Day: December 1, 2019

Strike disrupts research at Puerto Rico’s top university

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first_img Last week molecular biologist Juan Ramirez-Lugo put all his coral samples in the freezer, locked the door of his lab, and told his six undergraduate assistants to stay home the next day. The assistant professor of biology at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in San Juan wasn’t happy about yet another disruption to his research on seasonal variations in how corals respond to thermal stress and his efforts to give undergraduates “authentic research experiences.” But he felt he had no choice.Ramirez-Lugo’s campus has been shut down since late March, when students began a peaceful protest against proposed massive cuts to the territory’s flagship university as part of a slew of austerity measures to address the territory’s fiscal crisis. On 10 May the strikers voted to ignore a judge’s order to end their protest, raising concerns about possible violence if the authorities tried to enforce the court ruling.That didn’t happen, and the next day Ramirez-Lugo was able to return to work. However, he and the rest of the UPR faculty remain pawns in a larger battle over the U.S. territory. The fate of its 3.6 million residents rests in the hands of a federal judge who this week began hearing testimony from the government and those owed some $74 billion in bonds. (Puerto Rico also has $49 billion in unfunded pension obligations.)Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) AP Photo/Danica Coto A student strike at the University of Puerto Rico is part of an island-wide protest like this one in San Juan on 1 May urging authorities to rescind proposed austerity measures. This isn’t the first student strike at UPR. But this time faculty members have been issued special research IDs for access to their labs, a concession by strike organizers to avoid the havoc wreaked when a 2010 student strike shut down the campus for 3 months.Still, Ramirez-Lugo and other faculty members say the current protest has been very disruptive. Classes have been canceled, and Ramirez-Lugo says work on his federal training grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has also been compromised. “Some students are coming into the lab, but the ones most active in the strike are not,” he says.For UPR neuroscientist Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar, the strike has temporarily cut off her supply of lab rats. “The purchasing office isn’t open, so you need to arrange alternative deliveries,” she explains. “But no UPS or FedEx trucks can enter the campus, and the protocol doesn’t allow me to pick them up and transport them myself.”The strike has also complicated the annual progress report that Maldonado-Vlaar must file next month on her training grant from the National Institutes of Health. “You want to comply, but the truth is that we’ve had to delay some of these projects,” she says. A few fortunate students work at the medical school in San Juan, which is not affected by the strike. But for the rest, she says, their education has been hit-and-miss for the past 6 weeks.It’s an unprecedented situation for federal agencies, says neuroscientist Gladys Escalona, the acting vice president for research at UPR. “When I talk to program officers at the National Science Foundation and other agencies, no one has ever heard of such a pervasive and long-standing disruption to research,” Escalona says. “But they have been very understanding. They realize the situation is completely beyond our control.”A transformative forceUPR may not be in the top tier of U.S. universities in terms of the amount of research it conducts—it stood 232nd in the National Science Foundation’s most recent ranking. But over its 110-year history it has been a major player in