Sunday, December 30, 2012

This Week's Sci-lights

As the year comes to end, science has left us with 365 days of innovation, groundbreaking research, and countless insights to reflect upon in 2013. For our final rendition of Sci-lights in 2012, we’d like to exhibit a few discoveries this week that may turn typical scientific convention on its head in the coming years.

Human eye, capable of blinking "15 to 20 times per minute."
Photo Credit:

This week, in an article published by Smithsonian Magazine, researchers shed light on the frequency of human blinking. It is estimated that humans blink “15 to 20 times per minute— so frequently that our eyes are closed for roughly 10% of our waking hours overall.” While this figure alone is astounding, it is not the point of contention that has been waves in the science community. What has excited scientists is the article’s position that the brain may take blinking as a chance to filter thoughts and organize information. The researchers believe that the mind experiences a flash of increased cognizance moments after blinking, which was corroborated by findings that showed an increased rate of blinking during times of mental strain. To read up more on this, follow this link to the original post. 

Active volcanoes on Oahu will keep erosion at bay for only (geologically speaking) the next 75,000-1.75M years
Photo Credit:

In an entirely different field of scientific study, MSNBC has issued an article in the journal, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, where geologists postulated that the island of Oahu is eroding from the inside out. They estimated that Oahu “will continue to grow, thanks to plate tectonics, for another 75,000 to 1.75 million years. After that, however, the forces working to eat away at Oahu from the inside out will begin to triumph.” This will probably not be a concern for vacationers who have already booked their trips to the Hawaiian capital, but it is exciting news in the realm of geology nonetheless! For more info, follow this link.

Aerographite, the world's lightest material

Another mind-boggling innovation to hit the presses this week is in the realm of materials science. Scientists at Kiel University and the Hamburg University of Technology have invented a form of graphite, called aerographite, that is 6 times lighter than air. In an article on, it was stated “aerographite could enable the creation of much lighter lithium-ion batteries. It could be used for waterproof clothes, lighter computers, efficient air and water filtration and as protective shielding for satellites.” 

Anguilla Bank Skink
Photo Credit: Karl Questel

To cap off our Sci-lights for the year, here is a link to a very interesting article by portraying a list of the most beautiful, mystifying, and unique new species discovered in 2012.  From the world’s smallest frog to a tri-colored lizard, the critters on this list encapsulate the creativity of evolution at its finest.

Friday, December 21, 2012

STEM Fieldwork Opportunity for Educators

JOIDES Resolution Core Sample
Photo Credit: Consortium for Ocean Leadership
It is often forgotten that the interest that drives advancement in the STEM fields is cultivated in the classroom. Today, we tip our hats to the teachers of the world that make Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics a possibility by announcing a special hands-on research experience on the JOIDES Resolution Drill Ship.

Over the course of this one-of-a-kind program, formally known as the Expedition for Earth and Ocean Science Educators, participants will “set sail and conduct hands-on analyses of cores and microbial samples with scientists and technicians who specialize in Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) research.”

For more information and a link to application, inquire here.

This Week's Sci-lights

In this week’s Sci-lights, we explore the evolutionary continuum: how life began, where it will likely end, and that in between which remains to be discovered. 

In an article published yesterday by scientists Nick Lane and Bill Martin in Cell, the partners claim to have discovered a possible explanation to the mysterious origins of life on Earth. After the extensive study of the ocean floor, geochemistry and biochemistry, they came to the conclusion that the first semblances of life, microorganisms, were formed in proximity to the deep-sea vents at the bottom of the ocean. The elemental soup of Hydrogen, Carbon, Sulfur, and other foundations of life combined in such a way that the fundamental amino acids of life catalyzed into existence. For a link to the astoundingly scientific explanation of Martin and Lane’s theory, look no further than here.

In another article published recently, UNESCO went so far as to postulate that as many as 2/3 of the oceans’ 1 Million species roam the seas undiscovered. In what could be considered the first-ever International Census of Marine Life, Pohle, a member of the project, concluded that authorities had documented only 226,000 species. What needs to be compiled, she says, is a single index of all known species to eliminate the confusion in classifying new sea life. More information can be found here.

