10 Positive Updates on the COVID-19 Outbreaks From Around the World
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Nurse's hand holding a syringe giving a vaccination to a patient

By McKinley Corbley

It seems that your news feed has been flooded with nerve-wracking updates on the COVID-19 outbreaks, have no fear—there are also plenty of positive updates on the pandemic as well.

So without any further ado, here is a list of 10 hopeful headlines on the coronavirus response from around the world.

 

1) U.S. Researchers Deliver First COVID-19 Vaccine to Volunteers in Experimental Test Program

Scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle delivered the first rounds of a potential coronavirus vaccine to several dozen optimistic volunteers earlier this week.

43-year-old vaccine recipient Jennifer Haller, who is also a mother to two teenagers, was all smiles after she told AP reporters she was “feeling great” as she was leaving the clinic. “This is an amazing opportunity for me to do something,” she added.

2) Distilleries Across the United States Are Making Their Own Free Hand Sanitizers to Give Away for Free

Amidst national shortages of hand sanitizers, alcohol distilleries in Atlanta, Portland, rural Georgia, and North Carolina have begun using their facilities to make their own sanitation products.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) says that cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based rub can help to kill viruses on your hands, many of the distilleries say they hope to continue producing their bootleg sanitizers until the virus has been properly contained.

3) Air Pollution Plummets in Cities With High Rates of Quarantine

Satellite readings of air pollution levels over China and Italy show that the regions hit hardest by the COVID-19 have also caused air pollution levels to decline dramatically.

Some reports estimate that China’s quarantine has saved more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere—which is about the equivalent of what Chile produces in a year.

Not only have similar effects been reported across Italy, the canals and waterways of Venice are reportedly cleaner than ever with the waters shining crystal clear in the absence of diesel-powered boats and gondoliers.

4) Johns Hopkins Researcher Says That Antibodies From Recovered COVID Patients Could Help Protect People At Risk

The vaccine developers in Seattle aren’t the only ones working on potential treatments and cures for the disease—an immunologist from Johns Hopkins University is reviving a century-old blood-derived treatment for use in the United States in hopes of slowing the spread of the disease.

The technique uses antibodies from the blood plasma or serum of people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection to boost the immunity of newly-infected patients and those at risk of contracting the disease.

5) South Korean Outbreak Finally Abating as Recoveries Outnumber New Infections for Three Days in a Row

According to Reuters, South Korea recorded more COVID-19 recovery cases on March 6th than new infections for the first time since the nation experienced the largest Asian outbreak outside of China.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak was first reported in South Korea back in January, the nation reached a peak of 909 new infections on February 29th.

Now, however, Reuters reports that the declining rate of infection has continued to fall with less than 100 new cases reported for several days in a row.

6) China Celebrates Several Milestones of Recovery After Temporary Hospitals Close and Parks Reopen

Crowds of medical staffers and discharged patients were filmed celebrating the closure of all 14 temporary hospitals that opened in Wuhan to treat COVID-19 patients during the worst of the outbreak.

Authorities told the South China Morning Post this week that the virus had finally passed its peak as the nation’s mainland experienced only 11 new cases on March 13th, most of which were from international travelers.

As the outbreak is finally brought under control, parks and tourist attractions are slowly beginning to reopen to the public under careful moderation.

7) Australian Researchers Testing Two Drugs as Potential ‘Cures’ for the Virus

At the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, scientists have found that two different medications—both of which are registered and available in Australia—have completely wiped out traces of the disease in test tubes.

Not only that, the drugs were given to some of the nation’s first COVID-19 patients, which resulted in “disappearance of the virus and complete recovery from the infection,” researchers told News.com.au.

The university is now looking to conduct a nationwide trial with the drugs to evaluate the efficacy and tolerance of each drug administered separately and together.

8) Uber Eats is Supporting the North American Restaurant Industry By Waiving Delivery Fees for 100,000 Restaurants

As restaurants across Canada and the United States are forced to temporarily shut down amidst COVID-19 outbreaks, Uber Eats has announced that they will be waiving delivery fees for independent restaurants.

“We know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand,” the company said in a statement. “That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.

