Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fetus' Immune System Halts Attack on Cells from its Mother

Repost from AAAS Science Roundup

Tolerating Maternal Influences

A baby developing in the womb receives vital nutrients from its mother, but also some of her cells. Researchers have long known about such maternal crossover cells, but have been unable to explain why they are able to escape attack by the baby's immune system. In a Report in the 5 Dec 2008 Science, Mold et al. provided new insight into the capabilities of the human fetal immune system. The researchers found that substantial numbers of maternal cells cross the placenta to reside in fetal lymph nodes and that this crossover spurs the baby to produce regulatory T cells -- white blood cells whose job it is to suppress fetal immune responses -- that persist at least until early adulthood.

As noted in an accompanying News story by M. Leslie, the work "suggests a new mechanism for how the human immune system learns to spare the body's own tissues, a tolerance that breaks down in autoimmune diseases." Lead author Jeff Mold discussed the findings in a related podcast interview.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Next Generation Microscopy: Goodbye Purple Fingers - No Stain Microscopy

Twenty years ago when I took Microbiology I learned about staining. Tissues had to be stained in order to 'see' the cells and cell organelles. Under a light microscope it all looks clear or pinkish and transparent. Add a couple of drops (or micro drops) of a certain dark stain would attach to the walls of the cell or organelle and then * wa-la* Contrast.

And for some reason all of the important stains were blue, hence the reference to blue fingers because you get some on your hands, lab coat, apron, table, etc.
Example stains include Methylene Blue Stain, Methyl Blue Stain,Indigo Stain....

and my time favorite, because it was the first staining technique I learned, was Crystal Violet or Methyl Violet used to differentiate Gram Negative Bacteria from Gram Positive Bacteria.
Microbiology lab was the first lab I took that made me feel so empowered. Lab was twice a week and I never minded staying for the whole time. It was hands-on learning and application of stuff I was learning in the class. I was holding a vial of something putrid and I was going to figure out what it was with stain and petri dishes. I felt like MacGyver. Do my pre-med, biology, chemistry, and biochem majors feel me? Aaah memories. My blue fingers were a badge of honor (and I didn't bite my nails much that semester.) But alas, those days may be no more. Some super-duper microbiology genius has helped us see the invisible without stain. Read more about it below.

Repost of NSF Press Release 08-218

Microscopes have revolutionized the practice of science, especially in the fields of biology and medicine. Just a few hundred years ago, gaining the ability to study what was previously unobservable opened up an entirely new world. Today, imaging techniques remain indispensable to clinicians and researchers who regularly diagnose medical conditions and work to develop new treatments.

Test results can often take hours or even days because cells or tissues must be subjected to lengthy fixation and labeling processes, sometimes called staining, in order to visualize and distinguish cellular components. In addition to long processing times, staining procedures often include harsh treatments or conditions that alter the tissues themselves, making interpretation of results difficult.

A newly developed label-free imaging technique called stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) will likely revolutionize biomedical imaging in research and diagnostic laboratories. A team lead by Sunney Xie at Harvard University reported this new technique in the December 19 issue of Science.
"It is a big step forward in terms of biology," said Xie. "SRS is a powerful imaging modality with widespread applications on many fronts of biology and medicine. This work compliments an earlier technique we developed with funding from the National Science Foundation, adding a new imaging modality to the vibrational microscopy field."
The key to this new chemical imaging technique is the use of two lasers with different frequencies. Researchers visualize samples by tuning the laser frequencies to match the vibrational frequency of a specific chemical bond. Each type of molecule within a sample, including nutrients or drugs, is detectable at a unique frequency. By combining sample data collected at numerous frequencies, researchers can produce a high-resolution 3D image of the sample. SRS microscopy represents a big gain in biomedical imaging because it avoids labor-intensive sample preparation and autofluorescence, or "background noise", associated with traditional fluorescence microscopy.
Xie is enthusiastic about the ways in which SRS imaging will facilitate progress in many fields. "Applications of SRS imaging range from mapping distribution of small metabolite and drug molecules in cells and tissues to medical diagnosis of cancer. Neuroimaging is another exciting area of application."
Media Contacts
Lisa Van Pay, NSF (703) 292-8796 lvanpay (at) nsf.gov
Lily Whiteman, NSF (703) 292-8070 lwhitema (at) nsf.gov
Principal Investigator
X. Sunney Xie, Harvard University (617) 496-9925 xie(at)chemistry.harvard.edu

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Becoming Independent - Hands-off Teaching/Hands-on Learning

I was leading an activity with children at the zoo. We were making luminaries. I explained how to do it, made some myself along side the kiddies, gave kids the materials and cheered them on as they took off. Then I watched the parents. Some parents worked with their youngsters, holding the stencil or the markers. Other parents were doing the craft for the child, particularly if they were very young - which makes sense. But it was remarkable to see how some children were allowed to do the activity with hardly any input from the parents. Those children seemed more creative, relaxed, and spent some time creating some very nice paper bag luminaries. I especially credit the parents for being patient as opposed to criticizing them for being inattentive.

On the other hand there were some parents who took charge of the activity. They directed the child, helped choose the stencil or in some cases selected it for the child. There seemed to be a control over the activity where the child was second chair to the parent. They were compelled to do the activity a certain way, "the right way" - trace the stencil perfectly, don't embellish the picture with color or free-hand art, use certain color markers. Sometimes it was because the parents were impatient and seemed to rush the activity to get it over with.

As I watched those parent-child interactions, it got me to thinking about something I noticed when I was in high school classroom and at the job house. Some formative experiences may have shaped some people to be less independent. Many people (not just children) seem absolutely afraid to take risks and make mistakes. For example, whenever I gave a pre-test or open-lab assignment or an independent project, I had some students who just hated it. They lost it. Got belligerent. They wanted to be told exactly what to do, how to do and immediately rewarded. Free-thinking was not at all appealing to them. There was a right way, a singular way to do things and they did not care about the hows and whys of the matter.

At the job house, my employees struggled with executing projects without serious oversight. They got frustrated and often gave up quickly because things didn't appear to work out the first time. They did not take criticism well, even mild criticism. They always expected a positive response even when they knew they hadn't tried their best or were properly trained to handle a task. I had a host of issues, including managing them, which is why I eventually left the job. I wasn't a great fit.

What I realized is that my preferred teaching/leading style is Authoritative. I give you instructions or guidelines, explain the boundaries, but give you free opportunity to figure the rest out. How I see it, I can only facilitate learning. I can't make you learn. You can ask questions, challenge the rules, be absolutely creative. It's okay if things don't work out the first time or second time. Learning or perfecting a skill involved mistakes. In fact you learn more when don't get in right the first time, because you get positive feedback and the chance to practice what you've learned.

