Happy (Belated) International Women’s Day

March 8 is International Women’s Day, in case you didn’t know. I didn’t…oops 🙂

Coincidently, Nathalia Gjersoe published a piece via The Guardian examining gender gaps in STEM. She touches on whether or not they are socially constructed (they are), whether or not girls are worse than boys at STEM subjects in school (they’re not), and more.

It’s safe to say that many factors are at play here…In any case, I will point out one undeniable truth of the matter. A disproportionate number of gals are capable of entering technical fields, but don’t.

Society has come a long way in the last few decades. We are now dying to know why so many women choose to abandon their STEM potentials.

Well, I can tell you why I didn’t.

I’ll preface this by acknowledging that I am relatively fortunate; my academic/professional environments have been, and still remain, largely gender-neutral. All the same, I would be lying if I said gender disparity and “social belongingness” never cross my mind as a woman, a part-time engineering student, and a part-time engineer.

My upbringing renders such thoughts irrelevant. Before I could even form memories, I was told I could do or be anything if I work hard. My dad spoke as though it is probable, not possible, for me to earn the same positions and salaries that he does as a highly-specialized software consultant.

And so I was bulletproof. No child, adult, teacher, professor, peer, male or otherwise could make me doubt my sense of belonging in a male-dominated field. Not little Josh in 5th grade, who was genuinely confused when I showed up to math league tryouts because I “like makeup and pocketbooks too much.” Nor Spence in college, who suggested I was being sensitive when I felt patronized by an administrator.

I’d like to hear from other ladies in STEM: Why didn’t you abandon your STEM potential?

Entrepreneur Jason Kelly Loves GMOs


He says it here. And here.

Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks, shows unwavering support for an arena that often garners negative attention.

What are GMOs again?

An organism can be programmed to do something it wouldn’t normally do. This can be peculiar – for example, a mouse that fluoresces flamingly in the dark. But more often, we do this for practicality. For non-browning apples. For tomatoes that seem to stay fresh indefinitely.

It involves “borrowing” a desired trait from one organism and introducing said trait into another via transfer of DNA. GMOs refer to the genetically modified organisms themselves (i.e. plants, animals, micro-organisms). They take on forms and functions that would not exist in nature otherwise.

Natural ≠ Best

Today, Ginkgo Bioworks is expanding the level of automation that occurs in genetic modification to connect its clients with the very best engineered organisms. “Biology is the most advanced manufacturing technology on the planet,” says Ginkgo. One application of automated organism engineering is in the discovery of optimal strains for industrial fermentation processes.

GMOs were an early source of inspiration for Kelly, who grew up watching his father struggle with the side effects of natural pig insulin. “Biological engineers had transferred human DNA-encoding insulin into bacteria, and that meant my dad could get the real thing and no longer had to make do with insulin from animals,” he recounted in a New York Times op-ed.

It is no surprise, then, that Kelly has established himself as a thought leader on the merits of genetic engineering in commercial and consumer spaces. After all, his company balances GMOs by the billions with connotations of social/environmental consciousness and coolness on a daily basis. Instead, he redirects the conversation to transparency, adding “clear, informative labeling is a first step toward transparency that can build trust and educate consumers.”

Medical Device Tax Delayed For Two More Years


Good news for medical devices sold in America over the next two years: Excise tax will remain un-imposed. This refers to a 2.3% tax enacted in 2010 to offset Affordable Care Act costs. Delayed a first time in 2015, this second delay saves medical device companies an estimated $3.75 billion between now and January 1, 2020, fostering innovation and protecting consumers from increased insurance expenditures. Right on time, too, as taxes were to resume imminently. STAT correspondent Erin Mershon talks about this here.

Three-Photon Imaging of Atherosclerosis

The inside of an aorta studded with atherosclerotic lesions (raw image provided by CDC/ Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr. via PHIL)

The BMES blog posted recently about using multiphoton microscopy to study atherosclerosis, happening now at Cornell University. If you’re not familiar with atherosclerosis, you should be. It refers to the narrowing of arteries due to plaque buildup, and it will probably affect you or someone you love at some point.

This isn’t meant to frighten you; almost everyone over 60 has it to some extent, often without realizing. So when does atherosclerosis become critical?  Heart disease is the short answer, my friends, the leading cause of death across developing and developed countries alike. Heart disease is pretty damn scary.

Continue reading “Three-Photon Imaging of Atherosclerosis”