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From Bench to Policy

by Avital Percher and Devon Collins Rockefeller attracts people who are passionate about science. It is therefore no surprise that many researchers here move from behind their workbenches to get involved in projects that bring science beyond York Avenue. From art projects to public outreach, these endeavors demonstrate an interest in establishing ties between scientific and public communities. One aspect of this public engagement is science diplomacy, which focuses on the use of diplomatic efforts for the furtherance of science and vice versa (a more detailed description was made in last year’s article1). While science diplomacy might seem an esoteric concept, best left to political science majors and bureaucracy lovers, we posit that the general scientific community's involvement in this field is critical. Unfortunately, among scientists, the importance of science diplomacy is often poorly appreciated and afforded little priority. For those who are less familiar with this topic, we strongly encourage taking the Science and Diplomacy class being taught on campus for the past few years (and being taught again this spring through the generosity of the Hurford Foundation). The class goes on for roughly six weeks, and brings in a wide variety of speakers from different fields and organizations.

Four Things I Learned by Starting a Science Podcast

By John Borghi Last week, I released the first official episode of Bold Signals- a podcast where I attempt to capture the human side of science. In each episode, I interview either a scientist about the lived experience of doing science or a non-scientist about how they experience science in their everyday life. If this sounds interesting, you can stream the podcast on SoundCloud or download it through iTunes. A new episode will come out every Wednesday this summer, with a second season starting sometime in the Fall. I started the podcast because I wanted to reveal the struggles and frustrations that exist between the lines of the results and discussion sections of scientific articles. But, even in the short time I've been working on Bold Signals, I've learned a whole lot about how science is produced, applied, and communicated. Here are the bullet points: 1. Making a podcast isn’t so difficult (except when it is) On some level, recording a podcast is as simple as plugging in some microphones and talking with some neat people for about an hour. Before I conducted the first interview, I spent a long time researching recording equipment, editing software, and hosting options. I interrogated experienced

Brain Awareness with Jelly Beans!

by Elizabeth Waters Every March for Brain Awareness Week (BAW), graduate students and post docs from the Rockefeller University, Weill-Cornell Medical College, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Tri-Institute reach out to elementary schools in New York City to educate young scientists about their brain and current research in neuroscience. BAW, under the Dana Foundation umbrella, sees our local scientists along with scientists around the world reaching out to their communities and engaging young, middle and old non-scientists in conversations about how the brain and nervous system work, how scientists study the brain, and how individuals can keep their brain healthy at any age. One brainy activity that is equally popular with students and Tri-Institute volunteers is the Jelly Bean Experiment. This activity asks the question: How do you recognize your favorite food? Students test their ability to use a single sense (sight, smell, taste) to identify a jelly bean flavor. Along the way, they generate hypotheses, gather data, and form conclusions -usually that they need more jelly beans- that lead to a greater understanding of how brain areas cooperate to recognize tasty foods and why food just wouldn’t be the same without the sensory nervous system. Further experimentation is

Why I use video games to teach science.

by Melanie Stegman Everyone knows how to kill zombies. Why don't people know how to kill measles? I think that a few bits of molecular detail are all that stands between our current society and one in which the average person truly appreciates modern biomedical science. It is just the proteins we need to learn about. We don't need to memorize all 50,000 - 100,000 different proteins in and around our cells, just understand protein behavior in general. This way, news stories about proteins will be easier to understand. Proteins are the heroes of stories about vaccinations, genetically modified foods, personalized medicine, evolution, depression, and happiness. I think that most of us got through grade school and high school without learning about proteins. We learn that cells make energy, that proteins are building blocks, that atoms make up everything. We know that viruses invade our cells and that cholesterol is bad , but we don't really have a clear idea of how all this actually happens. I am just hear to say, how all this happens is not that hard to understand. Molecular cell biology is a cute, rule based system that really sticks to its rules. Things work in biology

The successes and limitations of brain-computer interface technology

...and why we don’t all have badass robotic exoskeletons by Claire Warriner Philadelphia, 1999. A thirsty lab rat vigorously presses the lever in its cage. This act causes a swinging robotic arm to deliver a droplet of water to within reach of the rat’s parched tongue. At the same time, an array of electrodes implanted it the animal’s motor cortex records the activity of about 30 neurons, the neural signals that drive the lever-pressing behavior. As this sequence is repeated, researchers in the Nicolelis Lab amass enough information to form a computational model of the signal that drives the movement. They then switch control of the water-delivery arm from depression of the lever to the rat’s neural signals—and the arm still works. As the rat’s brain continues to issue that specific signal pattern, the robotic arm continues to deliver water droplets. After a few trials, the rat doesn’t even bother to press the lever anymore, it instead rests its white, murine* arm casually on the lever. It perhaps realizes that the actual physical manifestation of its intent is unnecessary: it is now controlling the robotic arm with its brain1. And thus was the advent of brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs. A year

