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  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on March 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Big wage gap between male and female R.I. doctors, Brown University, , Providence Journal,   

    From Brown University via Providence Journal: Women in STEM -“My Turn: Katherine M. Sharkey: Big wage gap between male and female R.I. doctors” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    1

    Providence Journal

    Mar 21, 2018

    2
    Katherine M. Sharkey, M.D.

    “I grew up in Rhode Island. I am always thrilled when Providence makes it onto a list of the top five hippest cities or our beaches are singled out as the most beautiful in the world.

    The other day, though, Little Rhody made it onto a Top Five list of more dubious distinction: a national survey of 65,000 physicians showed that Providence-area women physicians have the fourth-largest gender wage gap in the nation — at a whopping 31 percent difference between men and women — and the fifth-lowest average salary for female physicians.

    Translated into dollars and cents, this means that a woman physician in Rhode Island earns about $110,000 less per year than her male counterparts. Added up over the course of a career, the compensation difference is staggering.

    Many possible explanations for the lack of gender equity in physician compensation have been put forth.

    One hypothesis is that male physicians are in higher-paying specialties than women. The data, however, do not support this explanation. Indeed, although women in more lucrative specialties have higher salaries than the average women physician’s salary, the gap is even wider in higher paying specialties.

    Perhaps then, male physicians have higher salaries because they do a better job than women? Again, the data do not support this explanation. A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine showed that patients who were cared for by women physicians had lower death rates and were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital than patients treated by a male physician.

    Finally, there is a theory that women don’t get raises because they simply do not ask. Once again, the data do not bear this out. A 2017 study of 70,000 people by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co showed that women do ask, but they are denied more frequently than men and are viewed more negatively after broaching the issue of a raise.

    While discussing these data with a male colleague, he responded, “There is only so much money in the system, so if women doctors get paid more, then men will end up getting paid less.” My reply: “That is exactly what women experience. It doesn’t feel good, does it?”

    Now is the time to call this gender gap in pay — in medicine, science, and other industries — exactly what it is. The people in power want to hold onto that power and are reluctant to give it up. And often they are indignant when they are confronted about the issue, as if to say, “Wait a minute, we’ve been so generous and let you in to our boys’ club, and now you have the nerve to ask to be treated equally?”

    Some may wonder why this issue matters, and here the data are clear. Paying women less hurts working families and perpetuates the structural sexism and racism that has advantaged men and white people across occupations and industries for generations. Men who accept this gap in compensation for their female colleagues are complicit in prolonging these inequities.

    While it is true that no male physician today is responsible for the sexism and racism in our field, it is time for them to join the fight to end these disparities. As Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

    What can be done? First, both male and female physicians must demand transparency with regard to salaries. Until we break the taboo of discussing money, and pay gap information is examined in the light of day, we cannot come up with solutions to divide the pot more equally.

    I also call upon my colleagues to support legislation, such as the Fair Pay Act currently before the General Assembly, that would make gender pay gaps illegal.”

    Katherine M. Sharkey, M.D., is associate professor of medicine and psychiatry and human behavior, and assistant dean for women in medicine and science at Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

    See the full article here.

    [Full disclosure: I have personal interests in what goes on at Brown Univertsity and in the State of Rhode Island.]

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

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  • richardmitnick 3:07 pm on February 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Brown University, , Lead-free perovskite material for solar cells   

    From Brown: “Researchers discover new lead-free perovskite material for solar cells” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    February 13, 2018
    Kevin Stacey
    kevin_stacey@brown.edu
    401-863-3766

    1
    Getting the lead out
    Researchers have shown that titanium is an attractive choice to replace the toxic lead in the prevailing perovskite thin film solar cells. Padture Lab / Brown University

    A class of materials called perovskites has emerged as a promising alternative to silicon for making inexpensive and efficient solar cells. But for all their promise, perovskites are not without their downsides. Most contain lead, which is highly toxic, and include organic materials that are not particularly stable when exposed to the environment.

    Now a group of researchers at Brown University and University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) has come up with a new titanium-based material for making lead-free, inorganic perovskite solar cells. In a paper published in the journal Joule (a new energy-focused sister journal to Cell), the researchers show that the material can be a good candidate, especially for making tandem solar cells — arrangements in which a perovskite cells are placed on top of silicon or another established material to boost the overall efficiency.

    “Titanium is an abundant, robust and biocompatible element that, until now, has been largely overlooked in perovskite research,” said the senior author of the new paper, Nitin Padture, the Otis E. Randall University Professor in Brown’s School of Engineering and director of Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation. “We showed that it’s possible to use titanium-based material to make thin-film perovskites and that the material has favorable properties for solar applications which can be tuned.”

    Interest in perovskites, a class of materials with a particular crystalline structure, for clean energy emerged in 2009, when they were shown to be able to convert sunlight into electricity. The first perovskite solar cells had a conversion efficiency of only about 4 percent, but that has quickly skyrocketed to near 23 percent, which rivals traditional silicon cells. And perovskites offer some intriguing advantages. They’re potentially cheaper to make than silicon cells, and they can be partially transparent, enabling new technologies like windows that generate electricity.

    “One of the big thrusts in perovskite research is to get away from lead-based materials and find new materials that are non-toxic and more stable,” Padture said. “Using computer simulations, our theoretician collaborators at UNL predicted [ACS Energy Letters] that a class of perovskites with cesium, titanium and a halogen component (bromine or/and iodine) was a good candidate. The next step was to actually make a solar cell using that material and test its properties, and that’s what we’ve done here.”

    The team made semi-transparent perovskite films that had bandgap — a measure of the energy level of photons the material can absorb — of 1.8 electron volts, which is considered to be ideal for tandem solar applications. The material had a conversion efficiency of 3.3 percent, which is well below that of lead-based cells, but a good start for an all-new material, the researchers say.

    “There’s a lot of engineering you can do to improve efficiency,” Yuanyuan Zhou, an assistant professor (research) of engineering at Brown and a study co-author. “We think this material has a lot of room to improve.”

    Min Chen, a Ph.D. student of materials science at Brown and the first author of the paper, used a high-temperature evaporation method to prepare the films, but says the team is investigating alternative methods. “We are also looking for new low-temperature and solvent-based methods to reduce the potential cost of cell fabrication,” he said.

    The research showed the material has several advantages over other lead-free perovskite alternatives. One contender for a lead-free perovskite is a material made largely from tin, which rusts easily when exposed to the environment. Titanium, on the hand, is rust-resistant. The titanium-perovskite also has an open-circuit voltage — a measure of the total voltage available from a solar cell — of over one volt. Other lead-free perovskites generally produce voltage smaller than 0.6 volts.

    “Open-circuit voltage is a key property that we can use to evaluate the potential of a solar cell material,” Padture said. “So, having such a high value at the outset is very promising.”

    The researchers say that material’s relatively large bandgap compared to silicon makes it a prime candidate to serve as the top layer in a tandem solar cell. The titanium-perovskite upper layer would absorb the higher-energy photons from the sun that the lower silicon layer can’t absorb because of its smaller bandgap. Meanwhile, lower energy photons would pass through the semi-transparent upper layer to be absorbed by the silicon, thereby increasing the cell’s total absorption capacity.

    “Tandem cells are the low-hanging fruit when it comes to perovskites,” Padture said. “We’re not looking to replace existing silicon technology just yet, but instead we’re looking to boost it. So if you can make a lead-free tandem cell that’s stable, then that’s a winner. This new material looks like a good candidate.”

    Other co-authors on the paper were Ming-Gang Ju, Alexander Carl, Yingxia Zong, Ronald Grimm, Jiajun Gu and Xiao Cheng Zeng. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (OIA-1538893, DMR-1420645).

    See the full article here .

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    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:38 pm on February 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Brown University, , Dark Matter May Be a Product of Gravitational Waves with a Twist,   

    From Brown University via Futurism: “Dark Matter May Be a Product of Gravitational Waves with a Twist” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    futurism-bloc

    Futurism

    February 12, 2018
    Dom Galeon

    1
    Give us a wave! Right-handed or left-handed? Henze/NASA.

    It is said that the universe is made up of over 80 percent dark matter. What dark matter exactly is, however, has continued to elude experts. Theories abound, and a recent one suggests an entirely different approach involving gravitational waves.

