Breakthrough Winter 09-10

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A publication of the Tufts Undergraduate Research Journal

Text of Breakthrough Winter 09-10

Sulfur Injection Geo-Engineering:A Fight AgainstClimate ChangeDebunking Hydrogen MythsFaculty Prole:Dr. TrimmerVolume I, Issue 1Winter 2009-10Tufts Undergraduate Science MagazineB R E A K T H R O U G HFROM THE EDITORWelcome to the rst issue of Breakthrough: Tufts Under-graduate Science Magazine.Breakthrough is Tufts rst undergraduate publication focused on the natural and physicalsciences. emagazinewillserveasaone-stop source for information on some of the most interesting and relevant researchcurrentlygoingonallacrossTuftsUniversity,aswellasthe worldatlarge,inastyleofwritingthateveryone,sciencebackground or not, will enjoy.ismagazinewasfoundedtoaddresstheneedforsciencecom-municationandawarenessamongsttheTuftscommunity.Asahighly research-orienteduniversity,Tuftsisonthecuttingedgeofscientic discoveries and innovation.However, without a cohesive and accessible outlet for this information, it is dicult, if not impossible, for the Tufts community to stay up-to-date on the research endeavors and successes of our multiple science departments.Breakthrough will serve as that outlet. eBreakthroughteamhasbeeninclosecontactwithTuftsscience departmentstocreateapublicationhighlightingsomeofthemost exciting scientic research at our university.In addition to reporting up-and-coming Tufts research, Breakthrough includes a Historical Perspective article in each issue describing past scientic discoveries at Tufts or by a Tufts professor or alum.e magazine also contains a World Science News section and articles about present-day scientic research from around the globe.Breakthrough seeks to not only increase scientic awareness on our campus,buttofosterinter-departmentaldebateanddiscussionamong the science and non-science communities at Tufts. With articles running the scientic gamut, from biology to psychol-ogytoengineeringandtechnology,Breakthroughhassomethingforev-eryone.Mostimportantly,Breakthroughisdesignedandwrittentobe accessibletoallreaders,regardlessofbackgroundknowledge.Assuch, Breakthrough has the potential to increase both scientic literacy and pride in the Tufts community.I hope that you enjoy reading this magazine as much as I, and the rest of the team, enjoyed creating it. All my best,Sophia Cedola Editor-in-ChiefOUR STAFFEditor-in-ChiefSophia CedolaManaging EditorMichael ShustermanSenior Financial OcerDan SlateAssociate Acquisitions EditorsSaurabh SinhaLauren WielgusAssociate Copy EditorsMatthew FerreiraKatharina FungAmanda WestSenior PhotographerSam QuinteroAssistant Editors and WritersJackson DolanMary Beth GriggsCatherine HoarAmmar KhakuRyan PandyaMeridith RoyAssociate Layout EditorChristopher SnyderAssistant Layout EditorGriselle Onge opinions expressed in each article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reect the opinions of the magazine or its sta.Breakthrough is a publication of the Tufts Undergraduate Research Journal, recognized by the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Judiciary and funded by the TCU Senate.http://www.tuftsroundtable.org/breakthrough|tuftsresearch@gmail.comTABLE OF CONTENTSWinter 2009-10Volume I, Issue 12 From the Editor4 World Science NewsReviews of current scientic research from around the globe.5 Tufts Research HighlightsDescriptions of selected Tufts professors research.6 OpinionA Prescription for DisasterModern society must act decisively to head o the crisis of scientic illiteracy.By Michael Shusterman7 PerspectivesPlants As Vaccine FactoriesA paradigm shift in vaccine production.By Amanda West8 PerspectivesMolecular Neurobiology at TuftsA look into Professor Michele Jacobs lab.By Saurabh Sinha9 Historical Perspectivee Development of the CAT ScanAnd one Tufts professors amazing contribution.By Ryan Pandya11 Life in the LabFermilabOn the cutting edge of particle physics.By Lauren Wielgus12 FeatureDoes e Earth Need A Shot?A look at sulfur injection geo-engineering.By Mary Beth Griggs14 Careers in ScienceWhere Can You Go With Science?A look at graduate school.16 Faculty Prole: Dr. Barry TrimmerHes pioneered a new eld of robotics, drawing inspiration from biology.By Dan Slate18 Featuree Overlooked FuelHydrogen is cleaner than gasoline. Why arent we using it?By Jackson Dolan20 Featuree Serendipitous Nature of Astronomical DiscoveryProfessor Kenneth Langs inuential lecture.By Catherine Hoar23 Sta PhotoJoin Us!Want to submit an article or join our sta?Come to one of our meetings (Tuesday nights, 9 p.m., Eaton 209) or e-mail us at tuftsresearch@gmail.com.Cover photo: Arjun01/Flickr.comTufts Undergraduate Science MagazineB R E A KTH R O U G HBreakthrough Winter 2009-10 Page 4Dr. Craig Venter, the man famous for his privately funded sequencingprojectofthehumangenome,hasdeclaredthat hislabisveryclosetocreatingartificiallife(August2009). A recent breakthrough by a member of his laboratory has led to this confidence from Venter.Ultimately, Venters lab hopes to produce man-made strains of bacteria that can