Advocating for Science on Capitol Hill: a Scientist’s Perspective

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Author Christy Gaines (R) with a staff member from the Office of Senator Richard Burr (NC)

On April 26th, I had the privilege to attend STEM on the Hill Day with BPS. I had attended the March for Science the previous weekend, and I was ready to continue to advocate for science funding by speaking directly to the offices of my representatives. I had concerns about my ability to appeal to some offices, as I had commiserated with others at the march about how some elected officials viewed evidence-based policymaking with skepticism. With this in mind, I tailored my message to the offices I visited.

I went to my first appointment, expecting resistance from the staffer of my senator. I had prepared reasons why basic science funding economically helped my state, as well as a few appeals to national security, but expected to leave the meeting demoralized. I got my first, and largest, surprise of the morning: the staffer agreed with me and promised to commit to funding basic science as part of the upcoming omnibus spending bill. In this age political divisiveness, I had not expected it to be as easy as asking for funding. While we talked about a few of my points, we spent most of our meeting sharing our stories, as the Biophysical Society group spoke more about their individual concerns and how science funding affects us personally.

I assumed this meeting was a fluke, as one data point is not an adequate sample size. However, when I went to the next appointment, I was met with similar enthusiasm and attentiveness. As my sample size grew, I learned that this was the norm rather than the exception. I had few interactions that left me disheartened, as almost everyone I spoke to had broad support for basic science. I think due to the politicization of some aspects of science, we tend to think that all areas will become the same. We believe that denying climate research will automatically lead to slashing the NIH budget. However, I think we can use the broad support of biomedical research to validate other areas of science. Everyone I met believed that cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases are worth federal investment. That same belief that people deserve medical care could be used to protect them from Zika virus, pollution, and other climate-change related ailments. What I realized from meeting with the staffers of my congressmen and senators is that our representatives have to do the best they can with the resources they are given. They are constantly bombarded with requests from people with different priorities, and they must choose which ones are funded. It’s easier for elected officials to relate to the patients of cancer and other illnesses, as they have probably encountered similar issues in their own personal life. However, I got the impression that their interactions with scientists are less frequent. To the majority, what we do is an abstract concept, and the best way to advocate for science is to show them how their funding decisions directly affect our careers, and how our research affects others.

I am a young scientist, and my experience with funding only extends to the last decade. However, I remember when sequestration happened, and how it limited my cohort’s ability to choose labs when we started graduate school. I remember when budgets were slashed for universities, and my school opted to pass some of the costs to the undergrads because they couldn’t absorb all of it by changing the teaching labs. By going to my elected officials, I was able to share these stories and humanize the scientists doing this work. They got to meet someone whose graduate education has been fully funded by the NIH. They got to meet a young scientist that will rely on funding in order to get their next job. Importantly, I didn’t go alone, and others in my group could remind them of how mid- and late-career scientists rely on funding as well.

Overall I felt it was a great experience, and I hope to go again. At the very least, it opened up dialogue between my representatives’ offices and me, making it much easier for me to send an email in the future. It also allowed me to view my representatives as people, instead of political enemies or allies. When I write in the future, I am going to believe that they want to help me (and their other constituents) and that I need to give them a reason to prioritize my needs over other spending projects. While it’s easy to give in to skepticism and pessimism, I encourage others to communicate with their representatives. It might be easier than you think.

–Christy Gaines

UMBC Graduate Student

Meet a Biophysicist Marching for Science

As an official partner of the March for Science, the Biophysical Society encourages members to participate in the event, in person or virtually, and speak up for science. Prior to taking to the streets on Saturday, April 22, in over 525 cities worldwide, meet a BPS member planning to March:  Connie Jeffery.  Connie is an
associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Her lab works on protein structure and function using biochemistry, biophysics, and bioinformatics methods.  The lab has projects in basic science and also focused on diseases – cancer, tuberculosis, and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis).  She will be marching in Chicago, Illinois on April 22.

 

Dr. Constance Jeffery poses in front of a ribosome sculpture at a Cold Spring Harbor meeting.

 

Why did you sign up to march?

I’m concerned about the huge cuts in the proposed federal budget for NIH, NSF, and other parts of the government that fund scientific research.  I am also concerned about potential cuts to agencies that protect the public like the EPA and the FDA.  I am also concerned about so much “pseudoscience” that is misinforming the public, especially things like incorrect information about what to eat or not to eat, quack cures, anti-GMO activists, and anti-vaccination drives that can harm people.  On the more positive side, I would like to share information about the importance of science and what scientists do.

What do you hope to get out of the day personally?

I’d like to share my love of science and encourage young people to consider a job in science, help inform the public about the importance of science and what scientists do, and also learn from others interested in science, including other scientists, but also environmentalists and people with family members who are suffering from diseases that can be potentially cured in the near future (as long as funding is not cut).

What do you hope it will accomplish?

I hope we can better inform the public and our representatives at the local, state and federal level about the importance of science and that there are many American voters who care about science.  There have been such amazing breakthroughs in the past 15 years that we have the potential to find better treatments and ease a lot of suffering soon, but the opportunity will be missed and many people will continue to suffer needlessly if funding is cut.

What will your sign say?

I’m planning to make multiple signs, and to have messages on both sides – things like “Prevent suffering in children:  Fund Research on Childhood Arthritis”, “Fund Cancer Research”, “Fund Autism Research” and from growing up in Cleveland “Before the EPA the Cuyahoga River was so polluted it BURNED {picture of one of the fires}.  Not just once – THE RIVER BURNED MULTIPLE TIMES. Today with the EPA: {and then a picture of how clean and beautiful it looks today}”, “Vaccinations Save Lives”, etc.

Thanks to Connie and everyone else planning to celebrate science at the March!

Pi helps us describe almost everything, not just circles.

Most people know of π, or ‘pi’, as the number they learned in high school that has to do with circles: it is the ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference (π=C/d), the area of the circle is πr2 (especially hilarious because pie are round, not squared), etc. Some of us even remember it as an irrational number, meaning you cannot write it down as a simple fraction, and maybe some people, certainly not me, still have it memorized as starting with 3.14159265. What is less appreciated, however, is that this number has utility far beyond allowing us to calculate the area of a circle.

In biophysics, and in science in general, we use statistics to compare our data with our hypotheses. Many of the phenomena we measure fall along (or can be manipulated to fall along) a normal distribution. A normal distribution is a common continuous probability distribution characterized by the familiar “bell curve” shape, or Gaussian, which corresponds to the Gaussian distribution shown in the image below. When the mean, μ, is zero and the variance, σ2, is one, this function (the blue curve) is e^(-x2) and the area under the curve is the square root of pi! When the mean and variance are other values, the curve can be described more fully with the equation:

Where a = 1 / (σ (2π)1/2) a , b = μ, and c = σ.

pi day graph

 

Normalized Gaussian curves with expected value μ and variance σ2. The corresponding parameters are a = 1 / (σ (2π)1/2) a , b = μ, and c = σ.

 

How was the Gaussian distribution first determined, you may ask? While pi itself is thought to be first measured by the ancient Babylonians between 1900-1680 B.C., the Gaussian distribution originated in the 18th century when Abraham de Moivre started calculating gambling odds extremely precisely. De Moivre studied a very simple system at first: flipping a coin. He would calculate the probability of getting a certain number of heads from a certain number of coin flips. He found that as the number of events (coin flips) increased, the more his probability distribution approached a smooth curve. Thus he went about finding a mathematical expression for this curve, which resulted in the “normal curve”.

Independently, two mathematicians Adrain and Gauss in 1808 and 1809, respectively, developed the formula for the normal distribution and showed that errors observed in astronomical data fell along this distribution. Small errors in measurements occurred more frequently than large ones. The distribution was also independently discovered by Laplace, who elegantly showed how pi enters into the Gaussian distribution (which is summarized nicely here: http://www.umich.edu/~chem461/Gaussian%20Integrals.pdf). Laplace also introduced the Central Limit Theorem, which proves that with a large enough number of samples the mean will be normally distributed, regardless of the underlying original distribution. This is why the normal distribution ends up popping up in so many places.