    Breaking Symmetry

    For decades now, the exact composition of matter in the universe has baffled astronomers and physicists alike. It would seem that, given the basic assumptions about the origins of the universe, there is still no way to account for the “missing” dark matter that makes up for as much as a quarter of all matter in the universe. That’s why a trio of researchers has proposed a new dark matter theory, which could explain how dark matter came about.

    We know dark matter exists because we can observe how its gravity interacts with visible matter and electromagnetic radiation. There is something there, although we can’t yet see it, or put a finger on what it is.

    In the new study, Evan McDonough and Stephon Alexander from Brown University, with David Spergel from Princeton University, suggest that a mechanism involving gravitational waves — basically, ripples in the fabric of space and time, first theorized by Einstein and confirmed to exist only in 2016 — could explain how dark matter came to be.

    McDonough’s team used a model of the primordial universe that assumed the presence of particles called dark matter quarks, which aren’t the same as today’s dark matter. These dark quarks could have a property called chirality, referring to the way the particles twist, similar to neutrinos. The chirality or “handedness” of these dark quarks could have then interacted with the chiral gravitational waves in the early universe, producing the kind of dark matter we have today.

    Lighter and Wimpier

    Supposedly, as the universe settled into a cooler state, the interactions between chiral dark quarks and chiral gravitational waves resulted in a small excess of the former. These condensed into a quirky state of matter called a superfluid, which could still exist as a background field today. What we know to be dark matter are proposed as excitations of this background field, in the same way photons are excitations of an electromagnetic field.

    Interestingly, the dark matter particles resulting from such a model would be lighter than what’s known as weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), which many researchers believe could make up dark matter. There hasn’t been enough evidence to suggest, however, that this is the case. At any rate, being lighter than WIMPs would mean that dark matter wouldn’t interact with normal matter. “It’s much wimpier than WIMPs,” Spergel told New Scientist.

    As such, this dark matter theory could change how we should “look” for dark matter, as it wouldn’t be possible to see such particles directly at all. Unlike WIMPs, these particles would also be distributed more evenly across the galaxy. At the same time, the ratio of dark matter and normal matter wouldn’t necessarily be constant throughout the universe.

    Spergel explained, however, that this unique behavior could also provide us with a way to find dark matter. A more uniform, non-clustered distribution of dark matter could spill over into cosmic microwave background — the Big Bang’s residual radiation — and produce a unique signature. It could even affect the formation of larger-scale structures, like galaxy clusters. It could also, perhaps, have an effect on gravitational waves.

    In any case, any new dark matter theory is certainly a welcome one, as experts continue exploring other possibilities to account for dark matter — or even dismiss it altogether.

    “It’s a cool idea,” Stanford University’s Michael Peskin, who wasn’t part of the study, told New Scientist. “Right now, dark matter is completely open. Anything you can do that brings in a new idea into this area, it opens a door. And then you have to walk down that corridor and see whether there are interesting things there that suggest new experiments. This opens another door.”

    See the full article here .

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    Futurism covers the breakthrough technologies and scientific discoveries that will shape humanity’s future. Our mission is to empower our readers and drive the development of these transformative technologies towards maximizing human potential.

    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:17 pm on February 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Brown University, , , Researchers take terahertz data links around the bend   

    From Brown via phys.org: “Researchers take terahertz data links around the bend” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    phys.org

    February 6, 2018
    Kevin Stacey

    1
    New research shows that non-line-of-site terahertz data links are possible because the waves can bounce off of walls without losing too much data. Credit: Mittleman lab / Brown University

    An off-the-wall new study by Brown University researchers shows that terahertz frequency data links can bounce around a room without dropping too much data. The results are good news for the feasibility of future terahertz wireless data networks, which have the potential to carry many times more data than current networks.

    Today’s cellular networks and Wi-Fi systems rely on microwave radiation to carry data, but the demand for more and more bandwidth is quickly becoming more than microwaves can handle. That has researchers thinking about transmitting data on higher-frequency terahertz waves, which have as much as 100 times the data-carrying capacity of microwaves. But terahertz communication technology is in its infancy. There’s much basic research to be done and plenty of challenges to overcome.

    For example, it’s been assumed that terahertz links would require a direct line of sight between transmitter and receiver. Unlike microwaves, terahertz waves are entirely blocked by most solid objects. And the assumption has been that it’s not possible to bounce a terahertz beam around—say, off a wall or two—to find a clear path around an object.

    “I think it’s fair to say that most people in the terahertz field would tell you that there would be too much power loss on those bounces, and so non-line-of-sight links are not going to be feasible in terahertz,” said Daniel Mittleman, a professor in Brown University’s School of Engineering and senior author of the new research published in APL Photonics. “But our work indicates that the loss is actually quite tolerable in some cases—quite a bit less than many people would have thought.”

    For the study, Mittleman and his colleagues bounced terahertz waves at four different frequencies off of a variety of objects—mirrors, metal doors, cinderblock walls and others—and measured the bit-error-rate of the data on the wave after the bounces. They showed that acceptable bit-error-rates were achievable with modest increases in signal power.

    “The concern had been that in order to make those bounces and not lose your data, you’d need more power than was feasible to generate,” Mittleman said. “We show that you don’t need as much power as you might think because the loss on the bounce is not as much as you’d think.”

    In one experiment, the researchers bounced a beam off two walls, enabling a successful link when transmitter and receiver were around a corner from each other, with no direct line-of-sight whatsoever. That’s a promising finding to support the idea of terahertz local-area networks.

    2
    In an effort to better understand the architecture needed for future terahertz data networks, Brown University researchers investigate how terahertz waves propagate and bounce off of objects both indoors and out. Credit: Mittleman Lab / Brown University

    “You can imagine a wireless network,” Mittleman explained, “where someone’s computer is connected to a terahertz router and there’s direct line-of-sight between the two, but then someone walks in between and blocks the beam. If you can’t find an alternative path, that link will be shut down. What we show is that you might still be able to maintain the link by searching for a new path that could involve bouncing off a wall somewhere. There are technologies today that can do that kind of path-finding for lower frequencies and there’s no reason they can’t be developed for terahertz.”

    The researchers also performed several outdoor experiments on terahertz wireless links. An experimental license issued by the FCC makes Brown the only place in the country where outdoor research can be done legally at these frequencies. The work is important because scientists are just beginning to understand the details of how terahertz data links behave in the elements, Mittleman says.

    Their study focused on what’s known as specular reflection. When a signal is transmitted over long distances, the waves fan out forming an ever-widening cone. As a result of that fanning out, a portion the waves will bounce off of the ground before reaching the receiver. That reflected radiation can interfere with the main signal unless a decoder compensates for it. It’s a well-understood phenomenon in microwave transmission. Mittleman and his colleagues wanted to characterize it in the terahertz range.

    They showed that this kind of interference indeed occurs in terahertz waves, but occurs to a lesser degree over grass compared to concrete. That’s likely because grass has lots of water, which tends to absorb terahertz waves. So over grass, the reflected beam is absorbed to a greater degree than concrete, leaving less of it to interfere with the main beam. That means that terahertz links over grass can be longer than those over concrete because there’s less interference to deal with, Mittleman says.

    “The specular reflection represents another possible path for your signal,” Mittleman said. “You can imagine that if your line-of-site path is blocked, you could think about bouncing it off the ground to get there.”

    Mittleman says that these kinds of basic studies on the nature of terahertz data transmission are critical for understanding how to design the network architecture for future terahertz data systems.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:44 pm on December 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Brown University, Computer modeling used in study, , Earlier studies of Europa’s surface geology that found regions where the moon’s ice shell looks to be expanding in a way that’s similar to the mid-ocean spreading ridges on Earth, If indeed there’s life in that ocean subduction offers a way to supply the nutrients it would need, , , Research bolsters possibility of plate tectonics on Europa, The computer model showed that if there were varying amounts of salt in the surface ice shell it could provide the necessary density differences for a slab to subduct, The research also suggests a new place in the solar system to study a process that’s played a crucial role in the evolution of our own planet   

    From Brown University: “Research bolsters possibility of plate tectonics on Europa” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    November 29, 2017
    Kevin Stacey
    kevin_stacey@brown.edu
    401-863-3766

    1
    An icy world
    Previous studies had hinted that something like subduction may have been happening on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. A new study provides geophysical evidence that it could indeed be happening on the moon’s icy shell. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

    Jupiter’s moon Europa could have subduction zones, a new study shows, which could supply chemical food for life to a subsurface ocean.