Hacking the Life Sciences Classroom

This post is mirrored from The FabLearn Fellows Blog. by Jaymes Dec I recently helped to coordinate a “hackathon” with the Rockefeller University Science Outreach Program in part to address these questions: How can “making” or “STEAM” play out in the Life Sciences classroom? What role can digital design and fabrication tools have in the Life Sciences Classroom? How can physical computing tools and creative coding contribute to the Life Sciences classroom? On a Saturday, we gathered about 30 educators, mostly life sciences teachers, but also technology and art teachers, from the NYC area. We had about 50% public teacher participation. We also invited 30 prominent biologists, biohackers, and engineers to spend the day tinkering, exploring, and prototyping project ideas with an abundance of materials and tools. Here is that list of supplies. The morning started with a few short presentations in an auditorium. I spoke about Digital Design/Fabrication, and Physical/Creative Computing. My slides are here. Then we had Sebastian Kraves and Zeke Alvarez-Saavedra from miniPCR give a presentation about their project to make DNA amplification through the Polymerase Chain Reaction accessible to anyone. Finally, Sarah Weisberg from the BioBus, gave a presentation on their travelling Bio Lab and the MiScope, a portable

Thinking Globally about Science

by Rupa R. Ram and Paul Dominic B. Olinares There are many global challenges that have a foundation in science and technology including climate change, resource scarcity, infectious diseases, and international instability from nations in conflict. The role of scientists in resolving these challenges is not always clear. Science diplomacy (SD) is the conversation at the intersection of science and policy, where scientists, engineers, and policy makers come together to navigate the sometimes muddy geopolitical waters that hinder finding solutions to the issues at hand. According to New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy, a report published by the Royal Society in 2010, science diplomacy has three dimensions: 1. “Science in Diplomacy” to form foreign policy objectives, 2. “Diplomacy for Science,” which facilitates international scientific cooperation including between nations in conflict with the hope of improving political relations. These lead to 3. “Science for Diplomacy,” which builds on the generally highly regarded reputation of scientists in society as objective and unbiased to bypass political issues and build consensus towards problem solving. Despite its trendy name, SD has been practiced for decades. A prominent and ongoing example is the International Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. Pugwash

Life of a Cancer Cell

This entry is mirrored from the author's blog, The Magical World of Simona Giunta.  by Simona Giunta Cancer, a word that has more than 700 million hits on Google, that features in 100 million news articles and affects, directly or indirectly, the majority of the world population, still remains a mystery to us. So, what is cancer and where does it come from? We have trillions of cells in our body and cancer comes from a single one of those cells. Every day, each cell in our body is exposed to agents that cause damage to the DNA. These agents can be external, such as UV light while sitting in the sun, radiations from an x-ray scan, alcohol consumption (1) [1], smoking (2), pollutants (3) [2], burnt food [3], food chemicals (4) [4] and many more, all acting as attackers to the DNA; on top of these, internal agents, like oxygen free radicals, are also damaging to the DNA. The truth is that, if we sat in a dark room, drinking nothing but water, and breathing only clean air, our cells living their daily life (and carrying out essential cellular processes) still get damaged in their DNA. Indeed, every day,

Podcast: Can you hear the shape of a drum?

Can you tell the shape of a drum just by hearing it?  Phil Kidd walks us through this historical physics problem, how it relates to modern quantum physics, and how it can help us get smaller phones and faster electronics.  

Podcast: Vitamin D

Photo courtesy Robin Danehav Vitamin D. We can get this essential compound by eating vitamin D-rich foods, or by exposing our skin to sunlight.  But most of us don't have enough of it, and the reasons for this vary. Is it necessary to supplement when we are vitamin D deficient? Is vitamin D deficiency really a sign of poor health? Researchers are still working to figure out what vitamin D does, how different levels affect our bodies, and what we can do about it. Dr. Manish Ponda, vitamin D expert, discusses the current state of the field and how he uses Big Data to study vitamin D deficiency across large groups.    

ArtLab: In Translation

by Maryam Zaringhalam, @thisisartlab Given that artists + scientists employ similar approaches to developing their work and that this work is often presented in very similar mediums, it has eluded me for quite some time why art and science are generally thought of as being incompatible. As a result, in December 2012 I launched ArtLab :: The Series to provide a physical space for artists + scientists to come together to talk about their respective crafts, using art as a lens to focus a conversation about science. The ultimate goal is to spark collaborations between these two traditionally disparate communities, using the strengths of each to inform and compliment the other. To get us thinking about our work in a different context with a different set of tools at our disposal. On May 24, 2013, ArtLab presented In Translation: an inside look at the practice of art and science featuring insights from the insightful Gabrielle Rabinowitz, a molecular neurobiologist at the Rockefeller University + senior editor // regular contributor for The Incubator, and Dylan Zavagno, a Brooklyn-based poet. With the much-appreciated help of co-moderator Rachel Broderick [co-founder // creative director of Brooklyn-based mixed-media arts company Our Ladies] and our ever-enthusiastic