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November 2009

By: Gina | November 24 2009 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community

Cartoon people holding interlocking puzzle pieces.  One is labeled scientist.  The other educator.In response to President Obama’s new Educate to Innovate initiative and to support National Lab Day, the NIH Office of Science Education has added a new section to their Website - NIH Science Education Nation (SciEd Nation).  

SciEd Nation is designed for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students and professionals interested in learning more about or becoming more involved in K-12 education in the United States.

At SciEd Nation science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students and professionals can:
•    Find out how U.S. students stack up to students around the world in reading, mathematics, science, and problem solving skills
•    Learn about contemporary K-12 schools and the typical day in the life of a teacher
•    Discover how to partner with teachers and schools to improve U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education
•    Learn how to enhance tangible support for science education among colleagues, managers, and administrators
•    Locate reference materials on education, education policy, communicating science, and partnership funding sources
•    Read about successful partnerships and their strategies for success as well as download “How-To-Guides” for common partnership activities

Stay tuned as more tips and resources are added to SciEd Nation over the next few months.
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: Cynthia | November 16 2009 | Category: Science and the Arts

three glass sculptures of virusesArtist Luke Jerram creates glass sculptures of deadly viruses.

Search the Web for images of a virus, and you’ll see many colorful versions. So what is the real color of the swine flu virus? Honestly, I don’t know. Does it really matter? Well, maybe ... if the artist’s rendition “colors” our understanding of how a virus really works.

These are the types of questions colorblind UK artist Luke Jerram External Web Site Policy asked when he created a series of transparent glass sculptures modeled after viruses. He wondered how a person could tell the difference between an image colored for scientific versus aesthetic reasons, and how color affects the reception of an image. He also saw the project as way to explore the global impact of diseases these viruses cause.

Right now, the sculptures are on display at Mori Museum, External Web Site Policy Tokyo.
In January 2010, they will be at the Courtauld Institute, External Web Site Policy London.

A slideshow of Jerram’s sculptures External Web Site Policy includes models of the HIV, swine flu, and smallpox viruses. While looking at these beautiful images, you might easily forget what they represent – viruses that can make you ill or kill you.
By: Cynthia | November 13 2009 | Category: NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community

Students attending SciLife event SciLife is an annual college- and career-planning program for high school students and their parents. It’s sponsored by the NIH, Office of Science Education, and Washington, D.C. area education leaders.

SciLife program planners, including me, believe this year’s program was better than ever. Nearly 300 students and their parents joined us on the NIH campus, October 24th.

A highlight of the day was Dr. Lonise Bias’s External Web Site Policy tear-inducing keynote address. She is an internationally known motivational speaker and the founder of The Abundant Life Resources A More Excellent Way LLC, a community service resource. “Our youth are reachable, teachable, lovable, and savable,” said Bias.

Bias also shared her story of how the deaths of her two sons propelled her into action and service. Her son Len died in 1986 of cocaine intoxication, two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. Four years later, her son Jay became the victim of a drive-by shooting at a shopping mall. 

Each year, our SciLife team strives to improve the program by heeding the advice and suggestions of participating students and parents. Now in it’s fourth year, our efforts are paying off. (See previous SciLife blog.)

This year’s event gets high scores because
  • of an improved registration process, resulting in fewer phone calls to the office
  • program check-in was smoother and less harried than in previous years
  • the simple schedule allowed participants to get their preferred workshops
  • we posted our first post-event slide show online

We have a couple of plans to tweak the program further. First, we are doing a thorough evaluation of the program this time. Second, we started a SciLife teen advisory board to help us plan the 2010 program. We hope these measures will take the program to even greater heights of success.
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
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