    A Brown University study provides new evidence that the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa may have plate tectonics similar to those on Earth. The presence of plate tectonic activity could have important implications for the possibility of life in the ocean thought to exist beneath the moon’s surface.

    The study, published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, uses computer modeling to show that subduction — when a tectonic plate slides underneath another and sinks deep into a planet’s interior — is physically possible in Europa’s ice shell. The findings bolster earlier studies of Europa’s surface geology that found regions where the moon’s ice shell looks to be expanding in a way that’s similar to the mid-ocean spreading ridges on Earth. The possibility of subduction adds another piece to the tectonic puzzle.

    “We have this evidence of extension and spreading, so the question becomes where does that material go?” said Brandon Johnson, an assistant professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences and a lead author of the study. “On Earth, the answer is subduction zones. What we show is that under reasonable assumptions for conditions on Europa, subduction could be happening there as well, which is really exciting.”

    Part of the excitement, Johnson says, is that surface crust is enriched with oxidants and other chemical food for life. Subduction provides a means for that food to come into contact with the subsurface ocean scientists think probably exists under Europa’s ice.

    “If indeed there’s life in that ocean, subduction offers a way to supply the nutrients it would need,” Johnson said.

    Subduction on ice

    On Earth, subduction is driven largely by differences in temperature between a descending slab and the surrounding mantle. Crustal material is much cooler than mantle material, and therefore denser. That increased density provides the negative buoyancy needed to sink a slab deep into the mantle.

    The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in 1996, USGS.

    Though previous geological studies had hinted that something like subduction could be happening on Europa, it wasn’t clear exactly how that process would work on an icy world. There’s evidence, Johnson says, that Europa’s ice shell has a two layers: a thin outer lid of very cold ice that sits atop a layer of slightly warmer, convecting ice. If a plate from the outer ice lid was pushed down into the warmer ice below, its temperature would quickly warm to that of the surrounding ice. At the point, the slab would have the same density of the surrounding ice and would therefore stop descending.

    But the model developed by Johnson and his colleagues showed a way that subduction could happen on Europa, regardless of temperature differences. The model showed that if there were varying amounts of salt in the surface ice shell, it could provide the necessary density differences for a slab to subduct.

    “Adding salt to an ice slab would be like adding little weights to it because salt is denser than ice,” Johnson said. “So rather than temperature, we show that differences in the salt content of the ice could enable subduction to happen on Europa.”

    And there’s good reason to suspect that variations in salt content do exist on Europa. There’s geological evidence for occasional water upwelling from Europa’s subsurface ocean — a process similar to the upwelling of magma from Earth’s mantle. That upwelling would leave high salt content in the crust under which it rises. There’s also a possibility of cryovolcanism, where salty ocean contents actually spray out onto the surface.

    In addition to bolstering the case for a habitable ocean on Europa, Johnson says, the research also suggests a new place in the solar system to study a process that’s played a crucial role in the evolution of our own planet.

    “It’s fascinating to think that we might have plate tectonics somewhere other than Earth,” he said. “Thinking from the standpoint of comparative planetology, if we can now study plate tectonics in this very different place, it might be able to help us understand how plate tectonics got started on the Earth.”

    Johnson’s co-authors on the paper — Rachel Sheppard, Alyssa Pascuzzo, Elizabeth Fisher and Sean Wiggins — are all graduate students at Brown. They took a class Johnson offered called Ocean Worlds, which focused on bodies like Europa that are thought to have oceans beneath icy shells.

    “This paper emerged as a class project we did together,” Johnson said, “and it’s exciting that we came up with some interesting results.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:40 pm on November 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Brown University, , Sangeeta Bhatia,   

    From Brown: Women in STEM- “Building a Better Way” Sangeeta Bhatia 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    November/December 2017
    Louise Sloan

    1
    Sangeeta Bhatia. Geordie Wood

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________

    Be Recognized for Who You Are

    Sangeeta Bhatia ’90 may not have had many role models to look up to as a woman engineer, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t learn a lot of lessons along the way. Here’s some of her advice for people from any group that has been historically underrepresented in the field.

    STAY CONFIDENT. Being one of the only women or people of color in your field is difficult. Keep focused on your strengths. Bhatia says she struggled with “imposter syndrome.” “There’s this feeling that you don’t belong, and you’re always second guessing yourself. That does diminish with time.”

    TAKE THAT MEETING. With famous scientists or engineers, Bhatia learned to ask questions or strike up a conversation about the person’s most recent paper. The collaboration that led to one of her most important breakthroughs was a result of following up on a colleague’s offer of an introduction. Worst case, making connections can make a dull meeting more interesting. “Okay, I’m at a conference,” she’d tell herself; “Who are the people I want to meet? What the heck? Let’s meet them.”

    SPEAK UP EARLY ON. In business meetings, Bhatia says, often “I was the only woman, only engineer, only person of color.” And she looked young. “One thing I quickly realized was that I needed to make a comment or ask an insightful question pretty early in the convening of a group.” It wasn’t her personal style to do this, but, she realized, “there are times where you’ve got a group of really high-powered people together, and you’re there for an hour, and nobody knows who you are. You have something important to add. You have to make it clear early in the conversation why you’re at the table.”

    IDENTIFY MENTORS. When Bhatia and Theresia Gouw ’90 were seniors and looked into what made some women stay in engineering while so many others left, they found that what the women who’d stayed all had in common was mentors—whether that was a professor, parents, or a family friend. Bhatia concedes it’s hard to force these relationships. It’s clear that her mentors came not just through luck but also through her own efforts in cultivating relationships with key people around her and following up on any advice and opportunities.

    STUDY SUCCESS. Identify your weaknesses and look around at who is doing that thing well. Bhatia says she was comfortable expressing her ideas one-on-one, and as a professor she also became comfortable speaking to a lecture hall. But groups of between 10 and 30 people in faculty meetings or on advisory boards felt awkward to her. “I started studying it and looking at who is really effective in this setting. How have they managed to be effective? At what points are they choosing to speak up? What offline work have they done to grease this conversation so that by the time they speak up, they’re able to carry the room? I made kind of a project of it, trying to figure it out, because I realized I wasn’t actually naturally good at that.”

    BE YOUR OWN BOSS. “This is something Theresia has taught me, which is that one of the answers to diversity is to create your own organization, put yourself at the top, make the culture that you want it to be.
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________
    3
    Lego characters designed by Maia Weinstock ’99, Photo by Erik Gould
    Lego minifigures, like engineers, are disproportionately
 male. But Sangeeta Bhatia ’90 has her own, custom-made in 2015 by Maia Weinstock ’99. It’s a fitting tribute to the engineer, physician, biotech entrepreneur, and mom who takes tiny pieces and puts them together in unexpected ways.

    Bhatia is literally a soccer mom when she’s not coming up with incredible scientific breakthroughs. Her husband, Jagesh Shah, coaches their daughters’ teams. But take heart, mere mortals. “My car is a mess; it smells like a dead animal right now,” she has admitted. “I don’t cook. At all.”

    Bhatia does a lot of things a little differently. She has used microfabrication, the technology behind microchips, to grow human liver cells outside the body. This has allowed drug companies to test toxicity on these “micro livers” in the lab and to hope that they can someday manufacture whole human livers for transplant patients. She is a senior scientist at a top institution, but instead of spending nights and weekends at the lab, she insists on balance so that, for example, Wednesdays are “Mommy Day” spent with her kids.

    Her very presence in the field of bioengineering as an engaging, stylish woman of color is de facto doing things differently. “Many people still have this image of an engineer as a kind of nerdy guy, interested in taking things apart,” Bhatia said in an October 2015 speech at Brown celebrating the groundbreaking of the new engineering building (it just opened this fall). “Someone who stays up all night playing video games and eating Doritos, with very few social skills. Right?”