training the island’s workforce, fueling economic development, and providing social and cultural leadership across Latin America. It also has an outsized influence in fostering diversity within the U.S. scientific workforce: Its two research campuses, Río Piedras and Mayagüez, rank first and second in launching the next generation of Hispanic Ph.D. scientists and engineers.That includes Escalona, who entered UPR in 1959 at the tender age of 15 and essentially never left. In addition to earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UPR, she has been a faculty member, department chair, dean, and ultimately chancellor of UPR before returning to the faculty and taking her current position. Her vast experience gives her a perspective she thinks is lacking among members of a presidentially appointed outside board created last year under a 2016 law designed to resolve the financial crisis.“I don’t think the [Financial Oversight and Management Board] really understands the role that the university has played over the years in both transforming Puerto Rican society and in being a source of new knowledge,” she says, referring to the presidentially appointed body. “And there’s been little dialogue on the possibility of exchanging views and reaching some type of compromise that recognizes the value of the university.”From bad to worseRight now the university’s value seems to be at a low point. On 1 July the government’s contribution to the university will plunge by almost 20%, a cut of $149 million from current levels. And government support has been frozen at that level for 4 years as part of previous austerity budgets.That cut precedes the latest massive retrenchment in all public-sector spending aimed at lifting Puerto Rico out of a decade-long recession. For UPR, the looming reduction is in the range of a half-billion dollars, although its actual size and over what period of time is yet to be determined. “So it’s going from bad to worse,” Escalona says.Faculty hiring has ground to a halt, she adds. No new positions have been advertised for 3 years, and she says a handful of promising young researchers with federal grants have left UPR in the past year because of the dismal financial outlook.The specter of major cuts is what triggered the current student strike. Protesters have also questioned the rationale for those cuts and proposed sources of revenue to obviate the need for cuts.A more immediate problem for Escalona is the uncertainty over the school calendar—specifically, when school officials will declare an end to the academic year and the start of the shorter summer session. That’s a critical decision for UPR faculty whose summer salaries are paid from research grants. Some 400 of the 700 faculty members conduct research over the summer, she estimates, but they can’t tap those funds until the registrar certifies that summer has begun.Resolving how the current academic year will be recorded could also affect hundreds of undergraduates planning to do summer research internships at institutions around the country. “It may be hard for them to get those internships” if their transcripts show they haven’t finished the semester,” Ramirez-Lugo says. Those internships are a stepping stone into graduate school, he notes, and disrupting that flow could jeopardize UPR’s status as the top feeder school for Hispanic Ph.D. students.Maldonado-Vlaar doesn’t expect the crisis to be resolved anytime soon. And despite all the current bad news, she hopes that the strike will strengthen the university in the long run. “It’s a social movement about issues that affect the entire country,” she says about the student protests. “And sooner or later those issues must be addressed.”center_img By Jeffrey MervisMay. 18, 2017 , 3:45 PM Strike disrupts research at Puerto Rico’s top universitylast_img read more

