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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Lab-based mimicry allowed an international team of physicists including Carnegie’s Alexander Goncharov to probe hydrogen under the conditions found in the interiors of giant planets—where experts believe it gets squeezed until it becomes a liquid metal, capable of conducting electricity. To build better models of potential exoplanetary architecture, this transition between gas and metallic liquid hydrogen must be demonstrated and understood. 

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New work from Carnegie’s Ethan Greenblatt and Allan Spradling reveals that the genetic factors underlying fragile X syndrome, and potentially other autism-related disorders, stem from defects in a cell’s ability to create unusually large protein structures. It turns out that a gene called Fmr1 plays a kind of "helper" role, which boosts the production of critically important large proteins in both neurons and egg cells. Their results explain why Frm1's absence is linked to the most-common form of inherited autism, fragile X syndrome, as well as to premature ovarian failure.

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Observatories NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow Maria Drout will receive the tenth Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence Award (PIE). She was one of four Carnegie astronomers who, along with colleagues from UC Santa Cruz, provided the first-ever glimpse of two neutron stars colliding last August. She was first author on a Science paper, which measured the changing light from that merger to shed light on the origin of the heaviest elements in the universe.. The discovery was widely covered by the media and opened the door to a new era of astronomy.

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  • New research, led by former Carnegie postdoctoral fellow Summer Praetorius, shows that changes in the heat flow of the northern Pacific Ocean may have a larger effect on the Arctic climate than previously thought. The findings are published in the August 7, 2018, issue of Nature Communications.

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Approximately half of the gene sequences of human and mouse genomes comes from so-called mobile elements—genes that jump around the genome. Much of this DNA is no longer capable of moving, but is likely “auditioning”  perhaps as a regulator of gene function or in homologous recombination, which is...
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Fifty years ago, Americans led the world in math and science, claiming some of the most important inventions and technological breakthroughs of the 20th century.  Today, American 15-year-olds rank 25th in math compared to their peers worldwide.  Math ƒor America DC strives to reclaim America’s...
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High-elevation, low relief surfaces are common on continents. These intercontinental plateaus influence river networks, climate, and the migration of plants and animals. How these plateaus form is not clear. Researchers are studying the geodynamic processes responsible for surface uplift in the...
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Special Events
Wednesday, September 5, 2018 - 6:45pm to 7:45pm

HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer and kills more than 250,000 women around the world each year. The HPV vaccine, available thanks to the efforts of Drs. John Schiller and Douglas Lowy,...

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Capital Science Evening Lectures
Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 6:30pm to 7:45pm

In August 2017, a team of four Carnegie astronomers provided humankind’s first-ever glimpse of two neutron stars colliding—opening the door to a new era of astronomy. Along with colleagues at UC...

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Capital Science Evening Lectures
Wednesday, October 3, 2018 - 6:30pm to 7:45pm

Adult brain connections are precise, but such precision emerges during critical developmental periods when synapses—the delicate contacts between neurons that relay and store information—are...

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Allan Spradling is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and director of the Department of Embryology. His laboratory studies the biology of reproduction particularly egg cells, which are able to reset the normally irreversible processes of differentiation and aging that govern all somatic...
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Roiling cauldrons of liquid-laden material flow within Earth’s rocky interior. Understanding how this matter moves and changes is essential to deciphering Earth’s formation and evolution as well as the processes that create seismic activity, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. Bjørn Mysen probes...
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We are all made of stardust. Almost all of the chemical elements were produced by nuclear reactions in the interiors of stars. When a star dies a fraction of the elements is released into the inter-stellar gas clouds, out of which successive generations of stars form.  Astronomers have a basic...
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Smokestacks photo from the public domain
August 16, 2018

Washington, DC— When it comes to aerosol pollution, as the old real estate adage says, location is everything.

Aerosols are tiny particles that are spewed into the atmosphere by human activities, including burning coal and wood. They have negative effects on air quality—damaging human health and agricultural productivity.

