It’s almost impossible to overstate how many aspects of daily life are impacted by science. From technologies that help ensure the quality of the water we drink, to medicines that deliver lifesaving treatments – it’s all thanks to science. Each month, join Ron O’Brien, a science enthusiast from Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, as he talks to experts who are on the cutting-edge of redefining how we exist. This is Science with a Twist.
Behind the MoonArk: How a Team of Artists Embraced Science to Send a Time Capsule to the Moon
20:57⚡ The MoonArk is both conceptual art and a time capsule. Almost 15 years ago, the idea was to create a time capsule carrying fragments of the world as we know it today and send it to the moon to be discovered in the distant future. Today, the project has 60 members from 18 institutions and over 250 contributing designers, scientists, poets, musicians etc. Mark Baskinger, one of the first to get involved with the project, shares what it was like at the beginning. ''The MoonArk was a conceptual idea concocted by a few pioneering faculty members here, namely, Red Whitaker in the Robotics Institute and Lowry Burgess, former Dean of the College of Fine Arts. And their thought was that if Carnegie Mellon were to go to the moon, it can't just be the sciences and the technologies and that side of campus represented and that the arts would surely have something to contribute.'' ⚡ Working on MoonArk was creative and exciting but challenging. As our guests say, creating an object like the MoonArk goes beyond making it look nice. It has to be safe and resilient to different conditions. ''We wanted it to be beautiful and aesthetic. So we went about making it with no real knowledge of what it was going to take to get it there. So, when it was time to put the rubber on the road, we were like, 'Oh, my goodness. It has to go through all this different, rigorous testing,''' says Dylan.⚡ Many components are handmade. What makes the MoonArk astonishing is the amount of work, especially manual work, that’s been put into its creation. ''[...], a sculptor metal worker made quite a contribution to this project. It was amazing to visit and watch him do this under the monitor, zoomed in significantly — getting to see the intricacy of the work that was a part of it. But the biggest issue was whether those micro welds would be strong and consistent enough to be able to sustain the rigorous trip that the MoonArk was going to go through,'' explains Matt.
Uncovering the Past: How Jewish Holocaust victims were discovered at a death camp in Sobibór
19:31💡 DNA analysis enables the identification of missing persons. Asked about the impact of DNA analysis, Dr. Diepenbroek explains that such a method helps identify the victims regardless of time passed. Forensics uses the DNA from unknown remains and matches them with the DNA of missing persons’ relatives. Alongside her colleagues — including experts from the Institute of Legal Medicine in Innsbruck — Dr. Diepenbroek worked on several projects to identify the victims of World War II and totalitarian regimes. ''This means that we are not only able to look for very distant relatives but also learn a bit more about the history of the family and their bio-geographic origin, and using such information is especially crucial when working with cold cases or historical cases.'' 💡 Forensics can help answer questions regarding the history of humanity. Although the first association with forensics is solving crimes, Dr. Diepenbroek says forensic science can offer more. ''Yes, we solve crimes, but we can also solve missing persons cases — even if they are more than eight years old — because the power of forensic DNA analysis is that we can identify the victim despite how much time has passed.''💡 The joint work of forensics and other sciences is critical. As mentioned above, forensics helps illuminate particular historical events. The Sobibor Project is an example that proves the significance of such collaborations. "We had scientists from many different fields involved — specialists in archeology, history, anthropology, and forensics — and what we achieved together showed how all of the sciences, even if a bit distant, completed and helped each other. So the remains would never have been found if it was not for the archeological work carried out in the camp, but the truth about their identity would not have been discovered without DNA analysis."
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Virus Variants Explained: Why COVID-19 Variants Arise
29:28🎙 What are virus mutations, and what do they mean? Just like other viruses, COVID mutates all the time. Andy explains what mutation is, how it happens, and the importance of monitoring it."What we need to capture in these surveillance efforts is how these viruses are changing and how quickly they are changing. So you've heard of mutations, and they are a result of these changes in the viruses. They change the nucleic acid or the DNA sequence of the virus itself and that changes the infectivity or the severity of the disease itself. So we monitor these viruses to see how the DNA sequences are changing and whether these changes pose any more threat to the population in terms of infectivity or the severity of the disease."🎙 The uniqueness of COVID-19. Coronaviruses have been around for decades. But, COVID symptoms are considerably more severe than those of other coronavirus infections. Kamini shares her viewpoint on the uniqueness of COVID. "I think what is unique about COVID is just the level of population spread. It creates this reservoir for the virus to mutate much faster because initially, when COVID came out, we thought it mutated much slower than the influenza virus. But over time, we've seen it pick up speed and momentum, and it's changing more rapidly."🎙 Viruses mutate constantly. Mutations are a regular part of every virus's life cycle, but we need to monitor them to identify variants of concern. Andy explains, "The virus is evolving, and all viruses constantly evolve, and they spin up new variants. Whether those variants rise to what Kamini described as a variant of concern depends on exactly what changes happen in the DNA sequence. But variants of interest and other variants that have no effect on what we are concerned about — which is the health outcome of being infected — happen all the time."
