George S. Zaidan ’08, while an undergraduate at MIT, ran into a conceptual problem while teaching a course for high school students (See The Tech article). He asked his students to plan an experiment and in the process realized that most students did not understand the process of developing a scientific hypothesis and designing hypothesis driven experiments. George conceived the idea of having an online presence for students interested in science to go and explore who was doing research and how they were doing it. He called it OpenLabWare. With the help of John Essigmann, his academic adviser, George started to assemble a working team. He recruited other MIT undergraduates and worked tirelessly for three years, obtaining funding and academic support for his vision.
The process of research and scientific discovery still remains a mystery to most people. But thanks to George’s ideas and hard work, more people can understand how scientists develop research programs and carry out their research. OpenCourseWare provides a glimpse into the every day lives of the individuals who help develop the next generation of scientific and engineering discoveries.
This weekend is the 9th Annual Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival run by my friend Thomas Bena. Every year Thomas crossed the globe selecting films for the annual film festival. He began the project as a way to provide thought provoking, insightful, and powerful glimpses of human nature, at its best and its worst moments. Thomas goes to great lengths to put together a weekend program that subtly carries the viewer from topic to topic, touching the most inner recesses of their lives. He cares about creating a space in which he can make real contributions to his community’s cultural development. Take a look at this years program schedule.
It was only recently that we began to understand the capacity of microbes to populate the most inhospitable places on earth. From the inside of nuclear reactors to highly corrosive sulfur environments, microbes are there. We have found them in 100,000 year old ice cores and in the bottom of the deepest ocean. Microbes were among the first life forms and many of them have evolved in extreme, isolated environments.
One of my research interests is to examine how microbes thrive in these extreme environments. One unique place where microbes live is deep in the earth’s surface. Here, they live at elevated temperatures and pressures. They also have to make do with very little source of nutrients. Between the extreme environment, low nutrients, and evolutionary isolation, these life forms harbor the possibility of novel energy regulation and utilization pathways.
To study these microbes, we have to design and build our own experimental equipment. Currenlty, I am building a high pressure microbial growth chamber for one of the projects I am work on. This system is going to be able to withstand pressures greater than 160 ATM (1 ATM = 14.7 psi). We also will have an optical setup with a view cell which will let us examine how our cultures are behaving under these high pressures. I hope to have the safety cage built this week (the picture is of me drilling the 3/8″ steel plate for the bottom of the cage) and start piping the growth chamber next week. It is really exciting to see how all of this is coming together. Stay tuned to see the progress of the high pressure growth chamber.