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Call for Application: Mellon-Sawyer Graduate Research Assistantship

The Program in Early Cultures at Brown University (PEC) invites applications from current Brown University doctoral students for two Graduate Research Assistants for AY 2013-2014 to support participation in a Mellon-Sawyer Seminar, “Animal Magnetism: The Emotional Ecology of Animals and Humans.” All applicants should submit a letter of application and curriculum vitae by March 26, 2013. Find out more.

Team Wins Regionals for Policy Solutions Challenge

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Taubman Center master’s students Matthew McCabe, Kelsey Sherman, Amber Ma, Gayatri Sahgal, and Dana Schwartz, have won the mid-Atlantic regionals of Policy Solutions Challenge USA, a competition that encourages public policy students to develop innovative solutions to U.S. policy problems. The Taubman team will compete in the finals in Washington, D.C. on March 22 and 23, facing off against teams from seven other policy schools.

How a Microbial Biorefinery Regulates Genes

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A group of researchers, including graduate student Jennifer Davis, have unlocked the genetic and molecular mechanisms behind a part of the process to break down plant biomass into the precursors of biodiesel or other commodity chemicals. These might one day be used to produce alternatives to petroleum. The potential of this “biorefinery” technology is limited by the fact that most microorganisms cannot break down lignin, a highly stable polymer that makes up as much as a third of plant biomass. Streptomyces bacteria are among few microorganisms known to degrade and consume lignin.

Girl Rising: In Many Countries, Education is for Boys Only

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Edwidge Danticat '93 MFA tells the story of a girl from Haiti in Holly Gordon '93's documentary, Girl Rising. This film shows how education transformed the lives of ten girls from ten different developing countries. It will debut on March 8 and air on CNN this spring. Read more.

Size of lunch dictates force of crunch

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Nicholas Gidmark, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is part of a team to determine that even in the same animal, not all bites are the same. A new study finds that because the force in a muscle depends on how much it is stretched, an animal’s bite force depends on the size of what it is biting. The finding has direct implications for ecology and evolution.

New Findings: Higher Injury Odds for Older Motorcyclists

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A study by Tracy L. Jackson, a graduate student in Epidemiology was published this week in the journal Injury Prevention, which found that older bikers are three times as likely to be severely injured in a crash as younger riders. The percentage of older bikers on the road is quickly rising. Nationwide, from 1990 to 2003, the number of motorcyclists over 50 rose from roughly 1 in 10 to about 1 in 4. Read more about increasing accidents in an older population.

Samoan obesity epidemic starts at birth

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Postdoctoral researcher Nicola Hawley is part of a team to study the increasing prevalence of obesity in American Samoa. The results recently published in the journal Pediatric Obesity may not be confined to Polynesian populations, said the authors. American Samoa’s prevalence of obesity in infancy may be the harbinger of a slower-moving trend in the same direction in developed nations.

Mitochondrial Mutations: When the Cell’s Two Genomes Collide

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Plant and animal cells contain two genomes: one in the nucleus and one in the mitochondria. When mutations occur in each, they can become incompatible, leading to disease. Graduate student, Marissa Holmbeck is an author on the paper that hopes to increase the understanding of such illnesses. She worked on a team with scientists at Brown University and Indiana University to trace one example in fruit flies down to the individual errant nucleotides and the mechanism by which the flies become sick.