COVID In the Air? How a new in-air pathogen surveillance solution was used in some Wisconsin schools to detect airborne coronavirus particles
32:06🎙️ The AerosolSense Sampler is an in-air pathogen monitoring solution. Miguel introduced the AerosolSense Sampler, a new technology that can be used in conjunction with other risk mitigation tools (masks, vaccines, testing) in the fight against COVID-19. It is designed to detect the presence of coronavirus and other airborne pathogens in the air in indoor spaces. ''So essentially, the way it works is that our tool, the AerosolSense unit, draws in air from the room it's in. And it can be deployed virtually anywhere. It'll run for 2 to 12 hours, that's what we would typically recommend. It'll create a sample, which is then analyzed via PCR. Just as you would analyze a sample for an individual to determine whether or not they are infected with the coronavirus.''🎙️ Renvo makes the entire process more effective. As Miguel explains, when they first launched the solution, they had to take the sample to a lab and wait for up to 24 hours for the results. However, Renvo, a rapid PCR test, was developed to speed up the entire process. ''It allows us to bring it into the same space as the AerosolSense unit to be able to offer an answer as to whether or not coronavirus is present within about 30 minutes. Equally as important is that the sample transfer and preparation is very safe because it's intended to be used by virtually anyone who has the ability to follow our very brief video-based training program and to do so in a way where they are not put at significant risk of contracting the virus.''🎙️ AerosolSense paired with other protective measures is the path to a safe school. Once they launched AerosolSense, a pilot project began involving schools. Michelle Jensen of Deerfield Community School District saw this as a fantastic opportunity to improve two-year-old mitigation strategies. At first, they only got negative results, but AerosolSense detected coronavirus in their school after three or four weeks. ''When we have a positive in the same week that we have a negative, it does tell me that people are doing the strategies that we asked. Parents are remembering to keep students home and going and getting tested as soon as possible,'' says Michelle.
Patient Perspectives: CAR-T Cell Therapy
22:25On this episode of Science With a Twist, Ron O’Brien interviews Matthew Moon, a CAR-T cell therapy recipient who was able to beat leukemia thanks to the advances in the field. Matthew and Ron discuss the timeline of health-related events that led to Matthew’s diagnosis and his unique journey to find a life-saving cell therapy clinical trial. After speaking with Matthew, Ron interviews Stephen Majors, Director of Public Affairs at the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. Stephen gives Ron an overview of the Alliance’s advocacy efforts to expand patient accessibility and their initiatives to fund cell therapy research.
Sustainability: What is it and why should we care?
13:37On this special Earth-Day episode of Science With a Twist, Ron O’Brien speaks with Emelia DeForce, Field Applications Scientist for Laboratory Plastics & Essentials at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Emelia and Ron chat about sustainability, what it means, and why we should all care about it.
COVID-19: Why We Need to Continue Testing
28:09Manoj Gandhi, Sr. Medical Director at Thermo Fisher Scientific, interviews Dr. Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. Manoj and Stephen address the doubts expressed by the general public regarding testing for COVID-19 and the need for continued testing even as vaccination rates continue to increase.
Breath Biopsy: Non-invasive analysis of biomarkers in early detection and precision medicine
16:41Billy Boyle, CEO of Owlstone Medical, sits down with Ron O'Brien to talk about breath biopsy. This technology provides an entirely new way to access this information by collecting and analyzing breath samples.
The Just Project: Facilitating the Safe Reopening of HBCUs
23:12Social and economic inequality has made minority communities more prone to contracting SARS-COV-2; the virus that causes COVID-19. One of those severely affected is the black community in the United States. On this episode of Science With a Twist, Fred Lowery, Senior Vice President and President of Life Sciences Solutions and Laboratory Products at Thermo Fisher Scientific, interviews Dr. James Hildreth, American immunologist and academic administrator. Fred and James discuss the “Just Project”, a multipronged effort to help address the coronavirus crisis, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color.
Twindemic: How the Seasonal Flu Collides with the COVID-19 Pandemic
22:11Ron O'Brien speaks with Dr. Stephen Young, an expert in Microbiology, with a background in pathology, virology, and infectious diseases. They discuss what we should know during the potential viral storm produced by the collision of the seasonal flu and the COVID-19 pandemic.