BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: #stem

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist who popularized science with his books and frequent appearances on radio and television. His greatest contribution to science has not been his research; but rather, his ability to foster an interest in science for all kinds of people.

Born in the Bronx in 1958, Tyson was a talented and passionate student. He became fascinated with astronomy, which notable astrophysicist Carl Sagan as his role model. He received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Columbia University in 1989. However, he says that his path towards astrophysics was plagued with societal pressures that almost prevented him from pursuing his career multiple times.

Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium, a published author, radio show host, tv show host, and social media influencer. He has revolutionized how people learn about science. He has worked to create easy and digestible forms in which science can be taught to the average person. He has done this through the Startalks radio show. He has also utilized television with his show Cosmos, where he explains astronomical phenomena through advanced computer-generated imagery. Recently, he has been active on TikTok, where he can be found answering science-related questions that are given to him by fans.

Cosmos spacetime odyssey titlecard.jpgThe title card for Cosmos, starring Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson comes from an African American and Latino background, but refuses to speak on anything regarding his race. Regarding race, he said in a 2014 interview, “I don’t give talks on it. I don’t even give Black History Month talks. I decline every single one of them. In fact, since 1993, I’ve declined every interview that has my being Black as a premise of the interview.” This is because he does not want his success conflated with the fact he is a minority. He claims that race should have nothing to do with his career because he wants people to know him for his knowledge of astrophysics and not his skin color.

Bill Nye takes a selfie with Barack Obama and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

 

Neil DeGrasse Tyson: An Unlikely Astrophysicist

 

Neil DeGrasse Tyson (pictured to the left) is an American astrophysicist who is commonly referred to as a modern popularizer of science. His books, podcasts, and shows have introduced generations to the wonders of science and the cosmos.

 

 

Background:

Neil Degrasse Tyson was born on October 5th, 1958, in Manhattan, New York. Dr. Tyson discovered his affinity for space after looking at the moon through binoculars at a young age. When he was 9, he visited the Hayden Planetarium and had his first in-depth experience with the starry sky. However, as he was growing up, Dr. Tyson often said “being smart is not on the list of things that gets you respect.” It was very unusual for an African-American to be interested in anything STEM-related at the time. He recalled that “African-American boys were expected to be athletes, not scholars.”

Accomplishments:

Despite a lack of African American representation in his field, Dr. Tyson continued to chase his dreams. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and earned a BA in physics from Harvard. He continued on to earn a Master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and he eventually earned his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Columbia University. Dr. Tyson worked as an astrophysicist and research scientist at Princeton University and a columnist for StarDate magazine. In 1966, he became the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium and even founded the department of astrophysics at the museum. In 2001, Dr. Tyson became a member of the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. He served as part of President Bush’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy two years later. NASA awarded Dr. Tyson with their esteemed Public Service Medal, the highest honor NASA awards to civilians, and The International Astronomical Union even officially named the asteroid “13123 Tyson” after him. Arguably as impressive, (and my personal favorite of his accomplishments), Dr. Tyson was voted “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” by People Magazine in 2000.

Entertainment Career:

Dr. Tyson is praised for his ability to translate confusing topics (like astrophysics) into simpler terms and ideas that the average person can comprehend. Some of his most popular books are: One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos, Just Visiting This Planet, Death by Black Hole, and Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. From 2006 to 2011, he was the host of the TV series NOVA ScienceNOW and became the host of the weekly radio show StarTalk in 2009. In 2014, Dr. Tyson hosted the very popular series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which was (in his own words) a “continuation” of astronomer Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series in 1980. Dr. Tyson’s Cosmos series is one of the most engaging and interesting shows I have personally watched. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is even slightly interested in space.

Challenges:

As Dr. Tyson has stated himself, “There are very, very few African-American astrophysics PhDs.” While following his personal dreams, he was “doing something people of [his] skin color were not supposed to do.” Neil DeGrasse Tyson, as an astrophysicist, is only one example of the many underrepresented groups of American-Americans in STEM; however, astrophysicists specifically are severely underrepresented. Astrophysicist J.C. Holbrook conducted a study in which she discovered that “since 1955, only forty African-Americans have earned doctorates in astronomy or physics doing an astronomy dissertation. This means they comprise at most 2.47% of PhDs in astronomy. Out of 594 faculty at top 40 astronomy programs, 6 are African-American (1%).” Despite these low numbers, Neil DeGrasse Tyson has taken a step in the STEM field that will hopefully inspire others of minority groups to follow.

Neil Degrasse Tyson has also weighed in on current civil rights issues. In Dr. Tyson’s “Reflections on the Color of My Skin,” he addresses the racial unrest in America in 2020. He tells stories of his colleagues and himself being pulled over, questioned, and followed seemingly for no reason, yet instead of simply stating what is wrong, he offers a list of solutions to the issues facing America today. The first three points argue to “extend police academies to include months of cultural awareness and sensitivity training that also includes how not to use lethal force, test [police officers] for any implicit bias they carry, with established thresholds of acceptance and rejection from the police academy, and during protests, protect property. Protect lives. If you attack nonviolent protesters you are being un-American. And we wouldn’t need draconian curfews if police arrested looters instead of protesters.” Use the hyperlink to see the rest of Dr. Tyson’s well-thought-out suggestions. Dr. Tyson continues to teach the world about science while inspiring others to follow in his footsteps.

Stem Cells…Key to Youth and Controversy

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be young forever? With the help of stem cells, this is possible. Stem cells can regenerate skin tissues and can also be used to treat diseases. However, something as enticing as living forever has its controversies. There are two types of stem cells: embryonic (ES) and adult (iPS); the embryonic stem cells are the controversial type.

Embryonic Stem Cell

Embryonic Stem Cell

The only way to effectively use the embryonic stem cell is to kill a four to six day old embryo. Some people view this act as killing a baby, which sparks ethical arguments about whether or not to utilize embryonic stem cells. To avoid this controversy, scientists have been trying to use stem cells from iPS cells instead of ES cells, but they questioned the power of iPS cells compared to the ES ones.

Because genes may differ in the iPS cells from the its source, the ES cells, there is a possibility that these two cells do not have the same capability. One scientist notes that the source of iPS and ES cells differ, which can lead to differences in gene activity. The ES cells are derived from embryos, which are not completely identical to iPS adult cells.  However, recent scientific research shows that these two types of stem cells have more equal capabilities than scientists’ initially thought.

Scientists conducted an experiment to compare the genetic makeup between the ES and iPS cell. They manipulated the male type of each cell, which eventually allowed the ES cell to transform into the iPS cell. They concluded that the iPS cells genetically matched the ES cells’ parents, and that the iPS cells had more similarities with the ES cells than iPS cells had to each other.

Even though these two experimental cells genetically matched, the two cells were not identical. The experiment showed 49 genes that differed between the two stem cells. Because of this difference, scientists needed to see if this affected the functional capability of the cells. The researchers conducted another experiment that analyzed 2 of the 49 genes. One helps take in glucose, while the other helps break it down. Even though these two genes were more active in the ES cell than the iPS cell, they were equally efficient at their respective jobs. The scientists concluded that these two specific cells were functionally equivalent.

The many experiments that have been conducted on the topic of stem cells contribute to the increase in research for more ways to utilize stem cells, without the ethical controversy. Scientists are starting to employ different technological devices, such as 3-D printers to help develop and build stem cells. This ability to fabricate cells using technology overcomes previous obstacles of limited stem cell resources.

– Source Article

– More fun facts about stem cells here

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar