How Genetic Mutations Cause — And Prevent — Disease

Stephen Crohn, an artist from New York, lost a lot to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. For more than a decade, he watched his boyfriend, Jerry Green, as well as nearly all of his friends slowly grow sicker and perish from this mysterious illness. His passion for his art dried up, and survivors’ guilt consumed him.

But the one thing he didn’t lose during this scourge was his own life. The reason he survived was not luck, however. Rather, he made it through because he carried a rare genetic mutation that made him virtually immune to HIV. Continue reading “How Genetic Mutations Cause — And Prevent — Disease”

Why Jet Lag Sucks: Your Body Clock and You

One weekend in early May, I endured one of the most confusing experiences in my life: a two-legged, 24-hour flight across 13 time zones. I took off from Chicago on Saturday evening, and 24 hours later, I arrived in Bali on Monday morning. In that 24 hour period, I ate two dinners and two breakfasts, while lunchtime didn’t exist. I couldn’t tell when I was supposed to be hungry or go to sleep, so I ate when food was placed in front of me and I tried to sleep when I got tired. Continue reading “Why Jet Lag Sucks: Your Body Clock and You”

The Reason Sugar Tastes So Darn Good

Sugar is everywhere. Kids crave it, pastry chefs live by it, and dieters avoid it like the plague. It comes naturally in our fruits, it’s added to our drinks, and it’s found in some form in virtually every packaged item at the grocery store. Some of us live by it, and for many of us, it does not love us back. But no matter what you say about it, sugar and its relatives are important for our health and well-being. Continue reading “The Reason Sugar Tastes So Darn Good”

How a Pile of Uranium Changed the World

On December 3rd, 1942,  under the stands at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, scientists produced a breakthrough that would change the course of history. There, on that day, physicist Enrico Fermi and his team from the university achieved the primary objective of the top secret Mahattan Project: they initiated the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction, bringing forth the dawn of the nuclear age.

Continue reading “How a Pile of Uranium Changed the World”

LSD and the Elephant

Humans are wonderful research subjects.  They can think pretty well, and they can speak, too. Our ability to speak is probably our most prized asset in research, as it is the only way scientists can find out directly how their research subjects are feeling.  For all the good that humans provide in research, however, researchers can only do so much with their brethren. It would be unreasonably risky or unethical to perform certain experiments on their fellow humans.  This is where animals come in. Continue reading “LSD and the Elephant”

Improving the Soybean, One Gene at a Time

Illinois is the United States’ top soybean-producing state. In 2014, Illinois farmers produced about 550,000 bushels of soybeans over almost 10 million acres – a swath of land almost the size of Switzerland!  But, with a global health crisis, a growing population, and a changing climate threatening our land, our state’s soybean crops are under threat.  Fortunately, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in partnership with several universities, is trying to find ways to increase the strength, nutritional value, and viability of our most valuable crops, including soybeans, so that they continue to prosper well into the future. Continue reading “Improving the Soybean, One Gene at a Time”