In biophysics, every time we think about mean and variance, calculate a p value (which assumes a normal distribution), do image processing, or try to understand the probabilities of a particular event, we owe a debt to pi. Not only do we use the Gaussian for statistics, but we also often use it in fields where we need to apply a potential or some external force either experimentally or in simulation. Basically, pi underlies all of the fundamental biological process we study on a daily basis. Thanks pi!

By Sonya Hanson, postdoc at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

 

References:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaussian_function (Including public domain figure)
http://onlinestatbook.com/2/normal_distribution/history_normal.html
https://www.amazon.com/Cartoon-Guide-Statistics-Larry-Gonick/dp/0062731025

 

Lots of Mechanobiology and Cell Mechanics @ BPS

There were a a lot of talks and posters on this session and I obviously cant cover all of them, but here are a few highlights!

The Mechanobiology subgroup is growing over the years.
It ranged from cell clusters to single cells, from engineering techniques to mathematical modeling and more… It was an action packed day and here are some of the highlights.

Vinculin catch bond is directional! Alex Dunn’s lab has now done neat experiments to show that Vinculin forms a catch bond very neatly in the direction of actin flow. This allows the binding to the rearward flowing actin and slowing it down.

Another neat talk by Kristian Franze (who is also the president elect for 2018 – Congratulations ☺) showed their interesting work on how neurons migrate through repellant gradients. They show that during development, when neurons enervate the area of the brain, they do so even though there is a chemical repellant present there. Using both imaging and biophysical manipulations invitro and invivo (AFM cantilever) they show that the neurons require a particular range stiffness to migrate and reach their final destination. This led to interesting speculations about the reason for poor neuronal regeneration in scar tissue in the brain, which is actually stiffened by the glial cells.

There were two talks talking answering questions of cell division – one dealing with kinetochores in chromosome segregation and another about the acto-myosin contractile ring. Mary Elting’s work answered questions about where are the spindles anchored or rather where are the K fibers, just at the tip or throughout the entire spindle during chromosome segregation? They used Ptk2 cells – as these cells have very few chromosomes hence easier to work with. She cut the spindles at different distances from the chromosome and measured chromosome recoil. These experiments suggest that the K fibers are anchored almost throughout the length of the spindle.

Binh An Truong Quang from Ewa Paluch’s lab, took to the theme of acto-myosin ring contraction. The major question was how does the ring contract. Using double-labeled myosin they devised a nice way to measure the angle of myosin with respect to actin. They show that as the tension in the ring increases about 2 fold during contraction, they myosin angle changes with respect to the actin, explaining the increase in tension.

Lisa Manning gave a great talk no their modeling studies, where the magic number was 3.81. What is 3.81, that’s the ratio of perimeter:square root of area (model parameter). Of densely packed cells. What does this tell us, that by just measuring these parameters, one can actually tell if the cells are stationary or fluid like. This was an interesting problem from the physics perspective as cells have no gaps so how can they flow – by interacting with their neighbours and it turns out that these interactions can change the model parameter. Hence just by looking at the value of the model parameter one can easily determine the state of cells. Further, she had developed a very a neat phase diagram where cell shapes were determined as a function of stiffness and what would happen in a cell sheet.
Otter Campas has developed a very nice method to forces in an intact tissue. They use magnetized oil droplets roughly 3 times the size of the cell and insert it in the tissue (they were focusing on developing zebra fish). Using this they can apply pair forces to the cells and measure local strain maps without perturbing morphogenetic movements.
Switching gears here, I went to attend Miriam Goodman’s talk, as I would be co-chairing the session with her the next day. It was amazing, where they set out to understand how worms respond to touch. The assay they use is to poke the worm with an eyebrow hair. They show that the force generated by this, though variable between humans – is enough to saturate the response of the worm (2pN). This is primarily mediated by MEC4 (ENAC Channel proteins). Worms expressed these channels in the epidermis near the skin and those lacking these channels are touch dead. Further, they can make stiff (using glue) or soft worms (dissecting the gut) and measure how the touch response is modulated.
Great! That was Saturday, a relatively short day as it ended by 6pm.. And then it was Mardi Gras festivities. Ofcourse the political satire themed parade was on everyone’s agenda! What Can I say it was fun! Lots of people wrote about that, but here is what I found – A monument on the banks of Mississippi to guess what? That’s right! Immigrants! Woah!

