Tag Archives: Q&A

Channeling a Passion for Chemistry to Help Others

ACS CHEMMATTERS

Ask Brandon Presley about any twist and turn in his chemistry journey, and he’ll tell you about people: The high school teacher who gave him the courage to sink his teeth into chemistry; the family and friends who encouraged him; and the mentors and colleagues who gave him focus when he’d spread himself too thin. For Presley, that deep connection between chemistry and people motivates him every day.

Read the full story and Q&A in ACS ChemMatters (Printed in the April 2021 Issue)

If You Transplant a Human Head, Does Its Consciousness Follow?

WIRED

In her new book, Brandy Schillace recalls the unbelievable legacy of a Cold War era neurosurgeon’s mission to preserve the soul.

BRANDY SCHILLACE SOMETIMES writes fiction, but her new book is not that. Schillace, a medical historian, promises that her Cold War-era tale of a surgeon, neuroscientist, and father of 10 obsessed with transplanting heads is true from start to finish.

Schillace came across the story behind her book, Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcher, somewhat serendipitously: One day, her friend, Cleveland neurologist Michael DeGeorgia, called her to his office. He quietly slid a battered shoebox toward her, inviting her to open it. Schillace obliged, half-worried it might contain a brain. She pulled out a notebook—perhaps from the ‘50s or ‘60s, she says—and started to leaf through it.

“There’s all these strange little notes and stuff about mice and brains and brain slices, and these little flecks,” Schillace says. “I was like, ‘What … what are all these marks?’”

Probably blood, DeGeorgia told her. The blood-flecked notebook belonged to Robert White, a neurosurgeon who spent decades performing head transplants on monkeys, hoping to eventually use the procedure to give human brains new bodies.

Read the full story and Q&A in WIRED

The Coach Who Led the U.S. Math Team Back to the Top

QUANTA MAGAZINE

Po-Shen Loh has harnessed his competitive impulses and iconoclastic tendencies to reinvigorate the U.S. Math Olympiad program.

Po-Shen Loh has resurrected the United States International Mathematical Olympiad team, leading it to four first-place rankings in the last six years as the team’s head coach.

But in 2002, when a friend suggested Loh apply for an open position as a grader with the team, he hesitated. “I had never thought to apply before,” Loh said. “Not because I didn’t want to. But because I thought there are better people out there.”

He eventually agreed, and by the end of the team’s June 2002 training program, he’d made an impression. “Somehow I got voted best lecturer,” he said. In 2013 the Mathematical Association of America, which coordinates the team, asked Loh to become the head coach. He accepted, and two years later the U.S. achieved a top ranking in the IMO for the first time in 21 years.

Read the full story in Quanta Magazine

Chemist by Training, Explorer by Heart | Q&A with NASA Materials Chemist

ACS CHEMMATTERS MAGAZINE

Yajaira Sierra-Sastre is always looking for new worlds to explore. As a young girl growing up in Puerto Rico, she gazed at stars through a clear night sky. “My first passion was for anything related to astronomy and planets and stars and space,” she says. Sierra-Sastre fell in love with science during childhood, and went on to study chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez.“I could see chemistry all around me,” Sierra-Sastre says. After graduating, she started on a path to connect her studies with the real world in as many new ways as possible. “I had this desire of just going out on an adventure.”

In the 20 years since, she has used her degree to teach high school chemistry; earn a PhD making nanomaterials for space experiments; help create new types of textiles and batteries; spend months living in a Mars simulation; and oversee the research projects that keep printed money secure.

Read the full story and Q&A in ACS ChemMatters Magazine (Printed in February 2021 Issue)

Extreme Adventures and Saving the Planet | Q&A With a Sustainable Chemist

ACS CHEMMATTERS

Laura Hoch’s career began with a murder. Well, not a real murder—a murder-mystery game staged by her high school chemistry teachers in central Pennsylvania.

“There would be all these clues, and then you put together a forensic report based on all you’ve been able to find out by analyzing stuff,” she says. “It wasn’t on my radar to be a chemist, but I just had that memory of chemistry being really fun and interesting.”

Read the full story and Q&A in ACS ChemMatters Magazine (Printed in December 2020 Issue)

‘Symbiosis/Dysbiosis’ VR art installation will let you see, feel, hear the invisible

MASSIVE SCIENCE

Tosca Terán and Sara Lisa Vogl speak with Massive about stimulating senses in their art

Nature can feel you. Its roots, leaves, and vegetative filaments don’t sense with fingertips or retinas. But they can feel your approach and touch, react accordingly.

In a forthcoming art installation for the Goethe-Institut’s New Nature project, a group of artists want to translate these alien sensations and immerse you in their world. Their “Symbiosis/Dysbiosis” uses fungi, electrodes, lights, sound, and virtual reality to launch you in the microbiome all around you.

Read the full story and Q&A in Massive Science

A Slime Mold Can Change Its Mind

SCIENCE FRIDAY

From ant colonies to single-celled slime mold, biologist Audrey Dussutour explores the wonders of animal cognition.

Audrey Dussutour is not shy about admitting that her career, and fame, is a bit of an accident. The French specialist in animal behavior didn’t set out to make discoveries about slime minds, or to write a hugely popular book (Le Blob) about the single-celled learners. “It was not my wish to work on slime molds at all,” Dussutour told Massive, letting out a slow sigh. The first time she saw the organism, as a postdoctoral fellow in Australia, she thought, “My gosh it’s really disgusting. What can I do with this thing?”

Dussutour radiates an infectious passion for slime molds. “It’s one of the most interesting systems to study because it’s a single cell, but you can actually see it with your naked eye,” she says. Now a researcher at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, Dussutour studies how ant colonies and patches of slime molds — neither of which have a central brain — can make decisions with distributed intelligence and emergent plasticity.

Read the full story and Q&A at Science Friday or Massive Science

Anuses can have teeth, farts can be weapons, butts can be homes: an interview with a farts expert

MASSIVE SCIENCE

Zoologist and butt book author Dani Rabaiotti on the worst fart she ever smelled and what new fart research she’d like to see

You’re probably here for the same reason I am: because farts are amazing. A single pffff, poot, or squeak, can plug nostrils, crack smiles, and break tensions. I want to talk about farts.

Dani Rabaiotti is a zoologist based in London who wrote a best-selling book on farts in 2017 called Does it Fart? She and her co-author, ecologist Nick Caruso, along with illustrator Ethan Kocak, followed a trail of animal communication science that is criminally undercovered. In this Q&A, she shares her most memorable farts (a seal’s, not her’s), why cat farts are so bad, the unsolved mysteries of butt-borne defense tactics, and so much more.

Read the full story and Q&A in Massive Science