Biological Sciences Magazine Articles




June 30, 2021

Writer:

Scott Huler

Slow-growing microbes in peat bogs in the lazy South break down organic matter much more slowly than their northern relatives, making them much better carbon sinks and more effective in preventing the release of greenhouse gases than their counterparts further north.

Illustration of Titi Shodiya and Zakaiya Whatley who host the Dope Labs podcast

June 28, 2021

Writer:

Barry Yeoman

When Titi Shodiya and Zakiya Whatley launched the science podcast Dope Labs, they started not by talking about science, but instead by telling the story of their friendship.

“Zakiya and I met in grad school,” Shodiya Ph.D. ’15, a materials scientist and engineer, told listeners. “It was a tough time, to say the least. And in our pursuit to get the hell out of there, we became cousins. You know how Black folks do. She’s my play cousin.”

June 28, 2021

Writer:

Scott Huler

At first, scheduling for COVID-19 vaccinations was tough, but even a month or so into it, chances are you waltzed through an organized, uncrowded, series of rooms in a hospital or medical center or drug store. It’s little short of a miracle. Half the population in the U.S. has had at least one dose of the vaccine, and though slowing, the numbers of the vaccinated continue to rise.

December 9, 2020

Writer:

Scott Huler

EVERYONE LOSES TIME to COVID-19. Martin Fischer lost most of a month to masks.

“I’m not getting anything done other than this,” says Fischer, associate research professor in the department of chemistry. “The last three weeks have been this, 100 percent.” By “this” he meant media availabilities, Zoom interviews, and various other responses to his attempt to help out as masks spread through the culture.

September 26, 2020

Writer:

Andy Read

It was the end of sophomore year in college, and I was looking for an interesting way to spend the summer and earn a little money. I stumbled across an ad for a summer job at the Ontario Science Center in Toronto that sounded fascinating—reconstructing the skeleton of a sixty-foot fin whale that had stranded the previous summer in Nova Scotia. I knew nothing about whales, but the concept of marine biology sounded pretty good to a kid who grew up in the middle of Canada.

Nobel winner Bill Kaelin, along Boston's Charles River

July 23, 2020

Writer:

Scott Huler

BILL KAELIN LIKES A PUZZLE.

Not a crossword, not a Sudoku. You won’t find Kaelin playing Words With Friends, and Board Game Night was never a staple in the Kaelin household. A puzzle demands concentration. It demands focus; it requires you to pay attention to one thing at a time.

Mark McClellan

July 22, 2020

Mark McClellan is the founding director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration

What does the fall season look like with the coronavirus? 

July 22, 2020

Writer:

Scott Huler

Duke has one surprising place to look for its quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic: the Ebola outbreak of 2014-15.

blue mask

March 4, 2020

Writer:

Robert Bliwise

This issue’s long-planned cover story follows one researcher’s fixation on developing an AIDS vaccine. We could not have planned for what’s become a fresh global fixation, on the coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. By late January, it had disrupted university-supported travel to China and had rejiggered the academic calendar at Duke Kunshan University.

February 26, 2020

Writer:

Barry Yeoman

When a Duke-led research team won a $300 million federal grant to help develop an AIDS vaccine in 2005, the global situation was looking grim.

Didn't read/Too long

November 19, 2019

Writer:

Scott Huler

ANIMALS AND MICROBES

A graphic of number as if in computer code

August 7, 2019

My boys have dark brown curls and mischievous smiles. They speak with clarity and confidence. They move with boundless energy but also with unexpected grace. They enjoy playing with their lovies, reading with their daddy, and dancing with me, their mommy. They were born in St. Louis, but their great-grandparents were born in Africa, Asia, and Europe. They are six and eight. They represent the best of America. And I am scared for their future.

May 14, 2019

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Among other things, February is known as a month in which we should consider matters of the heart. Which means, in a way, every month is February for Arun Sharma ’12.

September 30, 2014

Writer:

Louise Flynn

Billy Pizer, professor of public policy, economics, and environment, and his colleague Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, wanted to find a hands-on way to engage students with the issue of emissions regulation. The Bass Connections energy-theme courses, in which graduate students and undergrads work together in small interdisciplinary groups, seemed the ideal setting in which to launch a new research project on the topic.

September 29, 2014

When David Shiffman ’07 applied to Duke in 2002, he wrote his application essay about the first time he swam with sharks. The then-landlocked Shiffman, who grew up in Pittsburgh, included an anecdote about consoling his father before his dive into the deep with an eleven-foot tiger shark—“Don’t worry, Dad; they don’t usually eat people.”

