their own means. Other species lose a food source, leading to possible extinctions; and invasive plant species - normally kept in check by grazing cattle - would take over open fields and grasslands. Cow feces is also a great fertilizer, without it many farmers would resort to increased use of chemical fertilizers; which has been shown to have devastating environmental consequences. Increased dependence on lactase could have a compounding effect on many species and ecological systems. Only time will tell if this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I’m not suggesting we stop drinking milk altogether, but better treatment of cattle and less dependence on the organism are possible alternatives. Regardless, these alternatives will be extremely difficult to enact due to the privatized cattle industry - which reaps immense monetary benefit from lactase persistence. Unlike lactase persistence, negative selection - the removal of harmful alleles via differential reproductive success - serves as the most prominent form of natural selection in humans. Negative selection is not a problem, as it guides the weeding out of harmful genetic diseases. It also makes sense, people with harmful alleles would not pass them on, as they do not survive long enough to reproduce. However, medical technology plays a role in maintaining such mutated genes.

Revolutionary surgeries and treatments can cure children born with genetic defects at birth, and sometimes even while in the womb. Prenatal tests like amniocentesis can tell parents if their child will be born with genetic disorders. Such medicine is counteracting obstetric selection. Mothers with harmful alleles that did not survive after or during birth in the past would not pass down those harmful alleles. Likewise, children with harmful alleles usually did not survive long enough to reproduce and pass those alleles on. But new medical technologies, while innovative and purposeful, may be shifting the course of evolution in humans. A new evolutionary problem arising from obstetric selection has recently generated much interest.

Researchers in Austria conducted a study measuring the rising disproportion of fetal size and mothers’ pelvic size. Before Cesarean sections were common, when a child of large fetal size was born to a mother with a small pelvic size, the mother or the child would not survive childbirth. As a result, their genes - encoding a large fetal size would not get passed on. This allowed people with genes for a larger pelvic size and smaller fetal size to prevail. However, whenever such complications arise during labor now, women are automatically taken to the operating room for a C-section. The implications of the widespread use of c-sections may not be apparent now. However, in the future, researchers suggest that the ratio of fetal size to mothers’ pelvic size will increase. Medical technology used to reduce risk during the birthing process could lead to more difficulties. The implications that follow may lead to future debates and reformation in the way we view medical dependency. Just out of pure rational thought, medical innovation only has pure intentions- for the most part, cures for major diseases and other benefits come out of increased medical advancements. However, through an evolutionary lens, issues like lactase persistence and obstetric selection can pose long term challenges... Is this something that we should address now? Is the inhibition of evolutionary mechanisms even a real problem that will affect the progression of the human race? Only time will tell.

Huberman & Mosle

Research, August 2017


University of Miami Counseling Center Fact Sheet 2015 - 2016 # of Attended Sessions # of Students Served








since 2010




891 Appointments 128 ProtoCall Calls Common Issues Our Students Seek Help For 2010-2011 1574






New this year!

Anxiety Depression Relationship Problems Substance Abuse Adjustment Eating Issues 3% Mood Instability 3%



25% since 2010

30% 21% 10%

UM’s Culture of Belonging


feel valued + add value


Individual Counseling Number of Sessions: 4872 Students Served: 847 Psychiatric Consultation Sessions Number of Sessions: 1186 Students Served: 199 Group Therapy Sessions Number of Sessions: 235 Students Served: 167


Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

of students served are international

150 students International march to raise awareness about men’s sexualized violence against women

The Clothesline Project

400 students International event to bring awareness and support to women impacted by violence

Love Your Body Day

150 students Challenges messages that a woman’s worth is measured by current beauty standards

Cultural/Diversity Trainings

UMCC clinicians and COPE peer educators provided trainings throughout the year with Residential Assistants, Study Abroad Office, Peer Educators, International Students and other students on the value of understanding, affirming and celebrating the differences and uniqueness of the UM campus community.

:) :)

Satisfaction Surveys



94% . . . of students receiving services rated . . .

