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This Week in Science 2017–11–19


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/11/26

“An Ontario physicist is embarking on a NASA-funded expedition to Antarctica to collect meteorites, in hopes that the fallen space rocks will give researchers new insight into the outer reaches of the solar system.

Scott VanBommel, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Guelph, is joining the annual Antarctic Search for Meteorites for a six-week excursion to the Transantarctic Mountains, about 350 km from the South Pole.

It will mean sleeping in a two-person tent in one of the least hospitable environments on Earth, but VanBommel said it’s a chance to give back to the scientific community.”


“Turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie have all become U.S. traditions for Thanksgiving. The holiday has also grown into a time to reflect on what we’re thankful for in our lives. But sometimes it can be hard to feel gratitude, especially if you’re struggling through a difficult point in your research or experiencing other career challenges. So, to offer some inspiration, we asked: When it comes to your work, what are you thankful for this year? The responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

This year, I’m thankful for all the free opportunities and resources that are offered for Ph.D. students by other scientists. I was able to attend a career symposium at the National Institutes of Health, listen to webinars through a number of professional societies, network on LinkedIn with people I’ve never even met, and have open access to the endless number of blogs written by fellow scientists. Choosing a career outside of academia is daunting, and not many academic advisers know much about the positions that exist or how to be competitive for them, so I guess I’m mostly thankful for postgraduates in nonacademic positions for sharing their knowledge!
– Alexandra Schober, doctoral student in neuroscience at Albany Medical College in New York

I’m thankful for my fellow labmates, who make me a better scientist, and a happier person, every day. Their support helps me persevere on those less than ideal days (or weeks) at the bench.
– Samantha Jones, doctoral student in biomedical sciences at the University of California, San Diego”


“At Howard University, a gleaming $70 million science building allows students a more light-filled space to do their research and learning — and testifies to the growth and opportunity in technology and engineering. At George Mason University, construction is wrapping up on a $73 million building focused on the health sciences.

Universities in the Washington region have long been recognized for churning out politicians-to-be, diplomats and lawyers. But it’s an unprecedented science building boom — costing hundreds of millions of dollars — that is altering the landscape of campuses, fueled by burgeoning enrollment in science, technology, engineering and math majors.”


“ Channelrhodopsins are membrane channel proteins whose gating is controlled by light. In their native setting, they allow green algae to move in response to light. Their expression in neurons allows precise control of neural activity, an approach known as optogenetics. Volkov et al. describe the high-resolution structure of channelrhodopsin 2, the most widely used optogenetics tool, as well as the structure of a mutant with a longer open-state lifetime (see the Perspective by Gerwert). Light activation perturbs an intricate hydrogen-bonding network to open the channel. The structures provide a basis for designing better optogenetic tools.”


“We live in uncertain times. This is all too true in the United Kingdom, which is negotiating its exit from the European Union. On the basis of the government’s latest budget, and as a natural optimist, I am hopeful about the future of British science.

On 22 November, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond signalled continued support for science in his speech to the House of Commons. Research and innovation featured prominently, paving the way for an industrial strategy to drive a technological revolution. Hammond announced more money for science, including an extra £75 million (US$100 million) to support companies using artificial intelligence, and new PhDs in the area. There was also £100 million to boost computing in schools by training more teachers, and investment in getting more young people to study mathematics to create the digitally literate workforce of the future.”


“Secondary school students in Oliver and Kelowna are being given a unique and rare classroom experience into the world of genomics and genetics.

Genome BC’s Geneskool will be running in-class workshops at local high schools where students will be introduced to realms of science not currently encompassed in their ongoing curriculum.

The goal of the Geneskool activities is to introduce students to the study of genomics in a fun and interesting context.”


“New research from the University of Technology, Sydney, shows men received the overwhelming majority of research grants in engineering, health, and medicine over the past decade.

Most of those recipients chose to work in male-only teams.

Nicola Gaston, who’s an associate professor of physics at Auckland University, said that undermined women’s academic work.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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