For these frustrated learners/workers they don't want to ponder the mistake or see correctness in alternative views. Thinking back to those kids whose parents made them do things a certain way, they may have a hard time making their own decisions when their parents are absent. What do I like? How can I get this done? Can I feel confident about what I have done? And that confidence in doing something for one's self is very important.

As these thoughts were on my mind, I was listening to NPR's To the Best of Our Knowledge program about craftsmanship (Reconsidering Crafts, Dec 14, 2008). A Craft is a skill, an effort to work hard at something, to do it well and produce a product that is sound and sometimes beautiful. Skills such as carpentry, or quilt-making, landscaping, candle-making - these are crafts. But service jobs are also crafts - such as nursing, surgery, plus hair and skin care. How seriously one takes his or her profession in providing the best possible product or service to enhance or enrich the lives of your clients. Lack of facilitated learning, positive feedback, and the requirement to practice and revise actually hurts some people, at least I think so.

This idea of working hard and doing something is essential to personal pride and satisfaction with one's place in life, I think. From my personal observations, poor people are not respected or treated as if there is something in life that they CAN do, do it well, and enjoy doing. Regrettably, urban schools are so frustrating and confusing that children aren't given the chance to truly learn. They forced to listen and regurgitate and get it right the first time. Learning, particularly hands-on learning is thrown away by 4th grade. This hands-on learning is much like the act of learning a craft, becoming skilled at something. My employees did not want to work hard, so no value in it and as a result struggled to fit into the work place and it very program that was supposed to help them out of poverty seemed to fail them.
Please check out entire show on NPR. It was enlightening, especially the segment with Sociologist Richard Sennett. He talked about his book "The Craftsman" in which he makes the case that our definition of craft should be expanded to include any job a person commits to executing to the best of their abilities. He tells Steve Paulson that lots of working-class people care about what they do, with no expectation of material reward.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Science Blogging Conference will address Diversity in Science

The 2009 ScienceOnline Conference will take place MLK weekend in Research Triangle, North Caroline. This conference is like many other Blogging Conferences - networking, increasing readership, moneytizing, and improving your blog. Like other "special interest blogging groups" the participants will address important matters of concern to them.

The overarching issue being addressed is Scientific Literacy. How the public consumes, comprehends, and using science information (and disquishes it from psuedo- or non-science information) in order to make decisions about their lives.

Another important issue is Inclusion or Diversity in STEM. How do we create and maintain diversity among our ranks at colleges, universities, and other research centers? There are two workshops to deal with this.
1. Gender in science — online and offline — moderated by Suzanne Franks, Abel and Alice Pawley: How to get and make allies? What allies can and should be doing? How the Web provides new methods and means for action and effecting positive change. Go here to discuss.
2. Race in science – online and offline — moderated by Danielle Lee and Samia Ansari: The issues of gender and race are related and have overlaps, yet there are differences as well that need to be explored. If there is no profile picture, most readers will automatically assume that the author is white. What can be done to promote minorities blogging? How can blogs by minorities be used to attract kids into science careers? How to get and make allies? What allies can and should be doing? How the Web provides new methods and means for action and effecting positive change. Go here to discuss.
I really hoped to attend the Conference. Last year I missed it for work reasons and I think the same precluding factors will keep me away this year. However, I appreciate that the conference organizers encourage bloggers to sound off about issues by posting comments on the wiki. I can't quite yet figure out how to do that, so I'll sound off here and encourage others to sound off here in the comments or visit the wiki to sound off or post at your blog and trackback or all of the above.

Since I've talked about race issues, particularly, my race (African-American) and STEM diversity, I'm tempted to just offer them links to my previous posts. I still might do that, but I offer this first - an abstract I ran across on ERIC. It is an abstract of a paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Montreal, Canada, April 1983).

"The differences in the personality and social backgrounds of college students majoring in science and nonscience fields were assessed with 91 black and 109 white students. The following categories of majors were compared: natural science, social science, and nonscience (education, business, history, and all others). The personality and attitudes of students were assessed by the 16PF, Bem Sex-Role Inventory, and the Attitude Toward Women Scale. Data were also collected on birth order, number of siblings, and social class. The black natural science majors were from a higher social class and more practical and toughminded than were the black social and nonscience majors. The white natural science majors were more masculine sex-role oriented and more sober than were the white social and nonscience majors. In comparison with nonscience majors, natural science majors were more often first born and from higher social class families with fewer siblings. There were more racial differences found than college major differences; however, black and white science majors were more similar than black and white students in the other two college major groups. It is suggested that knowledge about the characteristics of black scientists may be helpful in identifying prospective scientists. "

Authors: ML Clark and W Pearson, Jr.

This paper/data was presented 25 years ago. A whole generation ago. I wonder what new insights we have today?

Here is another paper, something more recent, that is also very interesting.
African American Women in Science: Experiences from High School through the Post-Secondary Years and Beyond by Sandra L. Hanson.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Say It Ain't So...NPR News & Notes Cancelled

Yes, you read or heard right. N&N and the lovely Farai Chideya have been invited to leave the NPR line-up. Get the details at We Love You! (And, Yes, We Are Cancelled). March 20 will be their last day.

I am sad. First Bryant Park Project, now News & Notes. It's like the Horror film where the Black Actors always go first. I enjoy almost all of the NPR news programming. And I really enjoyed the African-American/Minority American programs and angles. I thought it brought more issues to the mainstream conversation.

Is there anything we can do to stave this off? Hey, African-American Radio Consortium, any ideas?

And something a little more recent:
African American Women in Science: Experiences from High School through the Post-Secondary Years and Beyond by Sandra Hanson

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Diluting Baby Formula can be fatal. Spread the word.

These lean economic times can lead many people to tighten their belts. Stretching food across several meals is a natural way to make due. But in an effort to cut a few corners and save money, one mom learned a hard lesson. Warning: A little water can hurt babies—So don't dilute infant formula. The Florida mom had been diluting her baby's formula to stretch out her monthly ration from WIC. She didn't know (and neither did I) that it can cause water intoxication which can be fatal. This is such a sad but very realistic problem. With poor people doing what they can to survive they become more vulnerable to mistaken fatalities.

In an effort to ration food and supplies, we should all work to find ways to cut back AND help one another. I don't want another family to suffer like this. I is a shame that some programs give families a hard time when they need to adjust their receivings - soy milk instead of traditional forumula, or switch brands because some formulas aren't received well by some babies. There is no one size fits all in nutrition or social services.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Food Democracy Now - Real Change We Must Embrace

Food. It is a necessity. However, many people are completely blind to how our food is grown, raised, processed and distributed. Food processing is no easy task - at a local level (the farmer and processors) or on a large scale (big agribusiness, distribution, and preservation).

