• Scientific Research

  • Barbara McClintock
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that some DNA “jumps” from cell to cell, and this small percentage may be linked to genetic disorders in humans such as hemophilia, leukemia and breast cancer? “Jumping genes” were the discovery of Barbara McClintock, a Nobel-prize winning biologist whose work challenged the long-held notion of a stable genome.

    Summary

    This module profiles the groundbreaking research of biologist Barbara McClintock in the field of genetics. The module describes McClintock’s painstaking process of identifying specific loci for inherited traits. It shows how her diligence and creativity advanced science through decades of research on maize plants, which led to a Nobel Prize for her discovery of “jumping genes” or transposons.

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  • César Milstein
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    Did you know that cancer cells can be used for a good purpose? In the 1970s, immunologist César Milstein changed medicine by combining two cells: one that was capable of producing disease-fighting antibodies, and the other a cancer cell that enabled the antibody to be reproduced over and over. Virtually every blood test we rely on today to detect specific diseases or even pregnancy uses the technique pioneered by Milstein.

    Summary

    From home pregnancy tests to treatment for Ebola, the discovery of monoclonal antibodies has greatly advanced science and medicine. This module traces the work of immunologist César Milstein, who successfully created “hybridoma” cells capable of producing specific antibodies in mass quantities. The module describes Milstein’s life as a student in Argentina during the regime of Juan Peron and his later research as he became a world-class scientist, winning the Nobel Prize in 1984.

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  • Fabiola León-Velarde
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that chronic mountain sickness affects more than 15 percent of people who live at high altitudes? When people live at high altitudes for a long time, their blood becomes very thick and their lungs, blood, brain, and eyes can suffer. The field of mountain medicine has been very important in advancing knowledge about and developing medicines for the physical conditions that result from long-term mountain living.

    Summary

    The air has less oxygen at high altitudes, and the physiology of the body changes dramatically as a result. This module profiles the work of Peruvian physiologist Fabiola León-Velarde, who has significantly advanced the world’s understanding of mountain sickness. The module traces Leon-Velarde’s research and accomplishments while educating readers on changes to the body at high altitudes. Several health effects of high altitude are explored in detail.

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  • Kevin Arrigo
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that the Arctic sea ice is shrinking as a result of climate change? The ICESCAPE project, funded by NASA, investigates how climate change in the Arctic Ocean may impact the region. Studies such as this provide valuable information about the changing global climate and its effect on our planet and the life it supports.

    Summary

    Biological oceanographer Kevin Arrigo investigates questions about changes in polar ecosystems due to a changing climate. This research profile explores Arrigo's expeditions in the Arctic Ocean and examines the different influences on Arrigo’s research projects and his career in general. Factors that guide research are discussed, from obtaining funding, to planning research projects, to conducting research in the field.

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  • Mario Molina
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    Did you know that the now-banned CFC chemical compounds were once thought to be an environmentally-friendly alternative to refrigerants on the market at the time? It was only after CFCs appeared in billions of household products that chemists Mario Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland figured out they were eating away at Earth’s protective ozone layer, leading to an increase in skin cancer and other ill health effects.

    Summary

    This module traces the life and scientific research of Mario Molina, the first Mexican-born chemist to win the Nobel Prize. Working with F. Sherwood Roland, Molina’s groundbreaking research led to an international treaty to phase out human-made chemicals that harm Earth’s protective ozone layer. As a result, ozone-depleting substances were reduced by 98 percent. Molina has since been crusading to further scientific research in developing countries, spread scientific knowledge that will protect the environment, and advance international policy to save the Earth.

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  • Meselson and Stahl
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    Did you know that many classic experiments in science are famous not because of their complexity but because of their simplicity? This is the case with Meselson and Stahl’s classic experiment in DNA replication. In one of the most famous experiments in molecular biology, Meselson and Stahl elegantly tested three scientific hypotheses with one simple design.

    • NGSS
    • HS-C6.1, HS-LS3.B1
    Summary

    Testing predictions is a major part of scientific research, and a key component of many classic experiments. This module explores the research methods used by Meselson and Stahl in their ingenious 1958 experiment showing how DNA replicates. The module highlights the power of simplicity in what has been called "the most beautiful experiment in biology."

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  • Santiago Ramón y Cajal and Camillo Golgi
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    Did you know that artistic ability has been key to scientific discovery? In the days before cameras could be attached to microscopes, any tiny structures observed by scientists had to be painstakingly drawn by hand. Even equipped with drawing talent, after two centuries of peering through microscopes scientists were still not able to make out the cells that formed nervous system tissue. It was only with improvements in microscope technology, advances in staining techniques, and careful drawings that the structure of nerve tissue could be understood.