This giant Australian insect is still alive, despite being declared extinct nearly a century ago

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first_imgJOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PHOTO ARK/National Geographic Creative Sometimes they come back. Once declared extinct, Lord Howe Island stick insects (Dryococelus australis) are actually alive and well, according to a new study. The 15-centimeter-long, plant-eating insects, also known as tree lobsters, once thrived on the lush vegetation of Lord Howe Island, between Australia and New Zealand. But after a ship accidentally introduced black rats to the island about a century ago, the stick insect population plummeted. In 1920, they were declared extinct, only to be found more than 40 years later on Ball’s Pyramid, a volcanic sea stack about 20 kilometers away. But these critters didn’t look identical to old stick insect museum specimens, leaving scientists wondering whether they were the same species. After comparing their DNA, researchers now have found a difference of less than 1%, well within the range expected for two individuals of the same species, the team reports today in Current Biology. The finding suggests that the giant bugs could be successfully reintroduced to Lord Howe Island, the scientists say.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) This giant Australian insect is still alive, despite being declared extinct nearly a century agocenter_img By Giorgia GuglielmiOct. 5, 2017 , 12:00 PMlast_img read more

Lab-grown ‘minibrains’ are revealing what makes humans special

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first_img By Ann GibbonsNov. 9, 2017 , 8:00 AM (LEFT TO RIGHT) F. MORA-BERMÚDEZ ET AL., ELIFE, 10.7554/ELIFE.18683, 2016; ELIZABETH DI LULLO/KRIEGSTEIN LAB Ever since Alex Pollen was a boy talking with his neuroscientist father, he wanted to know how evolution made the human brain so special. Our brains are bigger, relative to body size, than other animals’, but it’s not just size that matters. “Elephants and whales have bigger brains,” notes Pollen, now a neuroscientist himself at the University of California, San Francisco. Comparing anatomy or even genomes of humans and other animals reveals little about the genetic and developmental changes that sent our brains down such a different path.Geneticists have identified a few key differences in the genes of humans and apes, such as a version of the gene FOXP2 that allows humans to form words. But specifically how human variants of such genes shape our brain in development—and how they drove its evolution—have remained largely mysterious. “We’ve been a bit frustrated working so many years with the traditional tools,” says neurogeneticist Simon Fisher, director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, who studies FOXP2.Now, researchers are deploying new tools to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the unique features of our brain. At a symposium at The American Society of Human Genetics here last month, they reported zooming in on the genes expressed in a single brain cell, as well as panning out to understand how genes foster connections among far-flung brain regions. Pollen and others also are experimenting with brain “organoids,” tiny structured blobs of lab-grown tissue, to detail the molecular mechanisms that govern the folding and growth of the embryonic human brain. “We used to be just limited to looking at sequence data and cataloging differences from other primates,” says Fisher, who helped organize the session. “Now, we have these exciting new tools that are helping us to understand which genes are important.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) An organoid develops like a minibrain in the lab (left); a slice through another organoid (right) offers a window into the early development of the cerebral cortex, showing progenitor cells (purple) and neurons (green).center_img Lab-grown ‘minibrains’ are revealing what makes humans special Most of the talks focused on the development of the cerebral cortex, the wrinkled outer layer of the brain that orchestrates higher cognitive functions such as memory, attention, awareness, language, and thought. The human cortex is special, with three times as many cells as that of chimps, and deeper folds that help pack in those extra cells. These differences begin to unfold in the earliest phase of fetal development, but researchers know little about the genes that direct this transformation and the molecules they encode.In his talk, Wieland Huttner, a molecular cell biologist and developmental neurobiologist at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden, Germany, explained how his team searched databases for proteins and other gene products expressed in the human brain in these earliest phases of development. They zeroed in on three proteins found in the extracellular