Author: Rachel Crowley

Rachel enjoys using her medicinal chemistry training to create accessible public health content and engaging science education resources.

Posts by Rachel Crowley

Career Conversations: Q&A with Bioengineer César de la Fuente

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Headshot of Dr. de la Fuente.
Dr. César de la Fuente. Credit: Martí E. Berenguer.

“Science provides adventure and excitement every single day. When you’re pushing boundaries, you get to jump into the abyss of new areas. It can be scary, but it’s an incredible opportunity to try to improve our world and people’s lives,” says César de la Fuente, Ph.D., a Presidential Assistant Professor in the Perelman School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Our interview with Dr. de la Fuente highlights his journey of becoming a scientist and his research using artificial intelligence to discover new drugs.

Q: How did you first become interested in science?

A: I’ve always been fascinated by the world around me. I grew up in a town in northwest Spain, right on the Atlantic Ocean. As a kid, I would go to the beach to investigate marine organisms and bring home all sorts of different fish to study. My mom wasn’t too happy about that! We’re all born scientists, but we tend to lose that curiosity as we enter adulthood. The key is to not lose our ability to learn every day.

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In Other Words: Insult—A “Sick Burn” or a Burn That Makes You Sick?

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You probably think of a rude or offensive remark when you think of the word insult, but to biomedical researchers, an insult is the cause of some kind of injury to the body. Insults can come in a variety of forms, such as an infection or a physical trauma.

Below the title “Insult: In Other Words,” two images are separated by a jagged line. On the left is a woman covering her face with both hands as an eye looks at her and a mouth shouts at her. On the right are spherical bacteria on a rough surface. Under the images, text reads: “Did you know? In biomedical science, an insult is the cause of some kind of injury to the body.”
Credit: NIGMS.
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New STEM Teaching Resource: Biomedical Beat Educator’s Corner

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Educator’s Corner logo. A colorful background with a pink circle and white writing with the words “Educator’s Corner” and the NIGMS logo.

We’ve created a free resource for science educators! The Educator’s Corner is a collection of carefully curated Biomedical Beat posts, designed to align with existing NIGMS science education resources, such as Pathways, for middle and high school students. Our new collection offers educators additional tools and ideas to enhance lesson plans, building upon existing science education material that’s already available at no cost.

In the Educator’s Corner, you’ll find blog posts organized by the NIGMS science education resource they align with. Each entry includes a suggested activity for use in classrooms, home schools, and other appropriate settings. Student exercises range from pair-and-shares to simple demonstrations, freewrites, and more.

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All About Anesthesia

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If you’ve ever had a surgery or even a minor procedure, you’ve probably benefited from the medical marvel of anesthesia—the treatment that doctors, called anesthesiologists, give to keep you from feeling pain. And it’s come a long way since the discovery of diethyl ether. Here we dive into the different types, its history, and the way it works.

An infographic titled “The Chemistry of Anesthetics.” Under “A Brief History of Anesthesia” are the chemical structures and dates of first clinical use of diethyl ether (1842), nitrous oxide (1844), cocaine (1884), lidocaine (1948), propofol (1989), and sevoflurane (1990). Under “Types of Anesthesia” are graphics describing general, regional, local anesthesia, and sedation. Under “How Anesthetics Work” is a diagram of a local anesthetic blocking a sodium ion channel in a cell membrane. The chemistry of anesthetics has advanced since the 1840s, producing different types of anesthesia depending on the compounds involved. See more chemistry infographics like this one in C&EN’s Periodic Graphics collection. Click to enlarge.

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The League of VetaHumanz: Encouraging Kids to Use Their Powers for Good!

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Dr. San Miguel standing in front of a van full of boxes wearing a mask and a cape.
Pink Phoenix, alter ego of Dr. Sandra San Miguel, preparing to pass out Vaccine SuperPower Packs described later in this post. Credit: Courtesy of Dr. Sandra San Miguel.

“I’m Pink Phoenix, leader of the Vetahumanz League of superheroes, and it’s the best job in the world.” The League of VetaHumanz is a superhero league for veterinarians, founded and led by Pink Phoenix, the alter ego of Sandra San Miguel, D.V.M., Ph.D. Through support from the NIGMS Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program, the league seeks to diversify the veterinary profession.