While greenhouse gases cause warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere, some aerosols can have a cooling effect on the climate—similar to how emissions from a major volcanic eruption can cause global temperatures to drop.  This occurs because the aerosol particles cause more of the Sun’s light to be reflected away from the planet. Estimates indicate that

Unraveling the properties of fluid metallic hydrogen could help scientists unlock the mysteries of Jupiter’s formation and internal structure. Credit: Mark Meamber, LLNL.
August 15, 2018

Washington, DC—Lab-based mimicry allowed an international team of physicists including Carnegie’s Alexander Goncharov to probe hydrogen under the conditions found in the interiors of giant planets—where experts believe it gets squeezed until it becomes a liquid metal, capable of conducting electricity. Their work is published in Science.

Hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the universe and the simplest—comprised of only a one proton and one electron in each atom. But that simplicity is deceptive, because there is still so much to learn about it, including its behavior under conditions not found on Earth.

For example, although hydrogen on the surface of giant planets,

This image shows an example of defects in the development of the embryonic central nervous system in stored eggs that lacked the Fmr1 gene.
August 15, 2018

Baltimore, MD—New work from Carnegie’s Ethan Greenblatt and Allan Spradling reveals that the genetic factors underlying fragile X syndrome, and potentially other autism-related disorders, stem from defects in the cell’s ability to create unusually large protein structures. Their findings are published in Science.

Their research focuses on a gene called Fmr1. Mutations in this gene create problems in the brain as well as the reproductive system. They can lead to the most-common form of inherited autism, fragile X syndrome, as well as to premature ovarian failure.

It was already thought that Fmr1 plays a pivotal part in the last stages of the process by which the recipe

Burke adjusting recording instruments at a Carnegie radio receiver truck. Photo: DTM Archives, via the Baltimore Sun.
August 10, 2018

Bernard Burke, distinguished MIT astrophysicist and former staff scientist at Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, died August 5. He was 90. 

Burke, who joined the department's in 1953, was an integral member of its astronomy group until he left to be professor of physics at MIT in 1965, where his work shifted to, among other things, the detection of gravitational lensing. He also played a key role in the development of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), which enables high-resolution imaging of cosmic structures. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970 and served as president of the American Astronomical Society from 1986 to 1988. He was an

September 5, 2018

HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer and kills more than 250,000 women around the world each year. The HPV vaccine, available thanks to the efforts of Drs. John Schiller and Douglas Lowy, can now prevent the devastating disease. What does it take to create this type of breakthrough in science? And how can we ensure that the scientists who are working on today’s biggest challenges have the resources they need to change the world?

For this joint program between Carnegie Science and the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation, Dr. Schiller, a 2012 National Medal recipient, will speak about the development of the HPV vaccine. Following his presentation Dr. Schiller

September 18, 2018

In August 2017, a team of four Carnegie astronomers provided humankind’s first-ever glimpse of two neutron stars colliding—opening the door to a new era of astronomy. Along with colleagues at UC Santa Cruz, Carnegie’s Anthony Piro, Josh Simon, Maria Drout, and Ben Shappee used the Swope Telescope at our Las Campanas Observatory to discover the light produced by the explosion, pinpointing the origin of a gravitational wave signal less than 11 hours after it was detected by the LIGO Collaboration. They followed the radioactive glow of the debris over the next few weeks, unlocking the secret of how some of the world’s most-valuable elements, such as gold and platinum, are created. Drs.

October 3, 2018

Adult brain connections are precise, but such precision emerges during critical developmental periods when synapses—the delicate contacts between neurons that relay and store information—are either pruned or grow as part of a learning driven process. Understanding the molecules and mechanisms of this synapse pruning may lead to treatments for developmental disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Carla Shatz: Sapp Family Provostial Professor & Professor of Biology and Neurobiology, Stanford University; David Starr Jordan Director, Stanford Bio-X James H. Clark Center; Kavli Prize Laureate

The conversation will be moderated by George Washington University School of Media

October 17, 2018

Why create national parks? Although the process of designating new parkland is lengthy and complex, national parks offer ecological, cultural, and economic benefits, while also guaranteeing longterm conservation of fragile ecosystems. Founded by Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and her latehusband, Douglas, Tompkins Conservation and its partners have protected approximately 13 million acres of parkland in Chile and Argentina. Mrs. Tompkins will answer the question of why national parks are a worthwhile investment by drawing on her years as the CEO of Patagonia, Inc., in addition to her more than two decades leading initiatives to rewild and restore biodiversity in South America.