A few things that need to be kept in mind:
1. In this fragile economy many more people are at risk of food insecurity. We need better solutions. Reduce food waste. Keep people fed. Offer affordable nutritious foods to every neighborhood. Eat a healthier, balanced diet. Make produce, whole grains, and healthy meats, poultry, and dairy products available to everyone one. Take care of ourselves and each other.
2. Get back to more 'traditional' farming. Grow food crops in areas that are best suited to the local climate. Rotate crops. Eat more seasonal produce items. Eat more local foods. Presently, US agriculture practices are intensely dependent of fertilizer. We also transport our food items hundreds and thousands of miles to get them to our dinner plates. In this time of energy reconsideration, we need to cut back on our petroleum use - which is used to make fertilizer and transport our food.
So where can we start?
Join me in asking President-Elect Obama to select a responsible person to be the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Go to Food Democracy Now and sign the Petition.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

NSF-AAAS Student Research Conference Underlines the Importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

John Haynes, Professor and Dean of Science and Mathematics at Morehouse College, Atlanta
Credit: Photos by Sidney Perkowitz

December 5, 2008
ATLANTA, Georgia-Historically black colleges and universities play a significant-but often unrecognized-role in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education of minority students in the United States, producing scientists and engineers ready to apply their education to the important problems of the day. These messages were strongly delivered by students and educators at the National Science Foundation's 2008 Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program Research Conference, organized by the AAAS.

In 2004 nearly half-49%-of bachelor's degrees in physics and 39% in chemistry awarded to African-Americans came from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), according to a recent report by the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology and the American Institute of Physics. One well-known HBCU, Morehouse College in Atlanta, graduates more bachelor's degrees in science per year than some countries, said John K. Haynes, professor and Morehouse's dean of Science and Mathematics, who spoke at the conference.

According to Shirley Malcom, director of Education and Human Resources at AAAS: "We must invest in development of talent and potential for science and engineering. HBCUs provide access to many students and introduce them to the possibilities of education and careers in STEM." HBCUs, she said, "contribute disproportionately as the baccalaureate origins institutions in many fields that are crucial to U.S. competitiveness and national security."

Much of the research described by HBCU undergraduates at the event directly addresses pressing national needs. For example, a poster headlined "Preparation of Biodiesel from Waste Oil" presented by Ashley White, a junior chemistry major at Jackson State University, Mississippi. Asked why the work is important, she responded: "Because we need cheaper gas! And we need to stop depending on foreign oil. We can do this ourselves." She went on to describe the chemistry involved in converting discarded vegetable oil used for cooking into diesel fuel. The quality of the fuel is acceptable, she added, but the process needs to be improved for greater yield.

Another poster described research in steganography, an area that turns out to be important for national security. The poster's presenter, Kevin Harris, a junior applied math major at North Carolina A&T State University, defined steganography as "disguising information without arousing suspicion." One virtually undetectable method is to encode a message within a digital graphics file by tweaking the data bits in a way that leaves the image unaltered. While this sounds like something out of a James Bond movie, Harris cited a recent FBI White Paper on the subject that shows its seriousness in an age of terrorism.

These two posters were among some 275 student poster presentations and over 100 talks at the four-day HBCU-UP conference, held 23-26 October in Atlanta. The presentations covered virtually every major field of science and technology, with cash awards offered for the best research as chosen by a panel of experts. This is the second year under a three-year NSF grant that the AAAS has organized a student-oriented event with the atmosphere and format of a full-scale scientific conference, this year with over 800 attendees. The conference featured student research abstracts in a glossy program book and gave the students opportunities to explore offerings from various graduate schools and employers.

The student activities were supplemented by workshops, and plenary talks from some of the leading players in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at HBCUs. James H. Wyche, director of the NSF Division of Human Resource Development, Directorate for Education and Human Resources, spoke of the significance of STEM education for global competitiveness and noted the importance of key "transit points" in keeping potential and current HBCU science students on track toward their careers, such as the transition from 11th to 12th grade.

Haynes, in his plenary address, emphasized the excitement of today's forefront science and the importance of a research experience in undergraduate science education. Carlton E. Brown, president of Clark Atlanta University, another major HBCU, reported large numbers enrolled in STEM courses at his institution but noted that graduation rates are lower than desired. He said raising the number and skills of qualified middle- and high school science teachers would be crucial for improving university-level graduation rates in those fields.

In a later conversation, Haynes placed HBCU training within the framework of a national commitment to STEM education. "The country realizes it's got to tap all of its resources," he said. "Other countries are producing many more students in science. The question is whether we have the national will. The next president has to send a clear message to the country that all of its citizens should receive quality education." As a critical factor, Haynes added, that should include pre-college education.

For some students, the conference gave an opportunity to reflect on their HBCU experience along with their research. Jasmine Greene, a sophomore biology major at Lemoyne-Owen College, Memphis, Tennessee, presented work on the interaction between chromium metal ions and the neurotransmitter aspartate. Even trace amounts of certain metallic elements can impair human neural behavior. Greene's project is the first to examine possible harmful effects from chromium. The results will be submitted to the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
When asked about the pros and cons of attending a historically black college compared to a school with a diverse population, Greene responded that while she strongly favors diversity, an HBCU offers "a family bond."

"The teachers really care," she said. "I'm not just a number."

Justin Morrissette, a graduating senior in chemical engineering at Hampton University in Virginia, gave a different response to the question. Morrissette studied viral infections of bacteria in the Pacific Ocean, which could have consequences for the prevalence of plankton and the food chain that it supports. He carried out his research partly at institutions that are not HBCUs; for him, the most important thing in choosing where to learn and work was to follow the science.

The buzz of activity around the student presentations was matched by the buzz of activity around the conference exhibits. Over 80 exhibitors and recruiters, mostly representing graduate schools across the United States but also from employers such as the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, illustrated that the pool of HBCU undergraduates is indeed a valued resource for further STEM education and jobs.
For all the activity and student enthusiasm, however, the current economic downturn could potentially alter federal and other funding for science education including HBCUs and their supporting programs. Some HBCUs suffer from lack of the resources needed to provide complete student research experiences. Bad economic news may trigger other problems because "many of these students need financial help to go [to college]," said Yolanda George, deputy director of AAAS Education and Human Resources. "Many of the students come from rural areas--first-generation college students."

