Tag Archives: science

Mittelman Observatory Status – Summer 2020

While thoughts this time of year often turn to the community gathering atop McCardell Bicentennial Hall on mild summer evenings under dark Vermont skies for stargazing at the Observatory, this coming summer will necessarily be somewhat different.

Mittelman Observatory has been developing a variety of potential programming that may involve live virtual stargazing, skywatching advice, astronomy dispatches, social media, online student exhibits, student astronomical imagery, and perhaps even an astronomy talk. However, the community situation is obviously quite fluid and subject to prevailing directives.

Please visit go/observatorynews to join our Observatory News e-mail list if you would like to be kept abreast of our evolving summer activity plans.

Mittelman Observatory. Because the sky is always open!

What Does Covid-19 Do to Your Brain?

By Megan Molteni April 15, 2020

Scientists are racing to figure out why some patients also develop neurological ailments like confusion, stroke, seizure, or loss of smell.

During the third week of March, as the pandemic coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was beginning to grip the city of Detroit, an ambulance sped through its streets to Henry Ford Hospital. Inside, a 58-year-old airline worker struggled to understand what was happening to her. Like hundreds of other Covid-19 patients flooding the city’s emergency rooms, the woman had a fever, cough, and aching muscles. But something else was happening too–something that had made her suddenly disoriented, unable to remember anything but her name.

Doctors at Henry Ford tested the woman for Covid-19, and she came back positive. They also ordered CT and MRI scans. The images showed a brain aflame, its folds swelling against the patient’s skull. On the computer screen, white lesions dotted the gray cross-sectioned landscape–each one filled with dead and dying neurons in regions that normally relay sensory signals, regulate alertness, and access memories. On the screen they appeared white. But in the electrical grid of the patient’s brain, those areas had gone dark.

Her doctors diagnosed a dangerous condition called acute necrotizing hemorrhagic encephalopathy, or ANE, which they detailed in the journal Radiology last month. It’s a rare complication known to occasionally accompany influenza and other viral infections, though usually in children. With the flu, scientists believe such brain damage is caused not so much by the virus itself but by squalls of inflammation-inducing molecules called cytokines, which are sometimes produced in excess by the body’s immune system during an infection. Scientists are still trying to figure out if the same is true for Covid-19, or if the coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 is actually invading the nervous system directly. It’s an open question, the answer to which could have wide-ranging implications for how doctors diagnose and treat Covid-19 patients.

By now you’re probably familiar with the typical hallmarks of Covid-19, the disease that has so far killed more than 125,000 people around the world: fever, cough, difficulty breathing. But stories of other, stranger symptoms–headaches, confusion, seizures, tingling and numbness, the loss of smell or taste–have been bubbling up from the frontlines for weeks. Published data on how frequently the disease manifests in these types of neurological symptoms is still sparse, and experts say they likely occur in a minority of the 2 million officially tallied Covid-19 infections worldwide. But for physicians, they are important because some of these new symptoms may require a different line of treatment, one designed for the brain rather than the body.

“The medicines we use to treat any infection have very different penetrations into the central nervous system,” says S. Andrew Josephson, a neurologist at UC San Francisco. Most drugs can’t pass through the blood-brain barrier, a living border wall around the brain. If the coronavirus is breaching the blood-brain barrier and infecting neurons, that could make it harder to find effective treatments.

Right now, many doctors are trying a two-pronged approach. The first is finding antiviral drugs that can knock back how fast SARS-CoV-2 replicates. They often combine that with steroids, to prevent the immune system from going overboard and producing inflammation that can be damaging on its own. If doctors knew people had coronavirus in their brains, that would alter the equation. Unlike the lungs, the brain can’t be put on a ventilator.

Register for the 4th annual Summit for Women in STEM

Belong. Connect. Create. Pass it on.

