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By: Debbie | March 19 2012 | Category: Science News, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Photo of Elizabeth GriceElizabeth Grice studies the bacteria that live on human skin. Her research sheds light on why chronic wounds don't heal and might point to new treatments for diabetic foot ulcers and other skin conditions. 

Read more about Elizabeth Grice in the latest issue of Findings, a publication of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, NIH.

For timely updates about science education, STEM, NIH research, and health and medical science, you can follow the NIH Office of Science Education through multiple channels:
By: Debbie | February 14 2012 | Category: Science Lite, Science News

Organ Donor PosterToday is Valentine's Day. It is also National Donor Day (NDD). NDD focuses on five points of life: organs, tissues, marrow, platelets, and blood. Many nonprofit health organizations sponsor blood and marrow drives and organ/tissue sign-ups across the nation. National Donor Day was started in 1998 by the Saturn Corporation and its United Auto Workers partners with the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and many nonprofit health organizations.

Consider giving the gift that keeps on giving--become an organ and tissue donor. As a donor, you may save up to 8 lives through organ donation and enhance the lives of many others through tissue donation. Last year alone, organ donors made more than 28,000 transplants possible. Another one million people received cornea and other tissue transplants that helped them recover from trauma, bone damage, spinal injuries, burns, hearing impairment, and vision loss.

Unfortunately, thousands die every year waiting for a donor organ that never comes. You have the power to change that!

You can learn more about becoming a donor at the U.S. Department of Health and Services Web site,
By: Debbie | February 7 2012 | Category: Issues in Education, Research & Technology, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Today (February 7), President Obama will host the second annual White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce key steps that the Administration and its partners are taking to help more students excel in math and science, and earn degrees in these subjects. You can watch the President’s remarks live at 11:25 a.m. EST at

Visit the live White House event at You can also join the live Facebook discussion at Web Site Policy and follow the White House Science Fair on Twitter via the hashtag #WHScienceFair

Over 100 students from over 45 states are heading to the White House with their robots, research and new inventions for the second ever White House Science Fair.

The White House is calling on folks across the country to join the Science Fair virtually! While students at the White House share their latest inventions--from a robotic arm to waste-reducing dissolvable sugar packets -- we want to hear about the projects you've worked on. They want you to share your favorite science fair project and share pictures on Twitter with the hashtag #WHScienceFair or through a form on They will display some of their favorite submissions on

Here’s how it works:

  • Starting now, you can ask your questions on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat. We'll also be using the hashtag #WHScienceFair
  • At 2:00 p.m. today *February 7) Bill Nye the Science Guy (@TheScienceGuy) and Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (@WhiteHouseOSTP) will answer your questions live on Twitter. Follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account.
The White House Science Fair celebrates the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. At the fair, President Obama will view student projects and speak on the importance of STEM education. The President will also announce key steps that the Administration is taking to help more students excel in math and science, and earn degrees in these subjects.

The National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute Director, Dr. Harold Varmus is among the senior administrative officials who will be attending the science fair.

A sampling of the exhibits at the White House Science Fair include:

  • Student “Making” and Starting Small Business to Sell his Invention.   Fourteen year old Joey Hudy from Phoe nix , Arizona is already a Maker Faire veteran.  He invented an Extreme Marshmallow Cannon and an LED Cube Microcontroller Shield, which he has exhibited at Maker Faires in New York, San Francisco, and Detroit.  He received 2 Editors Choice Awards from Maker Faire, and has started a small business selling the microcontroller (Arduino) shield kits on several websites.  As the World's Largest Do-It-Yourself Festival, Maker Faire is the premier event for grassroots American inn ovation.
  • Designing a More Efficient Way to Collect Solar Energy.  Aidan Dwyer, a middle school student hailing from Northport, New York, won first place in the American Museum of Natural History’s 2011 Young Naturalist Award for his study of a more efficient way to collect solar energy.  Modeling the natural design of tree limbs which Aidan predicted must serve a benefit for the trees to optimize sun collected to feed photosynthesis in the short, dark days of winter, Aidan worked to devise a potentially more efficient way to collect solar energy.
  • Seventeen-Year Old Girl Designing Targeted Cancer Treatment.  Angela Zhang, a seventeen year old senior from Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California, won the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology for using nanotechnology to eradicate cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for initiating and driving tumor growth yet are often resistant to current cancer therapies.  In her research, Angela aimed to design a nanosystem to target drug delivery to these cancer stem cells, which could potentially help overcome cancer resistance, minimize undesirable side effects, and allow for real-time monitoring of treatment efficacy.
  • Teenage CEO Inventing Dissolvable Sugar Packets to Reduce Waste.  Hayley Hoverter, a 16 years old student from Downtown Business Magnet High School in Los Angeles, California, won first place at the 2011 Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship's National Challenge for her idea for patent-pending ecologically conscious dissolvable sugar packets.  Hayley, now CEO of Sweet (dis)SOLVE, started her business as a part of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE's) business plan competition.
  • Improving the Environment One Community at a Time. Isabel Steinhoff, Rico Bowman, Genevieve Boyle, and Mina Apostadiro, of Kohala Middle School in Kapaau, Hawaii, took first place in the grade 6-8 division of the Siemens “We Can Change the World” Challenge, for their household battery recycling effort to collect 6,000 batteries in 60 days.  The team, named 6000 in 60, embarked on a campaign to improve their community’s use and disposal of batteries by giving local people information on the environmental harm of batteries disposed improperly along with providing local opportunities for recycling.
  • Fifteen-Year Old Student Modeling Brain Control of a Robotic Arm.  Anand Srinivasan, a fifteen-year old sophomore from Roswell High School in Roswell, Georgia, qualified as a top 15 Finalist in the 2011 Google Science Fair.  Anand used data recorded via electroencephalography (EEG) from his brain and, after coupling it with the custom software that he wrote, used it to control a home-built robotic arm.  Anand believes that this technology could be put to use for amputees and patients suffering from paralysis and muscular dystrophy.
  • Team of Girl Scouts Seeking Patent on Prosthetic Hand Device Which Enables a Young Girl to Write.  A group of middle school-aged Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, including Gaby Dempsey, Mackenzie Gewell, and Kate Murray developed a patent-pending prosthetic hand device, winning them the inaugural Global Innovation Award at the FIRST LEGO League competition, beating out nearly 200 other submissions.  Their invention was in response to the need of a little old girl in Du luth, Georgia, enabling her to write for the first time although she was bo rn without fingers on her right hand.  Their patent pending BOB-1 has earned the girls the Heartland Red Cross Young Heroes Award, scholarships at Iowa State University College of Engineering, recognition on the Floor of the Iowa and the US House of Representatives, and the title of finalists for the 2011 Pioneer Hi-Bred Iowa Women of Innovation Awards.
  • Using Genes to Improve Farming< /em>.  Dyersburg High School senior, Maryanna McClure, made Tennessee Future Farmers of America history by becoming the first student from the Tennessee FFA Association to win the National FFA Agriscience Fair, placing first in Division II of the Zoology event, for her study of Cotswold sheep genetics.  Maryanna breeds, raises, and markets sheep and their fleece and was inspired to do a project to research how to breed the natural color of sheep back into the industry.  The National FFA Agriscience Fair is a competition for FFA members grade 7-12 who conduct a scientific research project pertaining to the agriculture and food science industries.
  • Young Women Rocketing to Nationals.  Janet Nieto and Ana Karen of Presidio, Texas were members of the Presidio High School Rocketry Team that competed as a National Finalist in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Gwynelle Condino, a 7th grade student at Lucy Franco Middle School, also of Presidio, Texas, is the leader of her TARC team this year.  All three girls have successfully competed in a number of rocketry challenges and have attended the NASA Student Launch Initiative Advanced Rocketry program.
  • High School Student Developing System to Detect Nuclear Threats.  The Davidson Academy of Nevada student Taylor Wilson, 17, of Reno, Nevada conducted research on novel techniques for detecting nuclear threats and developed an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and highly sensitive system capable of detecting small quantities of nuclear material. Taylor’s system, which won him the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and Best of Category in Physics, could be used as a monitor at ports to scan cargo containers for Uraniam-235, Weapons Grade Plutonium, and Highly Enriched Uranium.
  • Young Students Developing a Sanitizing Lunchbox.  Si xth graders Ma’Kese Wesley and Isis Thompson and their LEGO robotics team from the ACE Collegium Campus in Kansas City, Missouri researched ways in which they could improve food safety.  Their invention, a UV-light lunchbox, sanitizes food between when it is packed in the morning and a student opens to eat it at lunchtime.  A UV light, which is turned on by a darkness-detecting sensor when the lunchbox is closed, kills bacteria that could make the food unsafe to eat.  The FIRST LEGO League competition aims to engage kids ages nine to fourteen in engineering.
  • Succeeding at Science Even in Difficult Circumstances: Samantha Garvey, 18, of Bay Shore, New York, attends Brentwood High School -Sonderling Center in Brentwood, New York.  From a field of over 1,800 applicants, Samantha has been named a semifinalist for her Intel Science Talent Search 2012 environmental sciences project examining the effect of physical environment and predators on a specific species of mussel.  Despite personal obstacles, Samantha believes her education will bring her and her family a better life.
  • Student Designing a Robot to Connect Senior Citizens with their Families.  Concerned with the loneliness of seniors at his grandmother’s senior living center, fourteen-year old Salesianum High School (Wilmington, DE) student Benjamin Hylak of West Grove, Pennsylvania, built an interactive robot, which qualified him as a BROADCOM Masters 2011 Finalist.  His telepresence robot which moves around the center and allows seniors to connect via Skype with their family a n d friends when they are unable to visit in person, earned him second place in the BROADCOM Masters Engineering Category.
  • Building an Award-Winning Robot and Learning Entrepreneurial Lessons.   Morgan Ard, Titus Walker, and Robert Knight, III, 8th grade students at Monroeville Jr. High School in Monroeville, Alabama won high honors at the South BEST robotics competition.  BEST teams mimic industry by designing and developing a product and deli vering it to market, including a marketing presentation, engineering notebook, trade-show style exhibit booth and robot competition.   Through the experience, these middle school students not only learned the innovation and engineering  necessary to develop an award-winning robot, but the marketing and business  skills that spark true entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Writing a Video Game that Focuses on Saving the Environment.  Eleven year old Hannah Wyman who attends St. Anna's School in Leominster, Massachusetts, won the grand prize in her age group (9-12) for her video game Toxic, in Microsoft's first-ever U.S.  Kodu Cup. In Hannah’s game, which is now available for free on the Kodu Game Lab site, a player must solve puzzles and collect coins in order to remove soot from trees, zap pollution clouds to clean the air, and convince friends to plant more trees, all in an effort to save the environment.
  • Developing a Portable Disaster Relief Shelter. Jessica D’Esposito, Colton Newton and Anna Woolery from Petersburg, Indiana are representing the Pike Central High School InvenTeam, one of fifteen schools selected nationwide.  They won a grant from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop a lightweight, portable disaster relief shelter, designed to be complete with a water purification system and a renewable energy source to power an LED light, which could be used after disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or tornadoes to house people who have been displaced.
  • Detroit Students Imagining the Energy Efficient City of the Future.  The Paul Robeson/Malcolm X Academy student team from Detroit, Michigan, competed in the Michigan Regional Contest of the National Engineers Week Future City Competition for the second year in a row.  Lucas Cain Beal, Jayla Mae Dogan, and Ashley Cassie Thomas, all aged 13, were part of a team that won the Excellence in Engineering Award at the 2012 Michigan Regional Competition focused on designing a city around the theme of "Fuel Your Future: Imagine New Ways to Meet Our Energy Needs and Maintain a Healthy Planet."   After being named Best Rookie Team in 2011, the students had to overcome losing their school to a fire.  Despite the adversity and having to merge with another school, the students were energized to take on the Future City challenge again, saying “(Future City) helps me make a better city to live in.”
  • Re-Designing a Helmet to Better Protect U.S. Troops.  Eleven-year old Jack Dudley of Stone Hill Middle School and Sydney Dayyani of Belmont Ridge Middle School are members of a Virginia team that designed a military helmet to protect soldiers from traumatic brain injuries on the battlefield due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  Both young students have previously competed in national science competitions and this past year won first place in the 2011 Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition with their HEADS UP! Helmet. The helmet is a redesign of the standard-issue military helmet and is equipped with bullet and shrapnel-stopping gels and highly sensitive temperature and air pressure sensors to notify medical personnel of the presence and level of brain injury.
  • Designing a Mine Detecting Device.  Marian Bechtel, a 17-year old Hempfield High School student from Lancaster, Pennsylvania was inspired to take on the serious issue of abandoned landmines which are still found in many place s around the world and investigated an innovative method for safe demining. Mar ian’s design could lead to a simple, cheap, and reliable humanitarian demining tool and earned Marian honors as a Finalist at the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  Marian also won a second place award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association, a merit award from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, a $1,000 award from the U.S. Army, and has recently been name d an Intel Science Talent Search 2012 finalist.
  • Developing A Concussion-Detecting Helmet to Combat Sports Injuries.  Fifteen year old Peninsula High School (Rolling Hill Estates, CA) freshman Braeden Benedict from Rancho Palos Verdes, California developed a low-cost impact detection device for use on youth and high school contact sport helmets.  Braeden’s invention, winning him the top prize of America’s 2011 Top Young Scientist  at the 2011 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, will allow coaches and trainers to be alerted that a player has received a hit with enough force to cause a concussion.
  • Student Programmer Creating Dynamic Educational Video Game.  Jasper Hugunin, a thirteen year old eighth grade student from Island Middle School on Mercer Island, Washington, developed a video game which introduces players to programming concepts as they provide instructions to guide a robot through increasingly challenging mazes.   This clever design of “Robot Commander” won Jasper the Playable Game, Open Platform and Playable Game, and Incorporating STEM Themes categories at the National STEM Video Game Challenge.
  • Exploring Improvements to Cancer Treatments by Overcoming Chemotherapy Resistance.  Shree Bose, a 17-year old senior at Fort Worth Country Day School in Fort Worth, Texas, took top honors at the 2011 Google Science Fair for her discovery of a way to improve ovarian cancer treatment for patients when they have built up a resistance to certain chemotherapy drugs. Her conclusions hold tremendous potential for the improvement of cancer chemotherapy treatment and for future research. Shree has presented her research at numerous international competitions and has been honored as one of Glamour Magazine's 21 Amazing Young Women of 2011, spoken at TEDxWomen 2011, and served as a panelist at Google Zeitgeist.