Added Malcom: "We can anticipate tough budget years ahead for R&D, to the extent that these can be considered a 'nice to have' rather than a 'must have.' If, however, R&D become necessities or, better still, investments, we can make a case for support even in tough times."
Haynes sounded perhaps the most optimistic note of all. Even in the face of financial difficulties, he said, we should realize that "global awareness is where we're going so internationalizing the experience of students is the next new frontier... We have to get young people out of [provincialism] to see there's a wide world with opportunities."

See the full list of young researchers who won awards for oral and poster presentations at the National Science Foundation's HBCU-UP conference in Atlanta.
Learn more about the NSF's Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program.
More images from the Conference

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $6.06 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Sickle Cell Anemia Treatment discovered

Thanks to hard work, patience, and scientific pursuit of knowledge and application there seems to be New Hope for Sickle-Cell Anemia Sufferers. According to a report in Science Magazine,
Researchers have discovered the molecular switch for activating the fetal form of hemoglobin—the iron-containing protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen—which could help alleviate the symptoms of genetic blood disorders, including sickle-cell anemia.

Sickle anemia is widely regarded as a Black disease because it affects an estimated 70,000 people (mostly African-Americans) in the U.S. But it in fact peoples from many regions of the world have high incidences of this disease in their populations: Africa, Mediterranean countries (such as Greece, Turkey, and Italy), The Arabian peninsula, India, and Latin America (such as South America, Central America, and parts of the Caribbean).

Sickle-cell anemia can be fatal with most people dying by their mid-40s. When I was a young child, persons with sickle-cell anemia had a life expectancy of 25. Thank goodness for modern medicine. However, it is a high-maintenance disease. Sufferers deal with extreme pain in the legs when their red blood cells sickle and prevent a constant flow of oxygenated blood. Many take blood thinners or have frequent blood transfusions to stem the symptoms. This new treatment technique may by-pass all of that. Inherited forms of anemia may soon be treated by turning on a gene normally active only in the womb, when individuals with sickle cell anemia are asymptomatic. Read more about this new discovery at Scientific American.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Public Libraries as Egalitarian Institutions

I spent the day in the public library studying and writing. Public libraries are perhaps the most under-appreciated and over-looked information and education resources in American cities and towns. Specifically thinking about socioeconomic and class issues to information and resource access, public libraries really do address these issues. Not only can one check out literature (fiction and non-fiction) but the catalogs of education books, texts and references for all levels is a marvel. Libraries have always been the place where one can access public archives and texts, and now they are internet hubs, too.

Though funding varies from place to place, most modern libraries have free computer and internet access for any member of the public. Competition for these computers can be fierce, but it is available. Also, libraries offer free literacy classes, GED preparation, and computer lessons. They also serve as community meeting places.

Public Libraries are great education resources. Support your library, host an informal class or make a donation. It’s for everyone – all ages, all education levels, all economic levels. Few institutions are truly as egalitarian as our libraries.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gas coming down

Your eyes aren't fooling you. I purchased that a tank of gas at $1.49 a gallon, today. My pockets appreciate it. It's like it is 2001 again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Science Water Cooler Talk - Evolution and Health

Lot’s going on in the world. In my effort to keep you abreast (and stay a little more on it) here are some elevated, now.

Paleobiology is the rage
1. Extinct Woolly Mammoth's DNA Mapped – from LiveScience.com
2. Scientists Sequence Half the Woolly Mammoth's Genome – from Scientific American

1. More teens and young adults engaging in anal intercourse – from Scienceblog.com.
Okay, we need to have a serious dialogue with our young people to make sure they comprehend what they are doing and why. This article suggests that many girls who engage in anal sex may not being do so consensually.

2. Exercise increases brain growth factor and receptors, prevents stem cell drop in middle age – from Scienceblog.com
Besides improved heart health, overall physical fitness and staving off diabetes, here is another – and very compelling reason – to NOT be a couch potato.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cross-posting for Science

Remember the 2008 Black Weblog Awards? This blog made the cut for Best Science/Tech Blogs. The only other science blog on the short list was Urban Science Adventures. That blog's author is obviously doing well. She is a finalist for a Blog Scholarship with the winner getting a $10,000 Scholarship.
Can you believe such a thing exists? If only I knew. Sheesh, I could use $10,000 dollars.

Anyway, join me in helping this sister out. Vote for her - Danielle Lee.

For members/followers of the AfroSpear, she seems to be the only candidate of African-American background. I like to offer support for other Black Bloggers when I can.

Oh, and don't forget -- Black Bloggers for Education is still raising funds for needy public school classroom projects. Please contribute. Of the Three Projects I selected to raise money for, two are completely funded. The remaining one only needs $77.

Challenge: If my readers contribute $60, then I'll cash in some bottles and alumninum cans and pay the remaining $17. Let's do it together!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Checking in. I'm still here.

I know my posts have been sparse. Sorry about that. But I've been very productive, writing and writing and writing. That dissertation won't beat me. I've still been scanning the blog headlines, so I know I have things to do, soon.

1. A Big Thank you to Electronic Village for the Thoughtful Blogger Award. I'll do a post about this and name my own Throughtful Bloggers. He named me for this award for the Black Bloggers for Education efforts. The fundraising has stalled and some projects are scheduled to end. It's not too late to contribute. Please do. $5 is the minimum bid.

2. Bro. Eddie Griffin is spreading the word about Student Opportunity in Education. I promised him a cross-post and I've been rather busy. Here are references, though.

TCU Community Scholars Online Application due November 15, 2008
It is an excellent program that pays full tuition for deserving students who attend the nine high schools… Eva Bonilla, Chair HWNT – FW Chapter - evabonilla@charter.net The Community Scholars application is available online at the following link:
Please remind your students that by completing the application, the $40 fee will be waived automatically.

3. I'm behind with my Science Vocab series. Most of these postings have been submitted to the Carnival of Evolution, which is published every 2 weeks, the 1st and the 15th. I probably won't get one in this time, but I hope to be back on the ball by Dec 1. But I encourage everyone to check it out - great stuff. I might cuff some of this for my future classroom lectures. Just saying.

4. And it hasn't escaped me that we have a New President - one that is Pro-STEM and Education. I can't write about this, but the dissertation and publications come first.

Staying productive.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

I was born in the 70's and grew up in the 80's. Like other children born during this period (Generation X) I lived under the shadow of the Vietnam War and the Draft. Our fathers, uncles, older male cousins were trying to rebuild a life in the US after surviving an unsuccessful war campaign. I remember the overall sentiment of these men was- "I didn't want to be called up"and "I just wanted to survive and come back home in one piece." Many were called and it was very hard to get out of it. Some of the more humorous stories were the failed attempts to fail medical exams and dodge the draft.

