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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Glowing jellyfish, zebra fish, mice, pigs, cats......

So apparently I don't know how to delete a post once it is entered....for some reason the formatting when I actually posted on the 8th was pretty bizarre (I am now reposting on the 10th). I was quite excited about the Nobel prize in chemistry going to two Americans and one Japanese for their parts in the discovery of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) as an extraordinarily useful tool for cell biologists to use. 

GFP is  a protein isolated from a glowing jellyfish.  Once the DNA sequence coding for this protein was determined, plasmids (small circular pieces of DNA that can be inserted into cells) were created that could transfect mammalian cells, and even entire organisms, making them glow.  Before this, we could not visualize and track living cells in organisms.  This concept is so important and useful that I teach the technique to use it in the GAMES camp and also in my course.  In fact, you can learn more by going to the ppt lecture on the GAMES page called "Transfection of DNA into Eukaryotes".  In a picture I also included in my stem cell talk (on the Stem Cells & Tissue Engineering page), here is the picture of a cat made to glow using a very similar technique.  The red cat was genetically modified to do so and the other cat is a normal white cat but appears green because it is a green wavelength of light shining on both cats.  This wavelength activates the red glowing in the other cat.


I received a lovely thank you letter from the coordinator of the "World of Science" lecture series, David Leake.  Patting myself on the back here, I will put a quote from his note.  "You have a wonderful ability to be able to take a complicated topic and make it available to all.  That is a gift!  Your talk on stem cells was wonderful, and even yours truly (the physics guy) could easily follow it!"

That is my goal everyday when I come in to work, and even when I am NOT at work.  You don't have to love science, but it would be nice if you understood some of it, right?

Thanks, Dave! I will hopefully get the lecture posted on this site and maybe even take pieces of the talk and put them on youtube for the heck of it, so some proper information about stem cells makes it out to the general public.

I'm exhausted and even the coffee smell permeating my clothes from a spectacular coffee spill by someone 8 feet away from me this morning is not helping.  A nap is in order!

Until next time, 

Kindly,  Joanne

Wed, October 8, 2008 | link 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Nobel Prize time! and 12 guys, keeping the world safe from brown cardboard assailants

I love Nobel prize time (besides the fact that it's near my birthday!).  Knowing that someone, somewhere in the world will be woken up at 4am with the announcement that they won is just so exciting!! Today was the announcement in physics.

To Yoichiro Nambu from the USA "for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics"

To Makoto Kobayashi and Toshide Masakawa, Japan "for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature"
Did you know that I speak some Japanese?  I studied it in college because I was too jet-lagged from my flight from Japan to take the French placement test.  (Don't ever say I don't make spontaneous decisions!) Japanese was quite fun and fairly easy until the kanji handwriting became ever more complicated!  If you know some, here you go:
Zanen ga, wakashi wa takusan nihongo o wasuremashita.
The same thing in French: Malheureusement, j'ai oublié beaucoup du japonais.
(translation: Regrettably, I forgot (or have forgotten) a lot of Japanese)
Monday was Medicine and Physiology which also went to three people: two French and one German
To Harald zur Hausen "for his discovery of human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer"
To Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier "for their discovery of human immunodeficiency virus"
And tomorrow is Chemistry!!!  Check out for the latest.  It is a very awesome website.

On a separate note, I keep promising myself that I will get out to Vermont one year for my birthday because I hear the changing of the leaves are quite spectacular precisely at this time.  Maybe next year, but this year, in what may be the most interesting thing I've ever done for my birthday, my brother took me to an "action shoot" at a shooting range.  A couple of fellows designed scenarios where multiple assailants, cut out of brown cardboard, must be taken down by your pistol.  Of course, real pistols and real bullets.  A bit of overkill, to be sure. Luckily we also had some cardboard walls for cover to keep us safe!

Tsk! Naturally, I can handle guns, and I'm a little insulted that you think I couldn't/wouldn't.  Wink

I was pretty happy with myself because I was quite accurate, although slow.  If they were moving, I might not do so well. If my recyclable enemies had guns, I'd be dead.  Running would be the superior option in that case.  Since I used a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, I had to follow the maxim: "If they are worth shooting once, they're worth shooting twice!" and double tap them all, and some we had to go back and hit in the head, too.  I hit some dead center, which is good except I really, really hope I never need to do this in real life. Plus you can't carry a weapon in Illinois, so it's moot anyway, I guess.  Regardless, lots of praise from the guys: "Good shootin', girl!"

My brother caught it on his camera phone, and if he remembers, he will send it to me and perhaps I will upload it onto the site.

Finally, if you are a professor, read this (from a former student) before you write your next boring lecture:

"I read the slides you sent after we talked, and they are absolutely hilarious.  I loved the introduction
of the razor...ha.  The Johnny Depp and Pierce Brosnan pictures were also pretty funny.  I miss having professors who go to the trouble of making the lectures funny and entertaining."

(Thanks, M!) And, believe me, it is no trouble at all!  I don't think I could do it any other way! Shoot me if I do. (uh, figuratively, that is)

Until next time, 



Tue, October 7, 2008 | link 

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