For timely updates about science education, STEM, NIH research, and health and medical science, you can follow the NIH Office of Science Education through multiple channels:
By: Debbie | February 3 2012 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

OSE Women Wear Red to Support Heart Health!As part of its milestone anniversary, The Heart Truth® celebrates its 10th National Wear Red Day® today! To show their support for the campaign, the women of the NIH Office of Science Education are wearing red today to show their support for women's heart health and heart disease awareness.

We encourage women to take a photo of themselves or a group and share their heart health action online.  For more information, visit The Heart Truth’s Facebook pageExternal Web Site Policy. In addition, The Heart Truth will co-host a Twitter chat about heart health with Million Hearts and the American Heart Association from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  To join the conversation, follow on Twitter @thehearttruth and look for the hashtag #heartchat.

For timely updates about science education, STEM, NIH research, and health and medical science, you can follow the NIH Office of Science Education through multiple channels:
By: Cynthia | January 26 2012 | Category: NIH Resources, Science Lite, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

NIH LAB Challenge LogoThe Office of Science Education begins to review submissions to the NIH LAB Challenge

When we issued the NIH Lessons About Bioscience Challenge, we had no idea how many submissions we’d get. After all, it was our first online challenge and the first of its kind at the new site. We wondered whether it was too broad, or too narrow. Were our instructions clear? Would submitters understand that we wanted an experimental procedure rather than a write-up of a completed research project? It looks like we did a pretty good job, because most entries were right on target.

We received more than 100 submissions from 20 states and Puerto Rico by the December 15 deadline. People heard about the challenge mainly through word of mouth and email listservs, and some cited Twitter and as their source. The experiments cover a wide range of topics, from osmosis in chicken eggs to dragon genetics, and they target all grade levels.

Right now, we’re using a rubric to check that each submission meets our basic requirements. The ones that do will move on to the next phase. Some will be tested, and others will be reviewed by teachers and scientists before we announce the winners in March.

We want to send a hearty thank you to our several hundred submitters (most entries were by more than one person). We appreciate your efforts to help us bring the best science experiments to classrooms across the country. Stay tuned for updates!

The Numbers

Number of submissions: 108

How submitters heard about the challenge:, 10; Twitter, 5; word of mouth, 33; other, 60
Geographic origin: Texas ,39; Maryland, 26; California, 6; Maine, 4; Colorado, 3; Iowa, 3; North Dakota, 3; Massachusetts, 2; Missouri, 2; Ohio, 2; Pennsylvania, 2; Tennessee, 2; Virginia, 2; and Puerto Rico, 2; and 1 each from Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington (105 entries identified their state)
Targeted grade level of experiment: elementary grades K to 5, 42 (45%), middle school grades 5 to 8, 26 (28%), middle and high school grades 7 to 12, 13 (14%), and high school grades 9 to 12, 13 (14%)
By: Debbie | January 26 2012 | Category: Science Lite, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest LogoThe American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)External Web Site Policy invites you to participate in the 7th Annual DNA Day Essay Contest!External Web Site Policy The contest is open to students in grades 9-12.
The contest aims to challenge students to examine, question, and reflect on the important concepts of genetics. Essays are expected to contain substantive, well-reasoned arguments indicative of a depth of understanding of the concepts related to the essay questions.

Essays are read and evaluated by several independent judges through three rounds of scoring.
1st Place Winner:     $1,000 + teacher receives a $1,000 grant for laboratory genetics equipment.
2nd Place Winner:     $600 + teacher receives a $600 grant for laboratory genetics equipment.
3rd Place Winner:     $400 + teacher receives a $400 grant for laboratory genetics equipment.
Honorable Mention:     10 prizes of $100 each.

Visit the ASHG DNA Day Contest pageExternal Web Site Policy see this year's question and to learn more about the submission process.

The National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education (OSE) will be following the events leading up to DNA Day.External Web Site Policy You can follow OSE on FacebookExternal Web Site Policy and TwitterExternal Web Site Policy to follow the latest science health and medical science news of interest to teachers and students.
By: Debbie | December 6 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Research & Technology, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Confocal micrograph of lesions in human cervical epithelium infected with human papilloma virus (HPV16). Early viral proteins (green) bind to and re-orgainse the ketatin filaments (red) towards the edge of the cell. Cell nuclei are stained with Dapi (blue).Have you check out The Cell: An Image LibraryExternal Web Site Policy? It is a freely accessible, easy-to-search, public repository of thousands of reviewed and annotated images, videos, and animations of cells from a variety of organisms, showcasing cell architecture, intracellular functionalities, and both normal and abnormal processes.

This project is supported by an award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health, to the American Society for Cell BiologyExternal Web Site Policy.

Above Image:

Confocal micrograph of lesions in human cervical epithelium infected with human papilloma virus (HPV16). Early viral proteins (green) bind to and re-orgainse the ketatin filaments (red) towards the edge of the cell. Cell nuclei are stained with Dapi (blue).

Attribution Non-Commercial; No Derivatives. This image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives License. View License DeedExternal Web Site Policy | View Legal CodeExternal Web Site Policy

By: Debbie | November 16 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, Research & Technology, Science News, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Journal of Emerging Investigators Promotional ImageCalling all future scientists--a group of Harvard University graduate students has created the new Journal of Emerging Investigators (JEI). Students in middle and high school can submit their own original research and review articles to JEI--an open-access journal focused on the natural and physical sciences. Students can learn about the scientific review process and receive feedback from Ph.D. students working in specific areas of research. Top submissions will be accepted for publication in their online journal so that emerging young scientists like you can be recognized and your exciting work can be shared with the public.

JEI is now accepting submissions. You can learn more about this exciting new journal at:  www.emerginginvestigators.orgExternal Web Site Policy.
By: Cynthia | November 4 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) offers free mobile application.

My teenagers can’t imagine life before cell phones, while many of us wouldn’t want to. Such mobile devices are icons of the era, helping us connect with each other, manage tasks, play games, and access all sorts of information. A new application from the NHGRI, the Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms, falls into that last category. It has 200+ genetic terms that you are likely to hear in the news, in a classroom, or even from your health care providers.

Listen as leading NGHRI scientists pronounce and explain each term. Included are photos and short profiles of those scientists. Many terms are accompanied by helpful, colorful illustrations and 3D animations. You can take a quiz to test your knowledge, or suggest a term to a add to the app.

Download your free app at iTunes. It is compatible with iPad, iPhone, and the iPod touch.

Check out the online version of the talking glossary. Pretty soon (by December, we hope!), you’ll be able to see how it is featured in the updated NIH Human Genetic Variation high school curriculum supplement.
By: Debbie | October 28 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Science Lite, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

National Drug Facts Week LogoToday, I'm joining teens, parents, teachers, and scientists across America to kick off National Drug Facts Week by offering up my own shoutout for educating teens about drug abuse.

Sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Drug Facts Week is an official health observance designed to shatter the myths and spread the facts about drug abuse and addiction.

Add your voice today and post your own drug abuse shoutout on your blog, Facebook profile, Twitter account—or wherever you see fit. When you choose to speak, you choose to act.