But whether enlisted or drafted they served. Some came back home in one piece, but many did not. Many families lost loved ones - in Asia and in America upon return. Of those that returned physically whole, the same was not necessarily true of their minds and hearts.

I also have a faint memory of Vietnam Vets not being treated very well. They always seemed to assert themselves and sometimes came off as disgruntled - like Rambo - and felt disrespected by Vets from previous wars. It confused me. How can anyone not respect these men (and women) who sacrificed themselves - many against their will to serve their country? Where was the love?

Be sure to reach out to all of the Veterans in your life today and tell them, Thank you.
Also check out History of Veterans Day at Electronic Village.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Science Vocab: Heritability

Here’s a pop quiz. Read the following statements and select the best answer from the choices below.

A: Snoring runs in my family; it is genetic.
B: Snoring runs in my family; it is heritable.

1. Statement A is true
2. Statement B is true
3. Both Statement A and B are true
4. Neither Statement A or B are true
5. Don’t know

The answer: Only Statement B can be true. Heritability deals with the likelihood or probability of traits running in families. But here is the catch: something can be heritable due to genetics or environment. In this case the environment includes culture or habits and behaviors that you experience and accept as a normal and everyday. Everything that shared among related individuals isn’t necessarily because they share the same genes.

Here’s another snag – heritable traits and inherited traits are not synonymous. To inherit something means you received it or get from your parents. Think about an heirloom. Your grandfather has this amazing fishing pole. When he passes on, he gives the fishing pole to your father and your father gives it to you. You get the exact same thing your father and grandfather had. Genetic inheritance works the same way. One parent has a gene or allele and he or she gives to you.

Heritability is the likelihood of getting something…in other words, you might get it. It’s not automatic – like genetic inheritance, but the chances look good.

Here’s an example: Autism: highly heritable but not inherited
Arthur L Beaudet of Baylor University examined genetic causes of Autism. He found specific gene disorders that can result in autism de novo, automatically or off the top. These disorders include an alteration of the genome causing complete loss of copy, gain of copy or disruption of a dosage-sensitive gene.

But research by Sebat et al. indicates that other genomic deletions and duplications may point to genes in which mutations may lead to autism, but doesn’t automatically cause autism. In other words, having these genes doesn’t mean you will automatically have autism, but your chances are high.

Thinking about human behavior and habits, many of us confuse genetic and cultural heritability, especially when comparing family members to one another. If it’s something positive like – good looks or being smart, then it is thought to be an asset. You feel like you’ve got the deck stacked in your favor. "Natural with no extensions. She get it from her mama."

But all too often we hear people say unpleasant and hurtful things and characterize failure as a family curse. For example, making bad grades or getting into trouble. “You get that bad behavior from your father”. The good news is that these behaviors are NOT genetic, not ingrained in that person. The similarity is coincidental or because of a habit. Habits can be changed. Genes cannot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Affirmed - McCain/Palin are Anti-science.

First McCain put his foot in the mouth at Debate #1 about the Grizzly Bears.

Correction - The money spent on this genetics and conservation research project was not an earmark. It was a awarded as a competitive grant and help shed light on an endangered species - a native American species- and apex predator.

Next McCain sounded like a foolish old man comparing the Zeiss Projector at the historic Aldler Museum of Chicago to an overhead projector in Debates #2 and #3.

Correction - the projector projects images of the night sky and space onto a domed ceiling in the Sky Theater. Adler is the Western Hemisphere's oldest Planetarium. They educate and inspire millions. For decades children of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and the US are have been provided top-notch space and planetary sciences education and career exploration opportunities. In fact, the Adler has educated Navy men in night sky navigation to help them chart their courses while out at sea. The stars of the night sky are their only landmarks. The Navy, the US Navy. Hmm, should Mr. Naval Academy know how important the Adler is...Maybe he would if he hadn't been such a bad boy in college and graduated near the bottom of the class.

Last, Mrs. Palin talked about a "ridiculous pet project research on fruit flies in Paris", just moments after declaring her commitment to families with special needs childrend and disabled family members. Palin, autism and fruitflies - it does not add up

Correction - 1st, the research which as she correctly stated was paid for by NSF was actually conducted in the United States! And this research with fruit flies has made discoveries about genes and proteins related to Autism Spectrum disorders! Foot in the mouth.
UNC scientists comment in support of fruit fly research for understanding autism

McCain-Palin just seem so under-informed and unapologetically ignorant about science, science education, science outreach, and research. It bothers me to potentially have another adminstration that marginalizes science as a meaningful endeavor and politicizes research results, ignoring sound advise when making important policy decisions.

Having a President (and Vice President) who are scientifically literate matters.
AVoteForScience: Kiki Sanford endorses Barack Obama

Hat tip to Bora (A Blog Around the Clock) for links with the great videos. Be sure to check them out. Very informative.

Science Literacy Matters.
Vote Pro-Science and Pro-Education

Friday, October 24, 2008

Inmates Conduct Ecological Research on Slow-growing Mosses

The Moss-in-Prisons project promotes the rehabilitation of prisoners.
Credit: Nalini Nadkarni of Evergreen State College.

Re-post: NSF Press Release 08-186
October 17, 2008

Nalini Nadkarni of Evergreen State College currently advises a team of researchers who sport shaved heads, tattooed biceps and prison-issued garb rather than the lab coats and khakis typically worn by researchers. Why is Nadkarni's team composed of such apparently iconoclastic researchers? Because all of her researchers are inmates at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, a medium security prison in Littlerock, Washington.

With partial funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Nadkarni has guided her unlikely but productive team of researchers since 2004, as they conduct experiments to identify the best ways to cultivate slow-growing mosses. Nadkarni's so-called Moss-in-Prisons project is designed to help ecologists replace large quantities of ecologically important mosses that are regularly illegally stripped from Pacific Northwest forests by horticulturalists.

Why did Nadkarni recruit inmates into her research team? "Because," she explains, "I need help from people who have long periods of time available to observe and measure the growing mosses; access to extensive space to lay out flats of plants; and fresh minds to put forward innovative solutions."

In addition to managing the Moss-in-Prisons research at Cedar Creek, Nadkarni helps the facility's inmates run various projects that promote sustainable living--including an organic garden that produces 15,000 pounds of fresh vegetables every summer, a bee-keeping operation and a composting operation that processes one ton of food per month.

One member of Nadkarni's research team, who was released from Cedar Creek, enrolled in a Ph.D. program in microbiology at the University of Nevada and presented his Cedar Creek research at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in August 2008. (Heck, no. Now that's Broader impact.)
Nadkarni started the Moss-in-Prisons project with a type of NSF award that is specially designed to help scientists reach out to public audiences. More recently, she has received additional funding from the Washington State Department of Corrections.