“As more customers are choosing to stay indoors, we’ve waived the Delivery Fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants across US and Canada on Uber Eats. We will also launch daily dedicated, targeted marketing campaigns—both in-app and via email—to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.”

9) Dutch and Canadian Researchers Are Reporting Additional Breakthrough Research on Treating the Virus

Scientists from Canada and the Netherlands have also made medical breakthroughs of their own. In Toronto, a team of researchers managed to isolate the agent responsible for the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, which will help researchers around the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments, and vaccines.

“Researchers from these world-class institutions came together in a grassroots way to successfully isolate the virus in just a few short weeks,” said Dr. Rob Kozak, clinical microbiologist at Sunnybrook University. “It demonstrates the amazing things that can happen when we collaborate.”

Meanwhile, Dutch researchers have submitted a scientific paper for publishing on how they have identified an anti-body for the virus—and it could be a world-first.

10) Here Are a Bunch of Other Ways That People and Businesses Are Supporting Each Other Throughout the US Outbreak

Dollar General has announced that they will be devoting their opening hour of shopping time to elderly customers. Athletes and sports teams are pledging to pay the wages of arena employees during the shutdown. Utility companies, landlords, automakers, and internet providers are waiving a number of late fees and payments to ease the financial burden of the shutdown. School districts across the country are still opening their doors to serve meals to kids and families.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Raising Our Voices for Diversity in the Geosciences
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A geologist working underground

By Lucila Houttuijn Bloemendaal, Katarena Matos, Kendra Walters, and Aditi Sengupta

Almost 50 years ago, in June 1972, attendees at the First National Conference on Minority Participation in Earth Sciences and Mineral Engineering [Gillette and Gillette, 1972] held one of the first formal discussions on the lack of diversity in the geosciences.

Unfortunately, despite the many conversations since then addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), the geosciences still face many of the problems cited in that meeting. These problems include, for example, difficulty recruiting youth from marginalized groups into a field that is often hostile to them and scientists from underrepresented backgrounds routinely needing to go above and beyond their peers to prove their professional value and right to belong.

Clearly, drafting statements in support of diversity—as many institutions have done—is not enough to effect change in the geosciences. Individuals and institutions must engage deeply and with a long-term mindset to ensure sustainable efforts that translate to real, personal success for geoscientists from a diversity of backgrounds. In addition, the community must continue to create spaces for conversations that highlight and share best practices focused on improving DEI.

As members of AGU’s Voices for Science 2019 cohort, we learned several effective methods of science communication. For example, we learned that by sharing lessons learned and blueprints for action with broader audiences, we can more effectively use our voices and power to demand real, tangible goals to make the geosciences inclusive and accessible. From among the 2019 cohort, a small team of scientists from a variety of fields and career stages thus convened a town hall at AGU’s Fall Meeting 2019 to discuss improving DEI. At the town hall, titled “Power of Science Lies in Its Diverse Voices,” panelists highlighted their approaches and work to increase diversity in the geosciences for an audience of roughly 100 attendees.

To make the town hall an example of a diverse event, invited panelists represented a wide array of fields, nationalities, ethnicities, genders, and career paths and stages. Below, we highlight the advice and work of the panelists, Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Sujata Emani, Heather Handley, Tamara Marcus, Bahareh Sorouri, and Robert Ulrich, to provide avenues for readers to promote diversity, incentivize DEI work, and enact change in their own fields, institutions, and lives.

Continue on to EOS: Science News by AGU to read the full article.

Scientists Have Discovered a Genuine Room-Temperature Superconductor
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Superconductor stock image

By Joel Hruska

The search for a truly room-temperature superconducting material has been one of the great Holy Grails in engineering and physics. The ability to move electricity from Point A to B with zero resistance and hence no losses would be a game-changer for human civilization.

Unfortunately, until today, every known superconductor still required very cold temperatures. Today, scientists announced they’ve achieved superconducting at 59 degrees Fahrenheit/15 Celsius. While this is still a bit chilly, you can hit 59F in a well air-conditioned building. This is a genuine breakthrough, but it doesn’t immediately clear the path towards easy deployment of the technology.