Events Across America
Teens, parents, teachers, scientists, and others are marking the occasion in communities all over the country, from Douglas, Alaska, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Unique events like scavenger hunts, poster campaigns, Halloween “Fright Nights” with giveaways, carnivals, and substance-free parties encourage teens to have meaningful conversations about drugs and addiction.
Learn more about today's "CyberShoutout" in support of National Drug Facts Week by checking NIDA's Sara Bellum Blog, which will be posting updates all day and recognizing the voices of those who participate—Yours could be one of them!
By: Debbie | October 19 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Scientists in the Community

Image of SciLife poster and photo of the October 15, 2011, event.About 200 high school students, parents, and educators from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area recently attended SciLife®: The College Experience at Trinity Washington University. SciLife® is a free annual event sponsored by the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education. SciLife® is modeled after the highly successful Biomedical Science Careers Program, founded in 1991 by Joan Reede, Dean for Diversity and Community Partnership, Harvard Medical School.

Those who attended the October 15 SciLife® program participated in a variety of workshops where they received information and advice that will help them prepare for college—especially for careers in the health and biomedical sciences. During the morning, students and parents learned about the college application process and how to ensure a smooth transition from high school to college. Afternoon workshops included panels of college students and professors who helped students understand the realities of college life and what will be expected of them once they make the transition to college.

As with past SciLife® programs, attendees thought that the event provided an invaluable experience for students and their parents and that the information provided helped to inform and prepare students as they pursue their education beyond high school.
Visit the SciLife® Web site to stay informed about next year’s college and career planning event.
By: Debbie | September 8 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

High School Student with DNA ModelA new studyExternal Web Site Policy by the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)External Web Site Policy, the country’s leading genetics scientific society, found that more than 85 percent of states have genetics standards that are inadequate for preparing America’s high school students for future participation in a society and health care system that are certain to be increasingly impacted by genetics-based personalized medicine.

“Science education in the United States is based on testing and accountability standards that are developed by each state,” said Michael Dougherty, PhD, director of education at ASHG and the study’s lead author. “These standards determine the curriculum, instruction, and assessment of high school level science courses in each state, and if standards are weak, then essential genetics content may not be taught.”

According to ASHG’s study, which included all 50 states and the District of Columbia:
  • Only seven states have genetics standards that were rated as ‘adequate’ for genetic literacy (Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington).
  • Of the 19 core concepts in genetics that were deemed essential by ASHG, 14 were rated as being covered inadequately by the nation as a whole (or were absent altogether).
  • Only two states, Michigan and Delaware, had more than 14 concepts (out of 19) rated as adequate. Twenty-three states had six or fewer concepts rated as adequate.
“ASHG’s findings indicate that the vast majority of U.S. students in grade 12 may be inadequately prepared to understand fundamental genetic concepts,” said Edward McCabe, MD, PhD, a pediatrician and geneticist who is the executive director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the University of Colorado. “Healthcare is moving rapidly toward personalized medicine, which is infused with genetics. Therefore, it is essential we provide America’s youth with the conceptual toolkit that is necessary to make informed healthcare decisions, and the fact that these key concepts in genetics are not being taught in many states is extremely concerning.”

“We hope the results of ASHG’s analysis help influence educators and policy makers to improve their state’s genetics standardsExternal Web Site Policy,” said Dougherty. “Alternatively, deficient states might benefit from adopting science standards from the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, which, although not perfect, does a better job of addressing genetics concepts than most state standards that are currently in place.”

The study was published in the American Society for Cell Biology's External Web Site Policy CBE–Life Sciences Education journal – for a full-text copy of the paper, please go to:

Related NIH Resources:
By: Debbie | September 1 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Science News

October 15 SciLife PosterRegistration for the October 15 National Institutes of Health (NIH) SciLife® event: The College Experience, opens today. SciLife® is an annual career and college planning event for high school students who are interested in the health and biomedical sciences. This event will take place on the Trinity Washington University CampusExternal Web Site Policy in Washington, D.C.

High school students, parents, and educators can participate in an
informational, fun-filled event.

At SciLife® you can:

  • Get inside information and advice from area leaders in the health and biomedical fields,
  • Explore career options in the health and biomedical sciences, and
  • Access college planning and organizational tools
After registering, mark your calendar and plan to arrive early on the day of the event, as the first 100 students to check-in will get a tour of the Trinity Washington University campus.
By: Gloria, Margaret | April 4 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Bational Children's Mental Health Awareness Day LogoThis year’s theme is building resilience in young children who are dealing with trauma. The idea behind the Awareness Day campaign is to draw attention to the importance of good mental health for healthy development. We were surprised to find out that last year, people held Awareness Day events at more than 1,000 sites, and almost 11,000 children and youth participated in them! Visit the Awareness Day home page in the coming weeks for updates on how to
  • lead an event,
  • find one in your area, 
  • get helpful resources, and 
  • broadcast timely, useful information through Facebook, tweets, and other social media.
As part of the campaign, one agency is posting information updates online about trauma and resilience in young children. The February update is about children who’ve been exposed to five or more “significant adversities” by the time they’re three years old: three out of four of them will experience delays in cognitive, language, and/or emotional development. “With help from families, providers, and the community, young children can demonstrate resilience when dealing with trauma,” according to the post.  
The March update states, “Studies on the brain show that physical, emotional, or sexual abuse in childhood can cause permanent damage to the brain, reduce the size of parts of the brain, [and] impact the way a child’s brain copes with daily stress, and can result in enduring problems such as depression, anxiety, aggression, impulsiveness, delinquency, hyperactivity, and substance abuse.”   
On the National Institute of Mental Health Web site (NIMH), you can find a booklet for parents on how to help children cope with and identify reactions to violence and disasters. Suggestions include
  • being straightforward about the event,
  • encouraging children to express their feelings, 
  • maintaining routines, and 
  • allowing children to make some basic choices for themselves.
You can also read about results from a recent NIMH study that emphasized the importance of having supportive and functional family relationships during childhood. The researchers found that “negative experiences early in life can have long-lasting effects on physical health, in addition to the known mental health consequences.”

By: Dave | March 21 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

This Thursday, March 24, NIH and the National Science Teachers Association are joining forces to present a live webinarExternal Web Site Policy on the brain and drug addiction. Dr. Rochelle Schwartz-BloomExternal Web Site Policy of Duke University will be presenting the webinar, which starts at 6:30 pm Eastern time. Registration is freeExternal Web Site Policy.

The webinar will take an “outside-in” look at the brain, how it works, and how its function changes in the presence of disease or drugs. The discussion will integrate principles in both biology and chemistry for the high school science teacher. This web seminar supports the lessons in the NIH curriculum supplement The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology Through the Study of Addiction - available for free upon request.

Can't make the March 24 live event? No worries, it'll be archived in the NSTA Learning CenterExternal Web Site Policy.
By: Gloria, Margaret | March 17 2011 | Category: Science Lite, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Fist coming out of a computer monitorThe President and the First Lady opened the summit with a video about bullying and the growing movement to make our communities places where young people can thrive. The President explained that the goal of the conference was to “dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up.”

The President says bullying is harmful and that it “doesn’t even end at the school bell -- it can follow our children from the hallways to their cell phones to their computer screens.” He asks people to join the stop-bullying campaign by visiting

With computers and cell phones, cyberbullies may circulate aggressive messages far and wide, sometimes anonymously. Internet technology is increasingly in the hands of today’s youth, which has many benefits but also downsides with potentially far-reaching consequences. Tragically, the number of reports in the news of student suicides following incidents of cyberbullying is growing.