Enjoy the big and easy 🙂

Rishita Changede

Introducing the 2017 BPS Annual Meeting Bloggers

Once again, we are lucky to have several meeting attendees serving as Guest Bloggers during the upcoming 61st BPS Annual Meeting.   These individuals will be coming to New Orleans from around the world and with a variety of research backgrounds and experiences.  They will be providing you with their take on the Meeting’s events throughout the week. Please check back regularly to see what is going on-we are so lucky to have them!

pictureforbpsblogellenaveryEllen Avery is a master’s student in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She specializes in the field of cardiac electrophysiology under the supervision of Dr. Shetuan Zhang. This is her first time at the BPS annual meeting, and she looks forward to meeting other biophysics enthusiasts that share her love of cardiac ion channels. She is excited to attend the networking and career development events in search of advice, as she anticipates searching for PhD supervisors and planning for a career in biophysics.

Outside of the lab, Ellen loves staying active by going to spin class, running outside, and walking her dog, Penny. Ellen has been known to run outside in the dead of winter, in Canada, so you can bet she’ll be getting outside and taking full advantage of the warm New Orleans weather while at the BPS meeting! Ellen also loves music and has played the flute for 12 years, so she hopes to hunt down some jazzy tunes on Bourbon Street while in town. Stay tuned for posts about food related adventures as well—as an avid foodie, Ellen plans to eat her way through the Big Easy one bowl of gumbo at a time.

Ellen is presenting at the Ion Channels, Pharmacology and Disease II poster session on Wednesday, February 15th, between 2:45 and 3:45 pm in Hall B2-C. She encourages blog readers to drop by her poster and keep her company!


David Bunck
is a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology with Prof. davidbunckJames Heath. He is working on developing small molecules that rationally perturb the energy landscape of target proteins. He is excited to attend BPS 2017 for the great conversations at the poster session that range gritty experimental details to broader perspectives on a range of fields. On the swag circuit, he is looking forward to the Thor Labs and Avanti Polar Lipids T-shirts. Krewe du Vieux, Bourbon Street, and the World War II museum are also on the top of his list to visit.

David will be giving a talk on Monday, 13 February at 10:00 AM (Room 208/209) in the Protein Stability, Folding, and Chaperones II Platform session on modulating the folding landscape of superoxide dismutase 1, a protein implicated in Lou Gehrig’s disease. You can follow him on Twitter @dnbunck.

gumpperGreetings! I am Kristyn Gumpper, a 5th year PhD Candidate in Biomedical Sciences at The Ohio State University. My research interests lie in cell physiology, specifically in the transport of cytoplasmic vesicles driven by TRIM family proteins. My goal is to be a Professor of Biology at a liberal arts institution, similar to my undergraduate school, Allegheny College. I am looking forward to a variety of things at the BPS Annual Meeting including: the application of new and emerging methods, networking with potential employers, presenting my research during the poster competition, and colleagues, and learning how I can be successful in the next stages of my career, amongst other things. I am extremely excited that this meeting is in New Orleans, LA because it is a chance for me to visit a new and historical city while also engaging in high-quality scientific discussions. Staying in the French Quarter, although a little walk away from the conference, will allow me a chance to experience the local culture and, of course, the food. I look forward to trying real Cajun cuisine. I just hope it is not too spicy! Although I am traveling to “N’Awlins” for the science, I hope I will have time to take at least one historical tour while I am here!
cgupta

My name is Chitrak Gupta and I am a graduate student studying structural biology, biomolecular simulation and data science at West Virginia University.  BPS provides me the opportunity to discuss my research with scientists with different areas of expertise. Last two BPS meetings has been extremely fruitful in this regard, and I am looking forward to another exciting BPS annual meeting. Additionally, being a guest blogger for BPS is an excellent opportunity for me to showcase my writing skills and communicate with a broader audience.  I was a guest blogger for BPS 2015 and 2016 Annual Meetings. My blogs from the previous meetings can be found at the following link https://biophysicalsociety.wordpress.com/author/chgupta/

I am expecting this BPS meeting to be extremely busy for me. However, I am a foodie and enjoy trying out different cuisines.  I also love to travel. This BPS would be my first time at New Orleans, and I am hoping to find some time for local sightseeing. Definitely want to see the National WWII Museum.

