The Hills are Alive with the Sound of…Science

Children’s angelic voices were accompanied by science experiments on February 28 at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. The Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas (CCGD) “Earth, Wind & Sky” concert drew inspiration from science themes, including astronomy and biology. CCGD invited SPEaC to perform experiments and answer “Ask a Scientist” questions live onstage during the concert interludes. SPEaC was honored to be in the midst of spectacular artistry, from both the fabulous young singers to the talented CCGD staff that designed, coordinated and conducted the concert.

Continue reading

Illuminating Biology

“Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle”–Benjamin Franklin

Some organisms don’t need a candle, a star (like the sun), or even electricity for light. A few bacteria, insects, fungi and marine creatures produce light on their own, a phenomenon known as bioluminescence (“bio-“=life, “-luminescence”=light). Bioluminescence, the end product of a chemical reaction occurring inside cells, has evolved multiple independent times in nature. A general chemical reaction is shown below depicting how light is produced by the enzyme luciferase, which cleaves the molecule luciferin to produce oxyluciferin and light. In some organisms, the chemical reaction is this simple; however, other organisms, such as bioluminescent bacteria, have more complex systems to produce light that is an expansion of this simple framework.

luciferase

Luciferin + O2 ———————————-> oxyluciferin + light

Continue reading

Finding Your Post-Ph.D. Path: Advice from Dr. Sharon Milgram

You are cruising down the highway at a nice pace thinking “great! I’m going to be there early”, and all of the sudden you encounter the ever-so-inconvenient DETOUR sign. You anxiously wind and twist through unfamiliar roads trying to follow the signs until finally you arrive at your destination…right on time. According to Sharon Milgram, Director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this is often what professionals face when exploring career options and considering a transition. Let’s break down my example a little so that you can understand my analogies better.Slide1

Continue reading

Decoding research scientist careers in the U.S. Military

“Down and give me 20!”…pipetting maneuvers, perhaps. Research conducted by the United States Military ranges from detecting and dismantling weapons to understanding pathogens that could threaten our national security. Thus, scientists are key to achieving the goals of our military and protecting our nation as well. Continue reading

SPEaCing and experimenting with our community at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The sun and faces were shining this past Saturday, January 24 at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, TX. SPEaC hosted our inaugural science booth in the Being Human Hall at the museum as part of our community educational outreach. UT Southwestern graduate students and postdoctoral fellows presented a fun demonstration and related it to basic science research based on phospholipids (lipids). Our volunteers used milk, food coloring and dish soap to demonstrate that the chemical properties of soap can alter the fats (lipids) in milk. Food coloring was dropped into whole milk, and a cotton swab coated in dish soap was dipped into the food coloring. This soap and milk reaction creates a beautifully striking movement of the food coloring that continues as the milk is exposed to the soap. The detergents present in the soap interact with lipids in the milk to form micelles (fat globules), causing the observed movement visualized with the food coloring. Children and adult museum-goers alike were amazed by this experiment, especially because they performed it with real scientists! Continue reading