At extremely low temperatures, the behavior of electrons through a material changes. At temperatures approaching absolute zero, electrons passing through a material form what are known as Cooper pairs. Normally, single electrons essentially ping-pong through the ionic lattice of the material they are passing through. Each time an electron collides with an ion in the lattice, it loses a tiny amount of energy. This loss is what we call resistance. When cooled to a low enough temperature, electrons behave dramatically differently. Cooper pairs behave like a superfluid, meaning they can flow through material without any underlying energy loss. Tests have demonstrated that current stored inside a superconductor will remain there for as long as the material remains in a superconductive state with zero loss of energy.

There are two problems yet standing between us and a more effective exploitation of this discovery. First, we aren’t sure exactly why this combination of elements works in the first place. The research team used sulfur and carbon, then added hydrogen, forming hydrogen sulfide(H2S) and methane (CH4). These chemicals were placed on a diamond anvil and compressed, then exposed to a green laser for several hours to break sulfur-sulfur bonds. This much is known. Unfortunately, determining the exact composition of the material has proven impossible thus far. The diamond anvil prevents the use of X-rays, and existing technologies that can work around that problem aren’t capable of locating hydrogen atoms in a lattice. The team’s efforts to characterize and understand its own discovery are still ongoing.

Continue to ExtremeTech to read the full article.

2 Scientists Awarded Nobel Prize In Chemistry For Genome Editing Research
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Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna at an event together

By Nell Greenfield Boyce and Mark Katkov

The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded this year to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work on “genetic scissors” that can cut DNA at a precise location, allowing scientists to make specific changes to specific genes.

“This technology has had a revolutionary impact on the life sciences, is contributing to new cancer therapies and may make the dream of curing inherited diseases come true,” the Nobel Committee said in announcing the prize.

Already, doctors have used the technology to experimentally treat sickle cell disease, with promising results.

While some research advances take decades for people to fully appreciate how transformative they are, that wasn’t the case for this new tool, known as CRISPR-Cas9.

“Once in a long time, an advance comes along that utterly transforms an entire field and does so very rapidly,” says Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, which has long supported Doudna’s research. “You cannot walk into a molecular biology laboratory today, working on virtually any organism, where CRISPR-Cas9 is not playing a role in the ability to understand how life works and how disease happens. It’s just that powerful.”

Since scientific papers were published in 2011 and 2012 describing the work, Charpentier says people had repeatedly suggested to her that it was worthy of a Nobel Prize.

“It was indeed mentioned to me a number of times, maybe more than what I would have liked, that one day this so-called discovery may be awarded the Nobel Prize,” Charpentier said in a press briefing.

Still, even after winning other big awards, she says, that possibility didn’t completely hit her until Goran K. Hansson, the secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, called to tell her the news.

“I was very emotional, I have to say,” says Charpentier, who added that she had been told that winning a Nobel is always a big surprise and feels unreal. “Obviously, it’s real, so I have to get used to it now.”

There’s been an ongoing feud, including a fight over lucrative patents, over who deserves the most credit for the development of CRISPR-Cas9.

“It’s a big field and there’s a lot of good science being done in this field. But we have decided this year to award the prize to Charpentier and Doudna, and I can only say that,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, when asked if the committee had considered including anyone else in the prize.

Continue on to NPR to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: Peter Barreras/Invision/AP and NPR

Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds
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The planet Venus

By Shannon StironeKenneth Chang and 

High in the toxic atmosphere of the planet Venus, astronomers on Earth have discovered signs of what might be life.

If the discovery is confirmed by additional telescope observations and future space missions, it could turn the gaze of scientists toward one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Venus, named after the Roman goddess of beauty, roasts at temperatures of hundreds of degrees and is cloaked by clouds that contain droplets of corrosive sulfuric acid. Few have focused on the rocky planet as a habitat for something living.

Instead, for decades, scientists have sought signs of life elsewhere, usually peering outward to Mars and more recently at Europa, Enceladus and other icy moons of the giant planets.

The astronomers, who reported the finding on Monday in a pair of papers, have not collected specimens of Venusian microbes, nor have they snapped any pictures of them. But with powerful telescopes, they have detected a chemical — phosphine — in the thick Venus atmosphere. After much analysis, the scientists assert that something now alive is the only explanation for the chemical’s source.

