March 13, 2015 |
AS A YOUNGSTER growing up in King of Prussia with a fascination for science and math, Jayatri Das enjoyed spending time at the Franklin Institute. As with many Philadelphia-area students, walking through the giant heart made an impression on her. Today, Jayatri Das, Ph.D., is chief bioscientist at the institute, where she led the team that created the museum's largest exhibit, Your Brain, which opened last June. Tonight, Das will be among four women scientists to be spotlighted in the fifth annual "Color of Science" program at the Franklin Institute.
February 27, 2015 |
Snowy owls, with 5-foot wingspans and piercing yellow gazes, are a rare sight in this region, so far from their high Arctic realm. Last winter, however, the majestic birds showed up in numbers not seen in half a century. Birders declared it a once-in-a-lifetime event. Incredibly, it is happening again. The owls are back this winter, if not quite as abundantly. Their appearance over the last two years has sent researchers into a frenzy of data-gathering on a species that has given up little about where it goes, what it does, and why. During snowy owl "irruptions," unusually high numbers travel south for the coldest months, out of Canada and into the United States.
February 2, 2015 |
Light, or more precisely the lack of it, is literally one of the most depressing things about winter. In fact, each year, winter's gloom makes 1 percent to 5 percent of us so miserable we'd qualify for a diagnosis of major depression. Up to a quarter more of us just feel sluggish, sleepy, and unusually attracted to carbs. Normalcy returns with May's flowers. George Brainard's fascination with this phenomenon, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, has taken him from Earth to space and back again.
January 20, 2015 |
Evelyn Walker Armstrong, 87, of Jenkintown, an information scientist and philanthropist, died Saturday, Jan. 10, of multiple myeloma at her home in Rydal Park. Ms. Armstrong spent 43 years - from 1949 to 1992 - in scientific information services at the Merck Research Laboratories of Merck & Co. in West Point, Montgomery County, and in Rahway, N.J. As director of the Merck Literature Resources Center, she headed the design, development, and operation of eight information centers in research and operating divisions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
January 3, 2015 |
George "Peter" Wachtell, 91, of Voorhees, a scientist who worked for decades at the Franklin Institute, died Wednesday, Dec. 31, at Cooper University Hospital after a short illness. Dr. Wachtell, born in 1923 in the Bronx in New York City, was something of a child prodigy, said his daughter Janet Wachtell Hadler. At age 11, she said, he wrote to Albert Einstein challenging the scientist's theory of relativity. Dr. Wachtell graduated from high school at 15 and was accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but because of his age, he attended New York University for two years first, Hadler said.
January 1, 2015 |
When Jason Weckstein looks at a bird, he doesn't just see a creature with feathers that flies. He sees the bird as a habitat of related creatures, a teeming community of wee beasties, some of which live - and feast - on its feathers, others that roam more widely and engage in more general mayhem, including gorging on the bird's blood. When he talks about these nasty things, his eyes light up and he smiles with pleasure. "When I'm in the field," he said, "when I'm out bird-watching, I think, 'Boy, I'd love to get the parasites off that host.' " Weckstein, 43, is an expert on chewing lice - about 4,000 of them are known to live on birds - and this year left the Field Museum in Chicago to become associate curator of ornithology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.
December 27, 2014 |
With New Jersey's osprey population continuing to grow, state officials are turning to citizen observers and private groups for help monitoring a species considered an important indicator of environmental health. Researchers estimate there were 567 nesting pairs of ospreys in the state this year, according to a report released this week by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and a private nonprofit organization, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. The report was based on ground surveys conducted by staff and volunteers in June and July.
November 25, 2014 |
Peter H. Sellers, 84, of Philadelphia, one of the early pioneers of DNA research, died Saturday, Nov. 15, of cancer at home. Dr. Sellers was the ninth generation of Philadelphia's first family of scientists and engineers, according to D. Vitiello, writing in Engineering Philadelphia, published by Cornell University Press in 2014. Beginning in 1966, Dr. Sellers spent 48 years as a senior research scientist at Rockefeller University. The university called him "a brilliant and pioneering mathematician whose [work]
October 3, 2014 |
JUDY Spitzer suffered through two great upheavals in her life, one caused by human venality and the other by nature. As a teenager, she was caught up in the Holocaust, but managed through guts and ingenuity to escape the Nazis, who murdered her father and other family members. Then, 70 years later, Hurricane Katrina drove her and her husband out of New Orleans, where they were teaching at a medical school. Finally settling in the relative peace of the Philadelphia area, Judy could look back on a life of accomplishment realized in the toils of catastrophes that might have wrecked less fearless souls.
September 14, 2014 |
It's getting harder to find the line between science and science fiction. One of the hot research techniques these days, "optogenetics," uses gene therapy to deliver light-sensitive proteins to specific cells. Then researchers use light to control the cells. The field got its start in the brain, where scientists have demonstrated the technique by making contented mice fly into a rage - a remarkable, if slightly creepy, achievement. Brian Chow, a University of Pennsylvania bioengineer, has bigger ambitions than that.