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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Monitoring tropical deforestation and forest degradation with satellites can be an everyday activity for non-experts who support environmental conservation, forest management, and resource policy development. Through extensive observation of user needs, the Greg Asner team developed CLASlite ( the...
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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...
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CALL FOR PROPOSALS Following Andrew Carnegie’s founding encouragement of liberal discovery-driven research, the Carnegie Institution for Science offers its scientists a new resource for pursuing bold ideas. Carnegie Science Venture grants are internal awards of up to $100,000 that are intended to...
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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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Stephen Shectman blends his celestial interests with his gift of developing novel telescope instrumentation. He investigates the large-scale structure of the galaxy distribution; searches for ancient stars that have few elements; develops astronomical instruments; and constructs large telescopes....
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One way to adapt to climate change is to understand how plants can thrive in the changing environment. José Dinneny looks at the mechanisms that control environmental responses in plants, including responses to salty soils and different moisture conditions—work that provides the foundation for...
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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 their...
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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.

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. 

The Lepper lab studies the mechanics of these processes. overturned previous research that identified critical genes for making muscle stem cells. It turns out that the genes that make muscle stem cells in the embryo are surprisingly not needed in adult muscle stem cells to regenerate muscles after injury. The finding challenges the current course of research into muscular dystrophy, muscle

Monitoring tropical deforestation and forest degradation with satellites can be an everyday activity for non-experts who support environmental conservation, forest management, and resource policy development.

Through extensive observation of user needs, the Greg Asner team developed CLASlite ( the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System--Lite) to assist governments, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions with high-resolution mapping and monitoring of forests with satellite imagery.

CLASlite is a software package designed for highly automated identification of deforestation and forest degradation from remotely sensed satellite imagery. It incorporates state-of-the

Carnegie will receive Phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges. Department of Plant Biology Director Wolf Frommer,  with a team of researchers from the International Rice Research Institute, Kansas State University, and Iowa State University, will continue to pursue an innovative global health research project, titled “Transformative Strategy for Controlling Rice Blight.”

Rice bacterial blight is one of the major challenges to food security, and this project aims to achieve broad, durable

Superdeep diamonds are  tiny time capsules carrying unchanged impurities made eons ago and providing researchers with important clues about Earth’s formation.  Diamonds derived from below the continental lithosphere, are most likely from the transition zone (415 miles, or 670km deep) or the top of the lower mantle. Understanding diamond origins and compositions of the high-pressure mineral phases has potential to revolutionize our understanding of deep mantle circulation.

Globular clusters are spherical systems of some 100,000  gravitationally bound stars. They are among the oldest components of our galaxy and are key to understanding the age and scale of the universe. Previous measurements of their distances have compared the characteristics of different types of stars in the solar neighborhood with the same types of stars found in the clusters. However, these measurements have systematic errors, which limit the determination of cluster ages and distances.

 Ian Thompson has a different approach to the problem: using observations of exceedingly rare Detached Eclipsing Binary stars. These systems have two separated stars orbiting each other such

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 their stellar and gaseous contents.

When nearby galaxies collide and merge they yield valuable clues about processes that occurred much more frequently in the younger, distant universe. When two gas-rich galaxies collide, their pervasive interstellar gas gets compressed, clumps into dense clouds, and fuels the sudden birth of billions of new stars and thousands of star clusters.

Some of

Plants are essential to life on Earth and provide us with food, fuel, clothing, and shelter.  Despite all this, we know very little about how they do what they do. Even for the best-studied species, such as Arabidopsis thaliana --a wild mustard studied in the lab--we know about less than 20% of what its genes do and how or why they do it. And understanding this evolution can help develop new crop strains to adapt to climate change.  

Sue Rhee wants to uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying adaptive traits in plants to understand how these traits evolved. A bottleneck has been the limited understanding of the functions of most plant genes. Rhee’s group is building genome-wide

Erik Hauri studies how planetary processes affect the chemistry of the Earth, Moon and other objects. He also uses that chemistry to understand the origin and evolution of planetary bodies.

The minerals that are stable in planetary interiors determine how major elements such as silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, aluminum, titanium, sodium and sometimes water are distributed, and how they behave when melting occurs and  when magmas are generated and transported to the surface in volcanoes.

The presence of water, carbon and other so-called volatiles have a large influence on the strength and melting point of planetary interiors. This in turn determines where magmas are