The cancer cell next door

We know a lot about what can go wrong inside cells during disease. But what about the healthy bystanders?

Your body is a mosaic of cells, all squished together to form the tissues and organs that allow you to digest, think and breathe. The proper function of these organs depends entirely on the health and behavior of the individual cells that make them up, and disease occurs when cells don’t behave normally. For example, cancer is caused by cells that divide over and over again when they should not. But what happens to the innocent bystanders, the well-behaved cells next door to the troublemakers, during disease?

Continue reading “The cancer cell next door”

A day in the life of a dark matter scientist

This is a guest post by Eric Copenhaver, a Physics PhD student in Prof. Holger Müller’s lab at UC Berkeley. Follow him on Twitter @ecopenhaver.

If you walked into my atomic physics lab at the University of California Berkeley two weeks ago, you would have found me in a pensive pose. Left hand nestled inside my right elbow, right hand clasping my chin, with an intensely furrowed brow, I was staring off into space while leaning up against the counter. I spend a lot of time like this these days. I spend a lot of time in the dark. I mean that proverbially, but the lab I was standing in was also rather dimly lit to avoid disturbing my light-sensitive sample. I was standing in the shadow of my experiment, an SUV-sized mess of cables and lasers and mysterious boxes. There was a problem somewhere in there. The machine wasn’t working as it should — something in that morass of cables and sensors was different than it was the day before. And I had to find it.

Continue reading “A day in the life of a dark matter scientist”

A day in the life: Maya

A few days ago, I met a friend for a beer, and he asked me (as politely as possible) what scientists actually do on an average day. Ask and you shall receive! In a series called Day in the Life, we and our peers will share what we do to fill our time. Find them compiled here.

Here’s what I did today:

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How do biologists take a cellular census? Lasers.

This is the first in a series of posts describing techniques that scientists use regularly. Find more under the “Tools and Techniques” tab above. 

Tools and Techniques: FACS (Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting)

It’s 9am, and I am getting ready to play with lasers. (Yeah, occasionally I have to pinch myself as a reminder that this is a real-life job). Continue reading “How do biologists take a cellular census? Lasers.”