The Giant Magellan Telescope will be one member of the next class of super giant earth-based telescopes that promises to revolutionize our view and understanding of the universe. It will be constructed in the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Commissioning of the telescope is scheduled to begin in 2021.

The GMT has a unique design that offers several advantages. It is a segmented mirror telescope that employs seven of today’s largest stiff monolith mirrors as segments. Six off-axis 8.4 meter or 27-foot segments surround a central on-axis segment, forming a single optical surface 24.5 meters, or 80 feet, in diameter with a total collecting area of 368 square meters. The GMT will

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 structure,

The Earthbound Planet Search Program has discovered hundreds of planets orbiting nearby stars using telescopes at Lick Observatory, Keck Observatory, the Anglo-Australian Observatory, Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory, and the ESO Paranal Observatory.  Our multi-national team has been collecting data for 30 years, using the Precision Doppler technique.  Highlights of this program include the detection of five of the first six exoplanets, the first eccentric planet, the first multiple planet system, the first sub-Saturn mass planet, the first sub-Neptune mass planet, the first terrestrial mass planet, and the first transit planet.Over the course of 30 years we have improved the

High-elevation, low relief surfaces are common on continents. These intercontinental plateaus influence river networks, climate, and the migration of plants and animals. How these plateaus form is not clear. Researchers are studying the geodynamic processes responsible for surface uplift in the Hangay in central Mongolia to better understand the origin of high topography in continental interiors.

This work focuses on characterizing the physical properties and structure of the lithosphere and sublithospheric mantle, and the timing, rate, and pattern of surface uplift in the Hangay. They are carrying out studies in geomorphology, geochronology, thermochronology, paleoaltimetry,

Steven Farber

In mammals, most lipids, such as fatty acids and cholesterol, are absorbed into the body via the small intestine. The complexity of the cells and fluids that inhabit this organ make it very difficult to study in a laboratory setting. The goal of the Farber lab is to better understand the cell and molecular biology of lipids within digestive organs by exploiting the many unique attributes of the clear zebrafish larva  to visualize lipid uptake and processing in real time.  Given their utmost necessity for proper cellular function, it is not surprising that defects in lipid metabolism underlie a number of human diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

The Farber

Cosmochemist Larry Nittler studies extraterrestrial materials, including meteorites and interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), to understand the formation of the Solar System, the galaxy, and the universe and to identify the materials involved. He is particularly interested in developing new techniques to analyze different variants of the same atom—isotopes—in small samples. In related studies, he uses space-based X-ray and gamma-ray instrumentation to determine the composition of planetary surfaces. He was part of the 2000-2001 scientific team to hunt for meteorites in Antarctica.

Nittler is especially interested in presolar grains contained in meteorites and in what they can tell

Rocks, fossils, and other natural relics hold clues to ancient environments in the form of different ratios of isotopes—atomic variants of elements with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. Seawater, rain water, oxygen, and ozone, for instance, all have different ratios, or fingerprints, of the oxygen isotopes 16O, 17O, and 18O. Weathering, ground water, and direct deposition of atmospheric aerosols change the ratios of the isotopes in a rock revealing a lot about the past climate.

Douglas Rumble’s research is centered on these three stable isotopes of oxygen and the four stable isotopes of sulfur 32S , 33S , 34S, and 36S. In addition to revealing what

Gwen Rudie

Gwen Rudie studies the chemical and physical properties of very distant galaxies and their surrounding gas in order to further our understanding of the processes that are central to the formation and development of galaxies. Critical to this research is our ability to trace the raw materials of galaxy formation and its biproducts. These clues can be found in the gas that surrounds early galaxies. She is primarily an observational astronomer, working on the analysis and interpretation of high-resolution spectroscopy of distant quasars as well as near-infrared and optical spectroscopy of high-redshift galaxies. In addition to her scientific efforts, she is also the director of the