September 26, 2014

December 26 marks the tenth anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters of all time—the Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated Indonesia’s Aceh province, killing some 160,000 people. Since 2005, Elizabeth Frankenberg, a professor of public policy, has led an Indonesia-based fieldwork project that has followed a group of 32,000 people (first interviewed, pre-tsunami, in 2004).

July 22, 2014

Writer:

Bridget Booher

From the outside, W. Steven Burke’s elegantly understated Greek Revival home and adjoining buildings—all designed by him—in the heart of the historic district in Hillsborough, North Carolina, offer no hint at the worlds and wonders inside. But cross the threshold and suddenly you’re surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of small buildings that occupy nearly every surface.

July 22, 2014

It’s a mid-April morning in Highland Park, a neighborhood just north of Richmond, Virginia, where historic Queen Anne-style homes the color of popsicles give way to boarded-up buildings along a slight Main Street.

July 18, 2014

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, at the age of thirty-five, I did not see my life pass before my eyes. I did not have black spots at the edge of my vision. Instead, I thought, “Oh, crap, what do I do now?”

July 18, 2014

Writer:

James Tulsky

“I’m going home. That’s it. I don’t want to hear anything else!”

Don Byrne enters the garden through one of four gates.

July 18, 2014

ON A MORNING in early 2006, Don Byrne walked through an overgrown field of grass. Alongside trudged his father, who, despite the early hour, carried a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey. At the highest point on the land, the two men paused. It was here that they wanted to drill the well. In a makeshift christening, they sprinkled the land with liquor.

April 29, 2014

The old saying goes, “Yawns are contagious,” but have you considered the biology behind it? While previous studies have suggested a connection between contagious yawning and empathy, new research from the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation finds that contagious yawning may decrease with age and is not strongly related to variables like empathy, tiredness, and energy levels.

The education of Ida Owens youtube thumbnail

April 29, 2014

In the spring of 1961, Ida Stephens Owens graduated summa cum laude from North Carolina College—now North Carolina Central University— with a major in biology. Just a few months earlier, Duke University’s board of trustees voted to integrate its graduate and professional schools. Owens came to the attention of Daniel C. Tosteson, then chair of the physiology department, who was recruiting accomplished students from black colleges to pursue advanced degrees in the sciences.

April 29, 2014

The study of the human body was intimately connected with art during the Renaissance era. From this visual culture emerged fugitive sheets, three-dimensional illustrations of human internal organs. Although widely disseminated from the 1530s until the late seventeenth century, fugitive sheets were typically printed as a single broad sheet rather than as part of a bound volume, explaining why so few exist today (hence the “fugitive” designation).

April 29, 2014

Having HIV testing close to one’s home makes in more likely that one will get tested. At the same time, HIV preferences vary greatly across individuals, according to new research conducted by Duke Global Health Institute faculty members. The findings could help inform how HIV-testing services are adapted and expanded across sub-Saharan Africa.

Samantha Emmert helps Victoria Thayer examine a deceased dolphin.

April 28, 2014

“The rolling sand dunes and gentle waves of Emerald Isle are so picturesque that I almost forget why I am here: to conduct a necropsy on a stranded bottlenose dolphin,” wrote Samantha Emmert from the Duke Marine Lab in early 2014. Emmert spent her junior year researching an outbreak of morbillivirus epizootic, a measles-like virus that has ravaged dolphin populations along the Atlantic Coast since last summer.

February 27, 2014

An Alumni Faculty Fellow, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Chancey Stillman Professor of practical ethics in the philosophy department and the Kenan Institute for Ethics. His current work explores moral psychology and brain science, uses of neuroscience in legal systems, and freedom and responsibility. He co-teaches a MOOC, “Think Again: How to Reason and Argue.”

February 27, 2014

Athletes who suffer from torn-cartilage injuries may soon be in luck. Mimicking the strength and suppleness of natural cartilage is tricky, but Duke researchers have developed a synthetic version that comes pretty close to the real thing.

Articular cartilage, the tissue between bones and joints, enables us to bend body parts like elbows, hips, and knees. But overuse or injury can lead to wear-and-tear on cartilage, making movement painful and difficult.

