New Cooking Show December 13, 2008Posted by Sacha in Science.
I’m taking a break from RNA to spend time with my new baby and work on my new online cooking show Building Blocks. On our show you learn to make your own ingredients for more fun and flavorful cooking. I have a blog for the show here. Please come check us out and tell your foodie friends!
We have episodes Making Coulis and Making Beef Stock up which include some of my favorite recipes, like meat pie and strawberry lemonade. We have already shot our next episode, a lesson on Italian red sauce “Sunday gravy” with guest cook Vinny Pasceri. Look for that late next month.
I’ll leave this site up but disable the comments. You can contact me at kim[at]buildingblocksshow[dot]com or go to the new blog location and leave a comment there.
Rare Piebald Deer on Orcas Island (Washington State) September 4, 2007Posted by Sacha in Genetics, News, Science.
I had the good furtune to see a piebald deer while visiting the Spring Bay Inn on Orcas Island in Washington state a few weeks ago. Isn’t it pretty?
My father-in-law, a geneticist, says it is not a result of inbreeding, as one fellow inn guest had told me, but simply a genetic difference. I am having trouble finding reliable information on this variation. Does anyone have a scientifically sound source of information about it?
Ignite Seattle! III April 6, 2007Posted by Sacha in News, Science, Technology.
Last night I went to my first meeting of Ignite Seattle, which was the third meeting ever of this “night for geeks, techies, and makers.” Much thanks to Nancy for inviting me, because I had a great time. The highlight of the night was a group airplane making contest, which I thought was a very cleaver ice breaker as well. Much better than the usual geek meetings where before the talks start you have to roam around the room making small talk with strangers. Other things I liked:
The format of the talks was cool. Five minutes from each person (enforced), so the pace was quick. I had assumed when I saw the list of speakers that we’d have to choose and go off in groups, but was pleasantly surprised that I’d get to hear from each speaker.
The venue was very old-school Seattle/Cap Hill, which, for a native, is nice to see. CHAC has a bar, music, lights, stage – the whole shebang. I mistakenly brought my laptop, assuming there’d be power and wireless and opportunity to use it (it was as geek meet-up after all). But no, it was much more casual, people interactive and we spent a good deal of the night moving around, so it was really just a hassle to keep an eye on.
What I found interesting was the balance between education and marketing. Since most of the speakers are from some company, many of which are the owners, sometimes I wondered if their intent was more to educate the audience or compel them to use their products. Other bloggers I know are happy to sit there and be advertised to, because they enjoy keeping up on the latest gadgets, but I’m more interested in learning the technology and techniques behind the scenes.
I’m trying to choose a favorite speaker… Although I don’t have much interest in beekeeping, Jordan Schwartz gave a great talk on beekeeping and the hive mind. He is such an energetic speaker, I think I’d go hear any talk he gives. I wonder how much public speaking experience he has. As a side note, I would have liked to hear more about his theories on colony collapse disorder, as I’ve heard a lot about it on NPR lately. The most interesting talk content wise for me was Alex Hopmann’s talk on maximizing performance in aircraft engines. I always enjoy learning more about how engines work and I had no idea how much you could vary the fuel economy by controlling the gas/air mixture while having minimal effect on speed.
All in all, fabulous time was had by me. Looking forward to Ignite IV!
Posting from the ScobleShow: She\’s Such a Geek February 22, 2007Posted by Sacha in Science.
I\’ve been wanting to try out this feature on the PodTech/ScobleShow page to post to my WordPress blog and I\’ve been wanting to blog about the book She\’s Such a Geek (hoping to read next month). Then Robert posts this interview with the authors of the book. It was meant to be. Take a look!
Conference Helps Women take on the Physics World February 22, 2007Posted by Sacha in Science, Women.
I just read a fantastic article by Candace Partridge over at Inkling Magazine about the University of Southern California’s Undergraduate Women in Physics Conference. She really gets to the heart of the issue. Here’s a little excerpt, but she is a great writer, so I encourage you to go read the full piece. She is relaying a conversation with her mom who asks, “Yes, but why just for women? Who cares?”
I paused, a bit puzzled, “Er, because there aren’t that many of us? We’re under-represented.” She oohhhed a bit knowingly, then started her spiel.
“Well, you know, men’s and women’s brains are just different. It’s just genetics, you know. Women are naturally better at things like English. You’re just a special one,” she laughed.
I cringed. “Mom, this is exactly the sort of crap that we’re fighting against, and it’s even worse that women themselves buy into it. Thinking like that made me get an English degree, because I thought I wasn’t good enough to do math. And you can see that’s not true at all.”
She said nothing more. But I thought about that roomful of engaging and intelligent women. I’m glad to know I’m definitely not all that special and I’m certainly not the only one. That, in essence, was what the conference was all about.
I have close friends and family that believe this. About half of them are women. Why do we participate in our own oppression? Does it make us feel better about not pursuing our dreams? Would it drive us batty to realize we aren’t living up to our true potential? Here’s a news flash: There is no genetic proof. As my statistics teachers tries to drill into our heads everyday, it is almost impossible to prove that something doesn’t exist. This difference does not exist and that is difficult to prove, but I provide here as evidence an entire conference of female undergraduate physics students at the University of Southern California.
Programs Help Women Advance in Academia February 22, 2007Posted by Sacha in Science, Women.
