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.

Inmate-college students at San Quentin Prison will soon have microscopes for their biology lab through an ASCB Outreach Grant, offered by the Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) outreach subcommittee. ASCB members Ryan McGorty and Adam Williamson, both postdocs at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), asked for the outreach grant to help their volunteer efforts as instructors for a introductory biology course for prisoners. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 00:00

Nontraditional Careers: Science Policy

A doctorate in biology is preparation to do more than just bench work, said Lyric Jorgenson, a PhD who now works as Science Policy Advisor and Analyst at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "It's a degree in logic," she contends. Logic and problem solving, an interest in politics, combined with the ability to write for different audiences are essential skills for PhDs looking to make the leap into science policy.

"Active-learning interventions," in which passive lectures are replaced with interactive activities, moving lecture materials to homework and outside readings, have been shown by STEM education researchers in recent years to be strikingly effective, but a new study published on September 2 in CBE—Life Sciences Education, published by ASCB, reveals that this strategy is especially powerful for black and first-generation college students. An active-learning strategy in an introductory biology course halved the black-white achievement gap and significantly improved the outcome for first-generation college students compared with students in a lecture-based class.

Chaperones aren't just for high-school homecoming dances. Cells have chaperones as well, chaperone proteins that ensure newly made proteins are properly folded. If protein folding goes awry, diseases associated with misfolded proteins such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's can arise. But if one set of chaperones can throw a wet blanket on a school dance, imagine a second set of co-chaperones just to keep the chaperones in check. That's the growing picture in cellular chaperoning as folding guardians of the cell turn out to have guardians of their own.

Thursday, 14 August 2014 10:02

Nontraditional Science Careers: Consultant

The secret is out. There is life beyond the lab or the classroom for someone with a PhD in molecular biology, especially in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. And yet many of these business careers have little to do directly with bench expertise but instead call on doctoral level training in analysis, planning, and communication. Those are the key skills that serve Jason Huhn and Danielle Haney, recent PhD graduates who are happily pursuing fast-paced, well-paid office-based careers as consultants.

In Hollywood and in 3D molecular printing, you start with a script. But the scripts that Darrell Hurt offers bioscience researchers help them to make molecular discoveries more easily. Hurt is the section head at the Computational Biology Bioinformatics and Computational Biosciences Branch at the NIH, where he recently launched the NIH 3D Print Exchange. http://3dprint.nih.gov/ The Exchange offers open-access to ready-to-use scripts, the instructions that drive 3D printers, so scientists can turn their .pdb and other data files into print-it-yourself plastic models.

It's rare to find a young scientist in a big office, yet Gregory Alushin, age 29, has generous space, a U-shaped desk, and a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the NIH campus. He is semi-apologetic about the arrangement, insisting that it's only temporary. "We're going to have to leave this place in a few months," Alushin hastily explains. "Another institute had just moved out of this space so we got to be the temporary sole occupants." His lab was founded only seven months ago, says Alushin, and he doesn't want to get too comfortable.

Fishermen can tell you many tales of the teleosts but most cell biologists know but one—the zebrafish. That's a shame, says John Postlethwait, professor of biology at the University of Oregon, who made his scientific mark with the zebrafish but is a fan of a much wider circle of the teleosts, ray-finned fish whose ranks include nearly all of the important sport or commercial bony fish on Earth. Postlethwait thinks there are discoveries to be made amongst the lesser-known teleosts. Consider the blackfin icefish, a three-foot long, shovel-jawed fish that once almost set an Antarctic research station on fire. The blackfin icefish may hold clue to osteoporosis, he says.

"ALEster" is the pseudonym of a self–described postdoc in molecular biology who wants to build a highly portable cell biology lab, including cell culture incubator, laminar flow hood, and fluorescence microscope, that you could take everywhere you go. It occupies 15 square inches (.381 square meters) of floor space. ALEster is an AFOL, that is, an Adult Fan of LEGO, so his pocket lab was designed with LEGO bricks, complete with PI, Professor Umami, and postdoctoral fellows, the red-haired imaging expert Lory Rhodamine, and the thickly bespectacled biochemist Sam Emsa. The result is detailed, accurate, and a marvel. ALEster submitted his lab design to the official LEGO Ideas site last winter in hopes of attracting 10,000 endorsements, becoming an official LEGO idea set, and inspiring a new generation of bench jockeys.

Sometimes in science it pays to turn over a new leaf or an old laboratory animal. Stephen M. King at the University of Connecticut Health Center recently turned over planarian Schmidtea mediterranea, the nonparasitic flatworm justly renowned for its incredible regenerative powers, and saw on its underside a new way into a old problem. King, who is an ASCB member, believes that planaria could be an alternate model system for studying ciliary motility and its associated diseases now known as ciliopathies.

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