Dr. Eric Isaacs Begins as 11th President of the Carnegie Institution for Science

Dr. Eric D. Isaacs begins his tenure as the 11th president of the Carnegie Institution on July 2, 2018.  Isaacs joins Carnegie from the University of Chicago where he has been the Robert A. Millikan Distinguished Service Professor, Department of Physics and the James Franck Institute Executive Vice President for Research, Innovation and National Laboratories. 


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    Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, and volcanoes—they all stem from the very same forces that give our planet life. It is only when these forces exceed our ability to withstand them that they become disasters. Science and engineering can be used to understand extreme events and to design our cities to be resilient, but we must overcome the psychological drive to normalization that keeps humanity from believing that we could experience anything worse than what we have already survived.

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New work from the Carnegie Supernova Project provides the best-yet calibrations for using type Ia supernovae to measure cosmic distances, which has implications for our understanding of how fast the universe is expanding and the role dark energy may play in driving this process. Led by Carnegie astronomer Chris Burns, the team’s findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.  

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How much of a reef’s ability to withstand stressful conditions is influenced by the type of symbiotic algae that its corals hosts? New work from a team including Carnegie's Arthur Grossman investigates how the the abundance and diversity of nutrients that algae share with their coral  hosts varies between species and what this could mean for coral’s ability to survive in a changing climate.  The research team determined that in the wake of a bleaching event, even an algal tenant that’s poor provider may be better than no provider.

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The interactions that take place between the species of microbes living in the gastrointestinal system often have large and unpredicted effects on health, according to new work led by Carnegie’s Will Ludington, who assembled a team of biologists, physicists, and mathematicians to comprehensively reveal the gut microbiome ecosystem of fruit flies. 

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A supernova discovered by an international group of astronomers including Carnegie’s Tom Holoien and Maria Drout, and Carnegie alumnus Ben Shappee of the University of Hawaii, provides an unprecedented look at the first moments of a violent stellar explosion. The light from the explosion's first hours showed an unexpected pattern, which Carnegie's Anthony Piro analyzed to reveal that the genesis of these phenomena is even more mysterious than previously thought.

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Stem cells make headline news as potential treatments for a variety of diseases. But undertstanding the nuts and bolts of how they develop from an undifferentiated cell  that gives rise to cells that are specialized such as organs, or bones, and the nervous system, is not well understood....
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The MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission to orbit Mercury following three flybys of that planet is a scientific investigation of the planet Mercury. Understanding Mercury, and the forces that have shaped it is fundamental to understanding the...
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Together with Dr. Jamie Shuda, Steve Farber created a Science Outreach Program, Project BioEYES, that incorporates life science and laboratory education using zebrafish. The outreach program has two main components: educating teachers through hands-on training and tours of our zebrafish facility,...
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Peter van Keken studies the thermal and chemical evolution of the Earth. In particularly he looks at the causes and consequences of plate tectonics; element modeling of mantle convection,  and the dynamics of subduction zones--locations where one tectonic plate slides under another. He also...
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Experimental petrologist Michael Walter became director of the Geophysical Laboratory beginning April 1, 2018. His recent research has focused on the period early in Earth’s history, shortly after the planet accreted from the cloud of gas and dust surrounding our young Sun, when the...
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Staff member emeritus François Schweizer studies galaxy assembly and evolution by observing nearby galaxies, particularly how collisions and mergers affect their properties. His research has added to the awareness that these events are dominant processes in shaping galaxies and determining...
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December 14, 2018

Pasadena, CA— Miguel Roth, director of Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile from 1990 to 2014 and the current representative of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) in Chile was awarded the Bernardo O’Higgins Order by the Chilean Foreign Affairs Ministry in Santiago today. The honor is in recognition “of his contribution to the development of astronomy in Chile, and for inspiring appreciation and knowledge of astronomy among students and people of all ages.”

The award is the highest civilian honor for non-Chileans. O’Higgins was one of the founders of the Chilean Republic. The award was established in 1965 to recognize

An artist’s conception of a type Ia supernova exploding, courtesy of ESO.
December 11, 2018

Pasadena, CA—New work from the Carnegie Supernova Project provides the best-yet calibrations for using type Ia supernovae to measure cosmic distances, which has implications for our understanding of how fast the universe is expanding and the role dark energy may play in driving this process. Led by Carnegie astronomer Chris Burns, the team’s findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.  

Type Ia supernovae are fantastically bright stellar phenomena. They are violent explosions of a white dwarf—the crystalline remnant of a star that has exhausted its nuclear fuel—which is part of a binary system with another star.

In addition to being

A bright field image of the anemone Aiptasia populated with its symbiotic algae.
December 6, 2018

Stanford, CA—How much of the ability of a coral reef to withstand stressful conditions is influenced by the type of algae that the corals hosts?

Corals are marine invertebrates from the phylum called cnidarians that build large exoskeletons from which colorful reefs are constructed. But this reef-building is only possible because of a mutually beneficial relationship between the coral and various species of single-celled algae called dinoflagellates that live inside the cells of coral polyps.

The algae are photosynthetic—meaning capable of converting the Sun’s energy into chemical energy for food, just like plants. And the exchange of nutrients between the

Super-resolution image of fly gut crypts colonized by the native Lactobacillus (red) and Acetobacter (green) bacteria. Fly cell nuclei appear blue. Image is courtesy of Benjamin Obadia.
December 4, 2018

Baltimore, MD—The interactions that take place between the species of microbes living in the gastrointestinal system often have large and unpredicted effects on health, according to new work from a team led by Carnegie’s Will Ludington. Their findings are published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The gut microbiome is an ecosystem of hundreds to thousands of microbial species living within the human body.  The sheer diversity within the human gut presents a challenge to cataloging and understanding the effect these communities have on our health.

Biologists are particularly interested in determining whether or not the

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In March 2014, a technical support unit (TSU) of ten, headquartered at Global Ecology, had successfully completed a herculean management effort for the 2000-page assessment Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, including two summaries. They were issued by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Working Group II co-chaired by Chris Field, Global Ecology director, with science co-directors Katie Mach and Mike Mastrandrea managing the input of over 190 governments and nearly 2,000 experts from around the world.

The IPCC, established in 1988, assesses information about climate change and its impacts. In September 2008, Field was

Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain largely ignorant of the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many of Earth’s carbon-bearing systems. The Deep Carbon Observatory is a global research program to transform our understanding of carbon in Earth. At its heart, DCO is a community of scientists, from biologists to physicists, geoscientists to chemists, and many others whose work crosses these

The Carnegie-Spitzer-IMACS (CSI) survey, currently underway at the Magellan-Baade 6.5m telescope in Chile, has been specifically designed to characterize normal galaxies and their environments at a distance of about 4 billion years post Big Bang, expresses by astronomers as  z=1.5.

The survey selection is done using the Spitzer Space Telescope Legacy fields, which provides as close a selection by stellar mass as possible.

Using the IMACS infrared camera, the survey goal is to study galaxies down to low light magnitudes. The goal is to reduce the variance in the density of massive galaxies at these distances and times to accurately trace the evolution of the galaxy mass

Starting in 2005, the High Lava Plains project is focused on a better understanding of why the Pacific Northwest, specifically eastern Oregon's High Lava Plains, is so volcanically active. This region is the most volcanically active area of the continental United States and it's relatively young. None of the accepted paradigms explain why the magmatic and tectonic activity extend so far east of the North American plate margin. By applying numerous techniques ranging from geochemistry and petrology to active and passive seismic imaging to geodynamic modeling, the researchers examine an assemblage of new data that will provide key information about the roles of lithosphere

Rebecca Bernstein combines observational astronomy with developing new instruments and techniques to study her objects of interest. She focuses on formation and evolution of galaxies by studying the chemistry of objects called extra galactic globular clusters—old, spherical compact groups of stars that are gravitationally bound. She also studies the stellar components of clusters of galaxies and is engaged in various projects related to dark matter and dark energy—the invisible matter and repulsive force that make up most of the universe.

 Although Bernstein joined Carnegie as a staff scientist in 2012, she has had a long history of spectrographic and imaging

Hélène Le Mével studies volcanoes. Her research focuses on understanding the surface signals that ground deformations make to infer the ongoing process of the moving magma  in the underlying reservoir. Toward this end she uses space and field-based geodesy--the mathematics of the area and shape of the Earth--to identify, model and interpret this ground deformation.

She uses data from radar called Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), and data from the Global Positioning System (GPS) to characterize ground motion during volcanic unrest. She also collects gravity data, which indicate changes in mass and/or density underground. These data sets,

The mouse is a traditional model organism for understanding physiological processes in humans. Chen-Ming Fan uses the mouse to study the underlying mechanisms involved in human development and genetic diseases. He concentrates on identifying and understanding the signals that direct the musculoskeletal system to develop in the mammalian embryo. Skin, muscle, cartilage, and bone are all derived from a group of progenitor structures called somites. Various growth factors—molecules that stimulate the growth of cells—in the surrounding tissues work in concert to signal each somitic cell to differentiate into a specific tissue type.

The lab has identified various growth

Andrew Steele uses traditional and biotechnological approaches for the detection of microbial life in the field of astrobiology and Solar System exploration. Astrobiology is the search for the origin and distribution of life in the universe. A microbiologist by training, his principle interest is in developing protocols, instrumentation, and procedures for life detection in samples from the early Earth and elsewhere in the Solar System.

Steele has developed several instrument and mission concepts for future Mars missions and became involved in the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory mission as a member of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team. For  a number of years he journeyed to