Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Internship application period for 2015-2016 now open

Marin Teens! (HS & college age) Want a cool fall internship? Check out Marin Science Seminar internships. You can apply online. http://www.marinscienceseminar.com/interns.html

Apply Online for MSS Internships
Fall 2015 Internship dates: Sept. 9 - Nov. 18
Spring 2016 Internship dates: Feb. 10 - Apr. 13

Explore science & technology, meet scientists and medical professionals, gain experience for your resume and college applications, develop a portfolio! 


JokeMSS interns attend and assist with a minimum of 6 science seminars per academic year (there are 12 per year) during which they meet the speakers and assist with various logistical duties. Sessions take place on Wednesday evenings at Terra Linda High School, Room 207, during the school year. Interns arrive evening of a session at 7 pm and are free to leave once breakdown is completed (between 8:30 and 9 pm).
Interns also assist in researching and creating materials about event topics, creating and distributing outreach materials, social networking and online development of Marin Science Seminar’s mission to attract more students to the fields of science, technology and math. Other than attending MSS sessions, duties will depend on student interests and background. Training is provided for some intern tasks.

Below is a comparison of the internships currently being offered. 

Writing or Photojournalism (Photography & Writing) Videography or Film & Photojournalism
Attend and assist at MSS sessions, 6 Wednesday evenings per semester, 7 - 9pm Attend and assist at MSS sessions, 6 Wednesday evenings per semester, 7 - 9pm
At Terra Linda High School, San Rafael, Room 207 At Terra Linda High School, San Rafael, Room 207
Submit 2 writing samples (plus photo samples for Photojournalism) Submit 2 video samples (plus photo samples for Film & Photojournalism)
Familiarity with basic blogging interfaces (e.g. Tumblr, Blogger, Wordpress) Able to edit video using video editing software
Facebook and/or Instagram familiarity Facebook and/or Instagram familiarity
Training in blogging software provided Recording equipment and SC cards & reader provided


Questions?  Contact us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

All About Lysosomes

by Angel Zhou, Branson School


Lysosomes, discovered and named by Belgian biologist Christian de Duve, who eventually received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1974, are membrane-enclosed organelles that function as the digestive system of the cell, both degrading material taken up from outside the cell and digesting obsolete components of the cell itself. The membrane around a lysosome allows the digestive enzymes to work at the pH they require. In their simplest form, lysosomes are visualized as dense spherical vacuoles, but they can display considerable variation in size and shape as a result of differences in the materials that have been taken up for digestion. Lysosomes contain an array of enzymes capable of breaking down biological polymers, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids.


The lysosome’s enzymes are synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum. The enzymes are released from Golgi apparatus in small vesicles which ultimately fuse with acidic vesicles called endosomes, thus becoming full lysosomes. Lysosomes are interlinked with three intracellular processes, namely phagocytosis, endocytosis and autophagy. Extracellular materials such as microorganisms taken up by phagocytosis, macromolecules by endocytosis, and unwanted cell organelles are fused with lysosomes in which they are broken down to their basic molecules.



Synthesis of lysosomal enzymes is controlled by nuclear genes. Mutations in the genes for these enzymes are responsible for more than 30 different human genetic diseases, which are collectively known as lysosomal storage diseases (LSD). The group of genetically inherited disorders are a type of inborn errors of metabolism caused by malfunction of one of the enzymes. The rate of incidence is estimated to be 1 in 5,000 live births. The primary cause is deficiency of an acidic hydrolase, a hydrolase which functions best in acidic environments. The initial effect of such disorders is accumulation of specific macromolecules or monomeric compounds, affecting the brain, viscera, bone and cartilage the most drastically.


To learn more about how lysosomes can communicate with the rest of the cell to act as recycling centers of cellular waste material in good times and about how lysosomes can act as overly-filled, toxic trash cans in bad times, contributing to cell death and the onset of disease, join us this Wednesday, April 7th for this week's Marin Science Seminar “Let's Learn About Lysosomes" with Gouri Yogalingam, Ph.D. of the BioMarin in Room 207 at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Interview with Dr. Katie Ferris of UC Berkeley

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Monkey Flower 

Monkey flowers and mice - two radically different things. Yet, biologists, like Dr. Katie Ferris, are studying how native monkey flowers and mice have adapted to drastically different environments. 

