Publications

2021
White R. "Behind the Groove" of DNA. The Scientifically Sound podcast. 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Can you get "Behind the Groove"? I know I can if Teena Marie is telling me to do so.  Today's episode we are diving into the Teena Marie's hit song "Behind the Groove" and learning about the major and minor grooves in DNA. Also, giving updates on my graduate career and my life.

Plus,  we take a visit to Not Quite Scientific to hear in on some customer service calls.

Ortiz-Guerrero C. A Puzzle Mat for Assembling Colombia’s Geologic History. Eos. 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract
A new database compiles all the available pieces of information about Colombia’s geochronology, offering scientists a consistent framework in which to view and study the data in a broader context.
Granata L. Chimpanzees’ brains reflect their early childhood experiences. Massive. 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract
In the 1980s, the NIH began a chimpanzee breeding program. The initiative was meant to produce animals that could be used for future research. While some chimp moms gave their infants the appropriate care needed to support brain development, others struggled to deliver the same parenting. In those instances, the babies were placed in a nursery under human care. Separating the chimps from their mothers was not an intentional experimental design, but it was necessary at the time because of the inadequate treatment their mothers were giving them.
Eldardiry H. How to turn confrontation about Africa’s biggest hydropower dam to cooperation. The Conversation. 2021. Publisher's Version
Maitra M. Researchers can trace the family tree of individual mutations inside our cells. Massive. 2021. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We all start out as a single cell. That cell divides many, many times to form the trillions of cells in an adult human body. Each of these cells has two copies of all the genes in the human genome, inherited from our biological parents. While copying the genome trillions of times, unsurprisingly, some mistakes are made. Slight genetic variations, called mutations, accumulate in our cells as we grow from a single cell to an adult.
2020
Jones A. Rich bird, poor bird: urban street trees support native birds across a socioeconomic gradient. Envirobites. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As human populations grow and cities sprawl, wooded jungles increasingly yield to concrete jungles. In urban Los Angeles (LA), street trees are critical habitats for native birds, but new research shows that affluent neighborhoods boasted larger trees and more birds than poorer communities. These findings could help conserve urban biodiversity by informing city planners about the best ways to plant and maintain street trees.
Schultz K. Fail Better. PASSIOINVENTA. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
I tried to hide my embarrassment and frustration, but I’m sure my averted gaze and nervous fidgeting made it obvious that I had bad news to share.

I’d been a member of the lab for a few months but, looking at the state of the project, you might not have guessed that. Progress had been slow, and I now had to report to my mentor not only that I’d failed again to get our experiment working, but also that I’d broken over a thousand dollars-worth of equipment with one clumsy mistake. I managed to get the words out with a flimsy stoicism and prepared myself for reprimand.

He gave me a look that was somewhere between understanding and amused and said “Happens to everyone! You did good. Just fail better next time.”

Fathi P. ComSciCon: the virtual experience. Illinois Grainger College of Engineering News. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
ComSciCon is a competitive three-day science communication workshop created by graduate students for graduate students. The goal of this workshop is to help graduate students build science communication skills to effectively communicate their work with people across a variety of fields, as well as with the public. This year, the conference took place virtually. 

A few weeks before the conference officially began, all attendees participated in a Write-a-Thon. For this, we had to write a 600-800-word original piece of scientific writing, along with a freelance pitch for the article. The idea was to take something such as your research or a scientific concept and make it accessible to a target audience of your choice.
Steffel CN. Why Science Communication is Critical to Medical Physics. The Voice of Radiology Blog. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The summer before my senior year of undergrad, I was combing through the course catalog, hoping to add more than quantum mechanics to my schedule, when I discovered the Department of Medical Physics at my university.

I, like so many others, had discovered medical physics by chance.

Dundon M. Ice, heat, science, and acting. The Journal of Stories in Science. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
On a scorching hot, dry summer day in inland Southern California, I found myself walking into a small, dimly lit room that was situated above a bail bonds shop. The building felt like it had been there forever. The walls were lined with a myriad of playbill posters and photos from Shakespeare productions. A large bookcase was filled to the brim with worn copies of plays and books. In the center of the room were two short rows of chairs facing the far wall, where there was a small setup of two handheld cameras and chairs facing each other. I was handed a short script, told to read it only once and then wait for my turn to do a “cold read” of the scene with my partner.
Grizzell JA, Hariharan J, Limper C, Sanchez A. For scientists across the country, #ShutDownSTEM stirs a mix of emotions. CASW Newsroom. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

For many academics, news of a one-day strike from labs and classrooms arrived just a day or two before the event itself—“probably because so few [senior faculty/administrators] are active on social media,” said Bret Eshman, a postdoctoral fellow at Florida International University. “That’s how I found out about it on Tuesday.”

The following day, June 10, protests against racial discrimination and violence entered the ivory tower, spread by Twitter hashtags like #ShutDownSTEM#ShutDownAcademia#BlackInTheIvory, and #Strike4BlackLives. Organized by a group of physicists, #ShutDownSTEM asked for the suspension of all non-essential work in favor of open dialogue, education, and action to eradicate anti-Black racism within research and academia.

Le B. 150 Food Science Questions Answered: Cook Smarter, Cook Better. Rockridge Press; 2020 pp. 198. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Cooking isn’t just an art, it’s a science―150 fascinating food facts to make you a better cook

Does cold water come to a boil faster than warm water? Why does fat taste so good? What makes popcorn pop? Most of the processes that occur during cooking are based on principles found in biology, chemistry, and physics. 150 Food Science Questions Answered is an intriguing look into the science of food, from the eyes of a food science Ph.D. candidate and recipient of the James Beard Legacy Scholarship.