    Bhatia, a petite figure in a sleeveless top and capri pants, her toenails a chic shade of blue, is not that guy. She took a gap year after Brown in which she backpacked and taught aerobics. She does classical Indian dance to relax—she thinks that’s what caught the attention of Brown’s admission office—and, with husband Jagesh Shah, a professor at Harvard, she runs her kids’ elementary school science fair. She’s literally a soccer mom—Shah coaches their daughters’ teams. But take heart, mere mortals. “My car is a mess; it smells like a dead animal right now,” she admitted to Nova ScienceNOW when they profiled her in 2009. “I don’t cook. At all.”

    What she does do, with the team she’s assembled at her lab at MIT, is figure out which sequences of amino acids can get into a tumor, then put them on synthetic materials that are way smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and use that to detect cancer. They’ve managed to grow the dormant version of malaria in a dish so drugs can be tested in vitro before being tested in humans. They’ve also prototyped breathalyzer and urine tests for cancer.

    Bhatia has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors, and she was one of the youngest women ever elected to the National Academy of Engineering. She’s won prestigious national prizes and awards, including the Lemelson-MIT Prize, known as the “Oscar for inventors.” In addition to having her own lab, the Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies, she recently launched The Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine at MIT. The prize for cleanest car in the Boston area can probably wait.

    The door to her future was in the Biomed Center

    Bhatia, who was born and raised in Boston, got interested in bioengineering at Brown when, in order to get to her human physiology lab, she had to walk past a door in the Biomed Center that was labeled “artificial organs.” That sounded cool to her, so one day she knocked on the door. “I begged them to let me intern,” she says. She spent the summer working on using electricity-producing plastics (piezoelectrics) to enhance nerve regeneration and became hooked on the field that is now called tissue engineering. After Brown and that post-undergrad gap year, in which she also worked for a pharmaceutical company pressing pills (“it was really boring”), she started grad school at MIT.

    Her parents approved. Bhatia’s father was an engineer, and her mother was one of the first women in India to earn an MBA. They considered three careers acceptable: doctor, engineer, or entrepreneur. So when Bhatia said she wanted to pursue a PhD because bioengineering bosses seemed to have them, her father, who felt PhDs are often impractical, asked, “When are you going to start a company?”

    It took a few years. In 2008 she launched Hepregen to bring the artificial liver technology to the commercial market, and she started Glympse Bio in 2015 to commercialize the urine-test diagnostics, with investment from her Brown roommate, longtime friend, and venture capitalist Theresia Gouw ’90. “We are scheduled to start, we hope, our first clinical trials next year,” Bhatia says, “It’s like having another child.”

    Bhatia’s work producing artificial livers started in her second year at MIT, when she joined the lab of Mehmet Toner, a biomedical engineer who was trying to develop a device that would use human liver cells to process the blood of patients with liver failure. Bhatia set out to figure out how to get liver cells to grow outside the body. She tried and failed for two years. Then she had a breakthrough.

    In the body, liver cells don’t just grow on their own, Bhatia explains. They grow in a particular structure—a community, she calls it—with connective tissue cells. But just throwing both types of cells into a petri dish didn’t work. Instead, Bhatia hit on the idea of creating the right structure for these cells by using microfabrication techniques designed to create computer chips. Instead of putting tiny circuits on a chip, she etched a glass culture dish with the geometric configuration in which liver cells grow in the body. Success: the liver cells, organized in the right way and supported by connective tissue cells, could live for several weeks outside the body. Today, pharmaceutical companies around the world use Bhatia’s micro livers, grown from human liver cells, to test whether or not their drugs are toxic to humans before they try them on actual people.

    While Bhatia worked in Toner’s lab, she started taking the year’s worth of medical school classes at Harvard that her biomedical engineering program required. Fascinated, she added even more med school classes. Then after she finished up her bioengineering PhD, she transferred into Harvard Medical School as a third-year med student—a foray into one of her other parentally approved career paths. But she still threw her hat in the ring for academic gigs and later that year accepted a junior professor position at UC San Diego. So in 1999, her fourth year of medical school, she multitasked, working at both a hospital (“for inspiration”) and a research lab (“where my heart is”). The combination remains crucial for her work, Bhatia says. “Over my career, I have always looked to the clinic to recognize what the real unmet medical needs are,” she explains.

    In 2005, after six years in San Diego, Bhatia returned with Shah and their first daughter to Boston to accept a professorship at MIT.

    How to build a kinder, gentler top academic lab

    When Bhatia was in grad school she looked “up the pipeline” to the lives of research scientists and engineers, and she didn’t like what she saw. When she popped into the lab one Saturday night at 3 am, her colleagues were still working. When she thought about her future, she says, “I realized I didn’t want to be there every Saturday night.” So when she set up her own lab at MIT, she prioritized excellence but she had other key concerns.

    As with the liver cells she studies, she feels people thrive best in a community and with support. For her own sake and to enhance the success of her lab, Bhatia makes it a priority to hire people who aren’t just great at what they do but can also get along well with others. Like some high-tech entrepreneurs, she encourages them to both work hard and live a balanced life—and to spend 20 percent of their work time “tinkering” on creative projects that may or may not pan out. (The breathalyzer test for cancer came out of one of these “submarine” projects, so called because they’re hidden from Bhatia unless they succeed.) Bhatia’s lab manager, Lian-Ee Ch’ng, says the lab, a warren-like series of rooms on the fourth floor of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, feels very different from others she has worked in. “Sangeeta has a very personal touch,” Ch’ng says.

    Thirty people work in Bhatia’s lab, including a research director, scientists, and the grad students. It looks like any top facility, with row after row of workstations and separate rooms for incubators, specialized microscopes, ultra-low-temperature freezers, and massive tanks of liquid nitrogen. They have a 3-D printer and, perhaps the most high-tech piece of equipment in the lab, Ch’ng says, the Pannoramic 250, a high-speed, five-color slide scanner that produces beautiful digital images of the cells on a microscope slide.

    It looks like a place built for workaholics, where it would be easy to keep your head down and your focus on yourself. But Bhatia doesn’t allow it. She sets a tone of collegiality, Ch’ng says, which really makes a difference: “People talk to each other.”

    There’s an inherent tension, Bhatia admits, in bringing together excellent, ambitious people and also prioritizing work-life balance, community, and citizenship. “They’re not all exactly the same thing,” she says. But this combination of priorities may be an important reason why the Bhatia lab has a staff that’s about half female. “I have an orientation that attracts young moms,” she says. Her male staff members who have kids are probably able to be better dads, too.

    “I think Sangeeta’s a wonderful role model for women,” then-grad student Geoffrey Von Maltzahn told Nova. “But she’s a terrific role model for anybody. One of the hardest things in life is to make a clear distinction between how much time you’re going to dedicate to your work and how much time you’re going to dedicate to your family and your friends. She’s able to manage that with a sense of ease that I think is inspirational, independent of whether you’re a man or a woman.”

    However, when Bhatia started working from home on Wednesdays so that she could pick up her daughters from school, she felt it was professionally risky. So at first she called it “working off campus.” Now, everyone knows it’s “Mommy Wednesday.” She makes a point of modeling work-life balance to show that it can be done without sacrificing success.

    She’s also purposely using her visibility as a top scientist to be a role model for women in engineering. “There are not a lot of engineers that look like me, still.” Yet when she first got to Brown, she didn’t see what all the “diversity” fuss was about. “I looked around the classroom and thought that there were plenty of women.”

    Then, when she was a senior, she and her friend Theresia Gouw looked around again, and there were many fewer women—only seven in a class of 100. “We realized that we had just witnessed the so-called disproportionate attrition, the leaky pipeline.”

    Bhatia started reading about the subtle bias and the feeling of “not belonging” that discourages many women from pursuing the field. She and Gouw surveyed the other women who stayed in engineering and found that “every one of them had had mentors or parents who encouraged them.”

    As a newcomer to MIT, and as one of the few women engineering graduate students, Bhatia got a clear taste of that “not belonging” feeling when a thermodynamics professor asked her, on the first day, if she was in the right class. At first, Bhatia says she did what she could to downplay her femininity, wearing pants and not much makeup, trying to disappear. But later, she realized she had to be visible to make a difference and help patch up that leaky pipeline. So she makes a point of speaking openly and specifically about being a woman engineer.