matrix that surrounds developing cells in fetal brain tissue. When they added these proteins to cultures of brain tissue from aborted human fetuses, the tissue formed folds, as it does in human fetuses at about 20 weeks of gestation.What’s more, MPI-CBG postdoc Katie Long noticed that the three proteins formed folds only after they clustered with another complex glycan molecule called hyaluronic acid. This complex molecule has many functions, such as carrying signals between cells and promoting cell growth, which is why it’s used in face creams. Although researchers knew that hyaluronic acid shows up in neural tissue, they did not know it played such a critical role in human brain development. “They have identified key molecules that facilitate cortical folding,” says neuroscientist Louis Reichardt, director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative in New York City, who heard the talk.Working with paleogeneticist Svante Pääbo and biophysical chemist Barbara Treutlein, both of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, Huttner’s team is growing brain organoids, tiny bits of tissue that develop in culture in a way that resembles an embryonic brain. The researchers coaxed white blood cells from humans and other apes into forming stem cells, from which they grew organoids. The organoids grow for several weeks—sometimes up to a year—allowing the researchers to compare growth and pinpoint where the differences among species arise. “Organoids are very powerful because you cannot get fetal chimp brain tissue,” because they are a threatened species, Huttner says.The organoids from great apes and people grew in remarkably similar ways. All formed the same types of stem cells, which give rise to “progenitor” cells that, in turn, divide into neurons and eventually organize themselves in six layers of brain tissue. But when the researchers used live microscopy to watch how the 4-millimeter-wide organoids developed, they noticed that human progenitor cells took 50% longer than those of the other great apes to arrange their chromosomes before splitting into daughter cells. The human cells seemed to invest much more time in the phase of cell division called metaphase. Somehow, this lengthening of metaphase early in development appears to cause more progenitor cells to be made later, Huttner says.Other researchers are trying to unravel the web of connectivity of the human brain. Neuroscientist Fenna Krienen of Harvard Medical School in Boston used functional MRI (fMRI) in 1000 people to show that human brains make synaptic connections across vast distances in the cerebral cortex. Rodent neurons, in contrast, limit their connections to nearby areas. Krienen and her then–Ph.D. adviser, Randy Buckner at Harvard, hypothesized that as the human cortex expanded in the course of evolution, it reorganized to allow more complex connections between regions.Since then, Krienen has been making an inventory of the cells found in particular layers of the neocortex. Last year she and her colleagues linked the fMRI results to genetics in the brain tissue of six adults. They reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that 19 genes were turned on in the same underlying areas as the cortical connections revealed by fMRI. In mice, those genes are expressed earlier in development, in other cortical layers. It seems that sometime over the course of primate and human evolution, these genes were directed to become active later in development.Now, Krienen is using a new single-cell analysis method developed in Steve McCarroll’s lab at Harvard (where she is now a postdoc) to refine these results from layers of tissue to single cells. She’s looking at all the genes—including the original 19 and many more—expressed by each cell in the connected regions. She hopes to pinpoint which genes are expressed in each cell type when brain cells make long distance connections, and to make similar maps in other primates to chart what changed as brains rewired over the course of evolution.Aside from their evolutionary importance, these studies have implications for research on mental disorders. As connections proliferated across the brain, more opportunities arose for missed connections. Autism and other specific mental disorders may be caused in part by “specific circuits or regions of the brain [that] had problems with connectivity,” Krienen says.”These new technologies are simply spectacular,” says Reichardt, speaking of the variety of approaches detailed in the session. “We’re learning a heck of a lot.”It’s still early days for this budding field, but it’s already clear that more than one or two genes sculpted the uniquely human brain, says symposium co-organizer Evan Eichler, a geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “It’s a concert of dozens of human events that culminated in this amazing organ,” he says.last_img read more

