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  • richardmitnick 2:39 pm on December 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "With this award Yale can help nurture an army of veteran scientists who will continue to serve their country by seeking answers to the biggest scientific questions of our time" Geha said, , , Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Warrior-Scholar Project, Women in STEM,   

    From Yale: Women in STEM- “‘Million-Dollar Professor’ to build community of warrior-scholar scientists” Marla Geha 

    Yale University bloc

    Yale University

    December 13, 2017
    Jim Shelton

    Marla Geha

    The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has named Marla Geha, professor of astronomy and physics, as one of its new HHMI Professors chosen for their extraordinary teaching, inspiration, and mentoring of the next generation of science students.

    Geha will receive $1 million over the next five years to make the science portion of the Warrior-Scholar Project for military veterans on the Yale campus a model for other Warrior-Scholar Project programs around the country. Geha has been active in the Warrior-Scholar Project for five years as an instructor and advisor.

    “Veterans represent a diverse and underserved undergraduate population,” Geha said. “With this award, Yale can help nurture an army of veteran scientists who will continue to serve their country by seeking answers to the biggest scientific questions of our time.”

    The Warrior-Scholar Project offers two-week college preparatory boot camps on university campuses, aimed at giving enlisted veterans the skills and confidence needed to succeed in college. The boot camps are led by enlisted veterans who already have made a successful transition into college, in collaboration with faculty and students from each host institution.

    Yale alumni Christopher Howell ’14, Jesse Reising ’11, and Nick Rugoff ’11 founded the Warrior-Scholar Project in 2012 at Yale.

    Initially the program focused on reading and writing skills. In 2016, Geha designed a science boot camp and successfully oversaw a pilot course at Yale.

    Geha proposes to “franchise” the science curriculum for universities across the United States, create a research fellowship program for Warrior-Scholar science alumni, and strengthen the community of Warrior-Scholar scientists by improving online alumni resources and organizing a biennial alumni conference.

    In her astrophysics research, Geha uses the world’s largest telescopes to study the smallest galaxies in the universe. Her work is focused on the least luminous known galaxies, studying how these galaxies formed and using them to understand the nature of dark matter and the underlying cosmology of the universe.

    Geha also is one of the lead members of the Satellites Around Galactic Analogs (SAGA) Survey, a project that will study satellite galaxies around 100 Milky Way “sibling” galaxies.

    Geha arrived at Yale in 2008 and has been a full professor since 2014. She earned a B.S. in applied and engineering physics from Cornell University and her PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of California-Santa Cruz.

    Geha has received a number of honors, including Popular Science magazine’s Brilliant 10 young scientists in the country (2009), an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship (2010), and a John S. Guggenheim Fellowship (2015).

    The HHMI Professors Program provides grants to faculty members of leading research universities in the United States whose primary research and scholarship is aimed at advancing scientific discovery in the laboratory or the field. The program seeks to develop models for how scientists can engage in undergraduate education.

    “I know from personal experience that exceptional teachers and mentors can have a huge impact on what a student believes is possible to achieve,” said HHMI President Erin O’Shea. “The HHMI professors are exceptional scientists who will inspire new generations of students through their work in the classroom and in the lab.”

    HHMI created the program in 2002. In the last 15 years, 55 scientists have been appointed HHMI professors and have received grants to foster innovations in undergraduate science education.

    See the full article here .

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    Yale University Campus

    Yale University comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, museums, and administrative support offices. Approximately 11,250 students attend Yale.

  • richardmitnick 1:23 pm on December 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Environmental Science From the Sky, Remote sensing, Susan Ustin, , Women in STEM   

    From UC Davis: Women in STEM: “How Susan Ustin Helped Launch a New Field of Study and Why She Continues to Study the Earth from Above” 

    UC Davis bloc

    UC Davis

    Susan L. Ustin, right, and Shruti Khanna, a postdoctoral student, demonstrate how to calibrate a field spectrometer, which helps interpret remote sensing data retrieved from satellites. (Jason Spyres/UC Davis)

    December 4, 2017
    Lisa Howard

    When Susan L. Ustin began her career in remote sensing at UC Davis in the 1980s, her colleagues — mostly male — weren’t convinced that what she was doing was actually science.

    “They didn’t see the images as a visualization of data. To them, the images were just pretty pictures,” Ustin says.

    Ustin received a Ph.D. in botany from UC Davis in 1983. After that, she worked on campus for a number of years on nonpermanent funding until she was offered a faculty position in 1990. Although there weren’t many women in her field — it was mostly engineers and geologists in those days — she doesn’t think gender specifically played a factor in the time it took for her to get hired.

    “It was more a case that at the time, people didn’t think remote sensing was really science,” she says. “Trying to convince them that it was worthwhile seemed to be the biggest problem.” But she remembers being only the third woman hired as faculty in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources.

    The idea of doing scientific research using data and images from airplanes, drones, and satellites may seem obvious to anyone who grew up with Google Earth, but more than 30 years ago the idea was still very new.

    A Los Angeles Times article published in 1987 about Ustin’s work introduces the then novel idea of tracking plant ecology via satellite. Imaging spectrometry, the article notes, “will enable researchers to better oversee global health by understanding the impact of human activities like destroying rain forests and causing pollution.” Another piece in the Los Angeles Times three years later describes how the cutting-edge science of remote sensing “may enable scientists to predict life-threatening global changes before they can be detected from the ground.”

    Remote sensing has fulfilled those predictions and more. It is now a key technology integrated into almost all aspects of modern life. Remote sensing is used for monitoring natural disasters, studying climate change, mapping soil types and forests, monitoring air pollution, forecasting weather, unearthing archaeological sites, detecting oil spills, determining moisture content of soil, documenting melting glaciers, predicting retails earnings by counting cars in parking lots, and much, much more.

    Ustin is now a world leader in the field of remote sensing. That she ended up pretty much building her own specialty was largely unintentional. “I noticed early in my career that women ended up peripheral. We ended up in the interdisciplinary areas instead of more central ones. You weren’t one of boys so you didn’t end up being a copy of the advisor,” she explains.