UMCC providers as “Very Good/Excellent” 36


they felt supported by their UMCC provider as “Very Good/Excellent”

they felt they were able to express themselves as “Very Good/Excellent”


Research, August 2017

Out of The Darkness:

How Breaking the Chains of Mental Health Stigmatization Starts With You

- Akki Gunda


HE 2017 ACC LEADERSHIP SYMPOSIUM, held in February at Wake Forest University, was a 3-day event emphasizing the value of selfcare and what it means to thrive. One of the keynote speakers was author and New York state senator, Kevin Powell. According to Senator Powell, there are six areas of self-care which should be maintained in order to thrive: spirituality, political beliefs, culture, financial stability, physical health, and mental wellness. The latter two, he says, are the most difficult to address because people can get very uncomfortable talking about them. This is not surprising, especially considering that some cultures even refuse to recognize mental wellness as an issue. However, lack of mental wellness could actually be the root cause for many systemic, societal and personal issues. Left unchecked, these personal issues can then fester and amplify - leading to social problems on an unforeseeably larger scale. Cultures across the world ignore the importance of mental wellness. There is often a negative stigma associated with going to a therapist or seeing a psychiatrist; this is the unfortunate result of years of ignorance and a lack of education regarding mental health. The poor conditions of early mental institutions helped further perpetuate the belief that people with mental illness should be hidden away in shame. This stigma has even creeped its way into our everyday language, the slang definition of “mental” is pejorative and is meant to refer to someone who is acting “insane” or “crazy.” Open and honest dialogue regarding mental health needs to occur in order for mental wellness to be promoted. Admitting to a mental health disorder can be very difficult. Being open about one’s mental health may stem from fear of work discrimination or being socially outcast. However, mental illness is widespread and often undertreated. If it is so common, why are people afraid to acknowledge it? Because it is marked with stigma, shame and judgment. In conservative cultures, people with mental illnesses are often viewed as “crazy.” They are told that it is just a phase that needs to be “passed”. Unlike physical ailments, mental health problems are often invisible since there’s no obvious physical manifestation. Following the idea of being “out of sight and out of mind”, people tend to think that since there’s no visible problem, there’s no need to go to a doctor and have it checked out. Cases of depression, anxiety, or panic attacks often go unnoticed by the spectator’s radar. This is exactly why the understanding and acknowledgement of mental wellness is so important. Mental health disorders can sometimes be even more debilitating than certain physical diseases. It affect a person’s life to the point of impairing day-to-day function. Depression can override someone’s emotions to the point that they can’t find happiness in anything. Anxiety can alter one’s thoughts to the point that they can’t interact with others. Stress can affect people so severely that they feel no control over their lives anymore. These are just a few examples that if left untreated, boil and fester, leading to a significantly diminished quality of life. Moving past the traditional stigmas is the first step in the widespread improvement of mental wellness.


Correspondent: Steven Lang, Photography: Alexis Paul

Better Living Through Science & Compassion

One girl’s mission to improve the lives of those suffering from neurodegenerative disease


Shwetha Mudalegundi MOST COLLEGE STUDENTS spending

the Summer in Miami are here to relax by the pool, enjoy the sun-kissed beaches, and experience the city’s infamous nightlife. Shwetha Mudalegundi ‘20, however, passed on a “fake ID” this Summer in favor of a staff ID at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. In the Spring of her Freshman year, Shwetha joined the lab of Dr. Roberta Brambilla at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Brambilla’s lab studies Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a neurodegenerative disease encompassing a wide range of cognitive and motor deficits in humans. Shwetha’s work has focused on understanding how a particular receptor molecule (TNFR2) on the surface of glial cells (a kind of “supporting cell”) in the brain modulate the inflammatory process, and how it is dysregulated in MS patients. “To study the role of this receptor we use a mouse model of MS called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE, for short), which although far from perfect, does a pretty

good job of modelling the effects of motor loss in humans,” Shwetha says. Thin sections of brain and spinal cord are harvested and stained to examine how cell populations are affected in the disease state. This involves sacrificing and dissecting the animal, a process which Shwetha remorsefully said was “more than a little nerve wracking at first.” Mudalegundi was born in Alabama to parents of Indian origin, she says she felt at times like her and her parents “were the only dark skinned people in the whole town.”