In addition, Nadkarni has creatively stretched project resources by recruiting other NSF-funded researchers to contribute to a popular lecture series that she started at Cedar Creek. By giving such lectures, these scientists fulfill requirements for conducting public outreach that accompany NSF awards.

A recent TV news report about the Moss-in-Prisons and the sustainability projects at Cedar Creek is posted at

Media ContactsLily Whiteman, National Science Foundation (703) 292-8310
lwhitema@nsf.govJason Wettstein, Evergreen State College (360) 451-3167 wettstej@evergreen.edu

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of $6.06 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to over 1,900 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 45,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes over 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $400 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

more images of the research and research participants.

I ain't even mad. What a unique way to do outreach and meet broader impact requirements.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Stand Up Against Poverty

The talk is done. It’s time to take Action.

The United Nations needs every concerned person to help bring the Millennium Development Goals to fruition. End Poverty by the year 2015.

From October 17 to 19, people all around the world are asked to Stand Up and Take Action, in a global mobilization to stamp out poverty and inequality. The world has made strong and sustained progress in reducing extreme poverty, but this is now being undercut by higher prices - particularly of food and oil - and the global economic slowdown, according to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals Report 2008. Read it for yourself, here.

Here’s the Action. Stand Up and Take Action.
Join an event this weekend.
Spread the word.
There are several dozen events here in the US. Join one make your voice heard and actions count to stamp out poverty and hunger in this world in our lifetime.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Blog Action – Hunger Awareness

Poverty and Hunger are twin sisters. My Blog Action Day Post on Poverty is only the springboard of Awareness. Do you realize how important food production is to life? Do you realize that a single digit percentage of the world’s population is responsible for growing and harvesting enough food to feed the entire world? Most of these farmers are US farmers in what we affectionately call the Bread Basket.These farmers, ranchers, and processors already deal with climate and ecological stoichasticity – too much or little rain or sun, locusts or other invertebrate pests. They take on the risk and if things go bad there’s less food to go around. Now we have Global Warming to deal with. And have you thought about how this crappy global economy will test everyone? Less food and more expensive and less to go around.

But there’s one thing different about these twin sisters – Poverty tends to be heritable but Hunger is universal. When food is limited even the strongest and wealthiest suffer, though last and for shorter durations.

Today is World Food Day. October 16th is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year-around action to alleviate hunger. America is no exception and the poor of America will suffer first and hardest. Food Insecurity & Food Justice will be our charge for this coming year.

Some of my previous posts about Food Justice:
Food Science, Nutritional Security, and Social Justice
Science, Education & SES: Food-justice

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

I can’t say I know abject poverty, but I know being poor, working hard to harvest little sucks. I’ve lived and shared experiences with people and communities who have less than and seem to have no real exit opportunities.
Many conservatives would debate that there several opportunities available. And I agree. On paper there are plenty of resources to help people get on their feet and prosper. But my question, as a liberal, is what are/have been the barriers that have kept people – some for generations – from recognizing these opportunities and taking advantage of them?

No one chooses to be poor or sick or disenfranchised. However, people do make decisions that contribute to their predicaments. Yet there is a chasm in consciousness between behavior, actions, and consequences. Obliviousness. I believe if we can awaken people and truly help them see and comprehend how their behavior and actions contribute to their negative financial circumstances, then we can help chart a course out of poverty. If we can guide them and not be mean or judgmental as they learn these new skills – which are both intellectual and physical, then we can help them apply these lessons in life to pull themselves and their families out of poverty.

I believe that service – contributing your talent and time to accomplish a goal for the betterment of a community – is way to resolve important matters. Serving others and making this world a better place is a noble calling. And I don’t think concept of service belongs to conservatives or liberals or Christians or any other religious group. It is non-partisan. It is a common ground. If those of us who care to serve and believe in service work to help others, then I believe we can create a just society where poverty no longer exists.
What work will you do to eliminate poverty?

Read more of my posts about poverty.
This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Donors Choose Fundraising update

Update: Black Bloggers for Education are doing pretty well for the New Kids on the Board. We're ranked 9 of 10 out of the major Categories.

BBE boasts 7 members and have raised over $700 dollars. I still need your help to raise funds for my selected projects, but thanks for fully one project to date.

Visit BBE and make a contribution. Any amount is appreciated and helps education our children.

And a big thank you to all American Express Cardholders who voted for the Donors Choose Project in the Members project. Help 100,000 children thrive in the classroom! This project won 2nd Place and $500,000.

Please help Black Bloggers for Education raise more money to help more students.

Thank you very much,

The Urban Scientist

Friday, October 10, 2008

Weekly Science Update – Personal Development Breakthroughs

Like I try to do often, I am providing you some supplemental news about what’s happening in the world of science and research. This week’s theme – PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT.

Here is your Crib Sheet for Cocktail party talk this weekend. All three are rather quick reads. So devour the articles head out to all of the great meet-and-greet spots and impress everyone with your knowledge of the science of personal growth and development over drinks.

It's all about what makes you tick and motivates you.

For the Brain, Cash Is Good, Status Is Better

Narcissists Tend to Become Leaders

Compassion meditation may improve physical and emotional responses to psychological stress

Knock 'em out.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Science Nobel Prize Winners Announced

I know the US Political Theatre has most of us wide mouth. But the world of science and discovery is steady at the helm. The Nobel Foundation has named its 2008 winners in the science categories.

Doctors Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Tsien share The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discoveries of the green florescent protein in jellyfish
Here’s what they did.

Doctors Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi, and Toshihide Masukawa share The Nobel Prize for Physics for their discoveries of broken symmetry dynamics. Don’t even ask me what this means. I understand the chemistry and physiology/medicine award. I need to go back to school to figure this out. But nonetheless it’s important. Bone up, read about it here.

Doctors Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Luc Montagnier and Harald zur Hausen share The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – the discoverers of the Human Papilloma virus and the HIV Virus . By the way this award is for most any life science discipline. Dr. Robert Gallo also did some key research on the HIV virus wasn’t co-award the prize. Science Drama.

Go to Happy Hours this weekend and impress the socks off of everyone. For good measure throw in some chatter about the folks throughout history who were worthy but did not get the award. The most notable un-awardee is perhaps Rosalind Franklin who did all of the real work that Watson &Crick are now famous for. Coincidentally her research work cost her her life.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Digital Media & Learning Competition for Innovation

My new Facebook friend P.I. of Cleveland State and my good friend Villager of Black Data Processors Association Education and Technology Foundation are both promoting the Digital Media and Learning Competition.

