NEWS

Making chromosomes sparkle

Making Chromosomes Sparkle: NSF-Simons Center welcomes Irina Martynenko

October 14, 2019

Long before RAM, CDs, or vinyl were a twinkle in anyone’s eye, biology had already evolved the world’s most brilliant information storage system.

 “Take a single human cell. There’s a string 3 billion letters long that stores all the information your body needs to build, repair, and change itself over the course of a...

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Viral self-assembly

Viral Videos: Manoharan lab captures first images of viruses in action

October 9, 2019

Louis Pasteur remains a titan of biology and medicine. His insights into the microbial world saved countless lives that would otherwise have been lost to cholera, or to rabies, or to food poisoning. Yet Pasteur went to his grave a failure on one front: he couldn’t get his hands on rabies.

Pasteur successfully pioneered the rabies vaccine, painstakingly extracting saliva from rabid dogs, but he was never able to find the root cause...

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WoCP Williams

New Face of Physics: Women+ of Color Project launches at Harvard

October 4, 2019

Lanell Williams is only the third woman in Harvard history to pursue a Ph.D. in Physics. Yet future Dr. Williams is already making plans for four, five, and six.

This week, Williams hosted a 3-day workshop for women of color who want their own ground-breaking graduate degrees. For three days, the Physics Library in Jefferson Hall was home to 20 African American, Latinx, and Native American women who are trying to pursue their passion for physics and, in so doing, change history.

“I’m bringing these students here now,...

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Digital DNA

Disentangling DNA: NSF-Simons Center welcomes Zoe Piran

October 1, 2019

The human body is made of trillions of cells. Each cell contains the genome of that individual, a DNA string 3 billion letters long. Even if you could sequence every DNA base pair in every cell, would you be able to make sense of it?

Enter Zoe Piran, a PhD student in Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Piran has joined the NSF-Simons Center for Quantitative Biology to tackle exactly this problem.

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Gilpin

Secrets of Swimming Starfish: NSF-Simons Center welcomes William Gilpin

September 15, 2019

What do Neanderthal migration, cryptography, and the swimming strokes of baby starfish have in common? Answer: They are all fair game, as far as William Gilpin is concerned.

Gilpin is interested in dynamics and chaos in living systems. He previously earned degrees in Physics from Princeton and Stanford and is now a full-time member of Harvard’s NSF-Simons Center.

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Soaring bird

Taking Flight: NSF-Simons Center welcomes Gautam Reddy

September 1, 2019

We’d all love to soar like an eagle on occasion. Gautam Reddy figured out the math that makes it possible.

Soaring birds ‘cheat’ with some frequency. They find thermals – rising columns of air – which they can use to their advantage. By hopping from thermal to thermal, soaring birds can make the air work for them, pushing them high into the air without any flapping required.

Reddy spent his graduate career at UC San Diego working chiefly on this thermal soaring behavior of birds. He determined which variables can be used to efficiently find and harness thermals....

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Extavour

Digitize, Debunk, Discover: Extavour group overturns dogma of developmental biology

July 3, 2019

Eggs come in all sizes and shapes, depending on the species. Cassandra Extavour wants to understand why.

The professor of Organismic & Evolutionary biology and of Molecular & Cellular Biology at Harvard University has been fascinated by animal development since she was an undergraduate. In particular, Extavour has made major breakthroughs in the understanding of embryos and germ cells (eggs and sperm). But for many years, she was slightly isolated in her pursuit. Traditionally when biologists try to understand the evolution of egg cells, they have focused on a small...

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