I am scheduled to present my poster on Tuesday, February 14th, from 2:45 to 3:45 PM.

herneisen_alMy name is Alice Herneisen and I am a senior undergraduate student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, double majoring in biology and chemistry. I intend to pursue graduate studies in biophysics and structural biology. (In fact, I’ll be coming to the Annual Meeting directly after two interviews!) My current research uses EPR spectroscopy to investigate the structure and dynamics a membrane protein, influenza A M2. The M2 protein has a surprising array of functions encoded in its short, 97-residue sequence. While many biophysical studies have investigated the transmembrane and membrane-proximal region of M2, less is known about the conformation and dynamics of the remaining residues of the C-terminal cytoplasmic tail. I will present a poster on our research, which has characterized a part of this region at the residue-specific level.

This is my first time to the Annual Meeting – actually, it’s my first academic conference! I do have the good fortune to attend the meeting with two other undergraduates who also work in the lab. I attend a liberal arts college, so I look forward to meeting graduate students, faculty, independent researchers, and of course other undergraduate students. I also intend to take advantage of the networking opportunities offered at this year’s Meeting. This is a big meeting for me – there will be more attendees than the entire student population at my school – so I hope that this blog will encourage me to try new things and reflect on my experiences.

I will be presenting a poster, Site-Directed Spin-Labeling EPR Spectroscopy of the Cytoplasmic Tail of Influenza A M2, at the Undergraduate Mixer and Poster Fest from 4-5 PM on Saturday, Feb. 11, and as a part of the Membrane Protein Structures II session from 11:30-12:30 on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

When I am not in the lab, I like to play ultimate Frisbee! I even have an alter ego team nickname.

iwanickiMartin Iwanicki is a third year PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is studying protein design and engineering.  This is his first Biophysical Society Meeting, so he is excited to participate in the meeting both as a poster presenter and as a blogger. At BPS17, he is looking forward to attending the symposia, learning about new topics within biophysics, and meeting other scientists/graduate students. During his free time, he hopes to check out the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, the National WWII Museum, eat delicious food, and also, try to catch some pre-Mardi Gras festivities! His sister recently visited New Orleans and has given him a to-do list of what restaurants to try out every night (don’t worry – he’ll make sure to include what he eats in his blog posts for all you foodies).  Outside of science, Martin enjoys playing piano and flute, spending time with his recently adopted kittens (the cutest kittens in the world), traveling, eating new food, and kayaking. Martin will be presenting a poster on Monday, February 13, from 2:45-3:45 PM. Please stop by and visit!

 

jahanMerina Jahan is a fourth year Graduate Student at the University of South Carolina. Her research work focuses on Molecular modeling of biomaterials for advanced drug delivery and biosensing. She has been working on designing aptamers and polymers with a statistical thermodynamic approach. She is looking forward to learn about new advancements in computational drug design and molecular modeling in this meeting. She also plans to attend the sessions related to Career development.

She loves traveling. Her favorite time of the year is mid-fall with beautiful colors everywhere when she could have a long drive across the magnificently and vibrantly colorful Blue Ridge Mountains. She also loves to eat, specially Bangladeshi cuisine – food from her homeland. And being a food lover, she also likes to cook, but her food does not get “a soul” like they do at home.

This is the second BPS meeting for Merina and she is even more excited this time to have New Orleans, the city of Mardi Gras as the venue. She wants to walk around the famous Bourbon Street and the Jackson Square during her stay at the meeting. She will also look out for restaurants to try the local cuisine.

