Repost from AAAS Science Roundup
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Repost from AAAS Science Roundup
Thursday, December 25, 2008
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.
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."
Saturday, December 20, 2008
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.
Monday, December 15, 2008
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.
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
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
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. 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).
Saturday, December 6, 2008
NSF-AAAS Student Research Conference Underlines the Importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
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.
More images from the Conference here.
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
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
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.