Scientists win and lose in Texas primary contests

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first_img “For almost a year, I have watched Mary Street Wilson run a tough tenacious campaign that defied all establishment expectation,” Crowe said. “She faced with grit both a deep fundraising disadvantage and a dismissive attitude from the establishment. Although I am disappointed to not make the runoff, it’s impossible not to be inspired by Mary’s campaign.”Wilson says a two-person race will also mean a chance to flesh out positions on issues like immigration and energy policy. “With a large field, you only have time for soundbites,” she says. “In the runoff, instead of just saying we need to revamp immigration policy, I’ll want to provide specifics on what that would mean.”Kopser soldiers aheadIn contrast, Kopser says his approach to campaigning won’t change now that he’s in a runoff. He applauds Wilson for running a “positive campaign based on an ethic of love.” But he says his track record of leadership in the military and in business gives voters a clear choice between “two people who love public service but who come to it through two very different backgrounds.”Asked whether his huge money advantage suggests that dollars alone don’t sway voters, he defends his fundraising prowess as necessary to get out his message. “I had never served in public office before, I had never been part of the traditional party clubs and hadn’t gone to all the meetings,” he notes. “No one knew me at all. I also didn’t have the support of the Bernie [Sanders] revolution folks. This race proves that money and message together have a more powerful effect than money alone.”Kopser, who has acknowledged growing up as a Republican before changing parties, says he’s pleased to have finished second, well ahead of two rivals who had openly attacked his credentials as a Democrat. And while he says he doesn’t know whether that issue will continue to come up, he seems happy to be judged on his ability to attract independent and Republican voters. “The runoff is a good opportunity for voters to decide who they think can beat a Republican in the general election,” he says. “And I maintain we have the stronger case.”Republicans, who enjoy a large advantage in registered voters in the mixed urban and rural district, will also hold a runoff. The winners will vie in November for the chance to succeed Representative Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House science committee who is retiring after 32 years in Congress.Westin falls shortFor Westin, last night’s results constitute the end of his campaign to represent the seventh congressional district. A faculty member at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Westin was endorsed by 314 Action, an organization that encourages and helps train scientists and engineers who want to run for office, and had made science and evidence-based policy a cornerstone of his first try for elective office. (314 Action has also endorsed Kopser.) Mary Wilson with Beto O’Rourke, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, during a recent campaign stop in Austin. The science vote Follow our rolling coverage of 2018’s science candidates Yesterday’s Texas primary was the first test for scientists seeking seats this year in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the results were mixed.On the plus side, Mary Wilson, a former Austin Community College mathematics professor turned minister, has advanced to a Democratic runoff in the 21st congressional district after a surprising first-place finish over Joseph Kopser, a scientifically trained entrepreneur. They will run head-to-head in a May runoff. On the minus side, Jason Westin, a clinical oncologist seeking a chance to represent the seventh congressional district in Houston, Texas, was knocked out of the race, running third in a crowded Democratic field. Retired geologist Jon Powell lost badly in his attempt to win the Democratic nomination for the 36th congressional district in eastern Texas.The 2016 election has energized many scientists and engineers to participate for the first time in electoral politics. Almost all Democrats, the scientists say uniformly that they are running against the policies of President Donald Trump and his administration and are seeking to add a scientific element to policy debates. However, as political novices they have been forced to learn on the job about running for national office. By Jeffrey MervisMar. 7, 2018 , 1:45 PM Wilson moves onThe 58-year-old Wilson, making her first bid for office, was the unexpected winner of the Democratic primary in a district that stretches from Austin to San Antonio. Although Kopser, a 20-year Army veteran with an engineering degree, outspent her by a 20-to-1 margin, Wilson won 31% of the vote to Kopser’s 29% in a four-person field. Neither candidate achieved a majority, however, so they will face off in a 22 May runoff.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)“It feels a little surreal right now,” Wilson says. Ever the mathematician, she adds, “People have been telling me for weeks that they thought I would do well, but it was all anecdotal. I didn’t have data.”Wilson, who leads the Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, Texas, plans to beef up what so far has been a shoestring campaign. “I’ll need to add staff, starting with a volunteer coordinator to handle all the offers of help pouring in,” she says. She’s also planning to pick the brains of environmental activist Derrick Crowe, a former Capitol Hill staffer who placed third in the race and immediately endorsed her. Mary Wilson for Congress center_img That message was resonating with voters, says environmental engineering professor Daniel Cohan at Rice University in Houston, who moderated a candidates’ forum on climate change in January. But Cohan thinks its impact was blunted by the publicity surrounding a rare attack on one of the candidates, Laura Moser, by the national Democrat party, which thinks she is too liberal to be elected in November.The attack didn’t prevent Moser from running second to attorney Lizzie Fletcher, forcing a runoff in May. But Cohan says the resulting controversy “sucked all the oxygen out of the room” and distracted voters. “Given his background,” Cohan adds, “Jason would have been a leading voice on health care and adherence to evidence in debates over climate and energy policy.”The winner of the May runoff will go up against Representative John Culberson (R–TX), the influential chairman of a panel that sets spending levels for NASA, the National Science Foundation, and several other science agencies. Culberson easily defeated one challenger last night, and is seeking his 10th 2-year term. However, the district voted narrowly for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, raising Democratic hopes of flipping the seat. *Updated 7 March, 6:41 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from Joseph Kosper. Scientists win and lose in Texas primary contests Bored-now/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Meet the scientists running to transform Congress in 2018 The science candidates: races to watch in 2018last_img read more