    Bhatia thinks her attitude stems from the orientation towards public service she got in college. “I think that’s very Brown,” she says. “Not just noticing, but taking action.” But she says that her commitment to gender and other types of diversity also happens to be good business. “Just look at the metrics,” she points out. “Quality of ideas, return on investment, time to profitability, every objective metric has shown to be improved with diversity.”

    Though living a balanced life was important to Bhatia, she feared the consequences on her career. “I said to myself, ‘This is a tradeoff I’m willing to make. If it means I’m not at the top of my field, that’s absolutely a decision I’m making with my eyes open.’”

    Instead, she found that her choice to have a life outside the lab had the opposite effect: it helped her excel. “You have to find a way to sustain your energy and your creative spirit,” she says. As many workplace productivity studies have shown, having downtime increases productivity, and Bhatia is no exception to this rule. “I feel like if I worked the way that I thought I was supposed to, I actually think I wouldn’t be as productive. For me it’s helpful to come in and out of those worlds.”

    The tiniest tools 
on earth

    Bhatia’s still working with livers, but microfabrication is now old technology. Much of her current work uses nanotechnology: “You make materials so tiny that they can circulate in the body,” she explains.

    It’s with these insanely small tools that Bhatia set out to find better ways to diagnose and treat cancer. While still at UC San Diego, she began collaborating with renowned cancer researcher Erkki Ruoslahti, who had figured out how to engineer viruses so they’d home in on tumors. Bhatia replicated that, not with viruses but with materials, such as quantum dots (qdots), little semiconductor crystals that are more than ten thousand times smaller than the width of a strand of human hair.

    Bhatia coated qdots with peptide sequences that would allow them to enter tumor cells. Then she injected the qdots into mice that had cancer. Sure enough, the qdots homed in on the tumors. In 2002, Bhatia and Ruoslahti published a paper on their findings. “A lot of people say it was one of the first of its kind in what later became this field of nanomedicine,” Bhatia says.

    The urine test for cancer was an outgrowth of that work—and a happy accident. In the Bhatia lab, they were trying to make “smart contrast agents,” materials that would light up in tumors and thus show up on an MRI. “That was when the students noticed that whenever the animals were tumor-bearing, the bladder would light up,” Bhatia says. “Then we realized we didn’t need an MRI at all, that we had created this kind of urine diagnostic.” All they had to do was create a paper test to detect the biomarker that appeared in the urine and voilà, an inexpensive and relatively noninvasive test for cancer.

    “We think it’s a platform technology,” says Bhatia, who is investigating the use of this type of diagnostic with other diseases, including liver disease, which could help patients avoid expensive and invasive biopsies. The test works great in mice, so their biggest hurdle is to work with the FDA so that it can be tested on people.

    The “blue-sky” goal

    One of Bhatia’s dreams is to create a functioning human liver made outside the body that can be implanted into it. That goal is still far away, but it’s getting closer. In June, she published a paper that explained her group’s successful attempt to grow working livers in mice.

    Building on her micro liver technology, they used a 3-D printer to produce tiny liver “seeds” that they populated with a community of liver cells and helper cells. The configuration, they thought, would allow the cells to respond to regeneration cues—the liver being one of the only organs in the body that can regenerate.

    They implanted these seeds in mice with failing livers—and the lab-created livers grew 50 times larger in the mice’s bodies. They also looked a lot like real livers and performed liver functions. Making a liver for a human obviously requires many more cells than making one for a mouse, though.

    “We think you probably need about 10 billion cells to get up to clinically relevant tissue, which is a lot and too many to print practically in a reasonable amount of time,” Bhatia says. “We have a long way to go.”

    In the meantime, they have found another use for the micro livers: testing malaria drugs. “There’s a really elusive dormant form of vivax malaria that can hide out in a liver,” Bhatia explains. The only drug that’s been known to clear this dormant form of the disease is primaquine, which has been around since World War II. But it can cause blood damage in patients, and some strains of the dormant malaria have developed resistance to it. “There’s been a big push for new drugs since 2008, when the World Health Organization announced a new malaria eradication campaign,” Bhatia says.

    What Bhatia’s team has been able to do is grow this dormant strain of malaria in their micro livers, allowing drugs to be tested against it. “Now we’re trying to molecularly describe it, which has never been done,” she says.

    The malaria work came about because a lab member, graduate student Nil Gural, wanted to work on the untreatable form of the disease. “When she came, we had never grown [the dormant strain] before. We had no access to it.” Gural, who is originally from Turkey, said she was willing to live in Bangkok for a while to get it going.

    Gural has now been working on this for a couple of years, going back and forth from Boston to Bangkok. The work is going really well, Bhatia says. The lab is working with Medicine for Malaria Ventures, the organization that is coordinating the effort to develop new drugs that will work on the dormant stage of the disease. Given that there are about 212 million malaria cases that cause nearly half a million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization, it’s research that has great potential for positive impact.

    Bhatia says her commitment to malaria work comes out of her entrepreneurial instincts as shaped by Brown. “My professional work has started out in what I would say is a very high-tech place,” she says, “and that’s growing 3-D livers. That’s probably going to be an expensive solution for patients with liver failure. The same thing for our cancer work. We’re working on really, really, really cutting-edge but still expensive ideas.”

    Expensive ideas are, of course, where the profit lies for an entrepreneur. But Bhatia says Brown taught her to look beyond profit to ask, “What can you do to make the world a better place?” For Bhatia, that’s finding global health applications for her work, such as taking the micro livers and using them to help eradicate malaria, or using the nanotechnology the lab comes up with to create inexpensive paper-based diagnostic urine tests for lung, colon, and ovarian cancers, allowing patients to be tested and even treated right on the spot, including in remote areas of developing countries where follow-up can be next to impossible. That’s still a dream, but as she said in her Spring 2017 TED Talk, “We already have this working in mice.”

    Half of Bhatia’s staff crowds into her office every Friday—it switches back and forth between the cancer and liver groups. It’s a medium-sized office with a desk, a small table, and a small couch. Behind her desk is a large framed print of something that looks like a lush white flower in full bloom. It’s actually a genetically engineered colony of yeast. Her Lego figure is perched on a window sash, and below it an unusual clock keeps the time. Six metal figures in the clock itself appear to hoist a seventh who hangs below, though every time the seventh figure gets almost to the top, it falls down again. Her husband gave it to her as a present when she got tenure. “What he said was, ‘Look at all these people helping you climb. You’re leading a team and they’re helping you achieve your vision.”

    “I was like, that’s nice, but once you get tenure”—the figure plummets to the bottom again as if to illustrate her point—“you climb the next ladder.”

    Fifteen people assemble in this space that would comfortably seat half as many. “They sit on the floor and the table,” Bhatia says. “We keep saying maybe we should move to the conference room but I think they like the intimacy of barreling into my office for 90 minutes.” The group uses the time to talk about early results of experiments and to “cross-fertilize.”

    “I’m continually reinforcing that,” Bhatia says. “Otherwise they don’t talk to each other.” Science is a lot of failure, she adds. “You have to think of all different ways to keep your team energized and excited and engaged. The best way is if they’re constantly learning.”

    Bhatia has improved and perhaps saved many lives already, thanks to the drugs that now are not tested in humans if they are toxic to micro livers. An off-the-shelf liver or a urine test for cancer or liver disease could also be lifesaving.

    But when asked what she’s proudest of, she says it’s her students, because she gets to be what she calls a “multiplier.” She trains her grad students and post-docs in a way of working and a way of thinking, and then they go out into the world. “I feel like they’ve all gone on to do really interesting things,” Bhatia says. “One of them is a venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur. He built a bunch of companies. Some of them are professors training their own students. There’s a lot of them out there. It’s the most amazing thing to feel like you’ve played a role in that.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:58 pm on November 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Brown University, , , , Physicists describe new dark matter detection strategy,   

    From Brown: “Physicists describe new dark matter detection strategy” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    November 1, 2017
    Kevin Stacey
    401-863-3766

    Physicists from Brown University have devised a new strategy for directly detecting dark matter, the elusive material thought to account for the majority of matter in the universe.

    1
    Superfluid dark matter catcher
    A proposed dark matter detector using superfluid helium might detect particles with much lower mass than most current detectors.
    Maris/Seidel/Stein/Brown University

    The new strategy, which is designed to detect interactions between dark matter particles and a tub of superfluid helium, would be sensitive to particles in a much lower mass range than is possible with any of the large-scale experiments run so far, the researchers say.