Merina has a presentation in the “Computational Methods and Bio-informatics” session titling “Molecular design of a nanoparticle-polymer conjugated drug delivery system for PD-166793 in cardiovascular repair”   on February 12 Sunday at 5.15pm.

chrislockhartChristopher Lockhart is a postdoctoral fellow at George Mason University, where he uses replica-exchange molecular dynamics simulations to probe the binding of the Alzheimer’s disease Aβ peptide to model lipid bilayers. At the Biophysical Society 61st Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Christopher is looking forward to interacting with other researchers who work in the field of biomolecular simulations and learning about how their simulations have been used to gain novel insight into biology—particularly amyloidogenic diseases. During his stay in New Orleans, aside from participating in the conference, Christopher plans to engage in quintessential activities such as walking down Bourbon Street at night, eating beignets for breakfast at Café Du Monde, and asking the elusive question: “Why is Blue Dog blue?”

Christopher is presenting a poster on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 1:45 PM. This poster will investigate the difference in binding of the Aβ peptide to the zwitterionic DMPC bilayer with or without calcium salt and the anionic DMPS bilayer. During the meeting, you can keep up with Christopher by following him on Twitter @doclockh.

mittalMy name is Shriyaa Mittal.  I am a second year graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I was a computer scientist but got blown away when I was first introduced to molecular biology and the Smith-Waterman algorithm in my bioinformatics class 4 years ago. Since then I have been working on the periphery of biophysics and now getting my PhD researching protein conformational dynamics via computational simulations. Apart from research, I paint (but do not draw) and have recently taken to learning Latin where I am the only graduate student in a class of freshmen and sophomores.

I will be giving a talk titled “Optimal Probes: An Efficient Method To Select DEER Distance Restraints Using Machine Learning” on February 14 (Tuesday), 11:45 AM at the Membrane Protein Dynamics Platform session.

prithviraj_nandigrami_photoMy name is  Prithviraj Nandigrami and I am a PhD candidate in biophysics at  Kent State University.  My specialty areas are physics, computational biophysics, statistical physics, and molecular dynamics simulations.  At the Meeting, I am most looking forward to the career fair, poster sessions, and all the talks relevant to my research area. I am also very much looking forward to networking with peers as well as experts in the field. I plan on defending my PhD Dissertation during Summer 2017. I am actively looking for Postdoctoral positions and believe this meeting will be great opportunity to find potential employers. I am presenting a poster on my work on Sunday, February 12, 1:45 – 3:45 PM. The title of my poster is: “Thermodynamic and kinetic representations of cooperative allosteric binding in calmodulin.”

I also plan on exploring downtown New Orleans and possibly going on a river cruise. I  want to visit local area attractions and explore Southern cuisine! This will be my first time in New Orleans!

When I am not in the lab, I like to swim, play racquetball, watch movies, listen to music.

ariane2Ariane Nunes-Alves is a PhD student at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, where she studies protein unfolding and ligand unbinding through molecular dynamics simulations. This is the second time she attends a BPS Annual Meeting. One of the things she enjoyed the most in her first time at BPS was the poster sessions, where she met new people and got in touch with new ideas. She is interested in learning more about ion channels and transporters, so she is looking forward for the Permeation and Transport subgroup meeting on Saturday and for the platform sessions about ion channels and transporters this year. At BPS17, she also expects to make contacts for a future postdoc position outside Brazil.

Ariane is scheduled to present her work ‘Weighted ensemble of pathways for ligand unbinding from T4 lysozyme’ in the Protein-Small Molecule Interactions platform session on Tuesday February 14th.

In New Orleans, Ariane is planning to visit the French quarter to see the old buildings and to walk along the famous Mississippi River.

Besides science, Ariane also enjoys coffee, wine, Greek sculptures, traveling, watching French movies and reading.

schifferMy name is Jamie Schiffer. I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment. My research focuses deciphering the roles of biological species and molecules in climate change based on atomic level insight from simulations. As a passionate writer and reader, I have found that integrating science, arts, and communication has helped me improve each of these skills individually. Outside of science and work, I enjoy cooking, frequenting breweries and wineries with friends and family, and teaching/practicing yoga.