Superconducting materials found in meteorites

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first_img By Adrian ChoMar. 6, 2018 , 6:20 PM Sydney Oats/Wikimedia commons (CC BY 2.0) Superconducting materials found in meteorites This 9980-kilogram meteorite, which crashed into Australia, contains tiny amounts of natural superconducting material, physicists have found. LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA—Meteorites sometimes contain naturally occurring superconductors, materials that conduct electricity without any resistance, a team of physicists has found. The result, reported here today at the annual March meeting of the American Physical Society, won’t revolutionize scientists’ understanding of the solar system, but it could raise hopes of finding a material that is a superconductor a room temperature—which could potentially lead to technological breakthroughs such as magnetically levitating trains.“It sounds like they found something and isolated it,” says Johnpierre Paglione, a condensed matter physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park, whose team is screening naturally occurring terrestrial minerals.Conventional superconductors consist of simple metals, such as niobium, lead, or mercury, which become superconducting when cooled to below a characteristic “critical temperature” close to absolute zero—4.2 K in the case of mercury. In 1986, physicists discovered a family of copper-containing compounds that superconduct at temperatures as high as 134 K (–139°C)—a phenomenon known as high-temperature superconductivity whose origins remain one of the biggest mysteries in science. More recently, researchers have found a family of high-temperature iron-based superconductors, and there are myriad other exotic superconductors as well.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Although many scientists strive to synthesize novel superconductors by designing particular properties from the atomic scale up, a team led by Ivan Schuller, a condensed matter physicist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), decided to screen existing materials, starting with meteorites. “There are all these materials that God has provided,” Schuller says. “Why not look at them? ”Meteorites form under extreme temperatures and pressures beyond the capabilities of any laboratory on Earth. Thus, they’re fertile places to search for exotic new compounds, Schuller says.The surest sign of superconductivity is a sudden plunge to zero in electrical resistance when the temperature drops below a critical threshold. But a superconductor has peculiar magnetic properties, too: It can repel an applied magnetic field if it is not too strong because free-flowing currents, swirling within the material, produce a field that cancels the applied one. The phenomenon is known as the Meissner effect, and physicists also try to find new superconductors by looking for it, especially in heterogeneous samples that are only speckled with bits of superconductor and in which the resistance never goes to zero.However, that technique is not sensitive enough to look for very small amount of superconductor, Schuller says. So, his team put a twist on it to effectively amplify the signal. Both above and below its critical temperature a superconductor can absorb microwaves, but right at the transition the absorption changes.To look for superconductivity, Schuller’s team placed a small sample within a cavity pumped with microwave radiation. The scientists applied both a strong constant magnetic field and a small oscillating magnetic field. When they cool a superconductor through its critical temperature, the absorption changes dramatically, explains James Wampler, a graduate student at UCSD who presented the results at the meeting. The signal is greatly enhanced, he explains, as the oscillating magnetic field drives the material in and out of superconductivity. The technique is about 1000 times more sensitive than conventional magnetic measurements, Wampler says.The researchers validated their technique on thousands of samples of materials, Schuller says. And now, they have applied it to small samples scraped from the surfaces of 16 different meteorites, Wampler said at the meeting. They found evidence of superconductivity in samples from two of those meteorites: the Mundrabilla meteorite, a 9980-kilogram chunk of iron discovered in the Australian Outback in 1911, and Graves Nunataks, a carbonaceous meteorite found in Antarctica in 1995.Once the researchers found the positive magnetic signal, they visually teased out the different types of grains in each powdered sample and used x-ray spectroscopy to identify the materials in the grains that were superconductive. The superconductor in the Grave Nunataks meteorite is an alloy of indium and tin, Wampler says. The one in the Mundrabilla meteorite appears to be an alloy of indium, tin, and possibly lead. Both are well-known superconductors that have critical temperatures around 5 K.Even though the superconductors aren’t exotic, the results show that superconductivity is ubiquitous in the universe, Wampler says “If this is in meteorites, it’s everywhere,” he says. He declines to speculate on the implications for astrophysics, but notes “there are lots of places in the universe colder than 5 K.” Meteorites are generated at pressures and temperatures exceeding lab conditions, Wampler notes, so the ultimate hope is that they may contain superconducting compounds unknown to humans.Paglione agrees that the field needs to find new materials. “There’s a community of people who are looking for new materials,” he says, “but it’s a bottleneck.”*Correction, 7 March, 11:51 a.m.: The story has been updated to make it clear which types of samples Ivan Schuller and Johnpierre ​Paglione have studied.last_img read more