    “Most of the large-scale dark matter searches so far have been looking for particles with a mass somewhere between 10 and 10,000 times the mass of a proton,” said Derek Stein, a physicist who co-authored the work with two of his Brown University colleagues, Humphrey Maris and George Seidel. “Below 10 proton masses, these experiments start to lose their sensitivity. What we want to do is extend sensitivity down in mass by three or four orders of magnitude and explore the possibility of dark matter particles that are much lighter.”

    A paper describing the new detector is published in Physical Review Letters.

    Missing matter

    Though it has not yet been detected directly, physicists are fairly certain that dark matter must exist in some form. The way in which galaxies rotate and the degree to which light bends as it travels through the universe suggest that there’s some kind of unseen stuff throwing its gravity around.

    The leading idea for the nature of dark matter is that it’s some kind of particle, albeit one that interacts very rarely with ordinary matter. But nobody is quite sure what a dark matter particle’s properties might be because nobody has yet recorded one of those rare interactions.

    There’s been good reason, Stein says, to search in the mass range where most dark matter experiments have focused thus far. A particle in that mass range would tie up a lot of loose theoretical ends. For example, the theory of supersymmetry — the idea that all the common particles we know and love have hidden partner particles — predicts dark matter candidates of the order of hundreds of proton masses.

    But the no-show of those particles in experiments so far has some physicists thinking about how to look elsewhere. This has led theorists to propose models in which dark matter would have much lower mass.

    A new approach

    The detection strategy that the Brown researchers have come up with involves a tub of superfluid helium. The idea is that dark matter particles passing through the tub should, on very rare occasions, smack into the nucleus of a helium atom. That collision would produce phonons and rotons — tiny excitations roughly similar to sound waves — which propagate with no loss of kinetic energy inside the superfluid. When those excitations reach the surface of the fluid, they’ll cause helium atoms to be released into a vacuum space above the surface. The detection of those released atoms would be the signal that a dark matter interaction has taken place in the tub.

    “The last bit is the tricky part,” said Maris, who has worked on similar helium-based detection schemes for other particles like solar neutrinos. The collision of a low-mass dark matter particle might result in only a single atom being released from the surface. That single atom would carry only about one milli-electron volt of energy, making it virtually impossible to detect through any traditional means. The novelty of this new detection scheme is a means to amplify that tiny, single-atom energy signature.

    It works by generating an electric field in the vacuum space above the liquid using an array of small, positively charged metal pins. As an atom released from the helium surface draws close to a pin, the positively charged tip will steal an electron from it, creating a positively charged helium ion. That newly created positive ion would be in close proximity to the positively charged pin, and because like charges repel each other, the ion will fly off with enough energy to be easily detectable by a standard calorimeter, a device that detects a temperature change when a particle runs into it.

    “If we put 10,000 volts on those little pins, then that ion going is going to fly away with 10,000 volts on it,” Maris said. “So it’s this ionization feature that gives us a new way to detect just the single helium atom that could be associated with a dark matter interaction.”

    Sensitive at low mass

    This new kind of detector wouldn’t be the first to use the tub-of-liquid-gas idea. The recently completed Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment and its successor, LUX-ZEPLIN, both use tubs of xenon gas. Using helium instead provides an important advantage in looking for particles with lower mass, the researchers say.

    For a collision to be detectable, the incoming particle and the target atomic nuclei must be of compatible mass. If the incoming particle is much smaller in mass than the target nuclei, any collision would result in the particle simply bouncing off without leaving a trace. Since LUX and L-Z are intended for the detection of particles with mass greater than five times that of a proton, they used xenon, which has a nucleus of around 100 proton masses. Helium has a nuclear mass only four times that of a proton, making a more compatible target for particles with much less mass.

    But even more important than the light target, the researchers say, is the ability of the new scheme to detect only a single atom evaporated from the helium surface. That kind of sensitivity would enable the device to detect the tiny amounts of energy deposited in the detector by particles with very small masses. The Brown team thinks its device would be sensitive to masses down to about twice the mass of an electron, roughly 1,000 to 10,000 times lighter than the particles detectable in large-scale dark matter experiments so far.

    Stein says that the first steps in actually making such a detector a reality will be fundamental experiments to better understand aspects of what’s happening in the superfluid helium and the precise dynamics of the ionization scheme.

    “From those fundamental experiments,” Stein says, “we would craft designs for a bigger and more complete dark matter experiment.”

    The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (DMR-1505044).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:16 pm on October 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Brown University, , Trans-Tango   

    From Brown: “Novel technology provides powerful new means for studying neural circuits” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    [This post is dedicated to E.B.M., now at Brown]

    October 26, 2017
    David Orenstein
    david_orenstein@brown.edu


    Choreographing trans-Tango
    Developing trans-Tango, a system that works across neural connections called synapses to trace neurons in circuits, required decades of work and a dedicated team.
    Stephen Crocker

    2
    Motor and Sensory Regions of the Cerebral Cortex. This image was donated by Blausen Medical. Bruce Blaus

    With “trans-Tango,” a technology developed at Brown University and described in a new study in Neuron, scientists can bridge across the connections between neurons to trace — and in the future control — brain circuits.

    Finding out which neurons are connected with which others, and how they act together, is a huge challenge in neuroscience, and it’s crucial for understanding how brain circuits give rise to perception, motion, memory, and behavior. A new Brown University-developed technology called “trans-Tango” allows scientists to exploit the connections between pairs of neurons to make such discoveries in neuroscience. In a new study in Neuron, they used trans-Tango to illuminate connected neurons in fruit flies, revealing previously unmapped gustatory circuits that link the taste-sensing organs to brain regions known to govern feeding behavior and memory.

    The technology is widely applicable, the researchers say, because trans-Tango doesn’t depend on the neurotransmitters involved in a neural connection or on the types of neurons that are connected. As long as two neurons join at a synapse, trans-Tango allows scientists to label the cells connected to a starter neuron, experiments in the paper show.

    Moreover, because trans-Tango works by instigating the expression of genes in connected pairs of neurons, it also has the potential to enable scientists to control circuit functions, said senior and corresponding author Gilad Barnea, an associate professor of neuroscience at Brown who began looking for a precise, reliable and general way to visualize neural connections two decades ago. The application of trans-Tango that his team demonstrates in the new study is circuit tracing, but manipulations such as activating or shutting off connected neurons could become possible, too.

    “trans-Tango provides genetic accessibility in the context of connectivity,” Barnea said. “Our technique allows you to access the neurons that interact with the particular ‘starter’ cell you target. It therefore expands the use of molecular genetic techniques beyond the cell for which you have a marker to the ones it ‘talks’ to.”

    The team, which includes postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, research assistants and undergraduates, is now working on developing a host of other applications of trans-Tango. These include using the system to manipulate behavior, developing the equivalent technique in mice, and making it work in reverse so that it employs incoming connections from other neurons just like it does outgoing connections. That’s according to Mustafa Talay, a postdoctoral fellow who earned his Ph.D. in Barnea’s lab and is co-lead author with Ethan Richman, a former undergraduate at Brown who is now a graduate student at Stanford.

    In addition, the Barnea lab is collaborating on adapting the technology to study how cancer spreads.

    How it works

    trans-Tango works by genetically introducing an artificial signaling pathway into every neuron in the fly. The pathway acts like a switch in the neurons that can be thrown by exposure to a triggering protein. To operate trans-Tango, scientists genetically engineer the neurons of interest (starter neurons) to present this triggering protein on their synapses together with a protein that lights up the starter neurons in green. Expression of the trigger protein at the synapse causes connected neurons to light up in red, revealing the full extent of the connected neurons in the fly’s nervous system.

    In the gustatory system, for example, the team lit up connections extending all the way from peripheral taste-sensing starter neurons to connected neurons that projected into a brain region known to control feeding behavior as well as to other regions thought to regulate memory.


    trans-Tango reveals taste circuits
    Brown Unviersity scientists used trans-Tango to discover new connections linking taste-sensing organs in the fly body with specific regions in the brain.