I hate I learned about this so late. I surely would have promoted this Competition when I blogged about National Digital Media Day. This competition awards BIG Bucks to Innovative Young People and Groups who develop projects on the theme: Participatory Learning. Participatory Learning includes the many ways that learners (of any age) use new technologies to participate in virtual communities where they share ideas, comment upon one another's projects, and plan, design, advance, implement, or simply discuss their goals and ideas together.

There are two Competitive Categories
1. Innovation in Participatory Learning Awards for Institutions awarding $30,000 - $250,000. Details here.

2. Young Innovator Awards for Individuals ages 18-25 $5,000-$30,000
The Young Innovator Awards encourage innovators aged 18-25 to think boldly about "what comes next" in participatory learning and to contribute to making it happen. These awards will help young innovators bring their visionary ideas from the "garage" stage to implementation. Additional details here.
The deadline for both Awards are October 15, 2008. It’s coming soon.

5 pm PDT/8 pm EDT

This is a great hands-on STEM learning activity. Good Luck to participants. If you or someone you know participates in this competition, please keep me posted.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Science Vocab: Dulosis - Slave-making in Ants

Ants, like other social Hymenoptera, are some of the most fascinating animals there are. They live in societies – fully functioning, every-individual-has-a-role-and-must-contribute-society. Though I talk about the ups and downs of human societies, animal societies are just as interesting and complicated. Even the unattractive aspects of human social behavior exists among our animal cousins. Dulosis is the slave making behavior of some species of ants.
Here is how it works:

The Parasite species exploits the parent care (brood care) of another species. They steal
pupae from another species (the host species). An all-out fight ensues between the species and it is not pretty. Ants die…lots and lots of ants die. If the raiding party is successful they will kill the workers of the host species leaving too few to worry about. The raiding party carry the kidnapped pupae to their nest where they complete their development. The pupae stage is the last metamorphosis. Pupae require no special care for food. It is very much like the cocoon stage of a butterfly.

Days later pupae emerge as fully adult worker ants and accept the Parasite Queen and parasite workers as their own kin and commence with the jobs they were kidnapped to do – raising the larvae of the Queen.
Sounds eerily familiar to slave dynamics in the Americas. Slaves were kidnapped from Africa, brought to the New World and forced to work the plantations and females often nursed and cared for the young of the owners.

But like all tenuous relationships, there are is co-evolutionary war at hand. This has and will always occur when two individuals or groups have a relationship but conflicting goals. This, too is eerily familiar.

The host species have some defenses against this colony attack and pupae kidnapping, for a long time, everyone thought that these defenses must all be pre-take-over defenses. And that makes sense. These Pre-take over defenses include enemy recognition and physical defenses (fighting) against the parasites. At the same time, no one really thought that post-taker defenses were possible. For one, once the ants emerge they smell the odor of the colony and imprint to it, and everyone thought this locked everything in place. Plus, no one imagined a scenario of rebellion. What good would it do the kidnapped ants to rebel? They can’t “go back home”. They wouldn’t know where it is, besides, everyone was killed in the battle to take them as pupae.

But according to some research by Susanne Foitzik, rebellion can happen and she has documented it. She studies ant species are found in the northeast United States, Atlantic Region: slavemaking ants Protomognathus americanus and Harpagoxenus sublaevis and their hosts Temnothorax spp. and Leptothorax spp.

Photo of a Harpagoxenus sublaevis– credit: antclub.ru

Photo of a Temnothorax – credit: bugguide.net

Even after the slave ants have accepted their “new home” there have been some recorded incidences that slave workers will actually kill the larvae of the parasite brood they were supposed to raise...but only the female larvae. In some cases slave workers actually attack, mutilate and rip the larvae apart. In other cases, the workers will simply neglect the larvae by not feeding them and discarding them in “dump piles” in the nest. Some host species are more vicious than others with some species more likely to rebelling than others.

Why would this happen? Well the running reason has to do with the fact that perhaps the slave workers are keeping the Brood colony in check. By doing so, they prevent or decrease the number of raids on nearby host colonies that are likely to be comprised of their relatives…a sort of indirect group selection.
But how do they know which pupae belong to which species? It seems the chemical and olfactory cues – hydrocarbon profiles are different for each species; and the slave worker ants can distinguish between the female pupae of their own species and that of the parasite species. However, they cannot distinguish between male pupae of their own or parasite species.

And this is why some think the workers don’t kill male pupae. The proposed answer is believed to be related to odor…male larvae “smell” different than female larvae and some experiments suggest that the male larvae of parasite species smell a lot like the male larva of the host species. Moreover, male ants aren’t considered a real threat. Males don’t participate in colony affairs like work, defense, or raiding other ant species nests. Simply put, males mate, then die.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Black Bloggers for Education are participating in the Blogger Challenge 2008

Donors Choose is an annual fundraiser that raises money to supply classrooms with the things they need. Teachers from low-income schools request certain materials and money for those materials. Generous Donors, like you, go online and pick the project they want to help and how much. The Blogger Challenge 2008 is a competition to Bloggers to raise funds for selected classroom projects.
Several Black Blogs are working together to raise funds for Needy Public School Classrooms with Donors Choose. We each have a different theme.

So please visit our Giving pages and select a project. Give as much as you can.

Also consider Matching Gift from your Company or its Corporate Foundation. More bang for the buck and the students win!

If you are a blogger there are 2 ways to participate:
1. Create an account and a Gift Giving page that is directly linked to your blog site. Your readers are asked to help you raise funds to for the classroom(s) you selected.
2. Promote the Black Bloggers for Education in the 2008 Donors Choose Blogger Challenge. Tell your readers about Donors Choose and encourage them to make a donation through one of the participating Black Bloggers for Education Gift Giving pages.

Other Supporters of Black Bloggers for Education:
What Tami Said
Fackin Truth
Springer’s Journal

Friday, October 3, 2008

Promoting Diversity in STEM: Society of Wetland Sciences offers Conference Travel Award

The Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) announces the availability of undergraduate student awards for travel to attend the annual SWS meeting –June 22-26, 2009 in Madison, Wisconsin.

The SWS is committed to increasing diversity in its membership and is offering full travel awards and mentoring at the meeting for undergraduate students from under-represented groups (African-American, Latino-American, Native American, Pacific Islanders, and persons with disabilities).

These awards are supported by the National Science Foundation and several SWS Chapters(Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Central, Western, and PacificNorthwest). ***All Travel Expenses paid (air, hotel, meals, and conference fees***. The areas of interest of the student participants range from freshwater to marine and involve a wide variety of organism types.

