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Covid-19 expert Akiko Iwasaki fights a different virus: sexism in science

covid-19 expert akiko iwasaki fights a different virus: sexism in science

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Even for one of the most high-profile virologists in the midst of the pandemic, it was not an event that will be easily forgotten.
For nearly 10 hours on a recent Saturday, Akiko Iwasaki was feted at a virtual gathering celebrating her 50th birthday and the 20th anniversary of her Yale lab. Former and current colleagues showered her with gifts, reminisced about outings to bars, Six Flags, and campsites, and answered trivia questions (her favorite color is purple — Iwasaki is a huge Prince fan).
But at about hour eight, the festive mood turned solemn. During toasts from her mentees, who thanked her for counseling them on how to respond to critics, Iwasaki shared how she’s still fending them off herself. She said a retired male professor, who was a former chief of surgery at a different university, had recently berated her in an email over a paper she wrote in Nature Medicine that called out toxic principal investigators in academia and charted how to dismantle hostile workplaces.
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“He told me that my kind of attitude … was ruining the lives of young men,” she said, adding that this person also wrote that Iwasaki’s suggestions could have ruined the careers …

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Frisco 14-year-old wins national award, earns respect of science community

frisco 14-year-old wins national award, earns respect of science community

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Life lately for Anika Chebrolu, 14, has been managing the hundreds of interview requests worldwide, calls from scientists, and a recent offer from a college.

FRISCO, Texas — A Frisco teen is making a name for herself after winning a prestigious national award for young scientists. 

Anika Chebrolu, 14, won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge and a $25,000 prize for a discovery that could open the door for a possible therapy to COVID-19.

Chebrolu first came across the in-silico method for drug discovery, which uses software and databases instead of lab testing, in the 8th grade at Nelson Middle School in Frisco. She quickly pivoted from researching influenza to researching the molecule that could inhibit the protein behind COVID-19 for her 3M competition.

“Stopping that protein, we’ll be able to stop the virus from entering and infecting host cells which makes it a very effective drug target,” Chebrolu said.

The molecule she found is more than 50 letters long. She wanted to wait to publicize the name of the molecule until she had an opportunity to do more testing.

Chebrolu said she also loves creating art pieces and performing in Indian classical dance. But lately, her attention has been on the competition and managing the …

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Harvard students and alumnae mentor girls in science

harvard students and alumnae mentor girls in science

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In normal times, the clubs meet once a week at seven K-8 schools scattered throughout Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston. Mentors like Brown and Cooper lead activities and experiments. Junior mentors, made up of eighth through 12th graders, assist the older mentors, who are college students or STEM professionals. The program has student volunteers from Bunker Hill Community College and University of Massachusetts, Boston as well.
Due to the pandemic, the club has halted in-person programming and moved online. Students and mentors are being mailed lab kits for experiments. Topics during sessions have included chemistry, astronomy, physics, and include experiments like dissecting owl scat, digging through dirt, or learning about the body’s circulatory system.
Last spring at the Amigos K-8 school in Cambridge — one of two locations where Harvard students mentored last year — elementary pupils learned how static electricity works by having a balloon rubbed on their heads and working with circuitry.
“It’s fun. We often hear a lot of screams,” said Bertolaet, the organization’s executive director.  “One of our mentors said one of their favorite things was the screams of disgust and delight. There are so many girls who are just screaming, ‘I love this!’ and that’ …

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Can scientists take the STING out of common respiratory viruses?

can scientists take the sting out of common respiratory viruses?

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University of North Carolina School of Medicine scientists have made a curious discovery about a well-known human protein that helps the immune system fight viral infections. The lab of Stan Lemon MD, and colleagues found that one class of viruses actually requires this protein to infect cells and replicate.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research reveals an Achilles heel of rhinoviruses, which account for as much as 70% of common colds and acute wheezing episodes, and likely account for tens of billions of dollars in health-related costs each year in the United States. There is no effective anti-viral treatment.
“We found that a large proportion of these rhinoviruses, particularly the ones that cause severe disease, need a human protein called STING to make copies of its RNA,” said Lemon, professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at the UNC School of Medicine. “We don’t know how or why; we’ll have to study this further. But our work opens the door to a new strategy for controlling infection of these pesky and at times very dangerous pathogens.”
Viruses are relatively simple bugs able to infect human cells and then replicate to cause diseases from the common …

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A virtual lament for grad school

a virtual lament for grad school

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By Adam RubenOct. 26, 2020 , 3:00 PM

The summer after I graduated from high school, I worked at a newly opened indoor amusement park in northern Delaware. The year was 1997, and the park’s greatest attraction was so futuristic that guests clambered over one another for just a few minutes of it: virtual reality.

They’d don a heavy VR helmet that covered their eyes and ears, then try not to tangle the wires as they turned their heads to marvel at a surrounding technicolor dreamscape of floating polygons. They couldn’t go anywhere or do anything in this fantasy world, but the mere existence of the virtual polygons thrilled northern Delawareans to no end. (It remains unclear to me how, or if, we kept the helmets sanitary.)