Finally, in an article eerily relevant to today’s apocalyptic headlines, the astrobiologists at theorized where the last remnants of life might reside once the dying sun bombards the Earth with boiling temperatures. The last living creatures, they believe, will be microorganisms used to the incredibly high temperatures near thermal vents and anoxic environments in deep caverns. They said that mammals and birds would die off first, followed by sea life and insects. In the end, though, all things would succumb to the scorching heat and life on earth would be no more. But don’t worry, you still have a few billion years to prepare for the real end of the world. For more information, check out the whole article here

Professional Development Workshops

For all you teachers out there who’d like to brush up on your curriculum, we are happy to announce a series of professional development workshops that will teach you how to better communicate the passion of science to your students.

First, is the Astrobiology Institute for Instructors workshop, where you will deepen your understanding of “life's origin, evolution and distribution within the universe.” There will also be teacher lesson-building activities to help communicate your insights to the classroom at the conclusion of the workshop. For more information on applying, follow the link here

Second, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership’s Deep Earth Academy has a program called the School of Rock, where select educators will have the opportunity to go to sea aboard the JOIDES Resolution drill ship for the scholastic adventure of a lifetime. There, you will be amongst professionals who will teach you about core samples, how to examine them, and how to operate laboratory technology. More information and the application can be found here.

Third, is a course run by the West Coast Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence. It is an intensive workshop on microbiology that will seek to develop your knowledge of the microbial ecosystem beneath the seafloor. More information can be found by emailing Pat Harcourt.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Girls On Ice Program

Cascade Mountain Range: Washington State
Mount Marcus Baker: Alaska
Photo Credit:

The University of Alaska, Fairbanks recently began accepting applications for a novel program called Girls On Ice, described as “a mountaineering adventure and learning experience for young women.” This entirely FREE opportunity is open to 15-18 year old girls interested in an 11-day excursion to either the Cascade Mountains in Washington State or Mount Baker in Alaska. There, two teams of 9 intrepid young women will explore science with a group of highly trained “glaciologists, ecologists, artists, and mountaineers.” More information and a link to the application can be found here.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This week's Sci-Lights

 Macro to Micro and Back Again! 

Care to explore the universe using the power of 10?  Here's the perfect feature for you:  The Scale of the Universe 2.  Created by Cary and Michael Huang, this sliding scale will allow you to explore size with the click of a mouse.  Have fun!

Image Credit: Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Resource for you...

...but I had to use the card catalog!

You've probably never even seen one, but they were large wooden boxes with lots of little wooden boxes each with a funny handle and a knob that lined the entrance to every library.  Yes, they're called "card catalogs" and they were used to find books--another fast-disappearing phenomenon of learning.

Today, no worries, we have the internet.  And seemingly, anything worth knowing (and a whole lot that's not worth knowing for many!! reasons) is on line.  In fact, this blog is on-line.  In case you were wondering, it's one of the things worth knowing!  :)

Not to toot my own horn, but I've found a cool site that I wanted to share:  In the sites own words, it "offers a collection of very short talks that highlight the human side of research."

My personal fav right now is the story of Dr. Erich Jarvis entitled:  Song and Dance.  You'll love the non-linear story of a once dancer now scientist who explores brain function.

Click then browse and post your favorite short talk below! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Student tips: Cramming!

Lab notebook


The end of the semester crunch is on, and I know what you're doing.  Panicking, cramming, stressing, complaining, cramming some more.  Not a pretty picture!

So, while I have your attention (because that's really what happens at the end of a semester--all the students are finally paying attention), I'm going to try and give you some tips on avoiding or at least minimizing this problem in the future. 

One of my college professors taught me the art of avoidance through diligence.  Let me explain.  Every single day we had class, he gave a 5 question quiz from the previous day's notes.  Every two weeks, we had an exam.  Every exam was cumulative.  I studied 2 hours for the first exam over 2 weeks of material and 2 hours for the last exam which was cumulative.  No difference.  Why?  I avoided the cram because he required me to be diligent throughout the class!

Constant review, asking questions, discussing concepts with peers, reading the book for an overview and then content before class and re-reading the text are all standard strategies that students are given.  The problem--this is work!!!

So, what about cramming?  Not work?  No.  It's work all right.  It's just not very effective.

So, I know that you can't do anything about the reviewing and re-reading now, but I had to tell you while you were in the final push.  Here's a strategy or two I used when I didn't follow the strategy of my prof. 

First, take advantage of every opportunity to review.  The 10 minutes while you wait for the train or the 20 minutes while you wait in a line can make a difference.  Every time you come into contact with the material, you reinforce it. 

