May 21st Discover Summary

In this week’s session, we returned back to our Environment unit, and were introduced to a programming language popular among the biologists, known as the RStudio program. Using this program, we had learned to perform various functions for analyzing data, which was an effective way to manipulate and display our data sets. For example, the plot() function would display the x and y variables effectively onto a graph. After familiarizing with the various functions, we engaged in some interesting exercises which furthered our understanding on how to use this program.

During the last 30 minutes of our session, we had a guest speaker present his field of research, as well as explain the importance of programming and data analysis in the environmental sciences. He had briefly explained his current field of research, which is studying the development of parasites in salmon, and how that relates to its spawning regions and migration patterns.  In addition, he also explained how he ended up where he is today, which consisted of many drastic changes. Overall, he explained the many practical implications of programming (the RStudio program in specific) in the biological sciences, and how being experienced with this program could open up new opportunities for us as high school students.

Why French is the best thing ever

When I was 5, I was given the decision to enter French immersion or the regular english stream at my soon-to-be elementary school.  Despite the fact that I probably didn’t know what French was, I thought it sounded cool and told my parents that I wanted to learn a new language.  Since them, French immersion has become much more in demand, so much so that school districts like Richmond have created a lottery system to see who enters into early french immersion.  I don’t know the exact reasons that learning a second – or third, for some students – language has become so much more popular as of late, there are several proven benefits to learning new languages.

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Maybe Global Warming Isn’t That Bad?

I consider myself an environmentalist, I’ve always been deeply concerned with the protection of our planet. By starting a garden, signing all of Green Peace’s petitions, and co-leading an environmental club at school, I’ve come to be mistaken for a green-thumbed-hippy. Infact, so much of my life has revolved around ways to build a sustainable future in which we live cohesively with the nature around us. But just recently, as I was listening to my science teacher explain the carbon cycle, I had a traumatizing epiphany; the only true way of protecting the earth is by actually deliberately aggravating global warming. At this point, you’re probably questioning my sanity, but hear me out.

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Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997)

When looking through the biographies of the many great scientists, people would often find the usual names appearing, including Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking, and so on so forth. Yet, beyond this cliche surface lies a series of equally brilliant, profound scientists who often get overlooked for their works. Of those overlooked individuals was an Chinese-American experimental physicist by the name of Chien-Shiung Wu.

Chien-Shiung Wu (1958) at Columbia University
Chien-Shiung Wu (1958) at Columbia University

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Gertrude B. Elion

For every Nobel Prize there is a story. Gertrude B. Elion has made enormous contributions to the medical and pharmaceutical world, but in order to understand her achievements we must first take a look at her past.

Gertrude Elion CC BY
Gertrude Elion

Born in New York in 1918 Gertrude spent a lot of her childhood in Manhattan, later moving to the Bronx.  Even through her earlier years of education, she was a very bright student that was driven by an”insatiable thirst for knowledge“. However, when Dr. Elion was only 15, she witnessed a familial tragedy; the death of her dear grandfather whose life had been taken by cancer. This event pushed Gertrude even further towards a path in science so that she could eradicate the tragic health issues that affect so many innocent people, including her own family. By the age of 19, Gertrude impressively graduated summa cum laude in chemistry, her motivation no dimmer than it had been before. While continuing her education, she also worked as a part-time lab assistant and substitute teacher. Alongside of a honorary Ph.D. from the Polytechnic University of New York, Dr. Elion also received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Harvard University.

With an excellent educational background Gertrude started working for Burroughs-Welcome in 1944, with Dr. George H. Hitchings. Unlike many scientists at that time, she used a unique approach, studying diseased cells to create medicine. To block viral infections they designed drugs by examening the biochemical difference between cells. This new perspective provided much success, allowing Dr. Elion to create drugs treat issues such as leukemia, AIDS, herpes and transplant rejection. Throughout her carreer she created 45 medical patents and gained so much respect and praise in the scientific community.  Dr. Elion’s contributions got her 23 honorary awards, a Nobel Prize in Medicine and she was even recognized as an adviser for the World Health Organization.  Gertrude Elion’s perseverance and pharmaceutical journey has provided us access to drugs such as Nelarabine (cancer treatement), Azathioprine (first immuno-suppressive), Trimethoprim (meningitis) and many more. Her hard work payed of by saving and improving so many lives over the past few decades and Dr. Elion will surely be remembered for innovation in biochemistry and pharmacology.




