Category Archives: Biology

The Other Genome: A Profile of Biology Prof Ben Carone

By Meagan Goldman ’16

Image at top: Professor Ben Carone with his students at this year’s biology thesis poster session. From left to right: Ronak Dave ’17, Emily Shea ’16, Ben Carone, Sierra McDonald ’16.

Ben Carone is a heretic. Part philosopher, part biologist, he stumbled as an undergraduate upon a branch of genetics that challenges one of biology’s most accepted dogmas. Once he found the field, there was no turning back. He used to think a lot about the meaning of life, he told me, but philosophy didn’t help him much with that. It was science – and belief in his research – that hooked him.

His blasphemy is this: Charles Darwin was wrong. At least, he was partly wrong. Across a bare desk in his basement office at Williams College, Carone explained to me that in the nineteenth century, two dueling theorists proposed their own versions of evolution. One was Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, the other Darwin.

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Kiki Landers on How She Fell in Love with Her Research

By Elizabeth Jacobsen ’16

Writing a thesis is a lot like being in a relationship. It requires time, dedication, and a spark that makes the effort worthwhile. Kiki Landers is working on her biology thesis with Dawn Carone, studying RNA and cancer. She is a bright, friendly people-person, yet she has devoted most of her year to studying microscopic cells in a windowless lab. I appropriated a few moments of her all-too-rare free time to ask her about the driving forces behind her thesis work. Here she shares the story of how she developed a passion for cancer research that will carry on in her post-graduate career and how she changed in the process—in short, the story of how she fell in love with her research. 

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Physics professor teams up with biologists to explore protein translation

By Meagan Goldman ’16

Two disciplines are better than one. That’s what Daniel Aalberts, Professor of Physics at Williams, has realized through his collaboration with biology researchers. His team, which in January published a paper in Nature, used a combination of wet lab techniques and statistical models to discover a mechanism that allows some proteins to be expressed at higher levels than others. Their findings have exciting implications for the enzyme manufacturing industry and for scientists who need to produce large quantities of proteins for their experiments.

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Batty About Bats: A Podcast by Elizabeth Jacobsen and Avital Lipkin

The ScientEphic is thrilled to present the first podcast in our new podcast series.

Bats. We often overlook or fear them, but they’re vital to our agriculture and their uniquely strong immune systems may have a lot to teach us.

Join Elizabeth Jacobsen ’16 and Avital Lipkin ’19 as they explore the many facets of bats, from the rabies-transmitting vampires of Peru to populations in New England threatened by White Nose Syndrome to the hardy bats of Alaska. Starring Professor Julie Blackwood, Alex Meyer ’16 and Sarah Cooperman ’17, whose cutting-edge research on bats contributes to our understanding of bat populations, disease spread, physiology and communication.

Batty About Bats Podcast Preview: White Nose Syndrome

The ScientEphic is thrilled to introduce a new podcast series. Today we’re presenting a preview of our first podcast, “Batty About Bats.”

By Elizabeth Jacobsen ’16 and Avital Lipkin ’19

This past weekend, many people enjoyed the traditional symbols of Halloween: pumpkins, costumes, and bats.  In honor of the occasion, we decided to take a closer look at bats.

In this preview, we talk to math professor Julie Blackwood and her thesis student, Alex Meyer, to learn about the little brown bat, which lives right here in the Berkshires. Blackwood and Meyer explain that a fungal disease called white nose syndrome is decimating bat populations in the northeast, and they discuss what the best course of action might be to stop its spread.

Look for our full podcast next week!

Batty About Bats Preview: White Nose Syndrome by The Scientephic on Mixcloud

Image Credit: Moriarty Marvin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Student Committee Builds Community Spirit Among Biology Majors

By Elizabeth Jacobsen ’16

It’s an exciting time to be a biology major.

This year the Biology Majors Advising Committee (BMAC) is redefining what it means to be a Biology major or prospective Biology major at Williams. BMAC hopes to build a unique sense of community among those interested in biology through an academic year of biology-related social events.

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Nancy Piatczyc’s Microscopic World

By Meagan Goldman ’16

This article was inspired by Art of Science, an initiative to gather and exhibit scientific images from students, faculty, and staff. For more information, visit the Art of Science site.

“It’s endlessly fun looking at these things,” says Nancy Piatczyc while enlarging a black and white image on her computer. As the image focuses, striations appear. Without context, it might be difficult to identify what it shows: a tiny fragment of wood magnified thousands of times by a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The wood is from a ship, likely British, that sank near the New York harbor around the time of the Revolutionary War. The SEM images will help biology professor Hank Art identify the wood from which the ship was built.

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Q&A: Matt Carter talks Grad School, Papers, and Effortless Perfection

By Meagan Goldman ‘16

Matt Carter’s contagious enthusiasm makes it easy to wake up for his 9 a.m. physiology class. Passionate about biology – and more specifically, neuroscience – Matt can make any lecture or discussion exciting. Last week, I sat down with him to learn about his personal experiences in the world of science. Here he divulges what he thought about neuroscience grad school and what it’s like to write a real scientific paper. Finally, he gives his opinion on the Williams myth of effortless perfection.

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Ask a Biology Student: What is Energy?

This post concludes the “Ask a Science Student” series. For previous responses, see chemistry, physics, and astronomy.

Ask a Science Student, Part 4: Biology

By Meagan Goldman ’16

Biology deals with energy on both a macro level – the cycling of energy through ecosystems – and a micro level – the energy required for biological processes. Energy in an ecosystem comes initially from the sun. Primary producers, plants and cyanobacteria, convert the sun’s electromagnetic energy into chemical energy, stored in the bonds of compounds like glucose and ATP. Energy is then passed to consumers and eventually, when organisms die, to decomposers.

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