A recent NIH study notes that today’s children can’t always see who is bullying them, and this may be tougher to handle than traditional bullying. In fact, one of the study’s most notable findings was that cyberbully victims had higher depression scores over a 30-day period than did either the cyberbullies or the cyberbullies who are also victims.

The NIH study, based on a survey of students in grades 6 to 10, shows how prevalent cyberbullying is and the high rate of depression among victims. Cyber victims may not see or even be able to identify their harasser and may feel more vulnerable, isolated, and dehumanized at the time of attack than victims of traditional bullying, the study authors wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Being bullied affects scholastic achievement, development of social skills, and general feelings of wellbeing, says Dr. Iannotti, the study’s senior author. Boys are more likely to be cyberbullies, and girls are more likely to be cyber victims. In an earlier study, the researchers noted that students were less likely to bully or to be victimized if they felt they had strong parental support.

The CDC reports that electronic aggression may peak around the end of middle school to the beginning of high school, and instant messaging appears to be the most common form of communication for cyberbullies. Victims of electronic aggression are significantly more likely than those who have not been victimized to use alcohol and other drugs, receive school detention or suspension, skip school, or experience in-person bullying.

These findings underscore the need to monitor and treat cyberbullying victims. First Lady Michelle Obama recently shared on the Today Show that she does not allow her children to participate on Facebook and is not a fan of young children using it. In fact, Facebook is restricted by law to users who are at least 13 years old.

The good news is that there’s a growing number of resources to help educators, parents, and students deal with cyberbullying.

Check out these Federal sites:

Here are some other good resources:

By: Cindy, Gloria | February 25 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

It all started at my son’s wedding as I watched one of his groomsmen swaying at the altar, attempting to stay upright. As soon as the ceremony was over, we found him stretched out on a bench in the lobby. What followed was months of recovery, neurological tests, and consultations. He finally got the diagnosis: Parsonage-Turner syndrome, a rare disease of a group of nerves that runs from the spine through the neck and into the arm.

On Monday, February 28, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will celebrate Rare Disease Day. The celebration will be on the main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Attendance is free and open to the public. It’s one of the many ways NIH draws attention to our country’s 7,000 rare diseases. If fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. have a disease, we consider it rare. About 80 percent of the rare diseases are genetic, and about half of them affect children.  By raising awareness about these diseases, NIH shines a bright light on these often mysterious and underdiagnosed disorders.

The NIH Offices of Science Education and Rare Diseases Research are looking forward to the summer release of a new curriculum supplement for grades 6 - 8 that explores scientific inquiry through the study of rare diseases. Stay tuned for an announcement of its release in coming months!  

For more information:

Rare Disease Day at NIH

Rare Disease Day all over the world
By: Cynthia | January 31 2011 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

image of school tray with fruits and vegtablesResources to help students, families, and communities get fit and make healthier food choices

If you made a New Year’s resolution to exercise more and eat better, then check out some of these great resources to help you reach your goals.

1.    Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announce the release of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. The evidence-based nutrition guidance is offered to promote health, and reduce the risk of disease and the prevalence of obesity.

2.    Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move! campaign to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity by engaging every sector of society into helping kids become more active and eat better. At the Web site, you can:
•    learn the facts about childhood obesity
•    find out how to determine your healthy weight and calculate your body mass index
•    get chef-created recipes, healthy eating tips, and nutrition information
•    learn ways that kids, families, schools, and communities can get active
•    see videos on the Let’s Move! YouTube channel
3.    For the 7th - and 8th -grade classrooms, the NIH has two free curriculum supplements about health and nutrition. Through engaging activities, students can discover how the energy in versus energy out and their own behaviors can affect their health.
•    The Science of Energy Balance: Calorie Intake and Physical Activity
•    The Science of Healthy Behaviors
Best of luck to you as you strive for a healthier life!
By: Cynthia | December 27 2010 | Category: Science History, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Against the Odds Exhibit PosterAgainst the Odds:  Making a Difference in Global Health, an exhibit by the National Library of Medicine

As we wrap up the old year and ring in the new this week, many of us share wishes for good health, prosperity, and peace with family and friends around the world. It seems like the perfect time to visit the National Library of Medicine’s latest exhibit, Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health. It’s rich with heart-warming stories about the sometimes challenging but rewarding global efforts to improve the health and well-being of all people.

At the online exhibit,

The physical traveling exhibit is scheduled for various sites around the country through May of 2013. Check the schedule to find out if it’s coming near you.
By: Cynthia | December 21 2010 | Category: Research & Technology, Science News

illustration of the ideas emerging from a brainAn NIH-funded study shows our thoughts can manipulate computer images

Remember “The Matrix” movies? Characters in them are connected to a cyber world through a rod jammed into the backs of their heads. The cyber world can be influenced by thoughts and beliefs. The lead character, Neo, has to believe he’s “The One” so he can have the super powers needed to free humanity from the machines. Such science fiction technologies once seemed impossible, but not so much any more.

In an NIH-funded study External Web Site Policy at UCLA Medical Center, Itzhak Fried and his colleagues showed that humans can regulate their neurons to alter a cyber reality, while being subjected to competitive stimuli. They worked with patients being treated for intractable epilepsy who’d had wires implanted into their brains. After connecting the wires to a computer, subjects were shown two merged images on a computer screen. With focused attention, they were able to force the computer to display one image and discard the other.

The brain-computer interface helps scientists understand how the brain processes information and how thoughts and decisions affect cell activity. The potential applications of the research are wide-ranging and could help paralyzed individuals communicate or control prosthetic limbs.

The results leave me wondering what’s next for our high-tech civilization.
By: Cynthia | December 7 2010 | Category: Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

pictorial life cycle of bedbugLearn how to deal with bedbugs by using online resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Just the thought of sharing a bed with creepy-crawly critters is enough to give most of us the willies. But with the current epidemic of bedbug outbreaks, it’s becoming a living nightmare for people all across the country. Many of us will be traveling to visit family and friends over the holidays, making this an ideal time to learn how to protect ourselves from these pesky bugs. The CDC and EPA have come up with some great online resources for helping us prevent and deal with infestations, and life science teachers can use the sites to add a timely topic to their core curriculum. 

Experts believe we’re experiencing a resurgence of bedbug outbreaks because people are traveling more, most of us don’t know how to prevent or handle infestations, and the insects are becoming resistant to many pesticides. Bedbugs are a problem, but if we do the right things, we can prevail!
Check out the CDC and EPA resources to learn how to
Let’s enjoy our holiday travels but leave the bedbugs behind!
By: Debbie | December 1 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

World AIDS Day logoAn estimated 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, and yet one out of five don’t know it. Today (December 1) is World AIDS Day. It is an opportunity for us to take action!
Here are a few simple, powerful, and engaging ways:
  • Share information on Twitter about how you’re taking action for World AIDS Day (and beyond!) Use the official hashtag #WAD2010
  • Follow this blog about World AIDS Day
  • Learn the facts about HIV prevention and diagnosis
  • Learn about the biology of HIV/AIDS
  • To learn more about the scientific research being conducted on HIV/AIDS, visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website.
  • Find HIV/AIDS prevention and service providers
  • Check out the official White House proclamation on World AIDS Day from President Obama.
By: Cynthia | July 28 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News

cover image of curriculum supplementThe National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) K-12 educational resources

Turn on the television these days, and you’ll hear news about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the ongoing cleanup efforts. You'll hear about the toll on wildlife and ecosystems, and about the health concerns for emergency responders involved in the cleanup. Such disasters, though devastating, can provide an impetus for us to learn more about the web of life on Earth. Sharing these lessons with the nation’s youth may help to safeguard our future, and better protect the health of the environment and ourselves.