Women fare well in this year’s round of NIH high-risk awards

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first_img Last March, Anna Wexler was nearly 9 months pregnant with her first baby—and the timing could not have been worse. The postdoctoral researcher in medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania was a finalist for a prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH) research award for young scientists. The competition required a 20-minute interview with a review panel at a Washington, D.C., hotel a few miles from the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland—just 9 days before her baby was due.Wexler and her husband, a physician, packed their car with supplies for the drive south just in case the baby came on the way. Five days before the 12 March interview, her contractions began. By the third day of an unusually long labor, “I had pretty much given up” on making it to Washington, D.C., she says.In the end, NIH allowed the sleep-deprived new mom to do the interview by web conference during the panel’s lunch break, 2 days after her son was born. And this week, Wexler learned that she is one of 11 winners of the Early Independence Awards (EIAs). The $400,000-dollar-a-year (with overhead costs), 5-year grant will allow her, just a year after she earned her Ph.D. in social science, to launch her own research group looking at social and ethical issues raised by direct-to-consumer and do-it-yourself medicine and science.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) University of Pennsylvania medical ethicist Anna Wexler is among this year’s winners of the National Institutes of Health’s Early Independence Awards. Dan Burke Photography A few months later, NIH announced it would no longer require interviews for the EIAs—a change Wexler welcomes. “There was no process or contingency plan if someone was in active labor during the interview component” or for pregnant women who could not fly, she notes. “If you can’t make it equal for everybody, I don’t think that’s fair.”The dropped interview is one small sign of change at NIH, which has been under pressure to correct a gender imbalance in its high-risk, high-reward program. Women did unusually well in this year’s round for two categories of awards: Half of this year’s 10 Pioneer Awards for established researchers went to women. And five of 11 EIA winners, including Wexler, were women. In past years, the balance has skewed toward men.NIH officials insist that nothing changed with this year’s review process. “The numbers are small and they fluctuate year to year,” says spokesperson Renate Myles. However, the agency is looking at ways to level the playing field for women. For example, NIH dropped the interview for EIA awards not because some applicants might be pregnant, but because some studies have suggested interviews favor men, the agency says.The high-risk, high-reward program selects most investigators based on their track record and ideas, rather than a specific research project. After the first winners of the Pioneer Awards in 2004 were all male, women did better in future years, roughly matching the female fraction of the applicant pool (see slide 11 here). But last year, only one of 12 awardees was a woman.For two other categories, the New Innovator and Transformative Research awards, female winners have generally matched up with the gender split of the applicant pool. (This year, 33% of 58 Innovators and 22% of 18 Transformative Research awardees were women.)For the EIAs, however, there has been a clear gender discrepancy between applications and winners. This year’s competition also drew criticism because the review panel was chaired by cancer biologist Inder Verma, formerly of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California. Verma, who has since resigned from Salk, had been accused in lawsuits filed in the summer of 2017 of impeding women’s career advancement there. This year’s nearly 50-50 split for the Pioneer and EIA awards shows women did disproportionately well: Men made up 72% of the 50 EIA applicants who specified their gender, but won only 55% of the grants; 28% of these applicants came from women, who won 45% of the awards. (Nine applicants didn’t indicate their gender.) Among the 202 Pioneer applicants who self-reported their gender, 78% were men. (Eleven didn’t indicate gender.)The strong showing by women this year “is good news,” says biologist Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Perhaps the review committee members were reminded that everyone has implicit biases, something she discusses in her own meetings to determine faculty candidates, she says. “I don’t know that this is what happened, but I would hope it is some conscious process that can go forward into future committees, so that this is not a one-off year, but instead a change in policy and culture.”An NIH advisory group is now looking at other ways to boost the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities who apply for and win the high-risk, high-reward awards. Its recommendations are due out next year.center_img Women fare well in this year’s round of NIH high-risk awards By Jocelyn KaiserOct. 4, 2018 , 3:35 PMlast_img read more