    Summary

    This module traces the beginnings of neuroscience, with a focus on two fathers of neuroscience who shared the 1906 Nobel Prize for their work. Along with the advent of better microscopes, Camillo Golgi’s and Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s vastly improved staining techniques and meticulous drawings shed light on our understanding of the structure of nervous tissue. The module explores Golgi’s reticular theory, which was later proved incorrect, and Ramón y Cajal’s discovery that the brain was made up of individual cells.

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  • Sergio Avila
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that until hunters spotted two jaguars in 1996, these big cats were thought to be extinct in the United States? Jaguars roamed freely in the southwestern US until they vanished from the area due to habitat destruction, hunting, and other human activities. However, thanks to conservation efforts by Sergio Avila and others, jaguars have returned to the region and are now studied and protected.

    Summary

    This module offers an in-depth profile of wildlife biologist Sergio Avila and his work to conserve endangered jaguars and other wildlife in the US-Mexico border region. Topics in environmental science and conservation biology are introduced. The module describes how research data are collected and analyzed and highlights the importance of cooperation among individuals and agencies to protect endangered plant and animal species.

    Key Concepts
    • Scientists are diverse in many ways, and their personal experiences – including cultures, backgrounds, and chance – influence the paths they follow.
    • Scientists may work for and receive funding from many types of organizations, including nonprofits, private foundations, and government sources.
    • Organisms and ecosystems do not abide by human-constructed political boundaries, and scientists can advance their research by working across borders, developing language skills, and building partnerships to understand local needs.
    • Science is valuable to individuals and to society. Reliable data and biological knowledge about organisms are critical when deciding how to manage a species or ecosystem in decline.
    • Data collected through scientific research must be analyzed and interpreted to be used as evidence. Visual representations of data are valuable for both data analysis and interpretation.

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  • Profiles in Science

  • Carlos J. Finlay
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    Did you know that the first time the construction of the Panama Canal was attempted, 22,000 workers died from disease and the project was abandoned? If a canal was to be built, somebody had to figure out what caused yellow fever. It wasn’t until physician Carlos Finlay made the connection between mosquitoes and yellow fever that the disease could be controlled, finally allowing the Panama Canal to be built.

    Summary

    The successful construction of the Panama Canal relied as much on a medical breakthrough as it did on technological advances and hard labor. This module profiles Cuban-American doctor Carlos Finlay, who identified mosquitoes as the culprits in the spread of malaria and yellow fever. Tracing how our understanding of infectious disease evolved, the module highlights Finlay’s perseverance in spite of initial rejection by the medical community. It shows how Finlay's insights helped to stop the spread of these diseases and ultimately made the Panama Canal possible.

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  • Ellen Ochoa
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman in history to travel to space? After being rejected the first time she applied to the space program, she tried again two years later and was selected for astronaut training. Over a nine-year period, Ochoa took four trips to outer space, logging 978 hours in space, performing important research, and even playing her flute in space!

    Summary

    Although she was rejected by the space program initially, Ellen Ochoa went on to become the first Hispanic woman to travel in space and was ultimately named Director of the Johnson Space Center. This module takes an in-depth look at the life and career of Ellen Ochoa, from considering a flute-playing career to getting a PhD in electrical engineering and becoming an astronaut. The module describes scientific research projects in space and how they contribute to our understanding of Earth.

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  • France Anne-Dominic Córdova
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    Did you know that the current director of the National Science Foundation was an English major in college? After she returned to school to get a Ph.D. in physics, France Córdova's career in science and education included becoming the first woman, the first Latina, and the youngest person ever to become NASA’s chief scientist. She is also credited with making a major discovery in X-ray astronomy for double-star systems and developing the most powerful X-ray telescope ever sent into space.

    Summary

    This module profiles the career of astrophysicist France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation. The module traces Córdova's path from her days at a high school that didn’t offer physics to female students, to her career as a writer, and ultimately to the top post in US science administration. Among her many accomplishments, this powerful role model built the most powerful X-ray telescope ever sent into space, published over 150 scientific papers, helped start a medical school, and has been a leader at several prestigious universities.

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  • Franklin Chang Díaz
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that only two people have traveled to space seven times? One of these record-holders is Franklin Chang Díaz, who was also the first Latin American astronaut. From launching a homemade rocket in his youth with a mouse as a passenger – complete with specially engineered safety helmet to ensure the creature’s survival – Chang Diaz’s study of plasma physics eventually led him to a career as a real astronaut and director of NASA’s Advanced Space Propulsion Laboratory.

    Summary

    Franklin Chang Díaz, the first Latin American to travel to space, ties the record for the highest number of space flights. This module traces Chang Diaz’s life and career from his boyhood in Costa Rica where he built his own mini rockets, to his emigration and studies of plasma physics in the US, through his career as an astronaut, and beyond. The module describes Chang Diaz’s work toward a plasma-based rocket engine that could radically change space travel, his ongoing crusade on behalf of the environment, and his induction into NASA’s Astronaut Hall of Fame.