    “But then, it turned out that suddenly that peripheral area became an important area to be in. When it became apparent that remote sensing was going to be able to address some of the emerging environmental questions, I was well established. I was at the right time and the right place,” says Ustin.

    Ustin and her team use AVIRIS hyperspectral data to assess forest structure and composition. This image from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington shows an old-growth mixed conifer forest with recent logging and clear-cut patches. Red shows soil, green shows vegetation, and blue is shade. (S. Ustin, And A. Trabucco, UC Davis)

    Environmental Science From the Sky

    Ustin wears several hats at UC Davis. She is a distinguished professor of environmental and resource sciences and the vice chair for the hydrology section in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. She is the director of the Center for Spatial Technology and Remote Sensing (CSTARS), a remote sensing lab. (If you’ve ever wondered about the satellite receiving dish on the roof of Academic Surge or the geostationary dish on Kemper Hall, those belong to CSTARS.) She’s the associate director of research for the John Muir Institute of the Environment.

    This year she was named a fellow of the prestigious American Geophysical Union, “For pioneering work in hyperspectral remote sensing that has improved our ability to understand and manage changes in terrestrial ecosystems.”

    She has an office downstairs in the John Muir Institute of the Environment, but her lab is upstairs in the renovated former beef barn, a cozy space with sloped ceilings that was once a hay loft. Most of the desks have multiple computer monitors.

    At any given time Ustin’s lab has a mixture of postdocs, undergraduates, international visitors and staff. Today several postdocs students are looking at images. What’s on the screen looks like what you’d see on Google satellite, California from the air, with different-colored gray squares and light-colored rectangles of the human-built environment — crops, housing developments, towns — and the occasional dark, curving shape of a river or a reservoir.

    Within those images, though, lie layers and layers of data that they use for studying a wide variety of projects. Over the years, Ustin and her lab have assessed remote sensing data from five continents for a wide variety of environmental issues.

    One of her lab’s current projects is monitoring invasive plant species in the California Delta. Another is tracking how forests that have been managed — by thinning or controlled burns — compare to untouched areas. “We ask questions like, is there evidence that the forest is healthier?” Ustin says. “Is there a difference if the control burn was 20 years ago versus five years ago? We are trying to figure out if any management techniques have resulted in a healthier forest than the uncontrolled surrounding forest.”

    Being able to manage the data from remote sensing has changed considerably since Ustin first started. In the 1980s, she describes how they used “homemade” computers and “homemade” software because nothing existed to process the data.

    Susan Ustin looks at remote-sensing data in her lab at The Barn. A Google Scholar search for her work reveals almost 300 titles. She has published 130 scientific proceedings and written 34 book chapters. This year she was named a fellow of the prestigious American Geophysical Union.

    But now, she notes, ordinary computers can process the data, and there is a wide variety of graphic information systems software. Although she uses a lot of raw data, she notes many researchers who work in focused areas use data that has already been processed.

    “NASA processes a lot of sensor data nowadays instead of giving you the raw data,” Ustin says. “For example, you can get the leaf area index for the entire world.”

    What humans can see with their eyes is only a small portion of what sophisticated sensors can “see.” The visible spectrum — the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum visible to the human eye — is made up of wavelengths from about 390 nanometers (what we see as violet) up to about 700 nanometers (what we see as red). But sophisticated sensors can see a much wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum, and that data can reveal a tremendous amount of information.

    The data from the NASA satellites Ustin worked with in the 1980s, like the Landsat 3, used sensors that looked at just four areas of the spectrum — green, red and two different bands of infrared. Data from each band was collected for each pixel of the image. As technology improved, sensors continued to improve and are now able to pick up more and more spectral bands and create more data for smaller and smaller areas of the image, resulting in more fine-grained information. “Now the data we are working with has close to 500 bands per pixel,” Ustin says. The data can reveal everything from how well a crop is growing or where an invasive species is taking over an ecosystem to how fast a glacier is melting.

    Ustin’s work with this data, with remote sensing, has resulted in a tremendous amount of research. She has published 130 scientific proceedings and written 34 book chapters. She estimates she’s published over 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals. A Google Scholar search for her work reveals almost 300, with subjects in remote sensing, environmental sciences, geography, geology, vegetation, canopies and more. Her journal articles have titles like, “Marsh Loss Due to Cumulative Impacts of Hurricane Isaac and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Louisiana,” and “Remote sensing of canopy chemistry.”

    Her most cited article, with 824 citations, is from the January 1990 edition of Remote Sensing of Environment: “Vegetation in the deserts: 1. A regional measure of abundance from multispectral images.” The paper grew out of fieldwork she did in Owens Valley in the mid-1980s. It remains one of her favorite research projects.

    “It was pretty fun.” Ustin laughs. She and her fellow researchers stayed at the University of California’s White Mountain Research Center, in Bishop. They were there to map the amount of vegetation compared to the data from NASA’s Landsat-5 satellite.

    In the paper, they describe taking a method of analysis used by geologists and chemists, and applied it to remote sensing data. “We were trying to map the amount of vegetation,” Ustin says. “Mixture analysis was being used in totally different contexts, but it was the same general idea. You have a solution that’s a mixture of things, so how do you tell what’s in it?”

    Applying the new method worked. “It was pretty cool,” Ustin says. “We were able to estimate the vegetation cover fraction across the valley, from the valley floor up into the east side of the Sierras.” Their method ended up becoming a standard analysis in the field.

    Susan Ustin in Northslope near Barrow Alaska, 2007. She was there for a graduate student research project looking at the carbon fluxes that happen when the lakes drain.

    Career Shaped by 1960s Culture and Counterculture

    Ustin is originally from Eugene, Oregon. In 1961, after graduating from high school, she moved to San Francisco with friends.

    This was few years after the peak of the Beat Generation in San Francisco, but North Beach was still a hangout for writers, artists and musicians. “You could go to coffee shops and they still had the sort of Beat stuff, and of course there was City Lights Bookstore,” Ustin says.

    She was drawn to the city’s vibrancy and activism. Integration was happening all over the country, and in San Francisco there were civil rights marches and demonstrations, as well as picketing of businesses — hotels, restaurants, car dealerships — that refused the hire African Americans.

    In the 1960s, there was also a growing awareness of the environmental damage happening to the planet. “People were worried about environmental degradation. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had come out,” Ustin says, referring to the landmark environmental book that called attention to the detrimental effects of pesticides like DDT, “and in the Bay Area there were a couple of oil spills that did a lot of damage to wildlife and birds.”

    She worked downtown, at the Emporium department store on Market Street. She married and had two sons. “I had a lot of friends. It was fun and exciting. Then came the Summer of Love,” Ustin says, talking about the hippy countercultural phenomenon that attracted an estimated 100,000 mostly young people to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district. “My husband thought it would be really fun to go off and be a hippy. We had two kids. So that’s when I decided to go back to school.”

    Ustin followed her interest in environmental issues and received a B.S. in biological sciences in 1974 and an M.S. in biological sciences in 1977, both from California State University Hayward. As a single mother, she notes she was able to attend because of Great Society programs that helped her financially and with childcare. Later on, she also received financial help that allowed her to pursue her Ph.D. at UC Davis. “At that time, California had state scholarships for graduate students. I got one of those and so I could attend,” Ustin says. In 1982, she married James Doyle, now a professor emeritus in the Department of Evolution and Ecology, and had her third son the following year.

    Ustin was studying plant physiological ecology — how plants respond to physical stresses — and in 1982, the year before she received her Ph.D. in botany, she began working with the Jet Propulsion Lab.

    “They were looking for someone who knew about plants and photosynthesis and how plants responded to environmental conditions for their new remote sensing program,” Ustin says. “At that point, remote sensing was very new and the people involved were usually from engineering or geology. They were looking for environmental ecologists, since most of the land is covered with plants and that’s what you see most of the time,” she says.

    And with that, she was hooked on remote sensing.

    A Different Perspective

    Ustin has no plans to retire, as of yet, although she admits she does less fieldwork than she used to. She laughs. “Now I send other people to do it.”

    One of the things she likes about what she does is that she doesn’t do the same thing every day. With every new project, there are new problems to solve.

    A major project Ustin is working on now is securing funding for collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Lab to launch a big data platform — an airplane that can collect data — with the most modern imaging technology available. The concept for this new airborne sensor system is that it will be dedicated to monitoring California agriculture and ecosystems, and therefore available when it is needed.

    She’s also looking for simpler new ways to collect remote sensing data at much lower altitudes, which explains the new drone sitting in a box in the corner of her office.

    “I have students that would like to fly them and I thought we would do a project at Russell Ranch,” the university’s 300-acre agricultural research facility just a few miles from the main campus.

    She sees new technology, like drones, being big game changers. “Instead of having to rely on a company or a government program, it suddenly puts the technology in everybody’s hands. You can collect the data yourself and have a lot more flexibility,” Ustin says. For example, not just relying on when the satellite comes over.

    She notes the camera in the drone she bought for her students isn’t particularly good, but that they could probably work with someone in Department of Engineering to build a sensor. Or they may use one of the new hyperspectral cameras that have many infrared bands. Or maybe a LIDAR device, a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser. “There are lots of possibilities,” she says.

    “A lot of the farmers in the valley are starting to fly drones and they’re not doing complicated image analysis. They’re just looking at the spatial patterns. They’ll notice, yes, that part in that field — that’s where it’s really sandy and drains too fast. Or that part has too much clay and it doesn’t drain. Half the time, when they see it, they recognize what the problem is.”

    And this, to some extent, sums up why Ustin’s work is so significant.

    Remote sensing is not simply about collecting data from the air. It’s how seeing the data — seeing the world from above — helps people recognize what is happening. Problems can be identified and potentially mitigated or managed, everything from deforestation, excess nitrogen runoff, ecosystem degradation, dying forests, poor irrigation, invasive species and more.

    Environmental degradation still concerns her. “Temperatures are increasing. Glaciers all over the world are declining. Snow packs are declining. Precipitation in the Western United States has been declining for 30 years or more. All of these changes are going to have an impact on us,” she says.

    But to see the problems, it helps to look from above, whether from a few hundred feet up in the air with a drone or 23 miles above the Earth with a satellite.

    “We are too close, from our scale,” Ustin says. “Remote sensing gives you a different perspective. It’s easier to see the problems.”

    See the full article here .

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    UC Davis Campus

    The University of California, Davis, is a major public research university located in Davis, California, just west of Sacramento. It encompasses 5,300 acres of land, making it the second largest UC campus in terms of land ownership, after UC Merced.

  • richardmitnick 1:25 pm on December 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Gertrude Belle Elion, , Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988, Three honorary doctorate degrees from George Washington University Brown University and the University of Michigan, Women in STEM   

    From COSMOS: Women in STEM – “Gertrude Belle Elion’s journey from mayonnaise to medicine” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    07 December 2017
    No writer credit

    Gertrude Belle Elion

    The life and times of chemist, cancer researcher and Nobel Laureate in medicine Gertrude Belle Elion. Jeffrey Phillips.

    Think of leukaemia and the subject of mayonnaise doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Yet had fate not intervened, one of the most important researchers into the nature and treatment of blood cancer might today be known – if at all – as simply a master of mayo.

    Gertrude Belle Elion was born in New York City in 1918. Her father had been a child immigrant from Lithuania, and her mother had arrived, aged 14, from Russia in 1914.

    When Gertrude was born her parents were comfortably off, mainly because her father, Robert, had built up a healthy dental practice. “My first seven years were spent in a large apartment in Manhattan where my father had his dental office, with our living quarters adjoining it,” she later recalled.

    In 1929, however, life for the Elion family took a big turn for the worse when they lost most of their money in the Wall Street Crash. This limited Gertrude’s options for further education after high school, but fortunately she gained admission, at age 15, to a nearby free college on the back of her good grades. Her grandfather’s death from cancer spurred her choice to major in chemistry.

    After graduating from college, she had no means to pay to attend graduate school and her employment prospects were bleak. Work was scarce for everyone during the Great Depression, and many potential employers could not accept the idea a woman could be a good chemist. She scored several stints of unpaid and temporary work as a lab assistant, then switched to relief high school teaching while also studying at nights in her quest for a Master’s degree in chemistry.

    Then World War II broke out and suddenly – with men joining the fighting forces en masse – many more jobs became available to women. Elion gave up the world of freelance science teaching and took a job with food manufacturer Quaker Maid. Her responsibilities included testing the acidity of pickles and making sure egg yolk going into mayonnaise was the right colour.

    There she might have remained, had not her ever-curious mind driven her to seek new challenges. In 1944 she found a position as a biochemist at the research laboratories of Burroughs Wellcome, which would later become GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company.

    She would remain with the company, even after officially retiring in 1983, until her death in 1999 at the age of 81.

    Along the way, she would win the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988. The prize, shared with colleagues James Black and George Hitchings, was awarded in recognition of research that, to quote the citation, “demonstrated differences in nucleic acid metabolism between normal human cells, cancer cells, protozoa, bacteria and virus”.

    The trio’s discoveries went far further than simply establishing the ways in which different cells operate. They put their findings to work and created several critically important drugs saving millions of lives.

    Elion played a central role in the development of thioguanine and 6-mercaptopurine, used to treat leukaemia. Thioguanine is still on the World Health Organisation’s List of Essential Medicines.

    Her team also developed pyrimethamine, a malaria treatment, and allopurinol, used to treat gout. Another of Elion’s drugs, azathioprine, works to stop the immune system from rejecting new organs – without it, there could be no transplant surgery. If that wasn’t enough, in 1977 her team’s discoveries were adapted to create acyclovir, the first effective treatment against the herpes virus.

    At one stage in her early years at Wellcome, Elion was faced with a very tough choice: she was told that if she wanted to complete her PhD she would have to quit work and study full-time. She opted to drop her studies and stay at the lab – a difficult decision at a time when female scientists were often considered inferior to male ones.

    “Years later, when I received three honorary doctorate degrees from George Washington University, Brown University and the University of Michigan, I decided that perhaps that decision had been the right one after all,” she observed wryly at the time of accepting her Nobel Prize.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on December 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Dan Rederth, , South Dakota is already home to a growing suite of physics experiments located a mile beneath the surface in the Sanford Underground Research Facility, , Wenzhao Wei, Wenzhao Wei and Dan Rederth are the first to earn physics PhDs within the state of South Dakota, Women in STEM   

    From Symmetry: Women in STEM – “The PhD pioneers” Wenzhao Wei and also Dan Rederth, obviously not a Woman in STEM 

    Symmetry Mag

    Tom Barratt

    Wenzhao Wei

    Dan Rederth

    Wenzhao Wei and Dan Rederth are the first to earn physics PhDs within the state of South Dakota.

    Completing a PhD in physics is hard. It’s even harder when you’re one of the first to do it not just at your university, but at any university in your entire state.

    That’s exactly the situation Wenzhao Wei and Dan Rederth found themselves in earlier this year, when completing their doctorates at the University of South Dakota and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, respectively. Wei and Rederth are graduates of a joint program between the two institutions.

    Wei found out just a few weeks before going in front of a committee at USD to defend her thesis. A couple of students ahead of her had dropped out of the PhD program, leaving her suddenly at the head of the pack.

    “When I found out, I was very nervous,” Wei says. “When you’re the first, you don’t have any examples to follow, you don’t know how to prepare your defense, and you can’t get experience from other people who have already done it.”

    She recalls running between as many professors and committee members as she could for advice. “I did a lot of checking with them and asking questions. I had no idea what they would be expecting from the first PhD student.”

    Despite her wariness, and with some significant publications in the field as the first author, Dr. Wei’s defense was successful, and she is now working as a postdoc at the University of South Dakota.

    Rederth knew he was the first at SDSMT but wasn’t aware it was a first in South Dakota until after he had handed in his dissertation and completed his defense. “The president of the school told me I was the first in South Dakota after I finished,” he says. “But I wasn’t aware that Wenzhao had also completed her PhD at the same time.

    “Being the first, I was not prepared for the level of questioning I received during my defense – it went much deeper into physics than just my research. Together with Wenzhao, being the first in South Dakota really is a feather in the cap to something which took years of hard work to achieve.”

    Different paths to physics

    Rederth started on his path to physics research at a young age. “The most satisfying aspect of my PhD research dates back to my childhood,” he says. “I was always intrigued by magnetism and the mystery of how it works, so it was fascinating to do my research.”

    His work involved studying strange magnetic quantum effects that arise when certain particles are confined in special materials. A computer program he developed to model the effects could help bring new technologies into electronics.

    For Wei’s success, you might expect she had also always made a beeline to research, but physics was actually a late calling for her. At Central China Normal University, she had studied computer science and only switched to physics at master’s level.

    “In high school, I remember liking physics, but I ended up choosing computer science,” Wei says. “Then at college, I had some friends who did physics who were part of the same clubs as me, and they kept talking about really interesting things. I found I was becoming less interested in computer science and more interested in physics, so I switched.”

    Wei’s thesis, entitled “Advanced germanium detectors for rare event physics searches,” and her current research involve developing technologies for new kinds of particle physics detectors—ones that use germanium, a metal-like element similar to tin and silicon. Such detectors could be used for future neutrino and dark matter experiments.

    South Dakota is already home to a growing suite of physics experiments located a mile beneath the surface in the Sanford Underground Research Facility. It was in part a result of these experiments being located in the same state that Wei’s pioneering PhD program came about. USD has been involved with several experiments at SURF, among them the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, which will study neutrinos in a beam sent from Fermilab 1300 kilometers away.

    FNAL LBNF/DUNE from FNAL to SURF, Lead, South Dakota, USA

    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF

    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford

    SURF building in Lead SD USA

    “DUNE and SURF have been a vehicle to move the physics PhD program at USD forward,” says Dongming Mei, Wei’s doctoral advisor at USD. “With the progress of DUNE, future PhD students from USD will be exposed to thousands of world-class scientists and engineers.”

    Post-doctorate, Wei is now continuing the research she began during her thesis. But with a twist.

    “For my PhD, I did lots of computer simulations of dark matter interactions, so I spent a lot of time stuck at a computer,” Wei says. “Now I’m actually able to get hands-on with the germanium crystals we grow here at USD and test them for things like their electrical properties.”

    So where next for South Dakota’s first locally certified doctors of physics?

    “I want to stay in physics for the long-term,” Wei says. “I taught some physics to undergraduates during my PhD and really loved it, so I’m hoping to be a researcher and lecturer one day.”

    Rederth, too, wants to help inspire the next generation. “I want to stay in the Black Hills area to help raise science and math proficiency in the local schools. I’ve been a judge for the local science fair and would like to become more involved,” he says.

    Perhaps some of their future students will go on to join the list of South Dakota’s physics doctorates, started by their trailblazing teachers.

    See the full article here .

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 11:15 pm on November 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Dr Anna Kapínska, , Rare galaxies called Hybrid Morphology Radio Sources or HyMoRS, Women in STEM   

    From CAASTRO: Women in STEM – “Citizen scientists bag a bunch of ‘two-faced’ galaxies” Dr Anna Kapínska 

    CAASTRO bloc

    CAASTRO ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics

    Dr Anna Kapínska

    A team of professional and citizen scientists from the international Radio Galaxy Zoo project has doubled the known number of a rare type of galaxy. This work, led by CAASTRO’s Dr Anna Kapínska (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, University of Western Australia) is published today in The Astronomical Journal; Ivan Terentev, a citizen scientist, is the second author.

    Kapínska’s team has been looking for rare galaxies called Hybrid Morphology Radio Sources or HyMoRS. These combine the characteristics of two classes of galaxy that were first thought to be distinct. HyMoRS are the astronomical equivalent of a centaur, the mythical man-horse hybrid.

    Finding more HyMoRS helps us understand what kind of galaxy can turn out this way, and what gives them their unusual properties. Knowing that, in turn, helps us better understand how all galaxies evolve.

    Large galaxies have massive black holes at their centres. While consuming matter, these black holes often produce large jets of radio-emitting material that blast millions of light years out into space.

    Galaxies with jets are often divided into two classes, Fanaroff-Riley I and Fanaroff-Riley II (or FR I and II). FR I galaxies have jets that fade away as they extend outwards, while FR II galaxies have jets that end in a bright, strongly-emitting region (a ‘hotspot’).

    The two galaxy classes were first described by astronomers Bernie Fanaroff and Julie Riley in 1974. For the next quarter-century astronomers thought they were quite distinct. Then, in 2002, a rare hybrid form – the HyMoRS – was discovered. But fewer than 30 HyMoRS had been found, until the Radio Galaxy Zoo team identified 25 more.

    L-R: An FR I galaxy (radio jets in blue, overlaid on an infrared image); a HyMoRS galaxy; and an FR II galaxy. The HyMoRS galaxy shows both FR I and FR II characteristics. Image: A. Kapínska et al.

    Finding more HyMoRS is giving us clues as to how they form.

    Some may simply be an illusion. The jets may be physically the same on both sides, but because one is pointed towards us and the other away from us, they look different.

    But we may also be seeing the central black hole ‘switching off’ (ceasing to actively swallow material), or switching off and then on again. This seems to have happened in one of the new HyMoRS from Radio Galaxy Zoo.

    Yet other HyMoRS may be caused by environmental effects, such as the jets travelling out into regions of space that contain different densities of material. Modelling shows that the environment can affect the jets’ size and brightness.

    Radio Galaxy Zoo demonstrates how effective citizen science can be at discovering rare objects. The project is led by two CAASTRO scientists, Dr Julie Banfield (Australian National University) and Dr Ivy Wong (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, University of Western Australia).

    See the full article here .

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    Astronomy is entering a golden age, in which we seek to understand the complete evolution of the Universe and its constituents. But the key unsolved questions in astronomy demand entirely new approaches that require enormous data sets covering the entire sky.

    In the last few years, Australia has invested more than $400 million both in innovative wide-field telescopes and in the powerful computers needed to process the resulting torrents of data. Using these new tools, Australia now has the chance to establish itself at the vanguard of the upcoming information revolution centred on all-sky astrophysics.

    CAASTRO is a collaboration of The University of Sydney, The Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology, The University of Queensland, The University of Western Australia and Curtin University, the latter two participating together as the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR). CAASTRO is funded under the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence program, with additional funding from the seven participating universities and from the NSW State Government’s Science Leveraging Fund.

  • richardmitnick 10:07 pm on November 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, , Women in STEM   

    From CSIRO: Women in STEM – “Fifty years ago Jocelyn Bell discovered pulsars and changed our view of the universe” Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell 

    CSIRO bloc


    28 November 2017
    George Hobbs
    Dick Manchester
    Simon Johnston

    Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. BBC.

    CSIRO Parkes radio telescope has discovered around half of all known pulsars. Wayne England, Author provided.

    A pulsar is a small, spinning star – a giant ball of neutrons, left behind after a normal star has died in a fiery explosion.

    With a diameter of only 30 km, the star spins up to hundreds of times a second, while sending out a beam of radio waves (and sometimes other radiation, such as X-rays). When the beam is pointed in our direction and into our telescopes, we see a pulse.

    2017 marks 50 years since pulsars were discovered. In that time, we have found more than 2,600 pulsars (mostly in the Milky Way), and used them to hunt for low-frequency gravitational waves, to determine the structure of our galaxy and to test the general theory of relativity.

    The Discovery

    In mid-1967, when thousands of people were enjoying the summer of love, a young PhD student at the University of Cambridge in the UK was helping to build a telescope.

    It was a poles-and-wires affair – what astronomers call a “dipole array”. It covered a bit less than two hectares, the area of 57 tennis courts.

    Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered the first pulsar. CC BY-SA

    By July it was built. The student, Jocelyn Bell (now Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell), became responsible for running it and analysing the data it churned out. The data came in the form of pen-on-paper chart records, more than 30 metres of them each day. Bell analysed them by eye.

    What she found – a little bit of “scruff” on the chart records – has gone down in history.