Tsang M-Y, Inagaki F. Microbial Life Deep Under the Seafloor—A Story of Not Giving Up. Frontiers for Young Minds. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Below the seafloor are trillions of single-celled microbial life. Marine sediments bury these microorganisms deeper and deeper. Meanwhile, the microorganisms face increasing pressures and temperatures and reduced amounts of food and water. Although they are living in difficult conditions, these microorganisms stay alive and maintain their communities. To date, we know that these microbial communities can survive for millions of years, at 2.5 km below the seafloor, and at temperatures over 100°C. Scientists use multiple approaches to study these fascinating microorganisms.
Chu H, Sankovitz M. Our experience at ComSciCon: the perspectives of two entomology Ph.D. students. SciComm @ UCR. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
ComSciCon is a workshop for graduate students (and organized by graduate students) about communicating complex and technical scientific concepts. ComSciCon attendees interact with professional communicators and build lasting networks with graduate students in science and engineering fields from across the US and Canada. There is one flagship workshop per year and multiple chapter workshops all over the continent. Entomology Ph.D. students Hannah Chu and Madison Sankovitz attended the flagship workshop in different years and share their experiences here!
Schmitt L. Genetics graduate student enhances science communication skills at regional conference. The Newstand of Clemson University. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

College of Science graduate student Rebecca MacPherson, a member of professor Trudy Mackay’s research group, conducts genetics-based research that could someday translate into new approaches for treating children born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She’s also an advocate for increasing science literacy and sharing her results with the public.

On March 12-13, MacPherson was among 50 graduate students from the Southeast region who participated in the invitation-only ComSciCon-Atlanta 2020 conference at the University of Georgia, where she polished her multimedia, writing, and oral communication skills through interactions with professional science communicators and like-minded graduate students.

Rose K. ComSciCon returns to Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech Daily. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

If you’ve ever seen the award-winning nature documentary called "Planet Earth," you have experienced science communication at its finest. With strong science communication, scientists are able to capture the imagination, re-establish trust with the public, and spark meaningful discussions that give science a stronger presence in our society.

On Feb. 27 and 28, graduate students and communicators came together to strengthen their science communication abilities at the second annual ComSciCon–Virginia Tech.

ComSciCon is a workshop series that gives young researchers the necessary skills to communicate their scientific research to broad and diverse audiences.

Padavic-Callaghan K. The Coolest Physics You’ve Ever Heard Of. Scientific American Observations. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

When it comes to furthering our overall understanding of the physical world, ultracold quantum gases are awfully promising. As the famous physicist Richard Feynman argued, to fully understand nature, we need quantum means of simulation and computation. Ultracold atomic systems have, in the last 30 years, proven to be amazing quantum simulators. The number of applications for these systems as such simulators is nothing short of overwhelming, ranging from engineering artificial crystals to providing new platforms for quantum computing. In its brief history, ultracold atomic experimental research has enhanced physicists’ understanding of a truly vast array of important phenomena.

One of the revelations of quantum mechanics is that any object can be seen as a wave (even you!) when an appropriate experimental test is used. Properties of these co-called “matter waves” depend on their temperature; at large temperatures they have short wavelengths and look and behave particlelike because all the peaks and valleys are so close together that they cannot be told apart. If we lower temperature to much less than a single kelvin, the wave nature of matter becomes more pronounced and wavelike behaviors more important. What happens then with a large collection of very cold atoms that behave like a large collection of waves? They can all align and overlap to form a single wave, something that was historically called a “macroscopic wave function.” Such a system—a condensate in physics parlance—is a fundamentally quantum state of matter.

Bretl B. Evolutionary explanation for unscientific beliefs Smith D. The Danielle Smith Show. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Guest Brandon Bretl, research fellow and PhD candidate in the department of educational psychology at the University of Kansas
Bretl B. An Evolutionary Explanation for Unscientific Beliefs. Quillette. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
“Another theory is that humans were created by God,” announced my tenth-grade biology student as she clicked past PowerPoint slides of Darwin’s finches and on to images of a catastrophic flood. After her presentation, I carefully avoided inane debate and simply reiterated the unique ways in which science helps us make accurate predictions. I then prepared for pushback from parents and administrators. Sure enough, the next day the superintendent of the school district came to my classroom with some creationist literature that he was confident would change my mind on the whole theory of evolution by natural selection thing. It didn’t, but it did lead me to pursue a PhD in educational psychology in my search to explain how such beliefs could be maintained in modern times, particularly in the face of such strong counterevidence.
2019
Ayer A. The Secret in Your Veins: The History of Blood Transfusion. Illinois Science Council's Science Unsealed Blog. 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Blood transfusions are an essential component of modern-day medicine, saving lives in a variety of situations, ranging from genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia to road accidents. But, the history of blood transfusion is a rocky one. For instance, did you know that a German physician founded the world’s first blood transfusion institute in 1926 because he believed blood transfusions led to immortality?

Dr. Alexander Bogdanov started some crude blood transfusion experiments on himself by injecting blood of other young men into his own system. After 11 such transfusion sessions, he claimed to have improved vision, arrest hair loss, and produce youthful skin. This led him to believe that blood transfusion was the path to immortality and eternal youth. But, as you can expect, this practice, combined with poor understanding of the blood transfusion process at that time, killed him years later.

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