“UM is so diverse, I love that!” Shwetha says she’s found overwhelming comfort and support in the diversity of the UM community, which spills over into her lab. “I don’t think we have a single ‘American’,” she said chuckling. “Our lab is really representative of the mix of cultures in Miami- which is itself a microcosm of ethnic diversity,” Shwetha said proudly. Mudalegundi added that her lab and the Miami project “has become a melting pot for people from various walks of life- not just in terms of culture and ethnicity-but also for people who happen to be affected by spinal cord injury themselves working to contribute to the massive research effort.” Mudalegundi believes that this diversity may be the secret behind UM’s emergence as a top research university. “I think we’re more open to ideas, no idea is crazy here” she said, adding that it’s often the ideas which seem the craziest that lead to the most profound insight. Shwetha is a pragmatist, her interest in science began at a young age, motivated by the desire to make an impactful change. Her fascination with neurodegenerative disease began in high school following her involvement with an organization meant to tear down barriers between students with disabilities and the rest of the community. At UM, she is the treasurer of “Best Buddies,” an organization dedicated to “promoting one-onone friendships with people with intellectual and developmental disability.” The club pairs students


Research, August 2017 with members of the Wayside Baptist Special Education Ministry ages 20-70. Shwetha says that participating in monthly activities-from Luaus complete with hula sessions, to halloween parties showcasing original costumes- provides students with the opportunity to form meaningful and lasting friendships with their buddies. She says her own “best buddy”, Lisa, “can brighten anyone’s day.” And that her playful and funloving nature has helped an otherwise introverted Mudalegundi to come out of her shell. “She gets me to dance and play games,” Shwetha said blushing. Above all, Mudalegundi says that her time spent with Lisa has helped her to live more in the moment and celebrate life’s “little victories.” “When Lisa tells me about her week, she tells me about how she shot a basket in her team’s basketball game, or how her bowling team won first place at their tournament,” Shwetha says this has led her to reflect more deeply on the small things in her own life that she’s grateful for, as well as to the realization that life’s seemingly intractable problems are rarely as important as they appear. Shwetha says that getting to know people with disabilities on a personal level has served as a reminder of the importance her lab’s work during periods of frustration and burnout.

“It’s easy to get stuck in the lab just staring at test tubes and mice… you can forget the sense of urgency that we need to find a cure” While much of her summer will be spent intently gazing down the lens of a microscope; Mudalegundi assured me that her long days in the lab are punctuated by frequent trips to the nail salon, The Frost Museum of Science and “The Salty Donut” in Wynwood. “You just need a break sometimes” she said with a smile that never fails to light up the room. Her passion for understanding the mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease, and her devotion to the people affected by them truly makes Shwetha Mudalegundi one to watch out for. 39

Correspondent: Grant de la Vasselais Photography: Ahan Malholtra

Food Science Research:

A Recipe for Improving Taste & Health

This UM student seeks to inject new flavor into the culinary arts and the industry of food production


David Lanster

IAMI IS A CITY BRIMMING with big ideas and larger-than-life personalities, so it makes sense that David Lanster, a rising junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, calls this city “home”. He’s already made quite a name for himself in Miami’s culinary scene, making headlines in the Miami Herald, whether it be through the catering company that he helped found in high school, his avant-garde charity dinners, or serving as a guest chef in local restaurants. But David, not content to rest on his laurels, has more ambitious goals in mind. In his Freshman year, David began an ongoing research project on the modification of yeast genetics with Dr. Richard Myers on the Med campus, after the two hit it off in Myers’ Chemistry and Molecular Biology of Fermentation class. Their goal is to create original and unique tastes for commercial beers, by crossing wild strains of yeast with commercial varieties. By exposing liquid media traps to the natural environment for an extended period, and then isolating microorganisms from those plates, the two identified ten different strains of wild yeast. By characterizing their growth in various sugars, ethanol, and temperatures, they gained a better understanding of the behavioral profiles of each wild strain. They then crossed the genetic material of the wild yeast with that of commercial varieties, and observed the compounds produced by the hybrid strains using GCMS (Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry). With these hybrids, they hope to create beer with unique flavor profiles, and are already in contact with local breweries to put their synthesized yeast strains to the test. 40