    Like most discoveries, it took place over time. But there was a turning point. On November 28, 1967, Bell and her supervisor, Antony Hewish, were able to capture a “fast recording” – that is, a detailed one – of one of the strange signals.

    In this she could see for the first time that the “scruff” was actually a train of pulses spaced by one-and-a-third seconds. Bell and Hewish had discovered pulsars.

    But this wasn’t immediately obvious to them. Following Bell’s observation they worked for two months to eliminate mundane explanations for the signals.

    Bell also found another three sources of pulses, which helped to scotch some rather more exotic explanations, such as the idea that the signals came from “little green men” in extraterrestrial civilisations. The discovery paper appeared in Nature on February 24, 1968.

    Later, Bell missed out when Hewish and his colleague Sir Martin Ryle were awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physics.[More discrimination.]

    A pulsar on ‘the pineapple’

    CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope in Australia made its first observation of a pulsar in 1968, later made famous by appearing (along with the Parkes telescope) on the first Australian $50 note.

    Fifty years later, Parkes has found more than half of the known pulsars. The University of Sydney’s Molonglo Telescope also played a central role, and they both remain active in finding and timing pulsars today.

    U Sidney Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST), Hoskinstown, Australia

    Internationally, one of the most exciting new instruments on the scene is China’s Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST.

    FAST radio telescope, now operating, located in the Dawodang depression in Pingtang county Guizhou Province, South China

    FAST has recently found several new pulsars, confirmed by the Parkes telescope and a team of CSIRO astronomers working with their Chinese colleagues.

    Why look for pulsars?

    We want to understand what pulsars are, how they work, and how they fit into the general population of stars. The extreme cases of pulsars – those that are super fast, super slow, or extremely massive – help to limit the possible models for how pulsars work, telling us more about the structure of matter at ultra-high densities. To find these extreme cases, we need to find lots of pulsars.

    Pulsars often orbit companion stars in binary systems, and the nature of these companions helps us understand the formation history of the pulsars themselves. We’ve made good progress with the “what” and “how” of pulsars but there are still unanswered questions.

    As well as understanding pulsars themselves, we also use them as a clock. For example, pulsar timing is being pursued as a way to detect the background rumble of low-frequency gravitational waves throughout the universe.

    Pulsars have also been used to measure the structure of our Galaxy, by looking at the way their signals are altered as they travel through denser regions of material in space.

    Pulsars are also one of the finest tools we have for testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

    This theory has survived 100 years of the most sophisticated tests astronomers have been able throw at it. But it doesn’t play nicely with our other most successful theory of how the universe works, quantum mechanics, so it must have a tiny flaw somewhere. Pulsars help us to try and understand this problem.

    What keeps pulsar astronomers up at night (literally!) is the hope of finding a pulsar in orbit around a black hole. This is the most extreme system we can imagine for testing general relativity.

    Finally, pulsars have some more down-to-earth applications. We’re using them as a teaching tool in our PULSE@Parkes program, in which students control the Parkes telescope over the Internet and use it to observe pulsars. This program has reached over 1,700 students, in Australia, Japan, China, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and South Africa.Pulsars also offer promise as a navigation system for guiding craft travelling through deep space. In 2016 China launched a satellite, XPNAV-1, carrying a navigation system that uses periodic X-ray signals from certain pulsars.Pulsars have changed our our understanding of the universe, and their true importance is still unfolding

    XPNAV-1 was sent skyward atop a Long March 11 solid-fuelled rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (Image Source: Weibo)

    See the full article here .

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    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

    So what can we expect these new radio projects to discover? We have no idea, but history tells us that they are almost certain to deliver some major surprises.

    Making these new discoveries may not be so simple. Gone are the days when astronomers could just notice something odd as they browse their tables and graphs.

    Nowadays, astronomers are more likely to be distilling their answers from carefully-posed queries to databases containing petabytes of data. Human brains are just not up to the job of making unexpected discoveries in these circumstances, and instead we will need to develop “learning machines” to help us discover the unexpected.

    With the right tools and careful insight, who knows what we might find.

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on November 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Grace C. Young, , , , , , Women in STEM   

    From CERN openlab: Women in STEM – “CERN alumna turned deep-sea explorer” Grace C. Young 

    Cern New Bloc

    Cern New Particle Event

    CERN New Masthead


    26 October, 2017
    No writer credit


    Each summer, the international research laboratory CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider, welcomes dozens of students to work alongside seasoned scientists on cutting-edge particle physics research. Many of these students will pursue physics research in graduate school, but some find themselves applying the lessons they learned at CERN to new domains.

    In 2011, MIT undergraduate Grace Young was one of these CERN summer students.

    Like many young adults, Young didn’t know what career path she wanted to pursue. “I tried all the majors,” Young says. “Physics, engineering, architecture, math, computer science. Separately, I always loved both the ocean and building things; it wasn’t until I learned about ocean engineering that I knew I had found my calling.”

    Today, Young is completing her PhD in ocean engineering at the University of Oxford and is chief scientist for the deep-sea submarine Pisces VI. She develops technology for ocean research and in 2014 lived underwater for 15 days. During a recent visit to CERN, Young spoke with Symmetry writer Sarah Charley about the journey that led her from fundamental physics back to her first love, the ocean.

    As a junior in high school you competed in Intel’s International Science Fair and won a trip to CERN. What was your project?
    A classmate and I worked in a quantum physics lab at University of Maryland. We designed and built several devices, called particle traps, that had potential applications for quantum computing. We soldered wires onto the mirror inside a flashlight to create a bowl-shaped electric field and then applied alternating current to repeatedly flip the field, which made tiny charged particles hover in mid-air.

    We were really jumping into the deep end on quantum physics; it was kind of amazing that it worked! Winning a trip to CERN was a dream come true. It was a transformative experience that had a huge impact on my career path.

    You then came back to CERN as a freshman at MIT. What is it about CERN and particle physics that made you want to return?
    My peek inside CERN the previous year sparked an interest that drove me to apply for the CERN openlab internship [a technology development collaboration between CERN scientists and members of companies or research institutes].