Saturday, April 4, 2020
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Where
Mars Center for Science & Technology
Fillmore Drive, Norton, MA, 02766

Wheaton’s Fourth Annual Summit for Women in STEM brings together a powerhouse network of industry leaders, researchers, and academics with undergraduate students who represent the next generation of innovators. At a time when women represent only 24% of professionals in all STEM fields, the Summit will open new worlds to aspiring young female scientists. By connected industry leaders with up-and-coming talent, the full-day meeting creates connections, forges new relationships, builds knowledge, and matches students with inspiring role models.

Undergraduate students are encouraged to give a talk. Registration is free and will remain open until full.

One-of-a-kind opportunity to work in a Microbiology & Immunology lab at Columbia University!

Dr. Christian Schindler, parent of recent MBBC major Joseph Schindler, is once again inviting a Middlebury College student to intern in his Columbia University lab. Students interested in the opportunity may contact him directly with a cover letter, résumé, and one letter of recommendation from a science faculty member. He also shares that “there are a number of Junior Faculty in the Department who would be delighted to host Middlebury summer interns, and should reach out to them directly. They are welcome to mention my name.”

Faculty members include:

Hachung Chung

Tony (Yeufeng) Huang

Mimi (Chi-Min) Ho

Middlebury Dark Sky Survey – 2019

Mittelman Observatory requests your participation! The Observatory is embarking on a project to study awareness, knowledge, perceptions, perspectives, and sensibilities of the local Middlebury community about issues related to dark skies, light pollution, and the environment. Please visit go/darkskysurvey to anonymously participate in our 2019 Middlebury Dark Sky Survey.

Upcoming Scholarship Opportunities and Deadlines

From our colleagues in Undergraduate Research.

DAAD Rise: STEM summer research internships in Germany. Sophomores, juniors eligible. No German language required. See www.daad.de/rise/en/rise-germany. Application deadline Dec 15.

Goldwater Scholarship: Tuition award, STEM students planning research careers. Sophomores and juniors eligible. Must have 3.7+ GPA, US citizen or US national. Nomination applications due Nov 10; see go/goldwater.

Hertz Fellowship: Funding for graduate study, STEM fields. Seniors/alumni. Must have very strong GPA; US citizen or permanent resident; GRE or MCAT scores (for MD/PhD) required. See hertzfoundation.org. Deadline Oct. 23.

Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship (NOAA): Tuition award, NOAA internships and mentorship. Sophomores eligible to apply; must be US citizen working in NOAA-related field. See noaa.gov for more info. Application deadline Jan 31.

Michel David-Weill Scholarship: Supports a two-year master’s program at Sciences Po. Must be U.S. citizens, seniors/super-seniors, minimum GPA of 3.7. Candidates apply independently to Sciences Po. French not needed to apply. Nomination deadline: Oct 15 (noon) Nomination applications due Oct 15 (noon). See the David-Weill Scholarship page for info.

NSF GRFP: Funding for graduate study, STEM fields. Seniors/alumni. Must have very strong GPA; US citizen, US national, permanent resident. See NSF online info. Deadlines vary according to field, Oct 19-25.

Udall Scholarship: Tuition award for environmental leaders committed to careers in that field or Native Americans focused on Native American issues. Strong GPA, US citizen, record of leadership/initiative. Nomination applications TBA (late January); see go/udall.

Science and Conservation in the Largest and Deepest UNESCO World Heritage Site on Earth: The Pheonix Islands Protected Area

Howard E. Woodin Environmental Studies Colloquium Series

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, in the Republic of Kiribati, is the largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage Site on the planet. It hosts a diversity of marine ecosystems including shallow coral reefs, deep sea, and open ocean, and is an important climate laboratory because it is sensitive to El Nino / La Nina dynamics in the Central Pacific. This talk by Randi Rotjan, Research Assistant Professor at Boston University, will explore the latest integrative and interdisciplinary science in a conservation context.

September 19 at 12:30 in Hilcrest 103

Learn more about the Howard E. Woodin Environmental Studies Colloquium Series here. This lecture is also part of the 2019 Clifford Symposium: The Future of the Global Ocean.