Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"When Parasites Kill" - An Interview With Stephanie Rasmussen, M.S.


By Rachael Metzger, Marin Science Seminar Intern 

Stephanie Rasmussen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and a Master’s degree in Biology from Dominican University of California and is coming to Marin Science Seminar Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 to speak about her research on malaria in Uganda.

Stephanie Rasmussen first became interested in biology as a high school student, but it was not until her freshman year of college that she learned what research was and thus realized her passion. Research sparked her fascination with lab work, which allowed her to test biological theories in a lab. Rasmussen decided to study biochemistry because she wanted to "have a deeper understanding of why different reactions happen inside cells to make them work correctly,” as well as to “help scientists, doctors, and other health professionals understand how and why different diseases make people sick.”

As a sophomore in college, Rasmussen worked in her graduate student advisor’s malaria lab. She volunteered in the lab all through her undergraduate years and continued to work in the lab after she graduated to get her Master’s degree in biology. Rasmussen’s passion is in studying human diseases; working in the malaria lab helped further her interest. Graduate school was when she started studying malaria parasites on location in Uganda. Rasmussen shares how this excited her, “I got to travel to a malaria endemic region, where I worked on parasites coming directly from malaria patients.”


Mosquitoes carry malaria (Source: scientistsagainstmalaria.net)

Today, Rasmussen’s lab works with people both in the USA and in Uganda. On the importance of teamwork she says, “I love all of my coworkers. Success in science is all about teamwork and collaboration.” She enjoys working with a diverse group of people that share similar interests and have a shared goal: reducing the malaria burden. She encourages anyone interested in pursuing biomedical research to make connections with those in the field, and to learn about the work they are doing. She emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of research opportunities in college, “The only way people can find out if they like it is to try it.”


-->
Stephanie Rasmussen is happy to answer any questions about research as a career at: Stephanie.rasmussen16@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Cyborgs! The Not-so-distant Future of Human-Machine Integration" Interview with Dr. Nuria Vendrell-Llopis

By Rachael Metzger - Marin Science Seminar Intern 

Dr. Nuria Vendrell-Llopis, a Postsdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley's Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory with a Master in Telecommunications Engineering specializing in Electronics from the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, Spain, and a PhD in Biomedical Science, specializing in Cognitive and Molecular Neuroscience from KU Leuven, Belgium, spoke to Marin Science Seminar about her work with cyborgs.

Cyborg (Source: assets4.bigthink.com)

How did you first become interested in Telecommunications Engineering and Biomedical Science?

“I was a kid when my brother got the first computer in the house and I was amazed by it. I wanted to understand how it worked. At that moment in time I thought computers were (or soon would be) way smarter than humans. With time I focused more of my attention in electronics and signal processing so I started my Telecommunications degree in college. Believe it or not, back then I hated anything that had to do with biology. Computers were the future; biology was unimportant. One day in class, a professor brought the idea that there was a limit to the miniaturization of integrated circuits, and that the future of computers could well be bio-computers or quantum computers. That shocked me, quantum computers sounded interesting, but how could something as faulty and unreliable as biologic cells be better than silicon circuits? I didn't want to believe him, so I started searching about the subject on my own, news journals at first, then more scientific journals... and I got hooked.”


Was there a specific time or person that sparked your interests?

“My parents. I know it sounds cheesy, but I see many adults annoyed by kids who are constantly asking questions. We should be fueling that curiosity, never cutting it down. My parents always answered no matter how silly the question was.”


Has studying around the world influenced your perspective on your work? If so, how?

“Not only on my work, on everything. Going to a different country, and I don't mean visiting, I mean really living among them, changes the way you see even the smallest things. You see the flaws of your countryman, but you also have a greater appreciation of their strength. I think it is an opportunity for growth that any student should take given the chance.”


What is your favorite part about your job and studies?

“About my job, I like the constant interchange of ideas. I teach to students but I also learn from them. There is always something new, a new discovery, and a new tool. It is very dynamic, tiring sometimes, but never boring. It gets better when you think that your research may be helping thousands and thousands in the future. However, what I like the most about my job and my field in particular is that we are faced with the biggest mystery of our era, like nuclear energy and space discovery were before us. The brain is the new unknown and I would love to be one of those responsible in unraveling its secrets.”


What advice do you have for young people who would like to follow in your footsteps?

