In May, graduate student Saskia Klink and faculty member Johanna Pausch, both from the University of Bayreuth in Germany, visited the Phillips Lab in the Indiana University Biology Department to collaborate on a project with me. In our increasingly interconnected and globalized world, such international collaborations in scientific research are becoming more and more common. As Saskia and Johanna are working on innovative methods to measure plant root and soil microbial effects on soil carbon and nutrient cycling, our collaborations offered opportunities to share technical expertise. Just as importantly, international collaborations are exciting and challenging exercises in cross-cultural communication and science diplomacy. Here, Saskia and I talk about our experiences collaborating together as German and American graduate students.
This post is from the US Department of Agriculture’s blog. It was originally published on August 7, 2018, and has been lightly edited with a short introduction on internship experiences for graduate students.
Internships in graduate school can be a fantastic experience. They can expose you to a completely new way to do science outside of the university setting, or they can expand your skills in science-allied disciplines, such as journalism, science policy, or industry. In my case, I was fortunate enough to do an internship at a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) lab for a few months in the Fall of 2017. This research internship was funded by a National Science Foundation program and wound up being an eye-opening experience into the differences between a university lab and a federal research lab.
Plus, I got to work in a completely new system from my previous research at Indiana University, a research system that is much closer to our bellies: wheat crops. You see, wheat plants in the United States and the rest of the world are in danger – danger from a nasty pathogen known as Fusarium. This pathogen can reduce the yields of wheat in farmers’ fields as well as produce this nasty mycotoxin (a fungus-derived toxin) that can be very harmful if it infects our food supplies.
This post is from ScIU’s archives. It was originally published by Chris ChoGlueck in October 2017 and has been lightly edited to reflect current events.
Whether it’s the “alternative facts” from politicians or the “fake news” from the media, facts are at the fore. While they can’t agree on much else, politicians, pundits, and the public do agree (mostly) about facts: facts are separate from fictions, they are reliable and authoritative, and, most importantly, they have something to do with (good) science. But, what exactly is a scientific fact?
Let’s a take a contemporary example: it is a scientific fact that the earth’s atmosphere has warmed in an unequivocal, unprecedented manner. This is the first conclusion from the most recent assessment report (AR5) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (for one representation of this fact, see figure 1). You should note that this fact describes a temperature trend around the planet. It is not an explanation for the trend, such as, that humans are responsible for releasing heat-trapping emissions. (The IPCC AR5 states this as a fact as well, but we’ll start with the basics.) (more…)
Flowing from a renaissance of scientific dissemination, the public is hungry for knowledge. The increasing accessibility of information right at our fingertips (or keyboards) has caused a surge in media-based public dissemination of science. This dissemination may occur in the form of press released and national news interviews as has been the case for Dr. Brian D’Onofrio, Director of Clinical Training and a Professor within the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
Dr. D’Onofrio and his lab study the causes and treatments of child and adolescent psychological problems. Mainly, his media-based public dissemination occurs in the form of press releases and national news interviews. As Dr. D’Onofrio explained, press releases are typically aimed at journalists who have some understanding of the subject matter or statistics he uses. But, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, Dr. D’Onofrio explains, there is great variability in the familiarity of the public with the underlying issues of his research and not all journalists are trained to understand and convey such information to a non-expert public. To help with knowledge gaps, “we go above and beyond to provide resources for those interested in the topic,” including FAQs and explanatory documents. (more…)
This post is from ScIU’s archives. It was originally published by Josey Topolski in January 2017, and has been lightly edited to reflect current events.
The storage capability of hard drives has been increasing exponentially over the past 60 years. The IBM 350 RAMAC disk released in 1956 was able to store 2000 bits (a unit used to measure storage ability) of information per square inch. In 2014, Seagate Technology released a hard drive that could store 1 billion bits in every square inch. Only two years later, there was talk of hard drives that can store 1.3 trillion bits per square inch!