    By design, the system stops after just one stage of connectivity because if it continued endlessly, it would eventually light up the whole nervous system, Talay said. After all, each neuron usually connects to many others, not just one or a few, and ultimately they are pretty much all connected.

    But the system is compatible with other cell imaging and targeting methods that can narrow down the number of connected neurons that respond to trans-Tango. In the new study, for example, the team combined trans-Tango with such techniques to specifically highlight individual connected neurons.

    “When we probe a circuit we have no idea about, we can first just use trans-Tango and see the totality of all the connections of a neuron,” Talay said. “After that, if we want to characterize a circuit in more detail, we can combine trans-Tango with other methods to basically dissect that circuit.”

    In many cases, revealing the full expanse that two connected neurons cover in a circuit can present deeply meaningful insights for neuroscientists. Not only did the team find novel connections in the gustatory circuitry of flies, but also they showed the different projections that various neurons in the olfactory system make, potentially clarifying how they carry out their distinct roles in connecting smell and behavior. Their experiments also highlighted connections that were already well known in the olfactory system, validating that the connections trans-Tango highlights are real.

    The technology’s triggering protein is not naturally found in the fly, and it doesn’t leave the neurons or the synapse. For this reason, the scientists said, the illumination that arises as a result of trans-Tango reveals cells that truly “talk” to each other rather than neighboring but irrelevant cells.

    How it was developed

    Barnea has sought to perform exactly this kind of circuit mapping since he joined the lab of Columbia University Professor Richard Axel as a postdoctoral researcher in 1996. They were studying the olfactory system, and Barnea wanted to map the olfactory circuits in the rodent brain.

    Tracing the connections of neurons within circuits in the brain is a fundamental but very difficult problem for neuroscientists. In all, the nervous systems of different organisms may involve many millions or billions of neurons with connections reaching into the trillions. It’s a lot to sort through.

    There are several other methods for mapping circuits, but they all suffer from drawbacks. Some are too noisy. Some are too expensive and laborious. Some are too specific to a tiny subset of connections or neurons. Some only reveal the synapses but not the full length of the cells that connect there. Some won’t work in a living organism. Barnea wanted to generate a system for circuit mapping that would be general, precise, simple to use and that would work in an organism rather than in extracted tissue.

    At Columbia, Barnea developed Tango [ PNAS], a method for studying cellular receptors that is the basis for the synthetic signaling pathway in trans-Tango. When he came to Brown in 2007, he continued this work and took on other projects. Barnea’s lab was not set for fly work, so its first fly incubator was an old egg incubator borrowed from biology professor Gary Wessel. The trans-Tango project was first supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, then by the National Institutes of Health’s EUREKA program and subsequently by more conventional grants. The project also gained internal funding through the Innovation Award from the Brown Institute for Brain Science and Research Seed and Salomon awards from Brown’s Office of the Vice President for Research.

    2
    Flies on the wall
    Professor Gilad Barnea surveys shelves full of research flies in his Brown University lab.
    David Orenstein

    A key feature of trans-Tango is that it employs the human hormone glucagon as the trigger that switches the synthetic pathway on. Glucagon is engineered to localize to the synapse, and it is tethered in order to prevent it from diffusing away. Barnea credits the inspiration to use that form of glucagon to co-author John Szymanski, a former undergraduate student in his lab who is now a graduate student at Columbia. Szymanski first heard about the engineered form of glucagon at a party, Barnea said.

    In 2011, Barnea met Talay while visiting Boğaziçi University in Turkey, where Talay was a master’s student. Talay was also thinking about ways to trace neural circuits and he had crucial experience working in flies, where progress could be faster than in mice.

    Richman was interested in synthetic biology so he joined the Barnea lab to advance the development of the tracing technique. Talay and Richman led the charge to develop trans-Tango and make it work in flies, continually refining it with the help of several lab mates. This collaboration continued even after Richman graduated in 2013, when he decided to delay going to Stanford to see the project through.

    “I remember very clearly the excitement of seeing the first images appear indicating a functioning technique, and the pleasure of discussing those results with Gilad,” Richman said. “That happened in January, and in the subsequent spring I had gotten accepted to graduate school and was slated to start the next fall. By the summer, Mustafa and I had made progress optimizing the technique, and the excitement in the lab was building. Having spent so long getting the technique to work, I was tantalized by the opportunity to put it into action.”

    It was indeed a long time coming. Barnea points out that one of the paper’s co-authors, former undergraduate student Cambria Chou-Freed, is younger than the original idea he envisioned 21 years ago. In all, five of the paper’s authors were undergraduates in the lab, and all stayed in the lab after graduating to continue to work on this project.

    “Everyone on the list of authors contributed something unique to the success of this project,” Barnea said. “This was driven by individuals who were committed and obsessed with it, but it was also very nice teamwork.”

    The paper’s other authors are Nathaniel Snell, Griffin Hartmann, John Fisher, Altar Sorkaç, Juan Santoyo, Nived Nair and Mark Johnson.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition
    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:36 pm on September 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: $19 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study Narragansett Bay, Brown University, ,   

    From Brown: “Brown University scientists to play key roles in new coastal research consortium” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    September 20, 2017
    Kevin Stacey
    kevin_stacey@brown.edu
    401-863-3766

    1

    Brown University researchers will play key roles in a statewide research consortium, established by a new $19 million grant from the National Science Foundation to monitor and ultimately predict environmental change in Narragansett Bay.

    The Rhode Island Consortium for Coastal Ecology, Assessment, Innovation and Modeling, will bring together research teams from around the Ocean State to study the impacts of climate variability on coastal ecosystems, create innovative technologies for detecting those changes, and build computer models to predict and plan for changes in coastal ecology.

    Geoff Bothun, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Rhode Island, is the grant’s principal investigator. Jeffrey Morgan, a professor of medicine and engineering at Brown, will serve as one of the grant’s co-principal investigators.

    “Narragansett Bay is an environmental treasure that plays a critical role in the economy of the Ocean State,” Morgan said. “It’s also a natural laboratory that can help us understand how human activities, climate change and other factors drive environmental change. This grant will help us to monitor the bay in unprecedented detail and give us the tools to predict environmental change in the future.”

    Morgan’s work on the grant will pertain to the development of new types of sensors to detect key environmental indicators.

    “We want to be able to make more observations, more often and with greater specificity,” Morgan said. “These sensors will be looking at physical attributes of the bay — things like temperature, salinity and nutrients — as well as markers of biological change like algal blooms and microorganism populations.”

    Baylor Fox-Kemper, an associate professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, will lend his expertise to the computer modeling side of the project.

    “There’s a wealth of historical data that captures how the bay has responded to changes in human activity and a changing climate through time,” Fox-Kemper said. “The idea is use that data to build a model of the bay that accurately recreates its past, which we can then use to make predictions.”

    The ultimate aim, Fox-Kemper says, is a model that can predict local-scale events like bacteria counts that result in beach closings, as well as larger scale changes in sea level, tidal patterns, temperature and salinity. The researchers plan to create a data center that will provide access to the observations and model data for scientists as well as government agencies, policymakers and citizen scientists.

    The leaders of the research expect it to have broad impact, especially in a state that relies so heavily on its coastal resources.

    “Research translation and commercialization is also a big emphasis for this grant,” Bothun said. “We’ll be forming an academic-industry partnership to learn about the challenges facing the marine and defense industries, for instance, and share with them some of our discoveries and technologies. This will also be a way to connect students with potential employment opportunities.”

    Morgan says he expects the impact to go well beyond the borders of the Ocean State.

    “We think the collaborative approach we’re developing here in Rhode Island will be a model for the study of coastal resources elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world,” he said. “Equally important, the undergraduates and graduate students we will engage in cutting-edge research that will further strengthen Rhode Island’s pipeline of investigators and innovators.”

    Funding for the project comes from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, which aims to strengthen states’ research competitiveness and fund workforce development initiatives.

    In addition to the NSF funding, the state of Rhode Island, through Commerce Rhode Island, has committed an additional $3.8 million toward the initiative that will be used to provide collaborative grants and support workforce development.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:26 pm on August 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Brown University, ,   

    From Brown: “Researchers seek to catch Alzheimer’s early by peeking into the eyes” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    August 28, 2017
    David Orenstein
    david_orenstein@brown.edu
    401-863-1862

    Research spanning the academic-medical partnership among Brown University, Rhode Island Hospital and Butler Hospital is advancing the possibility that the retinas will give doctors a way to identify Alzheimer’s disease risk long before symptoms begin.

