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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Anna Michalak’s team combined sampling and satellite-based observations of Lake Erie with computer simulations and determined that the 2011 record-breaking algal bloom in the lake was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation...
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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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DC Stem Network
The DC STEM Network unites community partners to help inspire and prepare all DC youth to succeed, lead, and innovate in STEM fields and beyond. The Network connects educators, industry experts, community organizations, and colleges to support STEM learning across the city. The Network was formed...
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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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Geochemist and director of Terrestrial Magnetism, Richard Carlson, looks at the diversity of the chemistry of the early solar nebula and the incorporation of that chemistry into the terrestrial planets. He is also interested in questions related to the origin and evolution of Earth’s continental...
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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...
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Guillermo Blanc wants to understand the processes by which galaxies form and evolve over the course of the history of the universe. He studies local galaxies in the “present day” universe as well as very distant and therefore older galaxies to observe the early epochs of galaxy evolution. Blanc...
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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 Energy Frontier Research in Extreme Environments Center (EFree) was established to accelerate the discovery and synthesis of kinetically stabilized, energy-related materials using extreme conditions. Partners in this Carnegie-led center include world-leading groups in five universities—Caltech, Cornell, Penn State, Lehigh, and Colorado School of Mines—and will use facilities built and managed by the Geophysical Laboratory at Argonne, Brookhaven, and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. Nine Geophysical Laboratory scientists will participate in the effort, along with Russell Hemley as director and Tim Strobel as associate director.

To achieve their goal, EFree personnel synthesize

Along with Alycia Weinberger and Ian Thompson, Alan Boss has been running the Carnegie Astrometric Planet Search (CAPS) program, which searches for extrasolar planets by the astrometric method, where the planet's presence is detected indirectly through the wobble of the host star around the center of mass of the system. With over eight years of CAPSCam data, they are beginning to see likely true astrometric wobbles beginning to appear. The CAPSCam planet search effort is on the verge of yielding a harvest of astrometrically discovered planets, as well as accurate parallactic distances to many young stars and M dwarfs. For more see  http://instrumentation.obs.carnegiescience.edu/ccd/caps.

Today, humanity is increasingly aware of the impact it has on the environment and the difficulties caused when the environment impacts our communities. Environmental change can be particularly harsh when the plants we use for food, fuel, feed and fiber are affected by this change. High salinity is an agricultural contaminant of increasing significance. Not only does this limit the land available for use in agriculture, but in land that has been used for generations, the combination of irrigation and evaporation gradually leads to increasing soil salinity.

The Dinneny lab focuses on understanding how developmental processes such as cell-type specification regulate responses to

Established in June of 2016 with a generous gift of $50,000 from Marilyn Fogel and Christopher Swarth, the Marilyn Fogel Endowed Fund for Internships will provide support for “very young budding scientists” who wish to “spend a summer getting their feet wet in research for the very first time.”  The income from this endowed fund will enable high school students and undergraduates to conduct mentored internships at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory and Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, DC starting in the summer of 2017.

Marilyn Fogel’s thirty-three year career at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory (1977-2013), followed by four years at the University of California,

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 mantle–core differentiation,

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 cells—those that turn into non-reproductive tissues. Spradling uses the fruit fly Drosophila because the genes and processes studied are likely to be similar to those in other organisms including humans. In the 1980s he and his colleague, Gerald Rubin, showed how jumping genes could be used to identify and manipulate fruit fly genes. Their innovative technique helped establish Drosophila as

The earliest galaxies are those that are most distant. Staff associate Dan Kelson is interested in how these ancient relics evolved. The latest generation of telescopes and advanced spectrographs—instruments that analyze light to determine properties of celestial objects—allow astronomers to accurately measure enormous numbers of distant galaxies. Kelson uses the Magellan 6.5-meter telescopes and high-resolution imaging from the Hubble Space Telescope to study distant galaxies.His observations of their masses, sizes and morphologies allow him to directly measure their stars' aging to infer their formation history. Kelson is the principal investigator of the Carnegie-Spitzer-IMACS

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