Dr. Ferris currently works with Dr. Michael Nachman at UC Berkeley, using genetic sequencing and samples of monkey flowers and mice to show how organisms are often adapted to their local environment and that these adaptations are genetically based. 

To learn more about Dr. Ferris and her work with Monkey flowers and mice, read the following interview:

1) How did you decide to enter your field of work?
I decided to become a biologist pretty early on in life. When I was little I loved being outside and interacting with the natural world, especially with plants. Because of my attraction to plants I often got in trouble for picking flowers in my mother's garden. When I was three years old I picked off every single bright green new hosta lily shoot that popped out of the earth. My mother was furious that I had laid waste to her hostas. After she calmed down a little she told me that when I grew up I should be a botanist because then I could pick any plant that I wanted without getting in trouble. The notion stuck and I pursued biology throughout high school and into college. In college I got a job in a lab that studied plant evolutionary genetics and learned a lot of new and exciting things through doing my own research. That experience is how I became interested in my current field of the genetics of adaptation in wild organisms.

2) Describe your typical day at work as a geneticist. What are the best parts of your job? What are the worst parts?
My typical day at work involves several different kinds of activities, which is something I like. Typically I will attend a scientific talk on something related to my interests, do hands-on work with mice (or monkey flowers in my former job), spend an hour or two doing molecular biology in a wet lab and of course spend a little time working on my computer analyzing data or reading scientific papers. The work with animals and in the wet lab usually involved working with undergraduate students who volunteer in the lab in order to participate in research. Some of the best parts of my job are getting to work with students and trying to spread my love of biology and scientific research. I also enjoy the precious and satisfaction of laboratory work and the personalities of the mice. The worst part of my job is when I have to spend a lot of time dissecting dead mice. I did not go into medicine for a reason :)

3) How did you decide to study monkey flowers and wild mice specifically? What conclusions have you drawn thus far in your research?
I decided to study monkey flowers when I was interviewing for graduate school. I visited a lot of different labs that studied plants, but the monkey flowers were by far the most captivating. They are bright yellow, happy little things and closely related species live in an incredible range of different environments from old copper mine tailings to salty coastal sand dunes. They are just really cool plants. I became interested in wild mice because of the work my post-doc advisor had done on the genetics of mouse coloration. He found the genetic changes that caused light colored desert mice to become dark when they lived on black rock outcrops. The mice that live on the dark rocks can then blend in to their surroundings and are less likely to be eaten by predators. I like making hypotheses more than drawing conclusions, but I would say that the main conclusion I have drawn from my research so far is that organisms are often adapted to their local environment and that these adaptations are genetically based. I have also concluded that biology is very complicated 

4) What is your ultimate goal in studying the genetics of adaption and speciation?
My ultimate goal in studying the genetics of adaptation and speciation is to understand better how the world around us works. I want to understand which genes are involved in important traits and if the same genes are used repeatedly to evolve the same traits in different organisms. In short, I want to know if the genetic basis of adaptation is predictable in any way. I also just generally want to contribute new knowledge to the scientific community. A better understanding of the genetic basis of ecologically important traits like drought tolerance or coat color can also be used by scientists in applied field to help improve agriculture or medicine. 

Dr. Katie Ferris, UC Berkley

To learn more about the genes and species’ adaptation to extreme environments, join us on Wednesday, April 1st for Dr. Katie Ferris’ seminar, “From Monkey Flowers to Wild Mice: A Tale of Genes, Adaptation and Extreme Environments” in Room 207 at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael. For more information, visit Marin Science Seminar's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/850586588342167/

Monday, March 30, 2015

Why Matter Matters for the Large Hadron Collider

-->
by Talya Klinger, Homeschooler

After the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), near Geneva, Switzerland, shut down for upgrades so that it would be able to accommodate even higher-energy collisions.

Dr. Lauren Tompkins, a physicist and assistant professor at Stanford University who worked on the ATLAS experiment at the LHC, conducts research on subatomic particles and what they can tell us about matter in general. She spoke to Marin Science Seminar on March 25, 2015 about her work.  What's next for the LHC when it comes back online in spring, 2015?

