Scientific Journals: From the Lab to the World

by Erica Mitchell | May 3 2016

Scientists around the world toil in their laboratories or in the field conducting research according to the scientific method. One of the final steps in the scientific method is sharing data within the scientific community. The most important way these 15 million + scientists share their work with their colleagues and the world at large is through publication in a scientific journal. Publication in a journal means the wider community has access to research that may help in other studies, but it also means the data has been reviewed and meets established criteria for reliability, meaning fellow scientists can trust the findings and use them with confidence.

Today’s post will explore the steps required for work to achieve publication, and tomorrow’s post will describe the resulting article format.

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The Bizarre Animal That Helps Keep Us Healthy

by Erica Mitchell | November 6 2015

Around 248 million years ago, a mass extinction wipes out most life on Earth. Half of all animal families become extinct. Almost every single marine species is erased, including thousands of species of trilobite. Among the hardy survivors is a trilobite cousin, a 10-legged, 9-eyed, carapace-covered creature, living in the shallow waters of a ravaged planet.

Fast forward 200 million years, and our survivor continues to live in these shallow waters, a small creature surrounded by giant dinosaurs. When another mass extinction hits the Earth, these giants succumb, along with about half of marine invertebrates. But not our survivor, whose unchanged shape and size allow him to soldier on, even through several ice ages.

Who is this survivor, a living fossil that looks like a rock, moves like a tank, and chews food with its legs? 

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Invasion of the Nanoparticles: Separating Fact from Fiction, Part 1

by Erica Mitchell | April 2 2015

Nanoparticles-01Today's medical and consumer markets are flooded with products touting the benefits of nanoparticles. There are countless products that claim to contain nanoparticles, nanotechnology, or nano-anything to try to ride this wave of interest. (Thanks to the efforts at The Wilson Center and Virginia Tech, a Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory exists to allow the consumer to research products.) Just what are nanoparticles, what is nanotechnology, and how can you tell what benefits are real and which are just marketing tricks? We'll deal with the first questions today, and in our next post help you understand product claims.
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4 Critical Steps on the Path to Zero Harm

by Erica Mitchell | December 17 2014

In our last post we discussed three major innovations that led to the formalization of infection control. Now we'll see what four elements make up a hospital's infection control strategy.


1. Hand hygiene

Remember poor Dr. Semmelweiss? If he lived today, he would be glad to see that hand hygiene finally receives the recognition it deserves. However, it just might push him over the edge to learn that, on average, doctors still only wash their hands 50% of the time between patients. Hand-washing campaigns do much to remind staff, but research shows that efforts must be on-going rather than short-term "events." It is important for patients and visitors to maintain hand hygiene as well, as well as the general public. No special techniques or soaps are required - just regular soap and water for 20 seconds, making sure to clean between fingers. Oh, and drying them properly after you wash is also important: Using paper towels is the best way to remove bacteria (hot-air dryers actually increase bacterial levels by spraying them around the environment.)

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Our Love/Hate Relationship with Bacteria

by Erica Mitchell | November 12 2014


What is bacteria?

Bacteria are single-cell organisms. Where humans are made up of, on average 1 trillion cells, bacteria are made up of just one. But one isn't the loneliest number when it comes to bacteria; they reproduce very efficiently by splitting into two, who then go on to split into two more… and on until you have a colony of bacteria. Some of these  colonies are beneficial to us, some don't harm us at all, and some are downright nasty, leading to harmful infections which can threaten our lives.

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