Outbreak Abroad: Kerry Sheridan, AFP

Posted 26 October 2014 by Nsikan Akpan

Wire services ride the front edge of breaking news. Health and science reporter Kerry Sheridan explains how Agence France Presse or AFP tracks the Ebola outbreak with lightning speed. Prior episodes of Outbreak Abroad   Q&A Sheridan began working for AFP or the Agence France Presse about 10 years ago. The newswire is one of the largest in the world -- 200 bureaus cover 150 countries. Sheridan’s first assignment landed her in Cyprus, as a foreign correspondent in their Middle... Read more

Outbreak Abroad: Jennifer Yang, Toronto Star

Posted 18 October 2014 by Nsikan Akpan

Jennifer Yang of the Toronto Star donned protective gear while she reported from Sierra Leone in August.

“It was a mixture of being totally inspired and totally devastated.” “I've covered a lot of crimes and deaths, and nothing has really moved me to the point of this.” “Everyone involved with Ebola research is fully engaged or in the field, and very hard to access or too busy to talk, so it's been one of the more challenging stories to cover for sure.” Welcome to the first installment of Outbreak Abroad. During this #OpenSciLogs series, we’ll explore how... Read more

Measles Pop Quiz: Social Media Edition

Posted 13 April 2014 by Nsikan Akpan

Let’s try something new. I predicted that my story on a ‘Measles Outbreak Traced to a Fully Vaccinated Patient for First Time’ would generate a cloud of comments on Facebook (Science Magazine + ScienceNOW). Like a storm offshore, I saw it coming. So I posed extra questions to my sources that could cover the eventual deluge. So here is a true-or-false pop quiz on measles based on reader comments and answered by the extra reporting that couldn’t fit into a... Read more

Baby Seals, Stress, and Fragile Hearts – The Extended Edition

Posted 21 December 2013 by Nsikan Akpan

Back in November, I wrote this ScienceShot about a stress-related heart condition discovered in seals for the first time. Given baby seals are always topical (I mean look at them !!) and given some misunderstood the point, you can find the reporting/images that didn’t fit into the 150-word bulletin pasted below.  ##### "Relax or you’ll have a heart attack" applies not only to stressed people, but to baby fur seals as well. Wildlife veterinarians working on Chile’s remote Guafo Island uncovered... Read more

A ‘Kill Switch’ For H7N9 and H5N1 ‘Gain-Of Function’ Influenza Viruses

Posted 11 August 2013 by Nsikan Akpan

 A report in Nature Biotechnology highlights a simple way to control gain-of-function flu viruses. Days after the controversial announcement that scientists want to conduct “gain-of-function” H7N9 influenza research, which may create more potent strains of the virus, researchers from Mount Sinai offer a clever solution that could keep these lab-enhanced “Frankenstein” germs from causing disease in human cells. GOF, The Sequel Two years ago, Ron Fouchier – a virologist at Erasmus MC – shocked the scientific community by announcing his lab... Read more

Using Subway Cards To Track Infections…Or Why I’m Always Thinking About Breaking The Law.

Posted 5 August 2013 by Nsikan Akpan

If you’ve ever been a fan of Sherlock Holmes or obsessed with the TV show Law and Order – I’m guilty on both counts – then this thought has probably flashed thru your mind: Exactly how hard would it be for me to get away with a crime?   Now before you rush to call an FBI tipline, I should point out that I’m morally incapable of such a thing. (I once took a bag of chips from my college’s... Read more

Diamonds Are For…Finding Stem Cells

Posted 4 August 2013 by Nsikan Akpan

Taiwanese research lab uses tiny diamonds to track stem cell transplants in mice. Stem cells are slated to become the stars of regenerative medicine, with nearly 2,000 clinical trials currently open for business. It’s simple enough, in concept, to toss some stem cells into a damaged body part and hope for the best (See: the auspicious NeuralStem ALS trial or Family Guy for examples). But without a method to track how many cells actually survive the implant process, quantifying the... Read more

Standing Idly By

Posted 19 May 2013 by Nsikan Akpan

Two stories of waiting. Does this ever happen to you? You read a story, and it just sticks with you. Over the past 2 weeks, I felt like I was repeatedly playing that Portlandian game “did you read…?” with the following: Story 1: ‘Babies-in-waiting’ First up is a brutally honest essay from the Wall Street Journal by a woman who flipped the script on societal / self-inflicted pressures to settle down and opted to cryopreserve her eggs in her late-30s.... Read more

Darwin’s Madness

Posted 4 May 2013 by Nsikan Akpan

A historical investigation into the mysterious disease that haunted the famous evolutionary biologist. Week number 1 at the new job is complete, and I’m exhausted! I’ve written more pieces this week than I have in the past year, which led one of my buds to remark, “you are knocking these back at a crazy pace.” Too true, my friend. Too true. Some were good and others…well, ‘Lindsay Lohan’ counts as a health topic in her own special way, am I... Read more

The Sounds of Learning

Posted 4 March 2013 by Nsikan Akpan

How to use sound to beat illiteracy and age-related memory deficits. It’s debatable whether I would have graduated from college without The White Stripes. My study prep for every exam was accompanied by one of their tracks, played mercilessly on repeat. The song ‘Seven Nation Army’ is a perfect example. As it opened with its thumping, militaristic chords, I would drum on my desk, and my mind would automatically lock into whatever I was reading. While it’s easy to regard... Read more