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  • Luis E. Miramontes
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that one of the all-time top inventions of the last 2,000 years is considered to be the birth control pill? But before oral contraceptives were possible, it would be necessary to create a synthetic form of a female hormone. The compound that Mexican chemist Luis Miramontes created in a lab in 1951 was eight times more powerful than natural progesterone, leading to the first form of birth control that could be taken in pill form.

    Summary

    His name may not be familiar, but Mexican chemist Luis Miramontes was instrumental in a discovery that changed the course of human history: the birth control pill. This module traces the life and achievements of Miramontes, not only in the area of hormone synthesis, but in other areas of chemistry as well. Miramontes' advances in pharmaceuticals and petrochemistry are described, including his success in devising a chemical process to remove pollutants from engine exhaust.

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  • Luis Walter Alvarez
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that the scientist who is famous for his theory of how dinosaurs became extinct was not even a paleontologist? Rather, Luis Alvarez was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who explored dinosaur extinction only because his son was interested in it. Among his accomplishments, Alvarez discovered several subatomic particles, invented a radar system for safer aircraft landing, applied cosmic ray physics to the study of Egyptian pyramids, and developed a way to detonate atomic bombs during World War II.

    Summary

    Luis Alvarez is less famous for his Nobel prize-winning research into subatomic particles than for his theory on how dinosaurs became extinct. Yet, before he started looking into dinosaurs, Alvarez was credited with a lifetime of major advances in atomic physics. This module traces Alvarez’s application of physics to aircraft safety, Egyptian pyramids, K-electron capture, nuclear bombs, and the hydrogen bubble chamber which led to the discovery of many new subatomic particles.

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  • Percy Lavon Julian
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that when cortisone was discovered as a treatment for arthritis, it cost several times the price of gold? Only when scientists figured out how to synthesize cortisone in a laboratory was the cost reduced to pennies per treatment. One scientist credited with making arthritis relief affordable was Percy Lavon Julian, a grandson of former slaves who became a world-class organic chemist in spite of ongoing racial discrimination. His advances in chemistry have been used in treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, effects of chemical weapons, problem pregnancies, and in organ transplant drugs. Among his most impressive accomplishments, Julian made glaucoma treatment widely available by synthesizing a chemical compound to reduce pressure in the eye.

    Summary

    The module traces the life and career of organic chemist Percy Julian, who developed a way to synthesize cortisone in large quantities, earning him a place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The module relates Julian’s accomplishments and the numerous challenges that he overcame through unwavering perseverance in the face of racial barriers. From his upbringing in the Deep South where public schools stopped at the eighth grade for African American children, Julian went on to earn a PhD, was awarded over 130 patents, revolutionized glaucoma treatment, and became the second African American inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.

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  • Ruth Benerito
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that the application of basic chemistry saved the US cotton industry? At one time, the industry was in serious trouble because consumers thought cotton clothes needed too much ironing. Scientists worked to find ways to help cotton compete with the easy-care synthetic fabrics that had flooded the textile market. A major breakthrough came when chemist Ruth Benerito and her team discovered a process for treating cotton that kept it from wrinkling and made it popular again with consumers.

    Summary

    Wrinkle-resistant cotton is one of the most significant developments of the 20th century. In the midst of an economic and social climate that provided few opportunities for women in science, chemist Ruth Benerito developed a method of wrinkle-proofing cotton, which was being edged out of the clothing market by synthetic fabrics. This profile describes the life of the chemist who is often credited with saving the US cotton industry. It explains the cross-linking process that made “wash-and-wear” cotton fabric possible.

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  • Science Reading Guides

  • Bone Changes in Rock Climbers
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that reading a scientific article is a skill in itself? Having a list questions to guide your reading can be a great help in understanding scientific articles. Questions to accompany the article “Factors influencing osteological changes in the hands and fingers of rock climbers” will highlight critical aspects of the article as you gain an understanding of how scientists undertake research.

    Summary

    This reading guide provides access to a published, peer-reviewed scientific research article from the Journal of Anatomy. Questions to accompany the article help readers become familiar with the structure of a scientific journal article and ensure a critical approach to reading. Using the questions as a guide, readers gain a deeper understanding of how scientists undertake research. Links to relevant background modules are included.

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  • The Case of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
  • Did you know?

    Did you know that scientific journal articles follow a particular structure? Whether or not the basic parts are labeled with section headings, scientific articles include an Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, and Discussion. This reading guide will help you identify the parts of the article and focus on the authors’ main points as you learn about the “The Case of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.”

    Summary

    This reading guide provides access to a published, peer-reviewed scientific research article from the journal Science. Lists of questions and instructions that focus on the article’s format and content help readers see how research papers are organized and how scientists support their hypotheses with evidence.

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