To further improve our data storage capabilities, scientists today are working on the development of new materials to store information, such as single molecule magnets. A single molecule magnet is a molecule which can be magnetized using a magnetic field, yet still remains magnetized once the magnetic field is removed. This means that each molecule can contain 1 bit of information, allowing much more storage than the technology in computers today. (more…)
Sophia Vinci-Booher is a graduating Ph.D. student and soon-to-be postdoctoral researcher in IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. She has spent the last 5 years here completing graduate coursework and conducting research in order to earn her Ph.D, and she is now one of the leading researchers in the field of functional brain development. She says, “I’ve always been very interested in understanding different viewpoints — how I can see something one way while another person perceives the same phenomenon in a very different way. I’m particularly interested in the role of experience in the formation of these differences and how, despite these differences in perception, we’re able to communicate with each other effectively.” However, her path to this work has been a long one, and she has encountered many obstacles along the way.
This post is from ScIU’s archives. It was originally published by Maria Tiongco in September 2016, and has been lightly edited to reflect current events.
Have you ever taken time to gaze at the stars on a clear night, either with a casual eye or a telescope? If so, you might have seen the famous star cluster, the Pleiades, without even knowing it! Known as the Seven Sisters from Greek mythology, it is a bright and compact group of stars. The Pleiades cluster actually contains about one thousand stars of which the seven brightest ones outshine all the others. This post will introduce you to star clusters like the Pleiades, the subject of a significant part of the IU Department of Astronomy’s research.
“The Seven Sisters.” The name conveniently suggests that star clusters can be considered “families” of stars, as stars are known to be born from shared molecular clouds. These families have to fight against the gravitational pull of the much larger galaxy (and its glamorous city life) to keep its members within its own gravitational hug, but often many family members escape and become part of the general galactic population. Smaller star families with weaker gravitational bonds are often disbanded completely, while larger ones—though they still lose a number of children—are able to survive and orbit the galaxy together. These are the star clusters that we enjoy gazing at, and also the ones that we study as astronomers. (more…)
It was over 400 years ago that Galileo Galilei first looked through his handmade telescope and observed the cloud bands that the planet is now famous for. The red gas giant of our solar system was revealed to be surrounded by swirling clouds, including one bright red spot–a cyclone of epic proportions that has been raging for millions of years.
Astronomers have since studied this planet from the ground and sent satellites whizzing past to take a closer look. These early images solidified the characterization of Jupiter as a planet of striped clouds in shades of red and orange. But we were missing a key part of the planet in our observations—the poles.
Looking at Earth from space, you see mostly blue water and the continents, surrounded by some white clouds. You might think everything was too warm to freeze, until you look at our north and south poles. There, it is ice-covered all year, nothing like the rest of the planet. Jupiter is the same way—the poles are unlike the rest of the planet. (more…)
This post is from ScIU’s archives. It was originally published by Victoria Kohout in August 2017, and has been lightly edited to reflect current events.
Chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. Your grandmother’s perfume. Newly cut grass. Each of the listed descriptions is extremely different but can be linked together by one fundamental thread–smell. Smell or olfaction is an essential sense in everyday life that helps guide what we eat and how we perceive the world around us. It has even been predicted that humans may be able to distinctly discriminate more than one trillion different scents!1
Although nearly everyone is familiar with the common scents like vinegar or rancid meat, only a handful of people are acquainted with the common chemical names associated with these smells, and even less are able to identify their molecular structure. Acetic acid–vinegar–or (R)-(–)-carvone–spearmint–can sound misleading or even strike fear in those that are not familiar with what they are. Demystifying these names and what these molecules look like could help the general public better understand the chemicals in their everyday lives, and possibly open the door to more in-depth discussions about chemistry. (more…)
Have you ever looked up at a fireworks display and wondered where all those colors are actually coming from? To answer this question we must first go back to atomic theory.
As you may recall, an atom is comprised of electrons, protons, and neutrons. The protons and neutrons are contained within the nucleus while the electrons exist in discrete energy levels outside of the nucleus. When an atom is exposed to enough energy, such as the heat created within a firework explosion, an electron can absorb this energy and get promoted to a higher energy level. Shortly after, the electron will fall back down to a lower energy level, releasing energy in the form of light. Therein lies the key to colorful fireworks! (more…)