change coal intoamoreenvironment-friendlygasandalgaethatabsorb CO2andsubsequentlycreatehydrocarbonfuels. According toVenter,artificiallifecanalsohaveaprofoundimpacton vaccinesandvariousothermedicines.Asofnow,Venters teamhasassembledacompletelysyntheticgenome;experi-ments are underway to transplant the genome into cytoplasm to create an organism with the synthetic DNA. If youd like to read more about this research, visit http://www.jcvi.org.e jellysh Turritopsis nutricul has been found to be able to literally reverse its aging process. After becoming sexually mature, thisjellyiscapableofreturningbacktoitsjuvenilepolypform, while most species of jellysh die after reproduction. is is done through a process called transdierentiation, which allows the jelly to turn one cell type into another, such as a muscle cell into a nerve cell.1Itiscapableofregeneratingeverycellinitsbody,withno known limits on the number of times it may make the transition fromjuveniletoadultandbackagain.Recently,twoscientists, Maria Pia Miglietti of Pennsylvania State University and Harilaos Lessios of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, have been studying the DNA of these jellysh.2ese researchers have real-ized that although the jellysh originated in the Caribbean, it has now spread to parts of Europe, Panama, Japan and Florida, among other places. e spread of this jellysh has been attributed to its ability to live indenitely, as well as its ability to reproduce asexu-ally by essentially making copies of itself. Until now, this jellyshs invasion of the worlds oceans went unnoticed, presumably due to its small size of only 5mm. Although these creatures seem to have mastered the art of immortality for themselves, it is unlikely that any anti-aging drugs will be produced using their genes. Miglietti says, Nobody is looking into that and I don't think you're going to nd any secrets in these creatures.21 e Curious Case of the Immortal Jellysh. Discover Maga-zine.January292009..2an,Ker.ImmortalJellyshSwarmsWorldsOceans.Na-tionalGeographicNews.January292009..Articial LifeWORLD SCIENCE NEWSBY MATTHEW FERREIRAThe Spread of an Immortal JellyshBY AMANDA WESTCDC.govAgroupofresearchersfromGermanyandSpainhavepro-posedawaytoperformareal-lifeexperimentsimilartoSchro-dingersfamouscatthoughtexperiment,proposedin1935.In the original thought experiment, a cat is in a box containing a vial of poison.A tiny hammer sits above the vial, and will smash it to release the poison if an atom of radioactive material decays.As one cannot know whether the atom has decayed until they look in the box, is the cat dead or alive?e answer, according to quantum mechanics, is that the cat is in a superposition of both states.is eect may seem nonsensi-Schrodingers VirusBY LAUREN WIELGUSphil.CDC.govcalwhenappliedtomacroscopicobjects,such ascats,butcanbeseeninparticles.Ateam of German and Spanish scientists, led by Oriol Romero-Isart, Mathieu L. Juan,and J. Ignacio Cirac, hopes to probe the gap between the mac-roscopic real world and the quantum world by using a virus to stand in for the cat.Intheproposedexperimentalsetup,asingleviruswillbe cooledtoitslowestenergystateinavacuumchamber. en,a singlephotonwillbebeamedintothechamber.Untilsomeone looks, the virus will be in both at rest and in motion, as it may or may not have been hit by the photon.ereissomedebateoverwhetherthisexperimentistruly similartoSchrodingerscat,assomedonotconsidervirusesto be alive. Still, an attempt to place a macroscopic object in a su-perposition of two states should yield interesting results regardless ofwhethertheobjectcanbeconsideredanimate,andmayhelp dene where the boundary between the macroscopic and quantum worlds lies.To learn more, check out the source paper:Romero-Isart,O.etal.preprintathttp://arxiv.org/abs/0909.1469 (2009)TUFTS RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTSBreakthrough Winter 2009-10 Page 5Dr. Kurt Pennell, chair ofthe Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Tufts, is a key investigator in the Integrated MultiphaseEnvironmentalSystems Laboratory (IMPES) at Tufts. e research done at the IMPES lab works by combining laboratoryexperimentswithcomputer In an important proof of principle for stem cell research, two groups of scientists inChinahavecreatedmiceentirelyfrom inducedpluripotentstemcells(iPS).iPS cellsarenormalbodycellsthathavebeen geneticallyreprogrammedtoexpressthe necessary genes for pluripotency, the ability todivideintoanycellofthebody.First developedin2006,iPScellspresentan avenueforobtainingstemcellswithout havingtoderivethemfromembryos. SeniorLecturerJakeBrenner, anIchnologistinTuftsGeology Department,isstudyingtracefossilsin rocks.Tracefossilsareimpressionsor featuresmadebyanimalsinsediments (wormburrows,dinosaurfootprints, etc). Currently Brenner is studying fossils found in glacial sediments, looking into howquicklyancientspeciesoffish returned to the eastern US after the last glacialperiod.Therearenofossilized remains,sothepatternmustbepieced togetherusingonlytheimpressions madebyfishastheyswamalongthe ancient lakebed.Ifyouwanttolearnmore,visithis