Some researchers question this hypothesis, and they suggest instead that the gas could result from unexplained atmospheric or geologic processes on a planet that remains mysterious. But the finding will also encourage some planetary scientists to ask whether humanity has overlooked a planet that may have once been more Earthlike than any other world in our solar system.

“This is an astonishing and ‘out of the blue’ finding,” said Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of the papers (one published in Nature Astronomy and another submitted to the journal Astrobiology). “It will definitely fuel more research into the possibilities for life in Venus’s atmosphere.”

“We know that it is an extraordinary discovery,” said Clara Sousa-Silva, a molecular astrophysicist at Harvard University whose research has focused on phosphine, and another of the authors. “We may not know just how extraordinary without going back to Venus.”

Sarah Stewart Johnson, a planetary scientist and head of the Johnson Biosignatures Lab at Georgetown University who was not involved in the work, said, “There’s been a lot of buzz about phosphine as a biosignature gas for exoplanets recently,” referring to the search for life on worlds that orbit other stars. “How cool to find it on Venus.”

Continue on to The New York Times to read the complete article. 

Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

How Engineers are Contributing to the COVID-19 Fight
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By Trevor English

Around the world, there are a plethora of engineers, physicists, scientists, and otherwise just normal people making superhuman efforts at fighting back against COVID-19. From 3D printed masks to mechanical ventilators, the STEAM community is putting up a solid fight.

Let’s take a look at a few of the top engineering projects:

3D Printed Solutions

With 3D printing practically in the mainstream, it’s been a primary tool for engineering to fight against the coronavirus. One notable project is the NanoHack Mask. While there have been a number of 3D printed masks, this mask design offers up versatility in just what you use for the air filtering portion.

Designed specifically for use with a polypropylene filter material to fit in the bottom, it can provide filtration for up to 96.4 percent of microorganisms the size of one micron and 89.5 percent of microorganisms of .02 microns.

Notably though, due to the way that the interface of the mask was designed, it allows for you to replace the filter material with any other found material if you don’t have access to the specific filter required.

Source: Copper3D

Robotic Solutions

While there have been a plethora of companies and individuals that have hacked robots to create ventilators for seriously ill patients, we’re going to focus on another robotic innovation helping patients’ well-being: Robot doctors.

Researchers at Chulalongkorn University have rolled out three new telemedicine robots that can aid the doctor-patient relationship while sparing the regular human interaction. The robots can easily be used by hospital staff to communicate with COVID-19 patients remotely.

The robots were initially designed by the university team to help care for patients that were recovering from strokes, but they are now being repurposed to supply world-class leading medical care during a time when intense quarantine and isolation is needed.

These robots not only maintain a strict barrier between doctor and patient, but they also help one doctor quickly and easily talk with multiple patients. Seeing multiple patients after one another in hospitals often requires stripping and reapplying medical garb, whereas telemedicine robots can easily avoid that.

The robots are capable of assessing the patients’ conditions as well as helping the medical staff to easily track the patients’ symptoms.

Sanitation Solutions

Sanitation has become of a big concern in the overcrowded medical systems where coronavirus outbreaks are peaking. In many places, there is a serious deficit in medical supplies that is forcing doctors and nurses to reuse their surgical masks.

This presents a need for a device that can quickly and easily disinfect surgical masks with a 100 percent success rate. That is exactly what Prescientx, a company located in Ontario, Canada, has tried to create.

They have engineered a device that can disinfect N95 masks utilizing ultraviolet, or UV light. The device is situated overtop of the masks and a UV-C light is shone on the mask at different angles for differing amounts of time. That said, it doesn’t take very long to disinfect just one mask. In fact, the device, called the Terminator CoV, can disinfect up to 500 masks per hour. This can be life-changing for medical staff across the world as they battle the need for safe and clean protective gear.

The machine isn’t just specific to one kind of N95 mask, either. Thanks to the way that it is built, it works practically universally with a variety of mask types and sizes. The masks are driven through a reflective aluminum tunnel for disinfection. While in this tunnel the UV-C light is shone, being sure to hit the masks at all angles, as UV light rays cannot pass through the N95 grade mask material.