I remember thinking, as I scanned the barcodes on eager guests’ wristbands, that someday VR would be more than an almost-amusing diversion. I imagined that sometime, years in the future, we’d strap on our visors in the morning and spend each day in a virtual utopia so clear and vibrant it might have come from a laser disc.

Today, like it or not (spoiler: not), we’re living in the virtual world—but it’ …

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Water exists on sunny parts of the moon, scientists confirm | Science News

water exists on sunny parts of the moon, scientists confirm | science news

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Past observations have suggested that there’s water on the moon. New telescope observations conclude that those findings hold water.

Spacecraft have seen evidence of water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles (SN: 5/9/16), as well as hints of water molecules on the sunlit surface (SN: 9/23/09). But water sightings in sunlit regions have relied on detection of infrared light at a wavelength that could also be emitted by other hydroxyl compounds, which contain hydrogen and oxygen. 

Now, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, has detected an infrared signal unique to water near the lunar south pole, researchers report online October 26 in Nature Astronomy. “This is the first unambiguous detection of molecular water on the sunlit moon,” says study coauthor Casey Honniball, a lunar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This shows that water is not just in the permanently shadowed regions — that there are other places on the moon that we could potentially find it.”

These observations could inform future missions to the moon that will scout out lunar water as a potential resource for human visitors (SN: 12/16/19).

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Science’s annual Ph.D. dance contest will go on, with new COVID-19 category

science’s annual ph.d. dance contest will go on, with new covid-19 category

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By Science News StaffOct. 26, 2020 , 11:30 AM

Have you, even with COVID-19, been contemplating a chemistry cha-cha? Or started to plan a physics polka before the pandemic? For you and others, we’re delighted to announce that Science’s annual Dance Your Ph.D. competition will go on—and hopefully provide a joyful diversion during these trying times. As usual, we’re challenging scientists to explain their research with fancy footwork but no PowerPoint slides or jargon. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting your Ph.D. or you completed it decades ago; you just need to be able to keep a beat.

Now sponsored by the artificial intelligence company Primer, the contest is entering its 13th year. This year, category winners—physics, biology, chemistry, and social science—can take home $750 and the top dance will earn glory and an extra $2000. In a new twist, we’ve added a bonus $500 category on COVID-19. This pandemic has shown the challenges and importance of clearly communicating science, so we’re inviting dances on research that helps us understand any aspect of COVID-19 and its consequences to health and society. This category is not limited to people who study the disease.

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The Science of It: Scary Challenge

the science of it: scary challenge

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The Science of It: Scary Challenge

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Updated: 10:56 AM EDT Oct 26, 2020

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MICHELLE: BUGS, MICE, HEIGHTS EVEN TORNADOS. , THEY ALL HAVE ONE THING IN COMMON — THEY ARE THINGS PEOPLE FEAR. TODAY WE’RE GETTING INTO A SCARY CHALLENGE WITH OUR FRIENDS OVER AT THE ORLANDO SCIENCE CENTER. >> GOOD MORNING, AND WELCOME BACK TO THE SCIENCE OF IT. THIS IS FEAR FACTOR JUNIOR AND TODAY I’M JOINED BY SPENCER. I AM A LITTLE EXCITED, NERVOUS/A LOT OF SPOOKY THINGS HAPPENING. WHAT ARE WE DOING TODAY? >> FEAR FACTOR JUNIOR IS ONE OF THE THINGS WE DO AT THE SCIENCE CENTER. IT IS EXCITING AND WE LIKE TO PREY ON PEOPLE’S FEARS BECAUSE IT IS HALLOWEEN. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST FEAR? >> BUGS, DON’T LIKE ROACHES. >> THAT IS GREAT NEWS FOR ME PERSONALLY. I AM CERTAINLY OF — AFRAID OF CERTAIN BUGS. WHEN WE ARE WATCHING A HORMONE BE, GO TO A HAUNTED HOUSE, WE LIKE TO PREY ON THESE FEARS. PEOPLE THROW FAKE STUFF AT YOU — IT IS NOT ACTUALLY SCARY. IF THERE WAS A LYING IN FRONT OF ME, I WOULD PROBABLY HAVE A DIFFERENT — >> YOU WOULD REACT. >> ABSOLUTELY. I HAVE …

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How to be happy, according to science

how to be happy, according to science

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In 2014, two psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, launched an online course with a lofty goal: teaching students how to be happy, through both science and practice, in just eight weeks. No big deal, right? The amazing thing: It seemed to work. Thousands of students took the Science of Happiness course (which is still free to audit on edX, a provider of open online courses) and learned about the science of connection, compassion, gratitude and mindfulness. Perhaps more importantly, they also completed a series of simple activities that research suggests increase happiness. Those who fully participated saw their positive feelings increase each week. They reported feeling less sadness, stress, loneliness, anger and fear, while at the same time experiencing more amusement, enthusiasm and affection, as well as a greater sense of community. During the course, students’ happiness and life satisfaction increased by about 5%. And that boost remained even four months after the course ended (though it’s difficult to fully untangle that result; it could’ve been from doing the activities, the students’ new understanding of the psychology of happiness, or something totally different).
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How does this work? Can you really change how …

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