The NIEHS has a variety of educational resources for K-12 teachers to help students explore the relationship between the environment and human health. Materials include teacher guides, lesson plans by grade level that can be integrated into existing curriculum, fact sheets, PowerPoint presentations, and online activities for students. Through the NIH curriculum supplement, Chemicals, the Environment, and You:  Explorations in Science and Human Health, middle school students learn the basics of toxicology and explore the relationship between chemicals in the environment and human health.

Visit the NIEHS Gulf Oil Spill Response Efforts Web page for details on how NIEHS scientists are collaborating with others to protect and educate the public and to understand the health effects of exposure to cleanup workers and affected communities.



By: Gina | May 20 2010 | Category: Science Lite, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Ten DNA pools, each containing DNA from nine individuals. If an individual's DNA is present in a particular pool, their intials are listed in the row for that pool.Suppose you’ve discovered that the genes responsible for (let’s say) Gina’s disease lie in a particular region of chromosome 3. You decide to sequence the DNA in that region to identify variants (mutations) that cause the problem. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of variation, so it’s not easy to link one particular variant with the illness. If you could just sequence the DNA of 10,000 people, you could figure it out. 
As if! It’s possible to sequence DNA from many people in the same tube simultaneously but to do it, each DNA has to be labeled with its own “barcode” so its sequence can be matched back to the correct individual. Barcoding 10,000 DNA samples would take a long time and be very expensive. 
Last year, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor LaboratoryExternal Web Site Policy figured out a way to get around this problem.1 They decided to pool each person’s DNA with that of others, but instead of tagging each person’s, they put every individual’s DNA into several different pools. 
How does that help? A simple example is shown in the figure. Suppose each person’s DNA is placed in five pools. If the sequence GACGGCATGTA is found in pools #1 #2, #3, #5, and #10 but not in any other pools, the sequence can be uniquely assigned to person AM because AM is the only person with DNA in all of those pools. Similarly, if the sequence AATTGCTAGCA is found only in pools #1, #3, #6, #8, and #10, the sequence can be uniquely assigned to person JS. 
Of course, it may be simple to sort things out in a small sample, but imagine trying to do this if there are thousands of people and hundreds of pools. What’s a scientist to do? Enter ”DNA Sudoku.” It turns out that the same math used to determine the unique pattern of each Sudoku puzzle can be used to assign each DNA variation to a particular person. In fact, it’s theoretically possible to sequence more than 100,000 samples simultaneously. Once the technology is perfected, a project that would cost $10 million today may soon cost as little as $50,000.
1 Erlich, Y., et al. 2009. DNA Sudoku—harnessing high-throughput sequencing for multiplexed specimen analysis. Genome Research 19: 1243-1253External Web Site Policy.
By: Paul | April 14 2010 | Category: Issues in Education, Science News

The National Governors’ AssociationExternal Web Site Policy (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School OfficersExternal Web Site Policy (CCSSO) lead the Common Core Standards InitiativeExternal Web Site Policy. Its mission is to develop clear, rigorous standards for what students should learn in English language arts and math in every public school in every state in the country. Over the past few months, educators and states worked together to craft clearer and higher standards and drafted them into a coherent document. That collection of standards will become a gauge of the success in educating students and a guarantee that students who graduate are job and college ready.

The public comment period for the Common Core Standards ended April 2, 2010. The NGA and the CCSSO are making final adjustments to the document now, and they’ll release the final product to the states soon. Each state will set its own timetable for review and an adoption decision. Several states have already indicated an interest in moving ahead quickly and will begin the review process this spring, shortly after they receive the final document.

Although governors, state boards of education, and state legislatures rightfully will have the final say on the adoption of the Common Core Standards, many educators, business executives, and parents who are aware of the critical state of American education have been weighing in on the pro-adoption side. For example, Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel, in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal (April 6, 2010), stated, “I know that common education standards are essential for producing the educated work force America needs to remain globally competitive.” And Brian K. Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Business Higher Education ForumExternal Web Site Policy (BHEF), said on April 7, 2010, “BHEF has endorsed the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and language arts, the adoption of which represents one of its top [preschool through high school] education priorities. In addition, BHEF has called for the adoption of science standards.”

The state-by-state decision process will evolve in the months ahead. Meanwhile, the fact remains that  American students need to improve their academic skills relative to their international peers if we as a country are to continue to successfully compete in the world economy. The Common Core State Standards offer a way to develop the skills of all of our students while preparing them for college or a career.


Business Hig her Education Forum endorsement statement
External Web Site Policy

By: Gloria | April 9 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

DNA Day LogoHave you ever wanted to talk directly to the top minds in the field of genomics research? Well, get your thoughts in order and get those questions lined up because you will have the chance to chat one-on-one with experts in celebration of National DNA Day.

According to Carla Easter, Ph.D., science education specialist at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), genomics and genetics experts will be available at the DNA Day Chatroom on Friday, April 23, from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT to answer questions from students, teachers, and the general public on topics such as basic genetics research, the genetic basis of disease, and ethical questions about genetic privacy. Transcripts from previous DNA Day chatrooms are also available on the NHGRI Web site.

One of my favorite exchanges from last year was, “What would someone do after getting their undergraduate degree if they were inclined to study DNA or genetics?” Current NHGRI director, Eric Green, offered up a list of options:

  • Get a job working in a genetics laboratory.
  • Become a genetics counselor.
  • Get a Ph.D. and become a genetics researcher.
  • Get an M.D. and become a medical geneticist.
  • Become a computer scientist and help us interpret information about our genomes.

In the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, 35 NHGRI scientist ambassadors will be visiting schools through May to talk about job opportunities in genomic research. They will also help students plan their professional careers in genetics and genomics. For more information on potential careers in genomic sciences visit NHGRI's Genomic Careers Web Site.

The American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG) is sponsoring a variety of events that help K-12 students, teachers, and the public learn more about how genetics and genomics affect their lives. You can visit the ASHG DNA Day pageExternal Web Site Policy for more information about ASHG-sponsored activities.

What are you doing for DNA Day this year?
By: Cynthia | March 23 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News

photo of scientist at workA new Web site from the National Human Genome Research Institute

When I was in high school, I liked studying genetics. In particular, I liked the study of inheritance, and figuring out how to complete a Punnett square. At the time, I had no idea of the variety of careers available in genomics. Today’s career-hunting high school and college students can explore the nearly 50 career options at the The Genomic Careers Resource Web site, by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The just launched career exploration Web site offers users an orientation along with many resources to help students find a career that suits them best. Explore the interactive options to:

  • watch video interviews of real professionals
  • get in-depth information on many genomic careers
  • rate potential career choices to zero-in on your favorites
  • play an interactive game, The Genomics Challenge
By: Cindy, Gloria | March 1 2010 | Category: Research & Technology, Science News

Yifan Li - 2010 Intel Talent Search FinalistFor the Intel Science Talent Search (STS) competitionExternal Web Site Policy this year, 300 semifinalists were chosen from among 1,736 entrants from high schools in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Each semifinalist received a $1,000 award for their research, and $1,000 was given to their school to further excellence in science, math, and engineering education.