How You Can Get Involved

At the end of the day, we’re all in this fight together as we engineer against the coronavirus. Sharing ideas and collaborating is the first step. Check out our map that showcases the most notable engineering contributions to fighting the COVID-19, as well as the latest and most accurate statistics, at interestingengineering.com

Source: https://interestingengineering.com/how-engineers-are-contributing-to-the-fight-against-the-outbreak

Leading the Way: Dr. Sean P.J. Whelan, Scientist of the Year
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Dr. Sean P.J. Whelan in a suit and tie in an office setting

In February, NOGLSTP was pleased to announce its 2020 Recognition Awards for LGBTQ+ Scientist, Engineer, Educator, and Organization of the Year. Dr. Sean P.J. Whelan was awarded Scientist of the Year for his outstanding research and groundbreaking discoveries in the field of virology.

Little did we know at the time how important Dr. Whelan would be to the times that we are all living in.  In July of 2019 Dr. Whelan was named head of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and the Marvin A. Brennecke Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Previously he was the head of the virology program and professor of microbiology and immunobiology at the Harvard Medical School where he still directs a virology Center for Excellence in Translational Research working to find small molecules that prevent viruses form entering or replicating inside cells.

Whelan is thus a significant global leader in advancing the understanding of emerging viral infections. His virology research provides crucial insights into the function and structure of emerging diseases. “Since 1980, there has been a new, emerging infectious disease of humans on average every six months. Almost two-thirds of those agents are enveloped viruses, and the techniques we apply can rapidly provide insight into them,” Whelan said.

His studies focus on how viruses attach to cells, slip inside and hijack our bodies. Dr. Whelan identified the protein that the Ebola virus uses to latch onto cells and also the molecular process that rabies virus uses to invade cells. His research framework especially applies to the recent emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Most approved antiviral drugs target the molecular machinery that viruses use to replicate, but such drugs do not exist for negative-sense RNA viruses, the category to which our current viral nemesis belongs. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of viral invasion and replication provides new targets for the development of antiviral therapeutics.

Whelan is a gay man whose openness has created opportunities to connect, network, and work with other LGBTQ+ scientists. He wants to encourages colleagues to be open and provide examples for students and young scientists. “It is important for LGBTQ students to understand that they may encounter some barriers, but those barriers are not insurmountable, and they can progress and succeed,” Whelan said. We have a hero in our midst who can potentially lead us out of this pandemic. Thank you, Dr. Sean Whelan, for your insights and service in bringing health and safety closer for all of our communities.

About NOGLSTP: The National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) is a membership-based professional society managed by volunteers and a nonprofit educational organization under IRS section 501(c)(3). It was established in 1980 and incorporated in the State of California in 1991. Its mission is to educate the scientific and general communities about the presence and accomplishments of LGBT individuals in STEM professions. NOGLSTP presents educational symposia and workshops nationwide, and fosters dialog with other professional societies, academia and industry to facilitate diversity and inclusion in the workplace. For more information, visit https://www.noglstp.org/. NOGLSTP’s Recognition Awards were established in 2005 as a means to document and honor the contributions of outstanding LGBTQ+ science, engineering, technology, and mathematics professionals. The awards also honor corporations, academic institutions, and businesses that support LGBTQ+ professionals so that their achievements may be known and recognized as role models. The 2020 Recognition Awards were announced during the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA on February 14, 2020. Additional information on past awards are available at:  noglstp.org/programsprojects/recognition-awards

The Man Behind America’s New Spacesuit: Jose Fernandez
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This weekend, and for a while now, new dad of the entertainingly-named little boy, X Æ A-12 Musk, and footloose Twitter aficionado Elon Musk is having one of what he hopes will be a long future of space moments. It’s no small accomplishment to get the nod from NASA bigs that you can carry the most precious asset, their astronauts, up to the big game on the International Space Station, and kudos to Daddy Musk, and to NASA, for that.

But, talk about a cool flight suit: Musk and his deeply pedigreed Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez took a couple of years to design the new NASA super-skinny pressure suits. The spacesuits certainly look snazzy, with their close-to-the-body cut, their elegant dark silver (fireproof!) piping over the white Teflon fabric, their highly articulate gloves and neck, and the black knee-high boots that seem to quote the Duke of Wellington’s own below-the-knee cavalry boots, albeit ready for the wear and tear of outer space rather than that of Napoleon’s cannon at Waterloo.

Mr. Fernandez is no stranger to durable, tight-fitting clothes for heroes, having worked on costumes for Batman V Superman: Dawn of JusticeTronIronman 2The Amazing Spiderman, and Captain America: Civil War, to name just a few of his impressive credits. He was first approached by SpaceX in 2016 to participate in a design competition and freely recounts that he didn’t, at first, understand that it was for a real space effort, not a movie production about a space effort, to which he would be submitting his work. “I didn’t know what SpaceX was, and I thought it was a film,” the modest Fernandez says.

Not so the light, ovoid, and very open-to-the-cosmos Fernandez helmet. Fernandez has not simply given his astronauts a better, less obstructed field of vision. The helmet tops a flexible and, for a spacesuit, very extended and articulate neck piece, best seen above on astronaut Doug Hurley, left, as he boards the Tesla on May 27 en route to the spacecraft before the first launch was scrubbed. In fact, some of the old NASA helmets would wholly prevent the astronaut from even contemplating getting his head low enough to get into a car as astronaut Hurley is doing. We’ll get to see Hurley and his partner Bob Behnken do it again on Saturday, and again with the excellent product placement of the Musk-enterprise-friendly Tesla as the new and very cushy official NASA launch-tender ride.

With the visor up, the Fernandez helmet resembles that of a Parisian pompeur , a fireman’s helmet, jaunty and protective at once. Visor down, the sleek ovoid quotes some of Kier Dullea’s very, very cool space headgear that Stanley Kubrick had commissioned for his masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. In addition, close viewers of the Grammys and all fans of disco/electronic/dance/trance will notice a strong connection in the NASA helmet to the helmets sported by the ultra-shy French pop duo Daft Punk.

This is no accident: It should be noted that Daft Punk has in fact commissioned the brilliant Fernandez for several pieces of their trademark weird-oh disco-robot headgear. But as a deeply schooled “extreme couture” tailor to all sorts of cinematic superheros and heroines embroiled in narratives whose origins stretch back to the early 20th century, Mr. Fernandez would be well aware of Kubrick’s earlier camera-friendly helmet innovations.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article

Photo: Getty Images

Meet the Woman Behind Space X, President and Engineer Gwynne Shotwell
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Gwynne Shotwell smiling for the camera

This past weekend, the United States made history when Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the Dragon Crew capsule into space, the first U.S. mission from U.S. soil since 2011. SpaceX is primarily associated with Musk, as he was the founder of the company, but many people don’t know about the company’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell.

Now responsible for SpaceX’s operations and growth, Shotwell has been working with SpaceX since the company was founded in 2002 and was immediately put on the board of directors. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University and previously worked with The Aerospace Corporation and Microcosm Inc. in El Segundo, California. Wanting to apply her skills in engineering in a hands-on environment, Shotwell worked with The Aerospace Corporation in military space research, technical work, spacecraft design and thermal analysis. She spent much of her time specifically studying small spacecraft design and how to navigate such a spacecraft in and out of the cosmos. She later went on to work Microcosm Inc, a rocket building company, where she oversaw business development.

Having both the skills and knowing the ins and outs of spacecraft and business, Shotwell’s expertise at SpaceX still stands. Under her supervision, SpaceX has launched five billion dollars’ worth of crafts with the Falcon vehicle family and has now become the first privately owned business to send astronauts into space. Additionally, Shotwell recently became a member on the board of directors for Polaris, an automotive vehicle manufacturing company, and serves in many STEM-related programs. Her work in these areas have earned her several awards, including a spot in the 2012 Women in Technology Hall of Fame and as one of Forbes’ Magazine’s Top 50 Women in Tech.

Through all of her successes, it seems as if Shotwell has more large-scale accomplishments to come. As part of a multi-billion dollar deal with NASA, SpaceX will continue to work on a transportation system to take the first humans to Mars.

This New COVID-19 Test is Bringing Us Closer to the Cure
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African-american scientist or graduate student in lab coat and protective wear works in modern laboratory

The University of Washington’s Virology Lab has been working tirelessly since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It was one of the first labs to formulate a test for the presence of the virus and has processed thousands of these tests at its facilities. In fact, the university’s virology lab is currently processing its newest success in partnership with Abbott Labs’ antibody test for COVID-19.

The University has been running trials of Abbott Labs’ antibody blood tests, designed to find out who has natural or built-up immunity to COVID-19. The trials have proved to be incredibly successful.

Though showing immunity isn’t a cure, it is a major step to getting to that point. Knowing who is immune and who has had the virus before helps track the origins of the disease, knowing the components that can be used in a vaccine, and helps ensure the safety of bringing people back into the workforce. It is unclear how the antibodies of the novel coronavirus work or if you could get infected with the virus a second time, but Keith Jerome, the leader of the University of Washington’s virology program, assured that people with the antibodies will have more protection than those who do not. Receiving the virus a second time could result in more cold-like symptoms and not require the extreme hospitalization methods in place now.

The work being done in the study of antibodies through the University of Washington would not be possible without Abbott’s partnership. The antibody test produced by Abbott is not the first of its kind to be produced, but it is said to be the most reliable and the most sensitive in analyzation. In fact, Abbott’s test has correctly identified COVID-19 99.6% of the time against other viruses and has a 100% sensitivity to the coronavirus antibodies. Best of all, the test only takes about ten to fifteen minutes to retrieve the results.

“This starts to get us to the point that we can make a difference for the population of our area, get people back to work and give them back the lives that they were hoping for,” Jerome said.

Richard Tapia: Excellence Comes in All Flavors
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Richard Tapia standing at a podium, giving a speech

Diversity in STEAM Magazine was proud to attend last year’s ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference, a premier event that brought together students, faculty, researchers and professionals from all backgrounds and ethnicities in computing.

The theme of last year’s conference in San Diego – “Diversity: Building a Stronger Future.”

The event, sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and presented by the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT), is named in honor of renowned computational and mathematical scientist Dr. Richard Tapia, an esteemed mathematician and professor in the Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Among his many honors, Tapia was the first Hispanic elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In 2011, he received the National Medal of Science from former U.S. President Barack Obama for his pioneering and fundamental contributions in optimization theory and numerical analysis.

“I get a lot of awards and I appreciate them all,” Tapia said. “But I want people to know I have a professional life in science. I want to be known as a scientist.”

The aim of the Tapia Conference is to promote diversity among undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, researchers and professionals in computing from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Last year’s panel of impressive keynote speakers included Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO, Blendor, Hector Ruiz, founder and chairman, Advanced Nanotechnology, Inc. and Jennifer Mankoff, Richard E. Ladner professor, Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington.

Tapia said he gets great satisfaction from seeing students who attend the conference inspired by others who, “look just like themselves.”

“My legacy has historically been to bring black, brown, all people together,” he said. “To show people that excellence comes in all flavors.”

Each year, the Richard A. Tapia Award is given annually to an individual who is a distinguished computational or computer scientist or engineer who is making significant contributions in civic areas such as teaching, mentoring, advising, and building and serving communities. The individual is also one who demonstrates extraordinary leadership in increasing the participation of groups who are underrepresented in the sciences.

Last year’s award went to Cristina Villalobos, a Myles and Sylvia Aaronson professor in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, as well as the founding director of the Center of Excellence in STEM Education.

“Cristina Villalobos is a leading mathematician in the fields of optimization, optimal control and modelling,” said Valerie Taylor, CMD-IT CEO and president. “Throughout her career, she has significantly impacted different application areas through her research in optimization–impacting areas such as the treatment of eye disease and the design of antennas.

In addition, Villalobos has strengthened STEM academic programs and been a leader in student mentoring–increasing the number of Hispanic students pursuing PhD’s in mathematics.”

Deeply honored to receive the award, Villalobos said, “It recognizes my efforts in working with students over the years to prepare them for graduate studies in STEM, and especially in contributing to increasing the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in graduate programs and in academia.”

During his time at Rice University, Tapia has directed or co-directed more underrepresented minority and women doctoral recipients in science and engineering than anyone in the country. He insists he was just able to help where help was needed. “My mother always used to say, ‘One step at a time will take you to a good place underneath the rainbow.’”

Source: CMD-IT, utrgv.edu/newsroom

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service