Second, reinforce it through natural conversation.  Some one is bound to ask the question--'whaz up?'  Let them have it; the content you're studying anyway.  Yes, I know they probably won't stay in conversation long, but so what.  You have work to do and in the mean time, you've reinforced what you've learned.  (BTW the way to do this without the sneak attack approach is to form a study group!)

Third, find a way to organize the information that makes sense to you.  Colors, drawings, metaphors, rewrites, flow charts, rhythms, cut-outs, whatever!  How do you remember?  Figure it out.

One final thing.  I found that I could never learn what I did not understand.  If you don't get it, ask for help, look for an on-line tutorial, text a friend, email the professor. 

In short, work!  :)   And next time, try the avoidance through diligence technique! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

National Geographic Grosvenor Fellowship Program

National Geographic Explorer
Photo Credit: National Geographic

Recently, the National Geographic team began advertising the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship Program, which we would like to pass along to you. The fellowship provides K-12 teachers in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico an all expenses paid "adventure of a lifetime” aboard the National Geographic Explorer vessel to improve “geo-literacy” among educators. The ship will depart in June, July and August on an expedition to Norway, Arctic Svalbard, Iceland, and the Canadian High Arctic, respectively. Those interested can find the application by following this link. The deadline to apply is January 8th, 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

SACNAS Chapters: New One at USC

USC staff and students atSACNAS conference
  Photo courtesy of Yadira Ibarra.
BREAKING NEWS: The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)  is an inclusive, mentoring organization focused on supporting students from high school through grad school as they pursue an education in STEM fields.  These fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are the engine of innovation that drives the economy.  According to legend a small group of Native Americans and Chicanos attending a American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in the early 1970's decided to grow diversity in the sciences and today there are over 25,000 members, partners and friends.

SACNAS is a national organization, with an annual conference, but it exists in local chapters.  USC has just begun a chapter.  At a mixer on November 27, 2012, over 50 students from high school to graduate school gathered together to form the new community  that can offer support, exposure and opportunities to its members.  

Read more about the chapter on USC Dornsife website and meet Dr. Everett Salas, a USC graduate and Yadira Ibarra, SACNAS president and a geological sciences Ph.D. student with a passion to help other students in STEM fields succeed.
One of the major pursuits of C-DEBI's Sci-Curious is to assist students of all ages, degrees and backgrounds interested in science and we are pleased to partner with SACNAS.  For you, find a chapter near you and get involved!  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Research Experience for Undergraduates: Midwest Edition

Our latest installment of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) takes us to the Midwest, where the demand for students studying chemistry, physics and engineering is especially strong. That said, if you would like to inquire into the many equally deserving REUs that didn’t fit onto this list, we recommend checking first on

University of Arkansas Campus
Photo Credit:
This REU is a 10-week program at the University of Arkansas that runs through the summer of 2013, and is intended for undergraduate students majoring in chemistry, biochemistry or physics. Scholarships of up to $5,100.00 are available, as is a living allowance of up to $1,700.00. The application is due March 8th, 2013. More information can be found by following the link above.

University of Kentucky Campus
Photo Credit:
Located at the University of Kentucky, this REU is geared towards multidisciplinary engineering majors, such as biomedical engineering, Materials engineering etc., although pharmaceutical sciences majors are invited to apply as well. The program runs through the summer of 2013, and provides a $5,000.00 stipend, along with $300.00 for travel expenses. The deadline to apply is March 1st, 2013.

University of Missouri Campus
Photo Credit:
Summer Research Program:
The University of Missouri hosts this 9-week REU program for students studying neuroscience that runs through the summer of 2013. There will be a $4,500.00 stipend, as well as free housing in the dormitories and meal plan. The deadline to submit materials is February 15th, 2013.

Louisiana State University Campus
Photo Credit:
Kansas State University Campus
Photo Credit:
This REU is open to any undergraduate students who have completed an introductory physics course. It is a 10-week program located at Louisiana State University, and offers a $4,250.00 stipend, free lodging, and $700.00 in travel expenses. The last day to submit an application is February 15th, 2013.

This program is located at Kansas State University and is open to all undergraduate students studying agricultural economics, agronomy, bioengineering, chemical engineering and sociology. The faculty will be working with students to increase exposure to sustainable energy research. There is a stipend of $4,500.00, free lodging and $400.00 to cover travel expenses. Applications are due February 15th, 2013.