The 40 finalistsExternal Web Site Policy were named January 27, and the final judging processExternal Web Site Policy will be completed March 11 through 16 at the Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C. The winner receives a scholarship award of $100,000.

Alumni of the Intel STS have made extraordinary contributions to science and hold more then 100 of the world’s most coveted science and math honors, including seven Nobel Prizes and three National Medals of Science.

This year, researchers in National Institutes of Health (NIH) laboratories mentored several of the semifinalists and one finalist:

NIH researchers and their mentees are enthusiastic about each other and their experiences together. Dr. Horvath says that Kristen is a brilliant student with impressive experience and knowledge in molecular biology and she was “perfectly matched with our lab.”

Dr. Venditti says that Conway contacted him after reading some of his lab’s papers on the NHGRI Web site. Conway’s experience opened his eyes to the world of medical research and how it is closely tied to the clinical aspects of medicine.

Lijin Dong said that Yifan came to the lab just like most high school students who have not been exposed much to the lab environment. “I worked with him on a daily basis by assigning readings, having discussions on the papers, and working through the logic of the project and lab skills,” he says.

I asked Yifan to explain his project so that other students would understand his work. He said, “Our project’s aim is to contribute to helping people who suffer from blindness -- in particular, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common retinal disease,- that leads to visual impairment. “

Yifan stimulated embryonic stem cell s to grow into a type of eye cell whose deterioration is heavily associated with AMD. With the continued succes s of stem cell research, he believes that “we may see a burst of transplantation studies in the future that could lead to medical advances in curing retinal disease. “

When I asked how he’s preparing for the final competition, Yifan said that he’s getting a poster ready for his presentation during the conference and learning as much as possible about retinal development, retinal disease, and the progression of stem cell research. “I want to be able to field any question from any judge competently and confidently, so that’s going to take a lot of preparation,“ he said.

Have you mentored a student who has won a prestigious scientific award? Please let us know!

Helpful Link

NIH Student Interships and Opportunitites
By: Cynthia | February 16 2010 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News

When the news started pouring in about the effects of the earthquake in Haiti last month, I was startled by the devastation. The unexpected nature of the event, coupled with the destruction and loss of lives, made me wonder just how any one person, city, state, or country could really be prepared to handle such a disaster. Since then, I’ve found some resources that can help us plan ahead and cope with traumatic events when they do occur.

The Ready campaign is a national effort to help us prepare for and respond to natural and human-made disasters. Its goal is to increase the nation’s basic level of preparedness. The campaign includes Ready Kids, which aims to help parents and teachers educate kids about emergencies and how they can help their families get prepared. The program includes a Web site with online games and helpful resources for parents and teachers. At the site, kids learn how to create an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan, and learn more about natural disasters.

In just the past decade, the United States has experienced the September 11 terrorist attacks along with fires, tornados, mudslides, and other natural disasters. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conducts research on our reactions to these national crises and traumatic events. The Institute’s focus areas include traumatic stress reactions and mental health issues among military service members. Researchers have learned that people respond differently to crisis. Some have more intense feelings initially but eventually recover. Others need additional help and support, especially if they’ve experienced traumatic events before.

You can order or download free NIMH publications that could help you cope with traumatic events, including several in a series titled Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters:
By: Cynthia | December 29 2009 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News

NIH Radio logoUnique audio programs covering current health topics and medical research

Do you prefer to get your news by watching videos, listening to podcasts, or reading? For me, the answer would be listening or reading. Listening to news, an audio book or music is my favorite way to make good use of a long commute. For all the listeners out there, you can tune into some great NIH resources and hear about research discoveries, hot health topics and inside information from the scientific experts themselves.

The NIH Radio News Service, provided by the NIH Office of Communications & Public Liaison, offers three unique audio programs:

  1. NIH Audio Reports – short (one to four minute) reports, posted twice a week, based on an NIH press release and/or a health related topic, often including comments from NIH experts.
  2. NIH Research Radio – biweekly podcasts of 15 to 25 minute episodes, each covering several topics and often including an interview with a prominent NIH researcher.
  3. NIH Health Matters – 60-second health reports for each day of the month, targeting all Americans and made broadcast ready for radio stations nationwide.

These audio files are available for listening online at the Web site, or to download. Spanish versions, archived files, transcripts and podcast episode notes are also available online.
By: Cindy, Gloria | December 14 2009 | Category: NIH Resources, Science News

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter affecting behaviour, sleep, learning, perception of pain, mood and motivation. The debate about the causes of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, continues with a new piece of evidence linking it to the dopamine reward pathway. Nora Volkow’s team at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that subjects with ADHD had significantly lower levels of dopamine in various areas of their brains than did controls.

Dopamine plays important roles in regulating and controlling motivation, cognition, and voluntary movement.

The researchers had studied positron emission tomography (PET)External Web Site Policy images of brains from two groups of adult subjects: nonmedicated adults with ADHD and healthy controls.

Does this mean that we now have a single test for ADHD? Not quite. It means that there’s a measurable physiological difference between adults with and without ADHD. In time, this discovery may lead to a biochemical test for the condition.

The diagnosis of ADHD has been controversial because the characteristic behaviors -- impulsivity, daydreaming, and forgetfulness -- are within the extreme ends of the normal range of human behaviors.

Accurate diagnosis is important, because people who are underdiagnosed as children – and thus not treated -- may get into trouble constantly when their behavior clashes with what’s expected in certain environments, such as schools. Overdiagnosing can lead to unnecessary medication with stimulants, which carry risks of side effects.
By: Cynthia, Gina | November 23 2009 | Category: Issues in Education, Science News

photo of President ObamaNLD connects teachers, students, scientists and community volunteers for hands-on learning. (See White House release.)

U.S. students will now have more chances to do what comes naturally -ask questions, explore, and test life's boundaries to better understand their world when President Obama announces a National Lab Day today.

The first NLD, scheduled for May, 2010, will celebrate community hubs - collaborations among volunteers, students and educators.  But it doesn't end there.  NLD is a nationwide initiative to build new and foster ongoing hubs for the long-term. Through these hubs, students can design, build, experiment, and explore in a real laboratory.

What is a real laboratory?  It's any place a student can explore, experiment, and test. We're not just talking about test tubes and beakers. A lab could be a laptop to a software designer, a mountaintop to a geologist, a computer link to a distant particle accelerator to a physicist, or a factory floor to an industrial engineer. It's a place where lessons in science, engineering, and technology can be designed to happen, or where math can come alive.  It could be anywhere in the physical or virtual world.

The NLD WebsiteExternal Web Site Policy will support hands-on learning across the country by serving as a place where educators and scientists will be able to connect to potential partners in their area and to find out what is happening around the country.  The site will also help them find resources to support, improve, and streamline their efforts.