David, a second-generation Miamian, professes that his culinary passion began at an early age. He says, “My favorite memories growing up center around food, whether it was Thanksgiving turkey or helping my mom prepare dinner. As I grew older, my role in the kitchen expanded.” Beyond cooking, David played competitive baseball and is an avid art enthusiast. “I’ve gone to every Art Basel since it started in 2002, and I’m actually minoring in Art History. It’s funny, as I grew up I watched the city grow up, too. It used to be that Wynwood was a rough area, and now it’s thought of as this cultural hotbed.” David credits his wide range of experiences and interests with giving him an edge in the world of gastronomy, or food science. He seeks to harness his interdisciplinary interests in cuisine and chemistry to improve practices within the food industry. “There’s two competing schools of thought in the food world,” David says. “On one end of the spectrum, there are the farm-to-table people, and on the other end there is molecular gastronomy.” That is, creating new flavors and compounds using biology, chemistry, and modified starches, by rearranging carbons into something palatable (think Doritos). While he is more inclined towards the latter philosophy, he feels that consumers stand to benefit from a synthesis of the two viewpoints, pointing to the convenience and affordability of processed foods, while acknowledging their health risks and the negative environmental impact of the “mass-produced food industry.” His ultimate goal is to work for companies in the food industry in a directorial role over product development teams and flavor scientists to engineer food that is both healthier and tastier. “We’ve been drinking the same formula of Coke, the most popular soft-drink, for nearly a century. Isn’t it time that we tried to create a better soda, one that’s healthier and better tasting?” Which brings us

Photography: DK Culinary Ventures / Ahan Malhotra,


Research, August 2017 to DK Culinary Ventures, the catering service that David co-founded in high school with a friend as an avenue for experimentation in fine cuisine. The company continues to host public and private dinners with David at the helm, which he uses as an opportunity to educate diners on food science and try out new recipes developed in the lab and in the kitchen. For in his other research project, David is working with Dr. James Wilson in the chemistry department to create a new dish: a mint sponge cake that smells and tastes cool, like mint, while feeling extremely hot on the tongue, to be washed down with a drink in a shot glass that conversely smells like habanero peppers and feels cool in the mouth. David met Dr. Wilson, his advisor, when he entered the PRISM program, and the two maintained a good correspondence. After both Dr. Wilson and Dr. Myers attended one of David’s catering dinners, David devised a research project with Dr. Wilson inspired by a scientific paper he read on brewing. Typically, while menthol is used in products like mint toothpaste and gum to create a cooling sensation, a group of researchers had identified a new compound in a specific beer that produces the same cooling sensation without a minty taste. David’s research with Dr. Wilson involves extracting pure capsaicin, from ghost peppers, as well the new cooling compound, to create food that confounds the senses. David’s advice for undergrads looking to get involved in research of their own? “The biggest thing is to just start. The first day of my research class with Dr. Myers was extremely nerve-wracking, and it was by far the hardest, it only gets easier from there. If you want to approach a professor with a research proposal, or to do research generally, it’s important to look for people whose expertise is rooted in what you’re aiming to study. It’s also important to do your reading beforehand so that you’re comfortable with the subject material, so that when you’re in the lab you have good bearings, don’t get in the way and can ask good questions.”



The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) Preparation Program is designed to help pr emedical students from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds prepare for the MCAT.

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ELIGIILITY The MCAT program is a tuition-free, non-residential program open to college sophomores, juniors, seniors, and recent graduates who will be applying to health profession schools, specifically medical school. The admission committee will select 25 applicants whose applications demonstrate how they will benefit from participating in this program and are likely to be competitive candidates for medical school. Applicants must have taken organic chemistry in order to handle the course material. Accepted students are required to submit a refundable $100 deposit with their enrollment packet. The deposit will be returned after satisfactory completion of the course as determined by the program executive director and proof or registration for the MCAT.


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Office of Diversity and Inclusion Rosenstiel Medical Science Building 1600 NW 10th Avenue, Suite 1130, Locator R11 Miami, FL 33136 Ph.: (305) 243-7156 - Fax: (305) 243-7312 Email:

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