Science & Research

Science & Research Roundup: Oct. 23, 2013

By
Science & Research Editor
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Student wins SACNAS awards

The University’s chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science won two awards from the national organization earlier this month.

David Barrera ’15 was honored for his research on “the effect of heat stress on tomato plant fertilization,” according to a University press release.

The chapter, established last year, also received a “Role Model Award.”

The University chapter helps students find internships and fellowships and works to engage students in the broader Providence community, like those at Hope High School, in science and research, according to a University press release.

Theresa Ramirez GS and Marcela Suruco GS began the chapter “to foster the success of students to be able to attain advanced degrees and careers and become leaders in science,” Ramirez said in the press release.

 

Team changes virus’ target

A team of scientists including University researchers published a paper demonstrating a new technique for changing the target of a particular virus.

The study, published in the journal PLoS Pathogens earlier this month, found that changing one amino acid in a specific virus would also change the sugar to which the virus binds.

“I think it’s one of the first … times that a receptor switch of this nature has been identified,” said corresponding author and Professor of Medicine Walter Atwood, in a University press release.

“There are dozens of viruses that use these kinds of sugars as receptors. What we’re showing is that it doesn’t take much to convert from using one type of sugar to using another type of sugar,” Atwood said in the release. “It helps us to understand evolutionarily how these viruses may adapt to a new host.”

Researchers could not directly test how infective the viruses are in different species because they were working with “safe psuedoviruses” according to the press release.

Stacy-Ann Allen-Ramdiyal PhD’13, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University, was one of the paper’s lead authors.

 

Progeria documentary premieres on HBO

“Life According to Sam” premiered on HBO Monday night to generally positive reviews. The documentary follows Sam Berns, a 16-year-old with progeria, a rare condition for which there is no known cure that causes early onset aging and death. Berns is the son of Leslie Gordon, associate professor of pediatrics at Alpert Medical School, and Scott Berns, clinical professor of pediatrics at the Med School.

Since their son’s diagnosis, Gordon and Berns have been working to find a cure for the disease, founding the Progeria Research Foundation and conducting a clinical trial of a promising new drug, The Herald previously reported.

“‘Life According to Sam’ is remarkable in the ways it mimics Sam’s guiding principle and spirit,” Hank Stuever of the Washington Post wrote in a review. “Although it has a lot to tell us about the science of genomes and the rigors of FDA approval, it doesn’t necessarily want you to feel sorry or outraged or moved to act. It only wants you to feel how fragile yet wonderful life can be.”