Monday, September 28, 2009

The use of visual communication

In my opening post I briefly discussed the importance of science communication. As it is important for a variety of reasons, it must also be effective. Effective science communication can be measured in part by accuracy, the quantity of people reached, the amount understood and retained by the viewer/listener, and the level of intrigue raised by the communication piece. A primary effective means of communicating science that has recently arisen in both the classroom as well as the public is the use of film and video. For example, the recent, popular, films March of the Penguins and Earth have incited a new level of intrigue among thousands of Americans regarding the natural processes of the earth in which we live. Dr. Randy Olson, a film-maker and biologist, understood the effectiveness of film in science communication when he wrote & directed a number of independent short films regarding biological processes, as well as a full-length documentary regarding the Evolution Vs. Intelligent Design controversy. This short film, concerning barnacle mating, was shown in a biology class I took during the Spring of 2007. Highly effective, everyone in my class enjoyed viewing this video and, of course, remembered what they saw and learned. During the Spring 2009, I was studying marine biology in Costa Rica. While on a field trip in Guanacaste, a classmate and I were exploring the beaches and found some barnacles on a rock.
I immediately recognized the organism from the video I had watched in class 2 years prior, and recalled the interesting facts I had learned about barnacles and their copulating powers. Here is another video by the same film-maker which I also find to be very effective. It is funny, educational, and easily remembered.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the future? the FUTURE!.... oh dear

The topic I have been avoiding for weeks....Today my room-mates and I were looking up graduate schools for our respective programs... and this was what i found... from the US News World Report, a list of 7 top universities (and a couple thrown in between), a list of 7 highly competitive (relatively unattainable) institutions, and nothing else-- the article did not give a list of any other, following, less-competitive schools thereafter. Other programs (i.e. higher education) listed scores or even 100s of universities, but not this one. Slightly discouraged, I decided, "no more lists or references, no more 'grad school search engines.' I am going to find graduate programs 'my' way (or the way my advisor told me to, rather)." So I Googled and Binged for hours. With the sounds of The Sound of Music dvd in the background this is what I compiled thus far:

Albany College of Medicine – Graduate Studies MS or PhD in Immunology & Microbial Disease Application deadline for Fall enrollment: 15 November?

Penn State – The Huck Institutes of Life Sciences MS or PhD in Immunology and Infectious Diseases Application deadline for Fall enrollment: 1 December

University of Rochester – School of Medicine and Dentistry PhD in Microbiology, Immunology & Virology Application deadline for Fall enrollment: 1 January

Washington State University – College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology MS or PhD in Immunology and Infectious Diseases Application deadline for Fall enrollment: 10 January

George Washington University MS, MPH, PhD in Epidemiology MPH, MPH/Masters Peace Corps, PhD in Global Health MPH in Global Health Epidemiology MS in Public Health Microbiology and Emerging Infectious Disease Application deadline for Doctoral program, Fall enrollment: 15 January University of Wisconsin – Madison MS or PhD in Medical Microbiology and Immunology Application Deadline for Fall enrollment: 15 January

Indiana University – School of Medicine Dept of Microbiology and Immunology Interdisciplinary Program: MS? or PhD in Immunology and Infectious Disease Application deadline for Fall enrollment: 15 January

University of Virginia – Health System PhD in Microbiology, Immunology, & Infectious Disease Application deadline for Fall enrollment: 15 January

University of Arizona – College of Medicine MS or PhD in Microbiology & Pathobiology Application deadline for Fall enrollment: 1 April

University at Albany – School of Public Health MS, MPH, Dr.PH, PhD in Epidemiology & Biostatistics Application deadline for FA enrollment: 30 May

I am sure this list will be cut short as I look into their admission requirements (....blasted physics), and expanded as I continue to look for more. Thus the pursuit continues, or begins rather...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Plague, among other things

"Ring around the rosy

A pocket full of posies

Ashes, ashes

We all fall down!"

At the end of each parent & pre-school swim class we sing one of the little swimmers' favorite songs. The familiar sounds of their laughter as they, cradled in their parents' arms, splash the water, allow us to end the song without ever even considering its origin. This classic nursery song appears to have been around forever, yet children still sing it today. Have you ever wondered about the meaning behind the classic, playground, nursery rhyme?

“Ring around the rosy” was adapted from another children’s song, to describe the early outbreaks of the bubonic plague, amidst the rise of its spread. During the late 1800s countless children, men and women acquired a then-terminal illness characterized by ringed, red blisters and boils. The Plague was found to be caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis. The disease, carried among rats, was transmitted to humans through fleas. This was the same pathogen that gave rise to the Great Plague of London during the 17th Century.

The Plague is not the only infectious disease that comes to mind when considering zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people). Do you remember the SARS outbreak in 2002-03? Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome, caused by SARS coronavirus, spread across China faster than a “he-said, she-said” thriller across a junior-high locker room. Despite its rapid rise and the world-wide use of commercial transportation, a global pandemic was quickly prevented through communication and collaboration. Without governmental cooperation and the collaboration of labs around the world, the virus and its source would not have been identified nearly as quickly as it was. Communication to the general public was key in preventing the further spread of infection.

More recently, the influenza H1N1 virus(aka: "swine" flu) has become a topic of concern among the general public. While the Western world wages this battle against the rise of pandemic, we see how once again effective communication and educating the general public is crucial to preventing further disease spread. The focus of this blog is on emerging infectious diseases, the importance of effective science communication, as well as other assorted topics. This blog is intended to bring attention to assorted topics in medical microbiology for those interested in infectious diseases, both a part of the scientific community as well as the general public.