Ultraviolet light could provide a powerful new source of green fuel

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first_img Ultraviolet light could provide a powerful new source of green fuel A forest of gallium nitride nanowires harnesses energy in light to convert methanol to ethanol. Sheng Chu/McGill University Methanol—a colorless liquid that can be made from agricultural waste—has long been touted as a green alternative to fossil fuels. But it’s toxic and only has half the energy as the same volume of gasoline. Now, researchers report they’ve created a potentially cheap way to use sunlight to convert methanol to ethanol, a more popular alternative fuel that’s less harmful and carries more energy.The new report is “great work” says Zhongmin Liu, a chemist at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China who was not involved with the research. If the process can be optimized and scaled up, he says, “It has the potential to change the world.”The notion of converting methanol to ethanol isn’t new. Companies already have a trio of chemical processes that do so. But these require adding heat, pressure, and toxic additives, such as carbon monoxide. Companies can also make ethanol directly by fermenting corn kernels or sugarcane. But growing those crops requires precious farmland that could otherwise grow food. Researchers and companies have also come up with ways to convert agricultural wastes into ethanol. So far, however, these have proved too costly to be competitive.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)Chao-Jun Li, a chemist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, thought there might be a better way. In 2014, he and his colleagues showed a tiny forest of nanowires made from the semiconductor gallium nitride (GaN) could act as a catalyst to convert methane gas into benzene, a commodity chemical used to make dozens of other industrial compounds such as plastics, solvents, and adhesives. Catalysts are compounds that encourage other chemicals to react but aren’t themselves used up in the job. As a result, they can do their job over and over. In this case, the nanowires rearranged chemical bonds between carbon atoms, which is also what’s needed to convert methanol to ethanol. So, the McGill researchers decided to see whether GaN nanowires could work their magic on methanol.The researchers grew and tested several different nanowire compositions. As they report online last week in the journal Chem, they found a forest of long, thin GaN nanowires spiked with magnesium worked best to absorb ultraviolet (UV) light and use that energy to convert methanol to ethanol. The absorbed UV light caused the nanowires’ surfaces to become more negatively charged than their cores, the team found. The charge rips a water molecule from an individual methanol molecule sitting on a nanowire surface, leaving behind a reactive compound called methyl carbene. While the water molecule floats away, the carbene reacts with a neighboring methanol molecule to make ethanol.Liu notes that the process is just a proof of concept. Converting methanol to ethanol requires UV light, which is just a sliver of the sunlight that reaches Earth. For the process to be economical, he says, it may require tweaking the nanowires to get them to work with visible light, which has less energy than UV light, but is far more abundant in the sun’s rays.In addition to producing ethanol, the nanowire catalyst can also generate other valuable hydrocarbons like 1-propanol, an alcohol used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, from methanol, Li notes. This ability raises hopes for tailoring nanowires to convert low-value commodity chemicals into a range of higher value ones, using only light. By Robert F. ServiceFeb. 19, 2019 , 1:00 PMlast_img read more

Mystery surrounds ouster of Chinese researchers from Canadian laboratory

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first_imgMystery surrounds ouster of Chinese researchers from Canadian laboratory The lab works in a wide range of biomedical fields. Qiu is known for helping develop ZMapp, a treatment for Ebola virus that was fast-tracked through development during the 2014–16 outbreak in West Africa. She has repeatedly been honored for her work on that project, including with a Governor General’s Innovation Award last year.“While I was there [Qiu] was always highly regarded as a scientist,” says Plummer, adding that he was “shocked and puzzled” when he heard she was being investigated. “She maintained connections with China, but as far as I knew she was a regular Canadian scientist.”Cheng, Qiu’s husband, also worked as a biologist at NML. And both researchers held adjunct faculty positions at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. It says it has terminated their positions and reassigned their students as a result of the investigation.Neither Qiu nor Cheng could be reached for comment.The development comes at a sensitive time for relations between Canada and China. In December 2018, Canada arrested Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States. In retaliation, China has arrested two Canadian men on espionage charges and sentenced a third to death for drug offenses.It also comes as the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has raised concerns that some grantees have failed to disclose ties to China and other nations, or improperly shared confidential information. The concerns have led several universities to oust researchers who are ethnic Chinese and return grant funds to NIH. The crackdown has raised concerns among the Chinese American community of racial profiling. In Canada, the nation’s Security Intelligence Service has long warned of state-sponsored espionage, and in 2014, the Canadian government alleged that China was behind a cyberattack on Canada’s National Research Council. By Brian OwensJul. 19, 2019 , 3:40 PMcenter_img Canadian researchers are reacting with puzzlement to the news that a “policy breach” has caused the nation’s only high-containment disease laboratory to bar a prominent Chinese Canadian virologist, her biologist husband, and a number of students from the facility.On 5 July, officials at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg, Canada, escorted Xiangguo Qiu, biologist Keding Cheng, and an unknown number of her students from the lab and revoked their access rights, according to Canadian media reports. The Public Health Agency of Canada, which operates the lab, confirmed it had referred an “administrative matter” matter to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but said it would not provide additional details because of privacy concerns.A number of observers have speculated that case involves concerns about the improper transfer of intellectual property to China. (All of the researchers involved are believed to be Asian.) But Frank Plummer, a former scientific director of NML who left in 2015, says the lab isn’t an obvious target for academic or industrial espionage. “There is nothing highly secret there, and all the work gets published in the open literature,” he says. “I don’t know what anyone would hope to gain by spying.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)last_img read more