Paying it Forward: Pour a Pint at Work With the American Red Cross

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had several people close to me- friends and family, that have fallen ill, had surgery or car accidents and needed blood transfusions to stay alive. The reason my friends and family were able to overcome those situations was plain and simple: other people took time out of their busy schedules to donate blood. Your body holds about 10 pints of blood, and the typical donation is one pint. Your body will replenish the lost blood in about two months. If you give only one hour of your time every 56 days, your donation can save up to three lives!

If you choose to donate, Red Cross staff will collect personal information like your name and social security number. You will be asked to answer a series of questions about your health and lifestyle to determine if you are eligible to donate. Collection of information is done in private and is kept highly confidential. Once your blood is collected, there is no personal information on the label. Your blood will be screened to ensure safety and will be labeled with a tracking number that can be used only if you need to be contacted regarding test results.

What if you don’t qualify to give blood? After all, only 38% of the population is eligible to give blood.  You may have travelled or gotten a tattoo and been deferred from donation for a year.  Maybe you have an illness or engaged in risky behavior that prevents you from donating.  Maybe you just hate needles. You can still help! The Red Cross always needs volunteers to help coordinate drives or to serve refreshments to donors after they have finished. If you’re not sure if you should give blood, you can find the information on the Red Cross website, call and speak to a Red Cross representative, or ask one of the nurses at a blood drive.

At Promega, we have quarterly drives organized faithfully by the women we call “The Marys.” Mary Doers, Mary Sobol, and Mary Upshaw have been coordinating these drives for years.  Mary S. and Mary U. share their thoughts. Continue reading

A Periodic Table with Heart

It seems that there is no subject immune to organization into a periodic table. A brief Google search reveals periodic tables for everything from beer to typefaces and from art to visualization methods. If a subject can be organized into groups with common properties, or even if it cannot, it appears that it can be made to fit the format.

In amongst all the geeky, funny and just plain weird periodic tables, the old familiar one is undergoing something of resurgence as well. For example, there are several interactive periodic tables for the iPad where you can view any number of characteristics of each element with a tap of the finger, it is now easier than ever to find out everything you will ever need to know about Barium, Potassium, or Neon, to name but a few.

But for me (and a few million other YouTube visitors) one periodic table stands head and shoulders above them all—The Periodic Table of Videos, produced by journalist Brady Haran, Prof. Martyn Poliakoff and others at the University of Nottingham. As the name suggests, this periodic table contains videos introducing each element, demonstrating the properties of each and including interesting anecdotes about their discovery or use. In a recent Science article, Haran and Poliakoff state that all 118 videos were shot over a 5-week period. There were no storyboards or scripts, they simply filmed the scientists talking about each element and demonstrating the important characteristics. The result of this approach is astonishingly engaging. And the informal style is highly successful in communicating the passion and enthusiasm of Dr. Poliakoff and his colleagues for their subject. Try to watch this Sodium video to the end without smiling—-I don’t think it can be done. Continue reading

Paying it Forward: A Promega Employee’s Experience With the American Chemical Society

bharatACSIf you are a scientist you know the American Chemical Society (ACS) for their high quality journals (all 39 of them) and for their annual meetings and conferences. But did you know the ACS also focuses on community education and outreach? The ACS mission is “Improving people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry.” According to their website, ACS has 189 local chapters at colleges and universities around the country. Bharat Mankani (in the white coat in the photo) tells us about his work with the ACS chapter at Texas A&M.

1. How long have you worked here at Promega and what do you do? Continue reading

Paying it Forward: A Promega Employee’s Experience with the Dane County Humane Society

cats_cats_catsPromega employees earn their living researching, marketing, manufacturing, writing, teaching, shipping, and designing. What do they do when they are off the clock? For the next few months, I will post interviews with my coworkers describing how they give back to their communities in their spare time. This month, Nadine Nassif describes her work with the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) and their groundbreaking ringworm treatment. The photo on the left shows Nadine keeping some cats company during a DCHS event.

How long have you worked here at Promega and what do you do?

I joined Promega in November 1997, so just over 13 years. I’m a research scientist in the Genetic Analysis group.
(Author’s note: Nadine develops kits that are used by researchers for purifying DNA and studying gene expression.)

What do you do at DCHS?

Most of the work I do with Dane County Humane Society involves the cat population.  Specifically:

  • Cleaning cages and feeding the cats.
  • Socializing cats; in particular, the ones that are shy or scared or over-stimulated, the ones that need the extra attention in order to acclimate to the busy shelter environment and find a home.
  • Shooting and editing YouTube videos for the shelter; some of the videos spotlight various cats and dogs that are available for adoption, while some highlight various programs that the shelter is trying to promote.
  • Fostering cats in my home, often kittens that are too small to be available for adoption; I raise them until they’re about 9 weeks old, at which point they can be neutered and are sent back to the shelter to find new homes.

Continue reading

Cuddly Bacterium Anyone?

Knitted MicrobesMicrobes get a bad press. Some of them undoubtedly deserve it. And even although there are many bacteria that perform useful, necessary functions, they somehow have never really made the leap into the cuddly toy category. They have left that to the fish and the mammals. Continue reading

Reliving The High School Science ‘Wow Factor’

Explore_GloGermEarlier this month my son’s school held its first dedicated science exploration day. This key event in the academic calendar gave students a greater awareness of how important science is to every aspect of our lives and provided fantastic opportunities for learning about science through a variety of educational activities.

The event itself was specifically designed to cater for students from kindergarten through to 5th grade.  A number of classes were offered simultaneously throughout the day on topics as diverse as DNA extraction, stem cell research, germs and health, energy conservation and safety, river biology and infrared spectrometry. Continue reading

Introverts Aging, Gracefully

The recent article (June 18, 2009; 1) entitled “Life Force Linked to Body’s Ability to Withstand Stress” caught my attention. Always interested in ways to live a longer, healthier, lower-stress life,  I thought this research might provide a path to nonagenarian status.

The second sentence began “Especially in aging women …” . Right, I aspire to someday make “aging woman” status. It continued “ …low levels of the personality trait extraversion may signal that blood levels of a key inflammatory molecule have crossed over a threshold linked to a doubling of risk of death within five years.” In simpler terms, the results showed that persons with low extroverted tendencies (introverts) had higher levels of a marker for inflammation, and thus a greater risk of death.

Hold the phone! Could my dream of living beyond my grandparents’ lifespan (or at least to make my final house payment) be dashed simply because I’m an introvert? Continue reading

A Discussion about Sustainability at the International BioEthics Forum

Leaf image What does sustainability mean? Is it composting your vegetable scraps and yard waste, and capturing rain water? Is it community-based action on policies dealing with land and water use? Is it educating our children about ecology and the connectedness of all flora and fauna in our biosphere? Is it bringing together religious leaders, scientists, nonprofit organizations, business leaders, educators, students and the public on a discussion of sustainability? On April 23 and 24, the 8th Annual International BioEthics Forum on Sustainability did just that, hosting a diverse group of people from many different perspectives to answer the question “what does sustainability mean?” Continue reading

Science, History and Identity

brca1One of my jobs at Promega is to coordinate our Educational Resources Web, so I am constantly on the prowl for interesting stories that will provide fodder for a bioethics discussion, a writing assignment or a case study. Science does not exist in a vacuum, and including information that puts science in the midst of its societal context is an important part of science education. Continue reading