Christina Szalinski

Christina Szalinski

Christina is a science writer for the American Society for Cell Biology. She earned her Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Big discoveries can turn up in unexpected places, such as neurons of the Pacific electric ray, Torpedo californica. That was the start of Richard H. Scheller's path to the 2013 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, which he received last week. Along with Thomas C. Südhof of Stanford University, Scheller won for their independent investigations into the regulatory mechanisms of neurotransmitter release.

In the grand march of human history, first there was the cave wall and charcoal. Then came the inked poster. Now comes the ePoster, the dynamic multimedia form of the venerable 3'8" (1.1m) X 6' (1.828 m) paper poster. For the first time, the 2013 ASCB Annual Meeting will feature this new presentation format (see Jessica Polka's example below). 

Later this fall, a few, a precious few, ASCB members will be booking flights to Stockholm. For the rest of us, take a seat with your laptop tonight to watch live as another batch of Nobelists—the Ig Nobelists—step into the bright lights. This is one show you will be glad to miss as an honoree.

Monday, 16 September 2013 00:00

TALENs Fix Problems in Cellular Powerhouses

Three-person in-vitro fertilization sounds like something out of science fiction—or pulp fiction—but until recently it was the only known technique to prevent women who have damaging mitochondrial DNA mutations from passing on life-threatening disorders to their babies. And it is illegal in the U.S (clinical trials required by the FDA have not been completed). Now researchers at the University of Miami have demonstrated a new strategy that could one day treat these disorders both in adult carriers and in their already born children.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013 00:00

Dance Your Molecular Model

David Odde may be the first scientist whose lab meetings include a dance company. Four years ago Odde, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota and ASCB member, started collaborating with Black Label Movement (BLM); a Twin Cities-based dance theater. Together they use dance to simulate molecular processes.

Monday, 19 August 2013 00:00

The Other PIP2 in Endocytosis

Our bodies and our cells need specialized fats. Our cells eat through a process called endocytosis, which is critical for cells to take up nutrients from their environment. Embedded in the cell membrane, phosphoinositides are specialized lipids crucial during endocytosis and subsequent steps. They can be modified by protein kinases and phosphatases that alter their phosphorylation pattern in one of five places, indicated by the number(s) in the name. Thus was born the PIP family. PIP2, for example, is PtdIns(4,5)P2 phosphorylated in positions 4 and 5.

Ali Khademhosseini is a scientist in a hurry. Khademhosseini, now an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, earned his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in just three years and eight months. He published 12 first-author papers during his graduate studies, working on engineering cellular microenvironments in Robert Langer's lab. Khademohesseini recommends making a plan of action before starting experiments. He told me, "I often wrote an outline of my project including the innovation and expected analysis methods to have a plan of what the paper would look like at the end. I then went about testing various hypotheses. It is important to design experiments in which even a failure results in new knowledge."

Thursday, 08 August 2013 11:42

Biology Commentaries in Space and Time

How big is an antibody? An illustration in a biology textbook might depict an antibody that's a third of the size of a cell, 150 times larger than an antibody actually is in relation to a cell. Of course, it would be impossible to draw an antibody to scale in a textbook. Even if the illustration of the cell took up an entire sheet of 8 ½ x 11 inch paper, the antibody would only be about 0.02 inches, a speck too small to see. So how can one get a sense for the size of proteins on the surface of cells in the body? Michael Reth, professor at the Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg and the Max Planck Institute, gives readers a mental image in a commentary in Nature Immunology.

The sun floods into the Physiology course break room at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) less than a block away from the narrow inlet between the mainland and Naushon Island that gives Woods Hole, MA, its name. Woods Hole is at the shoulder of Cape Cod, a popular summer vacation destination. In the harbor, vintage sailboats carry sunbathers, giant ferries take tourists to Martha's Vineyard, and the MBL work boat brings squid harvested from Vineyard Sound to neuroscience labs. But the 27 graduate students and postdocs who are enrolled in MBL's legendary Physiology course have little time for the sights. Instead, the students use the break room to refuel, analyze data, and argue about PALM vs. STORM or the latest on tropomyosin. Then it's back to the Physiology lab where the students live 16 hours a day for seven weeks. Asked about a famous beach up the road, a Physiology student sighed, "I've been there once."

Dear lab rat,
If you found this article on Facebook (or Twitter or Reddit or Google Plus or whatever social media site you prowl), you can stop reading right now and hit ctrl+P. Then slip the printout onto your PI's desk. Done? Thanks, you've just helped to advance scientific communications. Now go finish your western blot so you can graduate.

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