Undergraduate participants must be citizens or permanent residents of theUnited States or its possessions. An undergraduate student is a student whois enrolled in a degree program (part-time or full-time) leading to a baccalaureate or associates degree. Students who are transferring from one institution to another and are enrolled at neither institution during the intervening summer may participate. Spring 2009 graduates are eligible as well.

Application materials and additional information are available from:
Old Dominion University
Application deadline is November 28, 2008.

There are additional Travel awards for student members of SWS offered on a chapter by chapter basis. Visit SWS STUDENT TRAVEL AWARDS to look up information about eligibility in your region.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lack of Diversity in Science is Bad for our Nation, Economy.

Study says that Lack of African-Americans in Science Field Hurting Industry.

by J. Coyden Palmer

A study that surveyed Fortune 1000 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) executives representing leading science and technology companies in the United States, was released last week by Bayer Corporation.

The survey found that women, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and that the result could hurt the nation as a whole. The findings of the study should alarm whoever is going to be the next president of the United States the report stated. Minorities are seen as perhaps the saving grace for the country if America is going to keep its place as the leader in the STEM industry, the report noted.

Read the rest of the report on BDPA Foundation page.

I am cross-posting this article because this is one of my battle cries. The need for enhanced diversity in STEM fields - beginning with enhanced education and outreach opportunities to members of these under-represented groups.

Related posts about this topic.
Assertive STEM Education Training Programs may prove beneficial
Why 'Perfect Representation' in STEM is important

I am also a staunch supporter of community involvement and initiatives that reach out to these groups. So even if the school system can't handle it (for whatever reason) I believe and know that there is plenty of talent and energy that can pick up the slack and provide students with supplement STEM education.

I dedicate some of my time and energy to share science with students - in my real life, not just online. I participate in a variety of outreach programs from mentoring and training students in research, guest speaking, tutoring and service in my professional organizations.

So, with that in mind I want to encourage everyone to find a way to get involved to close the math & science achievement gap in this nation. Tutor. Assist with a Science Fair or Knowledge Bowl or National Computer Competition or any other academic program or fair. Have your company sponsor a Family Math and/or Science Night at the school or local community center.

Something. In fact, here's something you can do right now - and if you can leverage company or organization support that is great.

DonorsChoose is an annual fundraiser that raises money to supply classrooms with the things they need. Won't you help students at low-income schools* get the supplies they need to get a quality science and math education?
*(Schools with a high proportion of students receiving free and reduced lunches).

There is also a Blogger Challenge to get Communities of Bloggers to raise a high amount of funds. I know Blog Communities like ScienceBlogs do it every year. I'll look into the details and see if I can get members of the AfroSphere/AfroSpear to participate.

Maybe we call all do our little part.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Presidential Candidates Stand on Science

The other day, I blogged about the Presidential Candidates’ stands on science. STEM is the foundation of this nation’s prowess, security, and success. Therefore sound science policies and developing other policies with sound science and advice is terribly important.

Too bad there won't be a 4th Presidential Debate that's all about Science and Education. But we've got the next best thing - ScienceDebate2008. It is an online forum where the candidates provided answers to 14 key Science questions. The goal is to raise public awareness of science, technology, and innovation and call attention to informed decision-making at higher political levels. You can read their answers and offer comments and offer new questions.
I am biased (I support Obama), but my first response to the candidates side-by-side answers is that the two definitely see science differently.

Obama details his interests and comprehension of the importance of the STEM pipeline. He proposes funding science & math education from K-12 through graduate education and early career research grants. He focuses on supporting science through agencies like the National Science Foundation.

McCain doesn’t even mention a single science agency and all of his focus is on technology and entrepreneurship. Basic research happens at colleges adn universities and through scientific agencies like NSF, NASA, and NIMH. Business innovation of technology and discovery takes place AFTER graduate students and post-docs work out all of the kinks. I am disturbed by McCain’s limited comprehension STEM and its work culture. He completely disregards the role of academics in science research, and it makes him seem so out of touch. He complete focuses on tech-related industries (I guess because of the potential for entrepreneurship) and ignore the basic sciences such as life sciences and physical sciences. And I’m still sore about the comment about science research being a wasteful pork earmark.

Let me share something with you all. The ability to get federal research money for science is based on a very strict, very competitive peer-reviewed system. You have to write a detailed grant explaining why you want the money and the impact the research/results will have on the world. Science is about knowledge – gaining knowledge, clarifying information, and disseminating knowledge. Even great ideas that might possibly change the world get denied because of lack of impact. Getting research money is no easy task. Even for my graduate-level research monies I had to jump through several hoops. No one passes this money out. There is no special money set aside for pet science projects –of any kind. Everyone must compete and demonstrate professional ability before any money is granted.

Update: From Campaign News from AAAS Policy Alert Newsletter.
On Sept. 26 the Obama campaign released a revised plan for science, technology, and innovation and a letter signed by 61 Nobel Prize-winning scientists who have endorsed Obama. On Sept. 29 Senator McCain released a radio ad reinforcing his past record on stem cell research and calling an Obama ad claiming that he has "stood in the way" of stem cell research "misleading." And in a speech last week at the Clinton Global Initiative, McCain reiterated his commitment to addressing global warming.

Stay informed!
I can’t wait for the VP Debate tomorrow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Presidential Debate 1: McCain on Science

The Scientific Research and Ecology circles are not at all happy with the glib comments made by Presidential Candidate John McCain about DNA research on Bears being pork spending and wasteful. When I was live blogging with Pam during the debate, I was livid to hear that.

He really drew a line in the sand with the science community. How dare he look down on SCIENCE? The subject and field were this nation is slipping steadily behind. But as I learned in ECOLOG, an e-community list serve maintained by the Ecological Society of America, McCain has been “joking” about this Bear Research being a waste. In fact, Scientific American published an article back in February 2008 McCain's Beef with Bears?—Pork.

First of all, scientific research like this is NOT pork or a special earmark. The Scientific and Education communities would be so lucky to have some guaranteed funding for these important lines of work. But I digress. Second, the study is very important and worth every penny. Grizzly Bears are federally endangered (listed in 1975) and research is necessary in order to understand the species and save it from extinction. "This is not pork barrel at all," says Richard Mace, a research biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP). "We have a federal law called the Endangered Species Act and [under this law] the federal government is supposed to help identify and conserve threatened species."

His remarks and regards don’t really surprise me; and I’ve not been secretive about my support for Obama. Check out McCain’s and Obama’s answers to the Science Debate 2008 14 Questions about Science Policy.

STEM is far too important, our nation’s children score poorly in science and math, far too many young people shy away from these subjects in college, and most American adults are scientific illiterate to shoot scientific research down as a waste of time and money. The time of ant-intellectualism and anti-education must end. NOW!