Members of the league work with elementary students across the country to give them a sense of belonging to the veterinary profession. “I’m most proud of bringing people together who share the mission and vision with all their heart,” Pink Phoenix remarks. “Nobody can just be a member of the league. You have to earn the cape.” The league has over 400 certified role models throughout the country who are either veterinarians—VetaHumanz—or veterinary school students—VetaHumanz in training.

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Three Brothers Are Making Research a Family Affair

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From left to right: Caleb, Paul, and Adam Worsley sitting on stools in a chemistry lab.
Caleb, Paul, and Adam Worsley. Credit: Pittsburg State University.

“You’re doing something really important with people who are important to you,” Paul Worsley remarks when asked about having his younger brothers Caleb and Adam as lab mates. The trio are undergraduate students working in the lab of Santimukul Santra, Ph.D., at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas.

Paul seated at his chemistry fume hood. Credit: Pittsburg State University.

All three brothers are part of the Kansas IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE). Paul is currently a junior majoring in biology and history. He plans to go to medical school when he graduates, but his time in the lab has given him a love for research—and has even led him to toy with the idea of going to graduate school instead. His twin brothers Caleb and Adam are only freshmen, but they both think they want to pursue scientific research when they graduate.

When Paul was a sophomore, he applied for a K-INBRE research spot in Dr. Santra’s lab and was immediately accepted. He quickly realized that organic chemistry in the lab was much different—and more exciting—than anything he’d seen in the classroom. “I like organic synthesis because it really tests your knowledge,” he says. “Answering exam questions is way different than actually doing it in a lab.” Despite the challenges that came with research, Paul was clearly doing great work because one day Dr. Santra joked, “Hey, you got any brothers?” Paul responded, “Actually, yes.”

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New NIH-Wide Resource for K-12 Educators

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A dark blue background with large colorful letters in the title. Under the title “STEM Teaching Resources,” the text reads “innovative NIH-funded content to engage K-12 students in health science.” In the bottom corners, are a green bar with the website “science.education.nih.gov” and the NIGMS logo.

Attention, educators! We’re announcing a new clearinghouse of free STEM education resources covering a wide range of health and biomedical research topics for students in grades K through 12. The STEM teaching resources website provides links to great content from various institutes and centers within NIH, as well as materials developed under the NIGMS Science Education Partnership Award program.

The resources are easy to navigate within the following subject areas:

  • Being a Scientist
  • The Brain & Mental Health
  • Diseases & Conditions
  • Drug Use & Addiction
  • The Environment & Human Health
  • Genetics
  • Healthy Living
  • The Human Body
  • Molecules & Cells
  • Scientific Tools & Methods
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Cloudy With a Chance of Scientific Discoveries

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The cloud. To many, it’s a mysterious black hole that somehow transports photos and files from their old or lost phone to their new one. To some researchers, though, it’s an invaluable resource that allows them access to data analytics tools they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Hands typing on a laptop with a digitized cloud and computer icons floating above them.
Credit: iStock.

Scientists have begun using cloud computing to store, process, and analyze their data through online bioinformatics tools. Biological data sets are often large and hard to interpret, requiring complex calculating instructions—or algorithms—to understand them. Fortunately, these algorithms can run on local computers or remotely through cloud computing.

One advantage of cloud-based programs over local computers is the ability to analyze data without taking up the user’s personal storage space. With cloud-based storage, researchers can store their large data files, including their labeled notes called annotations. Another benefit is that users have easy access to software packages within the cloud for data analysis. The cloud also encourages collaboration among scientists by making it easy to share large amounts of data.

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How Research Works: Understanding the Process of Science

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Have you ever wondered how research works? How scientists make discoveries about our health and the world around us? Whether they’re studying plants, animals, humans, or something else in our world, they follow the scientific method. But this method isn’t always—or even usually—a straight line, and often the answers are unexpected and lead to more questions. Let’s dive in to see how it all works.

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Fifty Years of the Protein Data Bank!

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Macromolecular structures in the shape of the number 50. Protein Data Bank’s 50 years logo. Credit: PDB website.

The Protein Data Bank (PDB), established in 1971, is the single global repository for 3D structural data of proteins, DNA, RNA, and even complexes these biological molecules form with drugs or other small molecules. More than 1 million people—including researchers, medical professionals, educators, and students—use the PDB each year. NIGMS and other parts of NIH have helped fund this free digital resource since 1978.

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