    Although I learned a lot from my assignment, my interest and affinity for CERN derives from the community of researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplines from all over the world. It was CERN’s high-powered global community of scientists congregated in one beautiful place to solve big problems that was a magnet for me.

    You say you’ve always loved the ocean. What is it about the ocean that inspires you?
    ’ve loved being by the water since I was born. I find it very humbling, standing on the shore and having the waves breaking at my feet.

    This huge body of water differentiates our planet from other rocks in space, yet so little is known about it. The more time I spent on or in the water, either sailing or diving, the more I began taking a deeper interest in marine life and the essential role the ocean plays in sustaining life as we know it on Earth.

    What does an ocean engineer actually do?
    One big reason that we’ve only explored 5 percent of the ocean is because the deep sea is so forbidding for humans. We simply don’t have the biology to see or communicate underwater, much less exist for more than a few minutes just below surface.

    But all this is changing with better underwater imaging, sensors and robotic technologies. As an ocean engineer, I design and build things such as robotic submersibles, which can monitor the health of fisheries in marine sanctuaries, track endangered species and create 3-D maps of underwater ice shelves. These tools, combined with data collected during field research, enable me and my colleagues to explore the ocean and monitor the human impact on its fragile ecosystems.

    I also design new eco-seawalls and artificial coral reefs to protect coastlines from rising sea levels and storm surges while reviving essential marine ecosystems.

    What questions are you hoping to answer during your career as an ocean engineer and researcher?
    How does the ocean support so much biodiversity? More than 70 percent of our planet is covered by water, producing more than half the oxygen we breathe, storing more carbon dioxide than all terrestrial plant life and feeding billions of humans. And yet 95 percent of our ocean remains unexplored and essentially unknown.

    The problem we are facing today is that we are destroying so many of the ocean’s ecosystems before we even know they exist. We can learn a lot about how to stay alive and thrive by studying the oceanic habitats, leading to unforeseeable discoveries and scientific advancements.

    What are some of your big goals with this work?
    We face big existential ocean-related problems, and I’d like to help develop solutions for them. Overfishing, acidification, pollution and warming temperatures are destroying the ocean’s ecosystems and affecting humans by diminishing a vital food supply, shifting weather patterns and accelerating sea-level rise. Quite simply, if we don’t know or understand the problems, we can’t fix them.

    Have you found any unexpected overlaps between the research at CERN and the research on a submarine?
    Vision isn’t a good way to see the underwater world. The ocean is pitch black in most of its volume, and the creatures don’t rely on vision. They feel currents with their skin, use sound and can read the chemicals in the water to smell food. It would make sense for humans to use sensors that do that same thing.

    Physicists faced this same challenge and found other ways to characterize subatomic particles and the celestial bodies without relying on vision. Ocean sciences are moving in this same direction.

    What do you think ocean researchers and particle physicists can learn from each other?
    I think we already know it: That is, we can only solve big problems by working together. I’m convinced that only by working together across disciplines, ethnicities and nationalities can we survive as a species.

    Of course, the physical sciences are integral to everything related to ocean engineering, but it’s really CERN’s problem-solving methodology that’s most inspiring and applicable. CERN was created to solve big problems by combining the best of human learning irrespective of nationality, ethnicity or discipline. Our Pisces VI deep sea submarine team is multidisciplinary, multinational and—just like CERN—it’s focused on exploring the unknown that’s essential to life as we know it.

    See the full article here.

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    About CERN openlab
    CERN openlab is a unique public-private partnership that accelerates the development of cutting-edge solutions for the worldwide LHC community and wider scientific research. Through CERN openlab, CERN collaborates with leading ICT companies and research institutes.

    Within this framework, CERN provides access to its complex IT infrastructure and its engineering experience, in some cases even extended to collaborating institutes worldwide. Testing in CERN’s demanding environment provides the ICT industry partners with valuable feedback on their products while allowing CERN to assess the merits of new technologies in their early stages of development for possible future use. This framework also offers a neutral ground for carrying out advanced R&D with more than one company.

    CERN openlab was created in 2001 (link is external) and is now in the phase V (2015-2017). This phase tackles ambitious challenges covering the most critical needs of IT infrastructures in domains such as data acquisition, computing platforms, data storage architectures, compute provisioning and management, networks and communication, and data analytics.

    Meet CERN in a variety of places:

    Quantum Diaries

    Cern Courier




    CERN CMS New

    CERN LHCb New II


    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    Quantum Diaries

  • richardmitnick 7:51 pm on November 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Sandra Miarecki, , Women in STEM   

    From LBNL: Women in STEM- “A Flight Path to Physics Success” Sandra Miarecki 

    Berkeley Logo

    Berkeley Lab

    November 22, 2017
    Glenn Roberts Jr.
    (510) 520-0843

    Sandra Miarecki

    In a previous career, Sandra Miarecki flew high above the Earth’s surface. During a 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force that included time as a test pilot, she flew aircraft including the B-52, F-16, MiG-15, helicopters, and even the Goodyear Blimp.

    Sandra Miarecki boards a T-38 Talon aircraft during her time as a U.S. Air Force pilot. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Miarecki)

    She retired from the Air Force in 2007 to pursue a new calling in physics that would set her sights on the depths of the Earth. Now an assistant professor of physics, Miarecki served as the principal researcher in a just-released study that relied on data from a detector encapsulated in ice near the South Pole to determine how high-energy subatomic particles are absorbed as they travel inside the planet.

    It was a chance seat assignment on a passenger jet in 2007 that put her next to Robert Stokstad, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) physicist who was then serving as the project director for the Lab’s IceCube Neutrino Observatory team.

    U Wisconsin ICECUBE neutrino detector at the South Pole

    Miarecki was on a scouting trip to find housing in the San Francisco Bay Area in preparation for her pursuit of a Ph.D. at UC Berkeley.

    “He was playing with a camera, and I was involved with photography,” she recalled of the chance meeting on that Southwest Airlines flight, and they struck up a conversation. The subject of science came up, and his description of the IceCube project, then under construction, piqued her interest.

    She would later attend a Berkeley Lab IceCube group meeting at Stokstad’s invitation. “I thought I was going to be a cosmology theorist when I first got to Berkeley,” she said, but hands-on experiments were also alluring.