Vocal fry

February 18, 2014

Writer:

Scott Huler

By the time you finish reading this story you will have learned the following things: Men can hear fertility status in a woman’s voice—and they like it; a big, deep “me Tarzan” voice seems to help not just men but women succeed in politics and business; the pitch and tone of a CEO’s voice in a conference call may give you information about stock performance; women have it even tougher than you knew; and there may be evolutionary value in this whole “vocal fry” trend (think Kardashian end-of-s

Fossils

November 19, 2013

There’s an eerie elegance to the old bones of the Palaeopropithecus sloth lemur. Perhaps 8,000 years ago, the (then-living) lemur hung upside down in Madagascar. Nowadays, its skeleton rests like a hidden treasure at Duke’s Division of Fossil Primates on Broad Street, among more than 25,000 other fossils of the earliest primates and animals.

Kevin Schafer/Minden Pictures/Corbis

November 14, 2013

Writer:

Karl Leif Bates

Cloud-draped Marojejy National Park rises like a deep green island on a pastel sea of human disturbance. In each muddy quadrangle of rice paddy around the island’s feet, a single cow is staked out to graze and defecate. This rainforest preserve is a dwindling refuge of Madagascar’s native biodiversity, 80 percent of which exists nowhere else on Earth.

Women sunbathing on a beach

November 12, 2013

We’re all too familiar with the symptoms of prolonged exposure to UV rays. There’s the crimson skin, the itchiness, and of course, that overpowering feeling of lethargy. But what actually makes the skin hurt to the touch? A Duke researcher believes he has an answer for sunburned beachgoers: TRPV4.

November 12, 2013

Even Blake S. Wilson B.S.E.E. ’74 is in awe of the cochlear implant, and the electrical engineer is one of the core developers of the device. “Most of today’s implanted patients can understand everyday speech with hearing alone, without lip reading—many in noisy environments, some even on the telephone.

May 14, 2013

1. It really is a popularity contest: Rhesus macaques that have large, strong social networks tend to belong to families of similarly amiable macaques. Not only that, but playing nice with others tends to yield greater reproductive success. A corollary shows that the most aggressive monkeys have greater reproductive success—but so do the most passive monkeys. The loser? The monkey in the middle.

February 13, 2013

Birds do it. People do it. Now, Duke researchers are convinced that mice, too, can learn how to imitate songs to woo a mate. The surprising conclusion comes from a team of Duke neurobiologists who observed that male mice imitate the ultrasonic squeakings of other males. The researchers identified certain features in a mouse’s brain that are similar to the parts of the brain humans and birds use to learn vocalization, which suggests mice can pick up a tune.

Illuminating research: Duke professors Meng Chen, Nicolas Buchler, and Debra Brandon see the power of light in different ways. [Chris Hildreth]

August 8, 2012

During the dog days of summer, millions of us migrate to the nearest watering hole or beachfront property to have our fun in the sun. We may not realize it when we are lounging by the pool or bouncing a beach ball around, but those seemingly mindless activities actually fulfill a primeval pattern connecting all living things to the sun. The pull of this celestial orb is emotional, spiritual, and physical—commanding the reverence of ancient Greeks and modern-day students alike.

[Credit: Les Todd]

August 8, 2012

Growing up in Canton, Georgia, Ken Hoehn wasn’t exactly encouraged to study the science of evolution. “The community I grew up in was very Christian-conservative, so evolutionary theory was one of those forbidden fruits,” says Hoehn, who first was drawn to science by collecting insects as a boy. “But I was always curious about it.” 

Armaleo: Introducing students to the beauty and complexity of life’s diversity [Megan Morr]

August 8, 2012

Daniele Armaleo Ph.D. ’84 has been teaching molecular biology at Duke since 1975. Students now are not just exploring the microscopic components of life, but engaging with advancements in genetic engineering and genomics. Although the research frontiers of his field accelerate ever faster, the basics of teaching undergraduates have remained constant.

May 17, 2012

Writer:

Ashley Yeager

© Glenn Bartley/All Canada Photos/Corbis

April 1, 2012

When Don Young needed a biopsy to test for prostate cancer, he was ap- prehensive about the procedure. But he got some help from an unexpected source.

Johann Sebastian Bach.

April 1, 2012

The days after the September 11 terror attacks—a period of high stress and anxiety for most Americans—turned out to be a relief for at least one group.

Whales in Canada’s Bay of Fundy experienced less stress during the period after the attacks, when ship traffic came to a standstill, according to new research from the Nicholas School of the Environment. The research team relates the change to reduced noise from ships during the temporary lull.

April 1, 2012

Only a hardy few of Duke Magazine’s readers were around when the university hired its first campus barber or published its first yearbook. If you’re one of them, David Goldstein wants to talk to you.

January 31, 2012

 

Software developed for mine dectection may held doctors spot cancer cells.

January 31, 2012

Tropical birds, trees may not be adapting fast enough to climate change.