Blissful Ignorance: How Environmental Activists Shut Down Molecular Biology Labs in High Schools

Posted 10 November 2015 by Jalees Rehman

Hearing about the HannoverGEN project made me feel envious and excited. Envious, because I wish my high school had offered the kind of hands-on molecular biology training provided to high school students in Hannover, the capital of the German state of Niedersachsen. Excited, because it reminded me of the joy I felt when I first isolated DNA and ran gels after restriction enzyme digests during my first year of university in Munich. I knew that many of the students at... Read more

Feel Our Pain: Empathy and Moral Behavior

Posted 14 October 2015 by Jalees Rehman

"It's empathy that makes us help other people. It's empathy that makes us moral." The economist Paul Zak casually makes this comment in his widely watched TED talk about the hormone oxytocin, which he dubs the "moral molecule". Zak quotes a number of behavioral studies to support his claim that oxytocin increases empathy and trust, which in turn increases moral behavior. If all humans regularly inhaled a few puffs of oxytocin through a nasal spray, we could become more compassionate and... Read more

The “Invisible Web” Undermines Health Information Privacy

Posted 29 July 2015 by Jalees Rehman

"The goal of privacy is not to protect some stable self from erosion but to create boundaries where this self can emerge, mutate, and stabilize. What matters here is the framework— or the procedure— rather than the outcome or the substance. Limits and constraints, in other words, can be productive— even if the entire conceit of "the Internet" suggests otherwise.          Evgeny Morozov in "To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism"   We cherish privacy in health matters... Read more

How Viruses Feign Death to Survive and Thrive

Posted 20 July 2015 by Jalees Rehman

Billions of cells die each day in the human body in a process called "apoptosis" or "programmed cell death". When cells encounter stress such as inflammation, toxins or pollutants, they initiate an internal repair program which gets rid of the damaged proteins and DNA molecules. But if the damage exceeds their capacity for repair then cells are forced to activate the apoptosis program. Apoptotic cells do not suddenly die and vanish, instead they execute a well-coordinated series of molecular and... Read more

The Long Shadow of Nazi Indoctrination: Persistence of Anti-Semitism in Germany

Posted 25 June 2015 by Jalees Rehman

Anti-Semitism and the holocaust are among the central themes in the modern German secondary school curriculum. During history lessons in middle school, we learned about anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews in Europe during the middle ages and early modernity. Our history curriculum in the ninth and tenth grades focused on the virulent growth of anti-Semitism in 20th century Europe, how Hitler and the Nazi party used anti-Semitism as a means to rally support and gain power, and how the Nazi... Read more

Funding Fever: Researchers Will Use Genome Editing to Increase Support for Science Among Politicians

Posted 12 June 2015 by Jalees Rehman

"If we achieve what we are working on, I will have a job forever." "We have reason to believe that there is a single gene that distinguishes those people who give funding for scientific research and those who do not give. When we find that gene, we are going to be able to introduce it into individuals and change them so that now they are going to become donors." "The question that really motivates my research is how can I... Read more

Murder Your Darling Hypotheses But Do Not Bury Them

Posted 28 April 2015 by Jalees Rehman

"Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings." Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944). On the Art of Writing. 1916   Murder your darlings. The British writer Sir Arthur Quiller Crouch shared this piece of writerly wisdom when he gave his inaugural lecture series at Cambridge, asking writers to consider deleting words, phrases or even paragraphs that are especially dear to them. The minute writers fall in... Read more

African-Americans Receive Heart Transplants at Hospitals With Poor Performance Track Records

Posted 31 March 2015 by Jalees Rehman

About five million people in the US suffer from heart failure, and approximately half of them die within five years of being diagnosed. Only about 2,500 people a year receive a heart transplant – the treatment of last resort. A new heart can be life-saving, but it is also life-changing. Even under the best conditions, the surgery is complex, and recovery carries a heavy physical and emotional burden. And not all heart transplant recipients fare equally well after the surgery.... Read more

STEM Education Promotes Critical Thinking and Creativity: A Response to Fareed Zakaria

Posted 30 March 2015 by Jalees Rehman

Fareed Zakaria recently wrote an article in the Washington Post lamenting the loss of liberal arts education in the United States. However, instead of making a case for balanced education, which integrates various forms of creativity and critical thinking promoted by STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and by a liberal arts education, Zakaria misrepresents STEM education as primarily teaching technical skills and also throws in a few cliches about Asians. You can read my response to his article at 3Quarksdaily.   ... Read more

“She’s strong for a girl”: The Negative Impact of Stereotypes About Women

Posted 8 March 2015 by Jalees Rehman

This is a guest blog post by Ulli Hain (Twitter: @ulli_hain, Email: hain.ulli[at] Ulli is a postdoctoral researcher in the field of autophagy and also a science writer/blogger. Her blog Bench and Beyond reports on interesting scientific studies and explores life as a scientist including issues of gender and science. We have all heard the stereotypes: women can’t drive, they don’t understand computers, and how many blondes does it take to screw in a light bulb? But those are all in good... Read more