Tonight I had the honour of attending my first Association of Women in Science (AWIS) meeting. There was a panel discussion from Women in Academia, which focused on organizations that support female growth in academia. The panelists were Dr. Claire Horner-Devine, Dr. Eve Riskin, Dr. Joyce W. Yen, and Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange. I’m pretty sure all of the panelists worked in some way with ADVANCE, a NSF funded program that works to create institutional transformation that allows women to be successful in their education and careers at universities around the country. Their idea is to change the institution to support faculty success for minorities instead of focusing on changing women and other minorities to fit preset roles. Dr. Horner-Devine is also involved in Women Evolving Biological Sciences. This is a symposium that specifically addresses women moving from early career stages to tenure track and leadership roles.
The entire evening was very interesting and all of the panelists had a lot to contribute on the topic. I learned a lot about ways in which the NSF tracks the success of the ADVANCE program. One criteria they evaluate on is space allocation, in other words, lab size. Why do women get allocated less space? Well, you may guess that they aren’t pushy enough and while this is true, it is also true that they don’t realize they need to ask and negotiate for it. Aspects of your job like lab space can greatly affect retention, so even if you hire 50% women, if they get shafted on the extras, they’ll leave for somewhere else eventually and you’ll still be left with less women.
Two other facts I learned is that the University of Washington is first in federal funding dollars for public institutions and second behind Hopkins out of public and private. We also have the most post-doctoral researchers of any institution in the nation. Incredible.
Overall, it was a well-spent evening and I look forward to attending meetings in the future. If you’re a scientifically minded woman in the Seattle area, feel free to stop in on a meeting. Click here for more information. There is also a Women in Science Happy Hour at the Allen Institute for Brain Science on March 7, 2007 at 6pm. For more information or to RSVP, e-mail Theresa Zwingman at:
theresaz at alleninstitute dot org.
Are microRNA required for ovarian stem cells? February 20, 2007Posted by Sacha in Genetics, microRNA, Science.
A report was published this weekend in the journal Current Biology titled “Dcr-1 Maintains Drosophila Ovarian Stem Cells.” The authors were Zhigang Jin, Ph.D, and Ting Xie, Ph.D, from Stowers Institute for Medical Research (Missouri) and the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology (U of Kansas), respectively.
According to this paper, the ovaries of Drosophila (a type of small fly) contain three types of adult stem cells:
Germline stem cells (GSCs)
Escort stem cells (ESCs) and
Somatic stem cells (SSCs)
The authors go into much detail about GSCs and SSCs and the role of Dicer-1(Dcr-1) ribonuclease to maintain them in the Drosophila ovary.
So what is this review doing on an miRNA blog? In the last paragraph of the article, Xie and Jin state “Because Dcr-1 is an essential component of the miRNA pathway in Drosophila, we further propose that miRNAs processed by Dcr-1 are essential for controlling self-renewal of GSCs and SSCs.” They go on to explain the problems associated with the absence of miRNA generated by Dcr-1, such as depletion of stem cells.
An article on Biology News Net quoted Dr. Xie on the importance of the role of miRNA:
“We are in the process of identifying the microRNAs that are important for stem cell self-renewal,” said Dr. Xie. “Understanding the mechanisms controlling stem cell self-renewal will be crucial to our developing the ability to expand stem cell populations for performing tissue repair.”
Straight from the Nucleus: miR-29b January 13, 2007Posted by Sacha in Genetics, microRNA, News, Research, Science.
Another paper on microRNA. This one is about miR-29 was published in Science‘s Jan. 5, 2007 edition. It’s titled “A Hexanucleotide Element Directs MicroRNA Nuclear Import.”
This is basically a note to myself to read it later.
2 miRs and Cancer January 13, 2007Posted by Sacha in Genetics, microRNA, News, Research, Science.
During all this kurfuffle of winter storms and sick kitties I failed to update you on an important microRNA breakthrough. At Ohio State University, Yuri Pekarsky’s team has found two microRNA (miRs) that regulate the most common human leukemia: B-cell chronic lymphocytic, or just B-CLL for short. These two microRNA are miR-29 and miR-181.
microRNA can function as reverse regulators of disease. So, when certain microRNA have low levels of expression, their targets genes are not surpressed and aggressive cancer can result. What the researchers found was that there was an inverse relationship between expression levels of miR-29 and miR-181 and Tcl1, the ocncogene associated with B-CLL.
The Ohio State team’s paper was titled “Tcl1 Expression in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Is Regulated by miR-29 and miR-181″ and published in the December 15, 2006 edition of Cancer Research. According to the paper, “Because miR-29 and miR-181 are natural Tcl1 inhibitors, these miRs may be candidates for therapeutic agents in B-CLL-overexpressing Tcl1. ”
New Paper: Human microRNAs transcribed by polymerase III November 14, 2006Posted by Sacha in Evolution, Genetics, microRNA, Research, Science.
A new paper out this week in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology presents evidence that Polymerase III is associated with miRNA genomic sequence and sufficient for transcription. This is as opposed to the privious view that Pol II was required in mammals for expression. The miRNAs they analyzed (miR-515-1, 517a, 517c, 519a-1) were interspersed among the Alu repeats, which are transcribed through Pol III recruitment.
Now, I had to ask myself after I read the abstract for this article, “What are Alu repeats?” and “Why do I care if they hang out on the chain with miRs?” If Wikipedia is accurate, and I hope it is, the Alu family is a family of polymorphisms in the human genome, about 300 bp long. Their repetitive sequences are the most abundant mobile units on the human genome and have been implemented in diseases, such as cancer. As for the second question, this connection suggests that repetitive elements play an important role in human miRNA origin and expression, according to this new paper.