Arsenic: Poison and Building Block for Life?

The press conference announced last week by NASA promised to reveal details about “an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”

The news, that researchers conducting tests in the harsh environment of Mono Lake in  California had, according to NASA , “discovered the first known microorganism on Earth able to thrive and reproduce using the toxic chemical arsenic,” was indeed intriguing.

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In the Lab

Studying Slime Mold Yields Insight into Cellular Behavior

August 19, 2010

It may sound like something out of a Far Side cartoon, but it’s serious science. Amherst College biology professor David Ratner and several of his students have spent this summer examining how Dictyostelium discoideum—a cellular slime mold—behaves. The bigger goal is to explore the research frontiers of gene expression and protein degradation. It all adds up to an intense summer research experience for students and professor alike, as well as insights into how the degradation of proteins influences the division of all cells, whether normal and healthy or mutated and malfunctioning.

In this video, Ratner, along with students Benjamin Garmezy ’11 and Elizabeth “Molly” Scott ’13, discuss their research, the altruistic qualities of the slime mold and the considerable advantages of studying science at a liberal arts college such as Amherst.

Nature Episode to Feature Professor Ethan Temeles’ Hummingbird Research

December 22, 2009Ethan Temeles

Tiny birds will be the big stars of an episode of Nature airing Jan. 10 on PBS. The episode will feature the hummingbird research of Ethan J. Temeles, professor of biology at Amherst College.

The show, titled “Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air,” will feature Temeles’ research on the purple-throated carib hummingbird on the island nation of Dominica. The film is spectacular for its high-speed cinematography: viewers can literally see hummingbirds trying to kick each other as they squabble over food and get birds’-eye views of them feeding from flowers.

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