Discover Summary: March 3rd

This past Tuesday, March 3rd, we had our third technology session, focusing on creating some cool circuits and soldering. At the beginning of the session, we were split up into two groups, a soldering group and a circuit group.  Halfway through the session, the two groups switched activities so we would be able to get a taste of both soldering and basic circuitry.

The first activity I did was creating basic LED circuits.  Using Arduino, an “open-source electronics platform” we hooked up various wires from the Arduino to the Breadboard in order to create a circuit able to light up LED’s.  After we had finished assembling the circuit, we took bits of code from Arduino’s Experimenter’s Guide in order to make the LED’s light up at various speeds and in various orders.  We started off simply, first just trying to light up one LED. Once we had accomplished that, we were able to play around with the tempo at which the blinking LED light would light up.  After completing that, we moved on to a more difficult task – lighting up 8 LED’s.  Eventually, we were able to get to the point where we could change the order in which each of the eight lights lit up and how fast they would light up.  It was definitely an interesting experience in working with basic circuits.

Afterwards, my half of FSL worked on soldering.  In groups of two, we each shared a soldering iron and practiced soldering two pieces wires together.  As someone who soldered for the first time on Tuesday, it was a very unique experience.  In terms of appearance, it was pretty freaky to see how similar the soldering iron looked to a curling iron!

Credit: Windell Oskay
Credit: Windell Oskay

Once we were finished practicing we were further split up into two groups of 5.  One group had the chance to solder little lights (I think they were LED’s?) onto a board which used was able to detect movement and flash the little lights according to where your hand hovered over the board.  Some of the more experienced solderer were able to whip through soldering the lights to the board, while others took a little longer, but it was good fun either way.  The group that wasn’t soldering was being told of our homework assignment – the Finkbeiner test.  This test is a list of things that are often used in articles when someone writes an article about an accomplished woman.  Here is the list:

  • She is a woman
  • Her partner’s job
  • Child care situation
  • Nuturing nature
  • Surprised by competitiveness
  • Role model for other women
  • How she is the “first woman to…”

Although the Finkbeiner test was creating with women in science in mind, I really feel that ALL women are subjected this sexism and the test can really be applied to all women.  We have to write an article about a woman in science that passes this test, meaning that it does not include any of the checklist.  Afterwards, we had a brief discussion about how men and women are treated differently, and how we noticed that in our daily lives. All in all, it was a very interesting session!

A Future In Science

“Field trip!”, two words that get just about anyone excited, including myself.  Just a few moments ago, I got back from the StemCell Technologies lab and I was feeling really inspired. After getting a tour of the location where stems cells are proliferated to be shipped all over the world, I’ve been feeling more excited about a future in science. Since an early age, I’ve been aware that I wanted to grow up to become a scientist, but this recent field trip has got me wondering about different possibilities in the realm of science. So what are the most open employments for modern scientist?

The future is in our hands. "World1" by Shevateganeshd - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
The future is in our hands.
“World1” by Shevateganeshd – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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The Science of Concussions

According to NFL concussion data, NFL players have nearly a one in three chance of acquiring some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  With all the head-on-head, and head-on-other-hard-object collisions that wrestles and footballers and other contact sport players, encounter on a weekly basis, its very easy to picture how so many players can end up with severe brain damage.

Patrick J. Lynh | |Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License 2006
Patrick J. Lynh | | Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License 2006

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Fact or Fiction: Emotion-influenced Water Molecules

I have always been fascinated by the complex yet stunning configurations of snowflakes, and how such mesmerizing patterns are formed by nothing more than water. When I first looked into Dr. Masaru Emoto’s work on the configuration of water molecules, I was quite amazed at his findings, which was about how the structure of frozen water molecules could be influenced by one’s emotions. However, after a more in-depth look into the topic, I became more skeptical of his claim, and for various reasons. Continue reading Fact or Fiction: Emotion-influenced Water Molecules