 

weidemanHello Everyone!  My name is Gregory Wiedman.  I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Public Health Research Institute at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.  I study Peptides and short Oligonucleotides, specifically those generated by means of combinatorial chemistry.  I am attending the 61st Annual Biophysical Society Meeting to present my recent work on small molecule aptamers, and I will give a poster presentation during the Sunday evening poster session on Nucleic Acids.  Science outreach and bringing science to the public is especially important to me.  While in NOLA I hope to try to spend some time speaking to people and presenting outside of the conference.  I encourage everyone to do the same; don’t just leave your science back at the convention center but take it out with you wherever you go!  I hope to meet a lot of you at the conference and I’m sure that it will be a great opportunity to share our common excitement for biophysics!  If you’d like to keep in touch or keep updated with what I’m doing please feel free to follow my blog at: https://molecularyoga.wordpress.com/ See you in New Orleans!  Cheers!  Greg

 

 

 

 

Opportunity to Engage: Biophysics Week 2017

bwcollage1

You are scientist. It is your job to be an expert in what you study, to know and understand the tiniest details of your subject matter. You work with others in your field, and teach/mentor students and postdocs with some background related to your work.  You publish your work in specialized publications so that scientists with similar backgrounds and knowledge of your specialized vocabulary understand what you do. But when was the last time you explained your work to someone outside of your very specific field?  Or talked about biophysics and all it encompasses in general?

The second annual Biophysics Week, March 6-10, 2017, is an opportunity to do just that. The Biophysical Society will be hosting a series of events, including webinars on topics ranging from mentoring to getting a biophysics paper published,  and a Congressional briefing.  Lesson plans and profiles of women in biophysics will be released.  Cell Press will create a picture show, illustrating the beauty unveiled by biophysics research.

But to really reach people, the Society needs you to get involved.

We encourage you to plan an educational outreach event , such as a seminar, webinar, information session, lab tour, open house, or other activity that allows you to share what you and your colleagues do with others. The Biophysical Society will advertise your event on its website, in member communications, and through  social media.

And you will have taken your science out of the lab and engaged.  Maybe the effort will result in a student deciding to take a biophysics class, or find a biophysics lab to work in.  Maybe it will introduce a high school student to the term biophysics and teach him to not be intimidated by it. Or maybe your efforts will result in a non scientist developing an appreciation of basic research.  All are important outcomes.  And they will only happen when we all  engage.

Plan your event and register it here.

Stay up-to-date on Biophysics Week 2017 here.

 

BPS Members Making a Difference Beyond the Lab: Karen Fleming

Society members make a difference in their communities in many ways.  BPS member Karen Fleming a faculty member and undergraduate program director in biophysics at Johns Hopkins University, has taken on the barriers facing women in science, and decided to do something about it on her campus. 

Know a member making a difference in their community that should be featured here?  Let us know. We would like this to be the first of a series!

womenofhopkins

Pictured, (Left to Right), all of Johns Hopkins University: Dominic Scalise, graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering and Women’s of Hopkins Exhibit team member; Erin Gleeson,  Project and Events Specialist, Office of Instituional Equity; Gail Kelly, one of the Women of Hopkins; Ron Daniels, President; Karen Fleming; and Jeannine Heynes, Director, Office of Gender Equity.*  Photo Credit: Will Kirk, homewoodphoto.jhu.edu

Role Models.

We hear it over and over again—the need for diverse role models so that diverse students can see themselves succeeding in science. This includes gender.  Women often are underrepresented on panels, at conferences, and as recipients of prestigious awards.  BPS member Karen Fleming decided to do something about it.

Fleming, along with a handful of other JHU staff and graduate students, formed a committee, successfully sought institutional funding and support, and put together an exhibit entitled “Women of Hopkins.” The purpose of the exhibit was to highlight the many successful women that have graduated from the university and been pioneers in their fields, especially for current students.   Nominations were accepted and vetted by the committee, resulting in a photographic exhibit of 23 Hopkins graduates, displayed on the walls of Hopkins buildings. The women highlighted represent many different fields-not just science—and include Bonnie Basler, Bernadine Healy, Carol Greider, Mary Guinan, Nitza Margarita Cintrón, and Florence Sabin.  The project also includes a Women of Hopkins website, which has a biography for each woman included in the exhibition, as well as a presence on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, giving the project greater visibility.

*Women of Hopkins team members not pictured are:  Anna Coughlin, graduate student in chemical and biomolecular Engineering; Jeff Gray, Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Valerie Hartman, instructional designer at JHMI.