    1
    Mark Wolff prepares for a series of retinal scans for a study that may help to determine whether the eyes provide a useful window into the early development of Alzheimer’s disease. Nicholas Dentamaro.

    Mark Wolff wanted to know. To him, the thought of suffering through Alzheimer’s disease the way his father did — without knowing, and without his family knowing, what he was up against until late in its progression— is worse than learning, even while he’s still perfectly healthy, that a possible precursor of the disease has gained a toehold.

    “I’m not a worrier by nature,” Wolff said. “I just don’t want to wind up like my dad. It was just a nightmare what happened to him. He didn’t get the medical attention he needed and his quality of life could have been better.”

    So Wolff, a lighting company executive from Bristol, R.I., enrolled in a trial at Butler Hospital and found out through a positron emission tomography (PET) scan of his brain that he has early signs of amyloid plaque. The presence of plaque, a tangle of proteins that could eventually cause the neurodegeneration of Alzheimer’s disease, is a risk factor — even so, Wolff might never develop the disease. Or if he does, it might not affect him for a decade or more.

    The trial, being conducted at both Butler and Rhode Island Hospital, is led by Dr. Stephen Salloway, a professor of neurology at Brown University and director of Butler’s Memory and Aging Program. It has two goals. One is to test whether the drug solanezumab will prevent or delay memory loss and slow amyloid plaque buildup in people at increased risk for Alzheimer’s. The other, via a sub-study launched at Butler Hospital, is to test whether a retinal scan can monitor that progress as well as the much more expensive PET scans. Salloway is working on the larger trial with Dr. Brian Ott, a Brown professor of neurology and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital.

    As part of the research, Wolff returned to Butler on a warm summer afternoon for what unfolded like an eye doctor’s appointment. Nurse practitioner Brittany Dawson dilated Wolff’s eyes with drops. From there, he stared into the same optical coherence tomography (OCT) scanner that an ophthalmologist or optometrist would use to look for macular degeneration or glaucoma. For about 20 minutes, while postdoctoral researcher Dr. Jessica Alber operated the machine and guided him through the experiment, Wolff posed his retinas for multiple close-ups that will be independently inspected for the presence of amyloid plaques.

    Inspired in large part by research led by colleague Dr. Peter Snyder, a professor of neurology and ophthalmology at Brown and senior vice president and chief research officer at Lifespan, Salloway and Ott believe that the retina may provide a reliable reflection of early but significant Alzheimer’s disease risk in the brain. If so, that could vastly expand the number of people around the world who receive an early risk assessment and could save tremendous amounts of money compared to $5,000 PET scans, Snyder said.

    The best chance for treating Alzheimer’s, Snyder said, will be to identify and treat the disease long before symptoms arise, because by then too much damage may be done. Meanwhile, the need is so widespread that it must be done inexpensively and with non-invasive equipment as common as an OCT eye scanner. PET is both too costly and not widely available enough to be the first-line screening tool.

    “We have to identify markers that are accessible to point-of-care clinicians,” Snyder said. “The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is going to triple over the next 50 years. We have to change the impact of this disease. If we don’t get this right, the burden on society is going to be devastating.”

    Snyder expects that doctors will need to combine several biomarkers to produce an estimate of patients’ eventual Alzheimer’s risk: family history, genetics, and cognitive and memory tests will likely combine with multiple retinal indicators into a comprehensive algorithm. Those with especially high emerging risk might then go on to PET scans and early-stage treatments — perhaps solanezumab — as those are proven, he said.

    The brain in the eyes

    The retina is a part of the central nervous system that doctors can see by opening nothing more than an eyelid.

    “Potentially, the eye could be the window to the brain in the fight against Alzheimer’s,” said Salloway, who along with Ott and Snyder is affiliated with the Brown Institute for Brain Science,

    The retina has the same biochemistry and similar organization and cell types, Snyder said, so it makes sense that it, too, would be similarly susceptible to amyloid plaques. It’s no surprise given that the retina forms out of the same tissue as the brain in just the first few weeks of an embryo’s development.

    2
    Plaques pictured “Inclusion bodies” of amyloid plaque are visible in a subject’s retina in this scan published in Dr. Peter Snyder’s 2016 paper. Snyder et al.

    In recent years, scientists have noticed that amyloid plaques built up in the retinas. In 2016 in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Snyder and co-authors published a study of 63 cognitively normal adults with at least one parent with Alzheimer’s (just like Wolff) that compared the results of OCT scans with PET scans in the same patients. Snyder’s team found a significant relationship between amyloid levels in the cortex of the brain, as measured by PET, and the total surface area of what appear to be amyloid plaques visible in the retina.

    “Our findings support the hypothesis that retinal biomarkers could be a useful screening tool to distinguish individuals at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, and could be helpful in identifying ideal candidates for secondary prevention trials,” he and his co-authors wrote.

    That hypothesis is now being tested further in Salloway’s sub-study.

    In other recent work, Snyder’s research group led by Alber showed that retinal scans can also indicate other potential precursors of closely related neurodegenerative disorders, such as cerebral amyloid angiopathy.

    The group is also studying how OCT can image changes in the vasculature of the retina, because amyloid can attack and alter blood vessels as well as neurons. Finally, the researchers are measuring associations between the presence of amyloid plaque and the thickness of individual layers of the retina. In a recent presentation in London of a small study, the team reported that the retinal nerve fiber layer thins as amyloid plaque in the brain increases.

    Pushing the technology further

    As sensitive as conventional OCT has proven to be in measuring the retina, Snyder said, it could get even better through the work of Jonghwan Lee, an assistant professor of engineering at Brown.

    In his work to improve neural imaging, Lee has developed sophisticated algorithms that amplify the signal of OCT and reduce the noise. These improvements have allowed him to produce stunningly high-resolution imaging of blood flow — red blood cell by red blood cell — in even the tiniest capillaries of neural tissue. That means he might be able to very precisely observe some of the small but early changes in vasculature that Snyder is interested in.

    The two have begun to collaborate. Working in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s and with healthy controls, Lee hopes to track down the earliest vascular, neural and behavioral changes associated with the disease as the mice age.

    3
    Brain veins. In stunning detail Brown engineer Jonghwan Lee can use retinal scanning technology to image the vasculature of neural tissue.
    Jonghwan Lee.

    “Our first hypothesis is that maybe alterations in vasculature and blood flow will appear in the brain first, so we are imaging the animal brain every month,” Lee said. “And at the same time we are testing the cognitive function of the animal and how it declines and we are looking at blood flow and vasculature in the retina.”

    “So we will make a bigger picture of which one is first, which one is earlier and how much it is earlier and significant,” Lee said.

    The goal would be to compile a predictive algorithm of the disease’s progression in the mouse from its very earliest stage using a similar combination of biomarkers — physiology, cognition and genetics — that Snyder suspects will need to be compiled for people.

    The study is very early stages, Lee said: “No one knows the exact answer yet.”

    ‘Better to know’

    In the exam room at Butler, Betty Wolff, Mark’s wife of 45 years, shared that it was initially hard for her to hear the results of the PET scan, but she agreed that it’s better to know. If the infusions he’ll begin later in the summer contain solanuzemab rather than the placebo and if the medication works, his enrollment in the trial might help to stop or slow the disease even before it even gets started. And at least if Wolff becomes symptomatic with Alzheimer’s down the road, the family will have had ample warning and will be able to manage the condition as well as possible, right from the start.

    None of those possibilities was available for Wolff’s dad, which is why he’s so eager to volunteer to advance this research. He’s no stranger to volunteering, having been a blood donor and a Big Brother for decades. Volunteering for research is a way to help society get the upper hand on Alzheimer’s disease, he said, and the huge suffering and costs that it brings.

    “We’re living longer and we understand what makes our bodies live longer,” said Wolff, who turns 70 in September. “If this is something that they don’t conquer, people are not going to have a quality of life at the end.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition
    Welcome to Brown

    Brown U Robinson Hall
    Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island and founded in 1764, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, plus the Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and the School of Professional Studies.

    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

     
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