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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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...
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The Carnegie Irvine Galaxy Survey is obtaining high-quality optical and near-infrared images of several hundred of the brightest galaxies in the southern hemisphere sky, at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory to investigate the structural properties of galaxies. For more see    http://cgs.obs....
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The Gall laboratory studies all aspects of the cell nucleus, particularly the structure of chromosomes, the transcription and processing of RNA, and the role of bodies inside the cell nucleus, especially the Cajal body (CB) and the histone locus body (HLB). Much of the work makes use of the giant...
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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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Alycia Weinberger wants to understand how planets form, so she observes young stars in our galaxy and their disks, from which planets are born. She also looks for and studies planetary systems. Studying disks surrounding nearby stars help us determine the necessary conditions for planet formation....
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With the proliferation of discoveries of planets orbiting other stars, the race is on to find habitable worlds akin to the Earth. At present, however, extrasolar planets less massive than Saturn cannot be reliably detected. Astrophysicist John Chambers models the dynamics of these newly found giant...
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The entire universe—galaxies, stars, and planets—originally condensed from a vast network of tenuous, gaseous filaments, known as the intergalactic medium, or the gaseous cosmic web. Most of the matter in this giant reservoir has never been incorporated into galaxies; it keeps floating about in...
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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 NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Carnegie Team focuses on life’s chemical and physical evolution, from the interstellar medium, through planetary systems, to the emergence and detection of life by studying extrasolar planets, Solar System formation, organic rich primitive planetary bodies, prebiotic molecular synthesis through catalyzing with minerals, and the connection between planetary evolution to the emergence, and sustenance of biology. This program attempts to integrate the sweeping narrative of life’s history through a combination of bottom-up and top-down studies. On the one hand, this team studies processes related to chemical and physical evolution in plausible prebiotic

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 and warm temperatures. The bloom began in the western region in mid-July and covered an area of 230 square miles (600 km2). At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to over 1930 square miles (5000 km2). Its peak intensity was over 3 times greater than any other bloom on record. The scientists predicted that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience

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

CDAC is a multisite, interdisciplinary center headquartered at Carnegie to advance and perfect an extensive set of high pressure and temperature techniques and facilities, to perform studies on a broad range of materials in newly accessible pressure and temperature regimes, and to integrate and coordinate static, dynamic and theoretical results. The research objectives include making highly accurate measurements to understand the transitions of materials into different phases under the multimegabar pressure rang; determine the electronic and magnetic properties of solids and fluid to multimegabar pressures and elevated temperatures; to bridge the gap between static and dynamic

Devaki Bhaya wants to understand how environmental stressors, such as light, nutrients, and viral attacks are sensed by and affect photosynthetic microorganisms. She is also interested in understanding the mechanisms behind microorganism movements, and how individuals in groups communicate, evolve, share resources. To these ends, she focuses on one-celled, aquatic cyanobacteria, in the lab with model organisms and with organisms in naturally occurring communities.

 Phototaxis is the ability of organisms to move directionally in response to a light source.  Many cyanobacteria exhibit phototaxis, both towards and away from light. The ability to move into optimal light for

While the planets in our Solar System are astonishingly diverse, all of them move around the Sun in approximately the same orbital plane, in the same direction, and primarily in circular orbits. Over the past 25 years Butler's work has focused on improving the measurement precision of stellar Doppler velocities, from 300 meters per second in the 1980s to 1 meter a second in the 2010s to detect planets around other stars. The ultimate goal is to find planets that resemble the Earth.

Butler designed and built the iodine absorption cell system at Lick Observatory, which resulted in the discovery of 5 of the first 6 known extrasolar planets.  This instrument has become the de facto

Josh Simon uses observations of nearby galaxies to study problems related to dark matter, chemical evolution, star formation, and the process of galaxy evolution.

In one area he looks at peculiarly dark galaxies. Interestingly, some galaxies are so dark they glow with the light of just a few hundred Suns. Simon and colleagues have determined that a tiny, very dim galaxy orbiting the Milky Way, called Segue 1, is the darkest galaxy ever found and has the highest dark matter density ever found. His team has also laid to rest a debate about whether Segue 1 really is a galaxy or a globular cluster—a smaller group of stars that lacks dark matter. Their findings make Segue 1 a promising

Timothy Strobel subjects materials to high-pressures to understand chemical processes  and interactions, and to create new, advanced energy-related materials.

For instance, silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and a mainstay of the electronics industry. But normal silicon is not optimal for solar energy. In its conventional crystalline form, silicon is relatively inefficient at absorbing the wavelengths most prevalent in sunlight.  Strobel made a discovery that may turn things around.  Using the high-pressure techniques pioneered at Carnegie, he created a novel form of silicon with its atoms arranged in a cage-like structure. Unlike normal silicon, this