“Please DO! We need young people, and young ideas. Now, my advice would be, go to college, but go to college in Europe or Australia then get your PhD back in the USA. Do internships, try working in industry, come back to academia if you like. Move around, travel the world, engage with people from different cultures. Be open to new ideas, but critic nonetheless. Learn from each small thing and the most important part, never forget to enjoy the trip.”



Friday, October 6, 2017

Name that Bloodsucker! Interview with Eric Engh

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School

Eric Engh, an insect ID Specialist, works for the Marin-Sonoma Mosquito Vector. He also runs educational programs for the Marin-Sonoma Mosquito Vector. He has a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies and an M.S. in Entomology from University of Florida.

1. What made you want to study insects?
 I have been interested in insects ever since I was a small child. I was also really lucky to have an excellent mentor- Ron Keith. He was our Vector Ecologist for Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District for over 30 years. Not only did he teach me much about entomology, he excelled at explaining information in a friendly and simple manner without making the listener(s) feel stupid. In the 5 years that I got to work with him, I got to see him help hundreds of people with their entomological inquiries.

2. What are the best parts of your job? What are the worst?
I don’t really have any complaints about my job. I enjoy teaching about entomology, developing curriculum and interactive displays for public events, and I really enjoy being a resource of information for the public. The most difficult part of my job has to do with people who are convinced that some unseen insect is biting/infesting them, but there is no concrete evidence to support this. There are many causes of skin irritation similar to an insect bite that include but are not limited to: environmental sensitivities, allergies, reactions to various chemicals or medications, mental conditions, etc.. These cases can be very difficult because the person is absolutely convinced they have an insect infestation, and they often have already been turned away by doctors, family members etc., and are extremely frustrated. I can identify insects, but in these cases there is little I can do to help, and resources available for people with these problems are scarce.

3. How can people protect themselves from being bit by mosquitos?
There are many things people can do to protect themselves from mosquitoes:
Wear EPA approved mosquito repellent while spending time in areas where mosquitoes are present.Search around your home for any source of still water where mosquitoes may breed. Dump out small amounts of water that accumulate in items that don’t require water (buckets, toys, junk, etc.), rinse out items that require small amounts of water (bird baths, pet water dishes, etc.) at least once a week. Don’t ignore mosquito problems! Call the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District for help locating unknown sources of mosquitoes or to help with a mosquito-related problem that you cannot resolve on your own.

4. What should people do if they get bit by a mosquito?
The most important thing to do is to not make the problem worse by itching the bite site and scratching open the skin, which invites infection. There are over-the-counter products that are commonly available to help reduce itching sensation, or if someone has a serious reaction to a bite, they should consult a doctor.

5. What current projects are you working on?
I am currently working to create a curriculum for local vectors (mosquitoes, ticks, yellow jackets), that reinforces the Next Generation Science Standards. We provide an education program to schools, and we are trying to make it interesting, useful and informative. We are also involved in a number of other projects including surveillance for invasive species of mosquitoes.

Want to learn more about Eric Engh and mosquitos? Join us on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at Terra Linda High School from 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM in Room 207!

Learn more at: http://msmosquito.com/


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cyborgs! This Wed. 10/4 at Marin Science Seminar

Cyborgs!

This Wed. 10/4 at Marin Science Seminar we'll welcome Nuria Vendrell-Llopis from UC Berkeley's Brain-Machine Interface Systems Lab.

For the past two years, Dr. Nuria Vendrell-Llopis has been a Postsdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley's Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory, on an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship. She holds a Master in Telecommunications Engineering specializing in Electronics from the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, Spain, and a PhD in Biomedical Science, specializing in Cognitive and Molecular Neuroscience from KU Leuven, Belgium. 
 
 
Join us & Learn! 


"Transportation Research Panel" - An Interview with En-Ya Zhang from the MSEL Transportation Team

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School En-Ya Zhang is a Sophomore at Terra Linda High School. She is part of MSEL's Transportati...

About Us

Marin Science Seminar is a one-hour science lecture/presentation with a question and answer period open to all interested local teenagers, educators and community. Seminar sessions are held 12 Wednesday evenings during the school year, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm in room 207 at Terra Linda High School, 320 Nova Albion Way, San Rafael. Seminar speakers are scientists, mathematicians, engineers, physicians, technologists and computer programmers. The topics presented are in a specific area of the speaker’s expertise, geared to interested high school students.