In Dr. Tompkins's words:

First things first: what made you decide to become a physicist?

I became a physicist for several reasons, but the earliest motivation for me was the fact that in all of my science classes, I kept asking the annoying question: “But, why?”  If you keep asking why in biology (“why do the cells organize that way?”), then you end up with chemistry, and if you do the same with chemistry (“why do the molecules have that structure?”), you end up with physics. Particle physics, in my opinion, is the ultimate way to ask that question through experimentation.

Can you share a bit about your experiences of working on the ATLAS experiment?

I started working on the ATLAS experiment as a post-bac student in 2004, and have been loving it ever since. It’s such a massive project that I’ve been able to work on everything from software to hardware, from analysis of the simplest possible proton interactions, to simulations of what crazy new physics models would look like to us. I was lucky enough as a graduate student to be at CERN, in the experiment control room, taking detector operation shifts during the first few months of high energy collisions. That was pretty special. 

Another aspect of working on ATLAS that I love is the fact that I have over 3000 collaborators from all over the world. I get to work collaboratively with a large fraction of the scientists in my field of research. If I were doing a different type of science, I would probably be competing against them. And, although I’m a pretty competitive person, I would much rather work together on a team and build something great than try to do everything myself.

Once the Large Hadron Collider is back in operation, what's next?

We’ll have two main objectives. First, we need to study the newly discovered Higgs boson in much greater detail. It’s the first new fundamental particle we’ve discovered since 1994, and its properties--specifically how it interacts with other particles--will be key to understanding the larger structure of matter. Secondly, we are going to be searching for evidence of physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics (our theory of how particles interact). For example, from astronomy and cosmology, we know that dark matter exists, but we can’t find a place for it in the Standard Model. So we are going to be looking for it at the LHC and trying to figure out how it connects to normal matter--the stuff that you and I are made of. We are also going to be looking for evidence of extra dimensions, trying to find hypothesized super-partners of the standard model particles and searching for signs that perhaps there is something smaller than quarks.  

How does your research on subatomic particles relate to matter on a larger scale? In other words, how do you answer people's questions about why your research on matter matters?

That is always a tough question to answer because there are so many challenges in the world right now and sometimes it’s hard to draw the line from the LHC to solving those problems. But, I do firmly believe that striving to understand the natural world is such a fundamental part of humankind that we need, and are driven, to do research like the LHC. In fact, given its scale and the sheer number of people involved, the LHC is such a beautiful example of that drive. And, of course, in trying to push the boundaries of human knowledge, we produce technologies that make their way into the public sphere as well. Personally, I anchor my work on the LHC to expanding access to science and technology careers to people who have traditionally been excluded from it. There is no reason that these explorations should be reserved for the overwhelming white and male population who have traditionally been dominant.

Do you have any advice to share with high school students who are interested in studying particle physics?

Particle physics is wonderful because there is so much of it that you can understand by reading. So, read popular science books, like those by Lisa Randall and Sean Carrol.  And watch the film Particle Fever. It does an amazing job of capturing what it’s like.  Also, take as much math as possible and don’t be afraid of it!  Math is a lot of work, but it is the language of science--you need to be fluent in it!  And, just like you aren’t born “being good” at speaking or reading, you aren’t born “being good” at math. Math takes just as much hard work as learning to speak or read; we just learn it slower because we don’t use it as much. 

Finally, do you have a favorite subatomic particle? (I'm partial to the neutrino, myself.)

I love all my particles equally! But, if I had to choose, I guess it would be the Z boson.  We’ve learned so much about the Standard Model by studying it, and it is pretty democratic in its decays. 

http://cms.web.cern.ch/news/first-z-bosons-detected-cms-heavy-ion-collisions



Figure 1: Candidate Z boson decaying to two electrons (two tallest red towers) in a lead-lead heavy ion collision at CMS. The other red and blue towers indicate energy deposits in CMS from other particles produced.



Figure 2: Candidate Z boson decaying to two muons (two red lines) in a lead-lead heavy ion collision at CMS. The green indicates energy deposits in CMS from other particles produced.


 Image Sources: