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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  • 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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    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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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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Carnegie’s Anna Michalak was a major contributor to the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report released last Friday, which provides a current state-of-the-science assessment of the carbon cycle in North America—including the United States, Canada, and Mexico—and  its connection to climate and society.

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An international team including five Carnegie astronomers has discovered a frozen Super-Earth orbiting Barnard’s star, the closest single star to our own Sun. The Planet Finder Spectrograph on Carnegie’s Magellan II telescope was integral to the discovery, which is published in Nature. To find this cold Super-Earth, the team combined 20 years of data from seven different instruments, all of which were “stitched” together to form one of the largest and most-extensive datasets ever used for this method of planet detection.

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  • Almost half of our DNA is made up of jumping genes, moving around the genome in developing sperm and egg cells. Given their ability to jump around the genome, their invasion can trigger DNA damage and mutations often leading to animal sterility or even death and threatening species survival. Organisms have survived these invasions, but little is known about where this adaptability comes from. Now, Carnegie researchers have discovered that reproductive stem cells boost production of non-coding RNA elements that suppress jumping gene activity and activate a DNA repair process allowing for normal egg development. 

     

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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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The thyroid gland secretes thyroxine (TH), a hormone essential for the growth and development of all vertebrates including humans. To understand TH action, the Donald Brown lab studies one of the most dramatic roles of the hormone, the control of amphibian metamorphosis—the process by which a...
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The Geophysical Laboratory has made important advances in the growth of diamond by chemical vapor deposition (CVD).  Methods have been developed to produce single-crystal diamond at low pressure having a broad range of properties.
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Special Events
Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - 6:30pm to 7:45pm

HABITABILITY: WHAT EARTH AND THE INNER PLANETS CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE SEARCH FOR LIFE ON ROCKY EXOPLANETS
What enabled life to form on Earth—and what kept it at bay on...

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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...
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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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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,...
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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

Pan-STARRS image showing the host galaxy of the newly discovered supernova ASASSN-18bt
November 29, 2018

Pasadena, CA—A supernova discovered by an international group of astronomers including Carnegie’s Tom Holoien and Maria Drout, and led by University of Hawaii’s Ben Shappee, 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.

Their findings are published in a trio of papers in The Astrophysical Journal and The Astrophysical Journal Letters. (You can read them here, here, and here.)

Type Ia supernovae are

SOCCR2 cover art
November 27, 2018

Washington, DC—Carnegie’s Anna Michalak was a major contributor to the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report released last Friday, which provides a current state-of-the-science assessment of the carbon cycle in North America—including the United States, Canada, and Mexico—and  its connection to climate and society.

Over the past decade, fossil fuel emissions continued to be by far the largest North American carbon source. Urban areas in North America are the primary source of anthropogenic carbon emissions.

But land ecosystems and the ocean play a major role in removing and sequestering carbon

December 11, 2018

HABITABILITY: WHAT EARTH AND THE INNER PLANETS CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE SEARCH FOR LIFE ON ROCKY EXOPLANETS
What enabled life to form on Earth—and what kept it at bay on Mars and Venus? Does habitability demand factors like plate tectonics and magnetic fields? Will astronomers be able to detect hints of these processes on other worlds? UC Davis Earth planetary scientist and recently named MacArthur Fellow, Dr. Sarah Stewart, will give a short overview of the topic, and then join a panel of planet formation experts for a moderated discussion of the preconditions that make life possible—and the chances of finding it elsewhere.

Dr. Sarah Stewart: University of

Fresh water constitutes less than 1% of the surface water on earth, yet the importance of this simple molecule to all life forms is immeasurable. Water represents the most vital reagent for chemical reactions occurring in a cell. In plants, water provides the structural support necessary for plant growth. It acts as the carrier for nutrients absorbed from the soil and transported to the shoot. It also provides the chemical components necessary to generate sugar and biomass from light and carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. While the importance of water to plants is clear, an understanding as to how plants perceive water is limited. Most studies have focused on environmental conditions

Carnegie researchers are developing new scientific approaches that integrate phylogenetic, chemical and spectral remote sensing perspectives - called Spectranomics - to map canopy function and biological diversity throughout tropical forests of the world.

Mapping the composition and chemistry of species in tropical forests is critical to understanding forest functions related to human use and climate change. However, high-resolution mapping of tropical forest canopies is challenging because traditional field, airborne and satellite measurements cannot easily measure the canopy chemical or taxonomic variation among species over large regions. New technology, such as the Carnegie

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,

The Carnegie Hubble program is an ongoing comprehensive effort that has a goal of determining the Hubble constant, the expansion rate of the universe,  to a systematic accuracy of 2%. As part of this program, astronomers are obtaining data at the 3.6 micron wavelength using the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) on Spitzer Space Telescope. The team has demonstrated that the mid-infrared period-luminosity relation for Cepheids, variable stars used to determine distances and the rate of the expansion,  at 3.6 microns is the most accurate means of measuring Cepheid distances to date. At 3.6 microns, it is possible to minimize the known remaining systematic uncertainties in the Cepheid

Staff associate Christoph Lepper, with colleagues, 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 injury, and regenerative medicine, which uses stem cells for healing tissues, and it favors using age-matched stem cells for therapy.

Previous studies showed that two genes Pax3 and Pax7, are essential for making the embryonic and neonatal muscle stem cells in the mouse. But Lepper and team for the

Scientists simulate the high pressures and temperatures of planetary interiors to measure their physical properties. Yingwei Fei studies the composition and structure of planetary interiors with high-pressure instrumentation including the multianvil apparatus, the piston cylinder, and the diamond anvil cell. 

The Earth was formed through energetic and dynamic processes. Giant impacts, radioactive elements, and gravitational energy heated the  planet in its early stage, melting materials and paving the way for the silicate mantle and metallic core to separate.  As the planet cooled and solidified geochemical and geophysical “fingerprints” resulted from

Integrity of hereditary material—the genome —is critical for species survival. Genomes need protection from agents that can cause mutations affecting DNA coding, regulatory functions, and duplication during cell division. DNA sequences called transposons, or jumping genes (discovered by Carnegie’s Barbara McClintock,) can multiply and randomly jump around the genome and cause mutations. About half of the sequence of the human and mouse genomes is derived from these mobile elements.  RNA interference (RNAi, codiscovered by Carnegie’s Andy Fire) and related processes are central to transposon control, particularly in egg and sperm precursor cells.  

Anat Shahar is pioneering a field that blends isotope geochemistry with high-pressure experiments to examine planetary cores and the Solar System’s formation, prior to planet formation, and how the planets formed and differentiated. Stable isotope geochemistry is the study of how physical and chemical processes can cause isotopes—atoms of an element with different numbers of neutrons-- to separate (called isotopic fractionation). Experimental petrology is a lab-based approach to increasing the pressure and temperature of materials to simulate conditions in the interior Earth or other planetary bodies.

Rocks and meteorites consist of isotopes that contain chemical