Successful Aging 10/17/2011

With individuals living longer and longer lives, our focus must be on successful aging. From time to time a truly exceptional person is featured in the headlines – a case of successful aging. Here is a link to a story on 100 year old marathon runner Fauja Singh. Enjoy, and be inspired!


On the Origin of Species

In 2007, a few friends and I formed a graduate student group with the goal of reading and discussing Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” Throughout our readings and scientific discussions of Darwin and his work, one quality of the manuscript stood out to us: it’s humanness. Scientific ideas were communicated clearly, and with linear thought, but also through examples of human experience, and in such a conversational tone that it was difficult not to try to imagine the man behind the words. The students in our group had purchased various editions of his book, later editions having more chapters than earlier editions. Some added chapters elaborated beautifully on scientific ideas, and some were composed of entirely the conflict between the idea of evolution by natural selection and the religious ideals of his time. It was a unique and fascinating documentation of his progression of scientific thought, and of the intense inner turmoil he felt over the debate his book inspired among his religious and scientific contemporaries. The experience led me to think about the communication of evolutionary biology in the context of “human experience” instead of a purely academic one. Darwin himself demonstrated that complex evolutionary ideas can be communicated effectively using common human observation and experience. In fact, for students (and non-students) who aren’t biologists, his book is an accessible guide to evolutionary theory from the everyday person’s perspective, and is fascinating from both scientific and social perspectives.

If you are interested in a sort of “reader’s guide” here are some websites and actual, real paper books that have excerpts and commentary.

The Guardian

The Origin then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species

A Study Guide for the Evolution Dialogues, AAAS

Steve Jones and New Scientist, Summary and Update for the 21st century

The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of his Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin: A Biography, Vol. 1 – Voyaging by Janet Browne


Merit Progam for Emerging Scholars

The Merit Program for Emerging Scholars has been my favorite educational experience so far. It is a challenging program for high-achieving undergraduate students with high potential who are considering careers in science. The program especially encourages the participation of students who are ethnic minorities, women, or students from small high schools, all of whom tend to be underrepresented in the areas of science, mathematics and engineering. I taught in the Merit Program in Integrative Biology. It is a national program – check it out for your school!

University of Oregon’s SPUR Program

The University of Oregon’s Summer Program for Undergraduate Research is a world-renowned educational experience. Students often feel that it permanently changes their life-course, giving them an accurate idea of what it’s like “in the trenches” of cutting-edge research. This summer 2011 SPUR received over 780 applications from all over the world, making it challenging for faculty to choose among many excellent candidates to fill its 20 spots. Check it out here.

“Immortal” Jellyfish

“Immortal” Jellyfish

These jellies can take differentiated cells backward and forward through time. Now scientists are studying them to see how they can “un-age”

Check out Maria Pia Miglietta’s research on life cycle evolution at Pennsylvania State University, and read her primary research article in Biological Invasions:

Miglietta M.P., Lessios H. (2009) A Silent Invasion. Biological Invasions 11 (4): 825-834.

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