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Another Lucky Science Student Wins $100,000

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 03-13-2013

For the past 14 years, Intel has been distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes to winners of their annual Science Talent Search competiton. With over 1,700 applicants, chances of securing the grand $100,000 prize is very tough. However,Sara Volz, a high-school senior from Colorado Springs, won the top award for her research of algae biofuels. Jonah Kallenbach of Pennsylvania came in a close second for his bioinformatics study on protein binding for drug therapy and Adam Bowman, of Brentwood, Tennesee came in third for pulsed plasma device design.

Altogether, $630,000 was awarded to ten high-school seniors from across the United states. The truth is that the talent search actually streches back more than 70 years to 1942 when it was sponsored by Westinghouse. One of the most interesting things about this type of contest is understanding how useful it is for encouraging young adults to pursue a career in science and discovering whether or not it has helped launch the careers of those fortunate enough to win. With 2,500 contest finalists since its inception, figuring out where the winners are today is a mighty tall task. Thankfully, Scientific American has taken upon itself this mission and has uploaded a webpage that asks the question “Where are they now?

Among the winners are Nobel prize receipients Ben Roy Mottelson, Roald Hoffmann, Walter Gilbert and Sheldon Lee Glashow.

In the video below, this year’s prize recepient, Sara Volz, explains her research on Algae Biofuels.

Tens of Thousands of Lab Animals Perish in Hurricane Sandy

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 03-06-2013

Several tens of thousands of lab mice died during this passed winter’s devastating storm. While the human death toll of Hurricane Sandy was thankfully small, laboratory animals in the NYU Langone Medical Center were trapped by the water that flooded the hospital’s basement and large stocks of genetically engineered animals were lost.

According to a story in ALN Magazine, as many as 600 mice were lost by one individual researcher and it will take over a year to recover from the devastating loss.

But can there ever be a real recovery? Imagine being a 4th year PhD student looking forward to finishing up the final touches on his project before defending in the summer. What about the foreign post-doc who left her home and family to travel to New York for a year to do critical research that was going to help her secure an academic position in a university back home.

This is true devastation. The sweat and tears that go into everything scientists do. The late nights and weekends lost in the lab running experiences and taking care of precious animals. All for naught. All is lost.

My thoughts go out to those scientists that were truly affected by Hurrican Sandy.

Care to share your thoughts?

A better way to culture central nervous cells

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 01-29-2013

A protein associated with neuron damage in people with Alzheimer’s disease is surprisingly useful in promoting neuron growth in the lab, according to a new study by engineering researchers at Brown University. The findings, in press at the journal Biomaterials, suggest a better method of growing neurons outside the body that might then be implanted to treat people with neurodegenerative diseases.

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Curious George Meets Muhammad Ali

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-20-2012

Are you a monkey or a man? According to a recent study out of the University of Utah, that all depends on how hard you can punch. Compared with apes, humans have shorter palms and fingers and longer, stronger, flexible thumbs – features that have been long thought to have evolved so our ancestors had the manual dexterity to make and use tools.

“The role aggression has played in our evolution has not been adequately appreciated,” says University of Utah biology Professor David Carrier, senior author of the study, published recently in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

As our ancestors evolved, “an individual who could strike with a clenched fist could hit harder without injuring themselves, so they were better able to fight for mates and thus more likely to reproduce,” he says. Fights also were for food, water, land and shelter to support a family, and “over pride, reputation and for revenge,” he adds.

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Researchers define key events early in the process of cellular aging

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-22-2012

For the first time, scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have defined key events that take place early in the process of cellular aging.

Together the discoveries, made through a series of experiments in yeast, bring unprecedented clarity to the complex cascade of events that comprise the aging process and pave the way to understanding how genetics and environmental factors like diet interact to influence lifespan, aging and age-related diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.

The findings, including unexpected results that link aspects of aging and lifespan to a mechanism cells use to store nutrients, are described in the Nov. 21 issue of Nature by co-authors Daniel Gottschling, Ph.D., a member of the Hutchinson Center’s Basic Sciences Division, and Adam Hughes, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Gottschling Lab.

The researchers found the acidity of a structure in yeast cells known as the vacuole is critical to aging and the functioning of mitochondria – the power plants of the cell. They also describe a novel mechanism, which may have parallels in human cells, by which calorie restriction extends lifespan.

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