Upcoming May UNC WISE meeting

Our next UNC WISE meeting will be held this coming Monday, May 6th at 7pm in the Student Union Room 3515. We’re looking forward to a very interesting discussion led by Ginnie Hench about the science and politics behind GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Then Courtney will share with us the life and science of Professor Bonnie Bassler, a pioneering researcher in the field of molecular biology. We look forward to seeing you all next week and please keep reading below for more information on next week’s topic along with supplemental reading material designed to aid our discussion!
Ginnie Hench:

I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to talk to people about the science and politics surrounding GMO’s. This is an exciting and timely topic because it allows one to talk about some truly innovative science and the politics of food. I’ve picked two pieces for everyone to read. The blog post is written by a food journalist, Josh Schonwald, that I’ve followed on-and-off for the last year: http://www.thetasteoftomorrow.com/ongmolabeling.

The post is very current in terms of what is going on with food politics (GMO labeling legislative initiatives) and the latest science (and pseudo-science) related to GMO foods. It’s important to keep in mind that when we ask questions about the best way to use science, we acknowledge what research and history has already told us, specifically that GE corn was commercially introduced in the US in 1994. If you drink Coke or Pepsi, you’ve likely had some GM high fructose corn syrup! The article that I selected is written by Mary-Dell Chilton, one of the scientists who pioneered research on Agrobacterium tumafaciens, the plant pathogen-turned-vector extraordinaire!

She’s writing about research that aims to circumvent patents on GM plant technologies by using bacterium other than Agrobacterium tumafaciens as vectors. Some other cool trivia you should know about Mary Dell-Chilton is that she lives here in North Carolina and her son, Mark Chilton is the mayor of Carrboro. [supplementary reading at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v23/n3/pdf/nbt0305-309.pdf ]

Courtney Roberts:

 “It’s really interesting, the stereotype of a scientist versus the real life of a scientist…this is a game. This is you against nature. It doesn’t matter what other labs are doing. It doesn’t matter if you get funding or not. You know this is just this ride that you’re on and that it’s fun. This has nothing to do with the things that I dreamed of as a kid, but it’s better.” –Bonnie Bassler

Professor Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University is a remarkable woman who has transformed the field of molecular biology due to her pioneering work in determining the mechanism of how bacteria communicate with each other, known as quorum sensing. This research has led to interest in development of pharmaceuticals that can either hinder or promote this bacterial communication. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was named as one of USA Science and Engineering Festival’s fifty most influential scientists in the US. In addition, she was a recipient of one of the L’Oréal-UNESCO awards for women in science (first link). The clip briefly describes her work and also her perspective on how she perceives her job as a scientist. During her TED talk, she eloquently and enthusiastically explains her work on quorum sensing (second link).




Summit on Women in Science

Make sure to register for the WISE co-sponsored Summit on Women in Science!







The summit will feature the following scientists from industry, academia, and non-traditional career paths:

Sharlini Sankaran, Reach NC
Bill Kier, Chair of Biology
Abigail Panter, Psychology
Rebecca Pogue, Science Writer at PPD
Donna DeCapite, Computer Scientist at SAS
Jennifer McCafferty, Chemist at GSK
Sheila Kannappan, Professor in Physics
Carol Arnosti, Professor in Marine Sciences
Ioana Papa-Burke, Chemist at GSK
Peter Mucha, Professor in Mathematics

These scientists will discuss issues that are important to women in science during panel discussions, which will be followed by a luncheon.  The registration deadline for the summit is May 9th!


UNC Science Expo

Thanks to everyone in WISE who volunteered at the Science Expo!

We had a really great time teaching kids about how to make super strong bubbles, mix baking soda and vinegar to inflate balloons, separate the colors in a black marker, and learn about density using oranges!  We also collected drawings done by kids of what they think scientists look like!  A special thanks to Stephanie Kramer, who led a fantastic team effort which resulted in a lot of happy children and happy scientists!

UNC Science Expo 2013 collage