In April '09 President Obama said "I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it's science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent -- to be makers of things, not just consumers of things."  NLD does just that.
By: Cindy, Gina, Gloria | November 2 2009 | Category: Science History, Science News

Photos of Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. SzostakOn Oct. 5, 2007, three American researchers -- Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak -- were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. This marks a milestone because it’s the first time two women have shared a Nobel prize. In a recent online interview, Blackburn said the honor for her and Greider is “a hopeful sign” for women. In the future, she said, people will say, “Oh yes, it’s not too unusual to have women getting Nobel prizes. Two got one this year. I hope it becomes very normal.” You can listen to the scientists’ reactions to The Call announcing their award at the Nobel Web site.

Their story begins with chromosomes, the giant complexes of DNA and proteins found in our cells. When cells divide, they make a copy of each chromosome, so the daughter cell receives a full complement of DNA. The enzymes that control this process can’t quite copy the chromosome all the way to the end, so a little bit of the chromosome is lost every time a cell divides. Enter the telomere and our Nobelists’ research. 

Telomeres are short regions of repetitive DNA that sit at the ends of chromosomes but don’t encode any genes. When a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter, not the business part of the chromosomes. With each cell division, the telomeres get shorter. Scientists believe that this telomere shortening is in part responsible for the limited lifespan of most cells. However, some cells, including stem cells that live for the life of an organism, can replace telomeres through the action of the enzyme telomerase. 

Telomerase is turned off in most cells, but it’s reactivated in many cancer cells. This allows the cancer cells to replicate many more times than normal. This has opened the possibility of treating cancer by zeroing in on telomerase. Clinical trials are under way to evaluate vaccines directed against cells with elevated telomerase activity.

The Nobelists’ research also opens up a wide range of investigations into the roles that telomeres and telomerase play in aging. This is because as we age, more and more of our cells have shortened telomeres. Some cells with short telomeres die while others “senesce,’ which means they remain in place but can’t divide and have reduced functional capacity. If we have too many senescent cells, normal processes are less efficient, and repairing even minor damage becomes difficult.

Nobel Prize 2009 Web Site Policy

Phone Call to Each Recipient Announcing the Award

Prize-Winners’ Lab Pages

Telomeres, Aging, and the Prize
External Web Site Policy

History of Telomere Research and Plant Telomere Biology
External Web Site Policy
By: Gina | July 31 2009 | Category: Research & Technology, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Physician vaccinating a patientProbably everyone reading this has had the flu at least once in their lifetime.  The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect 5-20% (that is as many as 1 out of 5 people) of people in the U.S. each year.  Is it serious?  More than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die yearly from the flu. 

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.  Unfortunately, many of us don't know where to get vaccinated, forget about it, or are simply more afraid of shots than the flu. (A big mistake!) Undoubtedly, a lot more people would be vaccinated if, like tetanus vaccinations, we only had to get a shot every ten years or so.  So why can't we? 

Normally when we are vaccinated, we are injected with small parts of molecules called 'epitopes'.  Our immune system responds by making 'memory cells' that specifically recognize those epitopes.  At a second encounter with that epitope, these memory cells help the body mount a much stronger and quicker immune response than the first time.  Thus, after a flu vaccination, when the real flu virus tries to attack, our memory cells go to work and usually stop it before we feel sick.  

Unfortunately, unlike tetanus which is caused by a single bacterium, flu can be caused by two different families of viruses (called group 1 and group 2).  Worse, within these families are many different subtypes each of which has different epitopes.  Because of this, every year, scientists have to make some informed guesses as to which type of flu will be common next year and then make the appropriate vaccine.

A discovery by a group of scientists in the United States and another group from Europe and Hong Kong may make the '10 year flu vaccine' a reality.  These scientists identified an epitope that appears to be common to the members of the group 1 influenza virus family.  Using this epitope, a vaccine was made that was able to prevent death in mice that were challenged with lethal doses of flu viruses.  It even protected them against the H5N1 'bird flu' virus

Hopefully vaccines generated by this epitope will be potent enough, that a single vaccination given every few years will be enough to protect us against all group 1 influenza viruses.  Now if scientists can just find a common epitope for group 2!

Jianhua Sui, William C Hwang, et al.  Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 16, 265 - 273 (2009) Structural and functional bases for broad-spectrum neutralization of avian and human influenza A viruses

Mark Throsby, Edward van den Brink, et al.  PLoS ONE 3(12): e3942. (2008). Heterosubtypic Neutralizing Monoclonal Antibodies Cross-Protective against H5N1 and H1N1 Recovered from Human IgM+ Memory B Cells
By: Cindy, Gloria, Joanne | June 26 2009 | Category: Science News

Tobacco Free Zone SignOn June 22, President Obama signed a bill that he hopes will help kids make the choice not to use tobacco, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Do you have any idea how many people under age 18 will smoke a cigarette for the first time today? Three and a half thousand, and a third of them will become regular users! One goal of the new law is to reduce the number of young first-time users to 1,000.

The federal government will now be regulating the content, marketing, and sale of tobacco products. The law banishes Joe Camel and other youth-oriented advertising gimmicks and bans fruit-flavored tobacco products. You won’t be seeing colorful billboards of happy people holding cigarettes within 1,000 feet of playgrounds filled with grade-schoolers at recess. In fact, all tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools is now illegal.
In response, we wouldn’t be surprised if more states started promoting tobacco education efforts like New Jersey’sExternal Web Site Policy. There, students at every grade level study the nature of tobacco and its physiological, psychological, sociological, and legal effects on themselves, their families, and society under the state’s Core Curriculum Content Standards and Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Curriculum Framework. To find out whether your state has tobacco education standards – and for lots of interesting facts about kids and smoking -- visit the Campaign for Tobacco-Free KidsExternal Web Site Policy.

If you’re looking for materials for students or teachers and families about the biology of nicotine, visit the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). You’ll even find a high school curriculum guide there, The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology through the Study of Addiction that educators can order for free. High school students might want to check out an interesting article about the American Legacy Foundation’s successful “truth” anti-smoking campaignExternal Web Site Policy [in the June/July 2009 American Public Health Association’s newspaper] or a NIDA press release about research that shows that black and white adolescents metabolize nicotine differently.
By: Gina | June 12 2009 | Category: Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

I'm Gina, a research scientist working in the Office of Science Education. I believe that we are all scientists! I will be highlighting people we don't normally think of as "scientists" who have had a huge impact on science. Perhaps you can tell me about people you know who have used science to make life in the classroom or at home a bit easier. Stay tuned for my White House series on how U.S. presidents have contributed to the advancement of science in the own unique ways. I will try to keep you in-the-know about some of the newest scientific discoveries and what they might mean so that you can dazzle friends and neighbors with you science knowledge. You can use today's tidbit for that!

Eye looking through window blindsDNA evidence gathered from a crime scene may be great to convict a suspected criminal, but what if you don't have a suspect? Scientists in the Netherlands have taken a first step in solving that problem. They have developed a method to predict eye color based on DNA. Other scientists are working to develop more reliable methods for determining hair and skin color. Combining these new methods with other established methods for inferring a person’s geographical origin could provide law enforcement with a powerful tool to identify an unknown suspect.

The method has a number of other applications, notably, as a way to predict susceptibility to diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers, which are influenced by numerous genes.

Of course, a lot of work still needs to be done yet to turn this into reality. Web Site Policy

Liu, F. et al. Curr. Biol. 19, R192–R193 (2009).

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