    So she worked on a summer project with the collaboration, and enjoyed the experience.

    Spencer Klein, a longtime physicist at Berkeley Lab who now leads the Lab’s IceCube team, suggested that Miarecki’s dissertation focus on the Earth’s absorption of high-energy neutrinos. Before joining the Air Force, Miarecki had earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy, and also completed courses in physics and mathematics, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    “I had also toyed with the idea of being a geologist, and when you are using the Earth as an absorption material (for neutrinos), you have to understand the composition and density of the Earth. It was a really nice blend of all my previous experience,” she said. “I was so happy when we came up with this idea.”

    Miarecki worked full-time on this research at Berkeley Lab from 2010 to 2015 before taking a job in January 2016 as a physics instructor at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She continued working on her dissertation at the academy, completing that work in December 2016.

    When Klein suggested that she submit her dissertation work for publication in Nature, a high-profile science journal, Miarecki balked at first. “I said, ‘Really?’ Then I thought, ‘OK, let’s give it a try,’” she said. “It’s not expected that your graduate dissertation actually gets into Nature.” The study was published on Nov. 22.

    She was promoted to assistant professor at the academy in January 2017, and now teaches physics coursework in classical mechanics and electromagnetism as well as the physics of combat aviation.

    “When I was going through the military retirement transition course, the attendees had to answer the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up,’ which was tongue-in-cheek, of course, because all of us were over 40,” Miarecki recalled. “I realized that I wanted to teach, and I had always been told that I was a great teacher. The military also had selected me to be an instructor pilot at several times during my career.”

    She added, “I debated whether my 42-year-old brain would be spongy enough to tackle a Ph.D. program, but I decided that I had to try, or I could never live with myself wondering, ‘What could have been?’ Switching from the military to academia was not a big shock because I had spent so much of my military career in a teaching capacity.”

    The assistant professor position at the Air Force Academy has brought her career full circle, she noted: “It represents a perfect blend of my previous Air Force career with my love of teaching physics.”

    See the full article here .

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    A U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory Operated by the University of California

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  • richardmitnick 12:40 pm on November 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Sangeeta Bhatia, Women in STEM   

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

    Brown University
    Brown University

    November/December 2017
    Louise Sloan

    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.
    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 .

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  • richardmitnick 11:33 am on November 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Case Western Reserve University's Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program, Gross and her colleagues who study meteorites need to find them in as pristine a condition as possible, Gross and her colleagues will collect the meteorites using large tongs not their hands to avoid contaminating them, Juliane Gross, Once the meteorites are in the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston Gross can get in line for a chance to study them- she doesn’t get preferential treatment when requesting the rocks she and her tea, , Trans-Antarctic Mountains, Women in STEM   

    From Rutgers: Women in STEM – “Going to Extremes: Juliane Gross Gets Ready to Hunt for Meteorites in Antarctica” 

    Rutgers University
    Rutgers University

    November 15, 2017
    Ken Branson

    Being “a good scientific citizen” in one of the world’s most desolate places.

    Juliane Gross holds a meteorite, part of her personal collection. In Antarctica, she’ll only handle meteorites with tongs, to protect them from contamination. “In the field, we don’t get to cuddle them,” she said.
    Nick Romanenko, Rutgers University

    There are out-of-the-way places. There are remote places. Then there are places like the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, where the nearest human being – possibly, the nearest living organism – is at least 150 miles away.

    That’s where Rutgers University-New Brunswick planetary geologist Juliane Gross will spend six to eight weeks, beginning in December.

    An associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences, she will recover meteorites for the Case Western Reserve University’s Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program, funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

    Scientists study meteorites because meteorites can tell us about how our solar system evolved, how planets formed, and because scientists want to know how meteorite impacts affected our past and might affect our future.

    Gross and her colleagues who study meteorites need to find them in as pristine a condition as possible – and the world’s best place is in the high, ice fields of the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. In that mountain range, which slashes diagonally through the icy continent, there are no microbes, rain, amateur or professional space rock hunters or anything else to contaminate the meteorites.

    Gross is an experienced outdoorswoman, but her sojourn in one of the world’s most desolate places is not your average camping trip. Though she and her colleagues will be in Antarctica during the southern summer, they will be at an equivalent of 11,000 feet above sea level and cold. The weather, clear and extremely cold, will sometimes be subject to blizzard conditions. There are no animals, no people and not much color to distract the eye – white snow, black rock, blue sky.

    In her team, Gross will be there with two other scientists and a mountaineer for safety’s sake. The two men and two women will live in two, two-person tents. They will cook frozen food on small grills inside their tents.

    The first order of business each day will be to chip and melt ice for drinking water. Then Gross and her colleagues will make instant oatmeal for breakfast. “Then you get dressed for day in the ice fields, which can take up to 20 minutes,” Gross said. “Make sure the Skidoo (snowmobile) is in working order, and leave by 9 a.m. We drive to the ice field looking for meteorites, taking GPS coordinates, describing the rocks and the environment where they were found in, taking photos of the field site and rocks, and then recover the meteorites.”

    Transantarctic Mountains, Northern Victoria Land, view from close to Cape Roberts
    Date March 1998
    Author Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute
    The Trans-Antarctic Mountains are so remote that Juliane Gross and her team may be the only living organisms for 150 miles when they start hunting meteorites there next month.

    Gross and her colleagues will collect the meteorites using large tongs, not their hands, to avoid contaminating them. They will put the meteorites in plastic bags, then store them in a freezer at a constant temperature in camp.

    Afterward, the meteorites will be stored in a similar facility at McMurdo Station on the shore of the Ross Sea, just west of the mountains, until they can be shipped to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

    Once the meteorites are in Houston, Gross can get in line for a chance to study them; she doesn’t get preferential treatment when requesting the rocks she and her team found. “This is what it takes to be a good scientific citizen,” she said.

    If you want to follow Gross in the field here is the link to her and her team’s blog: http://caslabs.case.edu/ansmet/category/17-18/

    See the full article here .

    Follow Rutgers Research here .

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    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

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    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

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