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April 2015

polymers for stem cell differentiation

Jen Martinez spoke in session KK about her work on genetic engineering of polymers to control stem cell differentiation. The goal is to make scalable, printable, libraries of genetically engineered polymers to overcome the limitations of synthetic polymers: lack of stereo- and regio- selectivity, polydispersity, and lack of specific binding sites.

Her work on phage display techniques differs from current synthetic combinatorial chemistry, in its speed, monodisperse products, and wider variety of products (10^8 combinations). Yeast sorting allows a very quick winnowing of the options. She has thus been able to synthesize and identify particular polymers that have unique, targeted abilities to differentiate stem cells with no other external stimuli. Very beautiful work!

MD simulations of Chlorotoxin stability

Peng Li spoke in session KK about his work on stability of chlorotoxin, a toxin purified from scorpion venom, which may have applications as an anticancer polypeptide. Peng's knowledge will contribute to the design parameters for novel chlorotoxin delivery mechanisms. Specifically, he found that increasing concentrations make the molecule less stable but more compact. The molecule was found to be most stable at 300K. Very interesting work.

electrochemistry of modified DNA monolayers

In KK, Amir Mazaheripour spoke about electrochemistry of monolayers of DNA that had been modified worth a surrogate perlyene base. This work has broad applications for development of the next generation of organic electronics as well as the rational design of biocompatible bio sensors. The synthesis yield is higher than that of current state of the art redox probes, and their synthesis technique offers the potential for tuneable control of the electrical properties. Bravo!

peptide SAMs on gold NPs

Elena Colangelo spoke today in GG about her work on whether the curvature of gold NPs will affect the conformation of adsorbed proteins. This is an important topic, with wide ranging applications from drug delivery to energy. She found that more highly curved NPs inhibit hydrogen bonding, decreasing the amount of beta sheet secondary structures. This work will help to inform future investigations seeking to modify nanoparticles with functional ligands. Thanks!

Poster session: saving the best for last

Tonight's poster session, though smaller than the other nights, is a great showing. There is still time to check it out! Many of the posters in session HH are revolutionary-- showing polymers that self-assemble, control the assembly of inorganic nanoparticles, and even fluoresce in response to stimuli. 

After the session, get some sleep because there is a full day ahead, with particularly exciting Friday line-ups in TT, related to energy and in KK related to nanomaterials in medicine.

For many people the MRS Spring Meeting came to an end… Not for me, tomorrow is TheBigDay with my first talk at a big conference.

Wish me luck!

My last post with some impressions of the conference will be tomorrow.

Carlo Montemagno’s talk

What an inspiring talk!

On the last slide of his talk, Michelangelo’s quote: The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it

He gave an overview of the cutting-edge projects (in the general areas of environment, health and energy) going on in his lab, IngenuityLab.

The project that fascinated me the most is the 4D Printer, where the fourth dimension is intended to be the functionality of the complex system built up by single molecules. The general concept is the precise assemble of the functional building blocks found in nature to give new functionalities to the system, where these functionalities are meant to address issues regarding energy, environment and human health.

It may sound too futuristic, but would you ever have imagined having your smartphone, as it looks like today, 10 years ago?

Neelkanth Bardhan’s talk

I had the pleasure to listen to Neelkanth Bardhan’s talk, Gold MRS graduate student awardee, at Symposium GG.

First, I want to say that I found his presentation very clear and easy to follow, nice layout of the slides.

He first went through the motivation of his work: there is the clinical need of safer (compared to X-rays) and less expensive (compared to MRI) detection technologies. He then presented his work aiming to answer this need: developing a biologically-templated nanomolecular probe for high-resolution in vivo sensing and detection. His modular probe is constituted of M13 virus coating single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). To this construct desired fluorescent dyes and specific targeting ligands can be attached. His results in vivo have shown how this probe is able to target tumours and can be used during real-time surgical intervention.

More details on his work and successful applications of this probe can be found here.

Another Post on Posters

This session has already been covered before in this blog, but I felt  I had to do this after I saw some people printing out presentation slides on A4 sheets and passing them off as posters. Come on people! Tim Miller delivered another of his fabulous sessions yesterday, on designing technical posters for the second time this week (Just helps in making my point about how badly we all need it). He's fun, he's enthusiastic, and he makes a lot of sense. Here are a few pointers from his session:

I agree we're all scientists, and not designers, but we aren't writers either but we still have to write papers and design posters. The nature of the poster session makes a vast expanse of knowledge available, and people often make an emotional decision of whether or not to approach your poster depending on how it "looks". For the short 3-5 hour duration that we need to put it up, we might as well a decent job of it. To put it in short, a good poster is one which is attractive, legible, digestible and expresses one (and only one) idea. (yes, sometimes some posters fail to convey less than one idea). Here are seven easy(?) steps you should go about if you have to make one:

Step 1: Take a piece of paper or open a word document and write down all the ideas. Don't start right away in your design space as the design space is going to limit your wonderful, wonderful imagination and ideas. Don't want that to happen now, do we?

Step 2: Assemble the figures. Time for some design theory. There are essentially two kinds of images, the first one being bitmap ( .jpeg, .png etc ) which are unscalable and pixelate badly when expanded (which means they look grainy and bad). The other kind, the one you want to work with are vector graphics (.pdf, .svg, .ai) which are much better to work with and make your poster look good. Also, another tip will be to expand your image as much as possible and label the curves/axes within instead of putting them at the bottom or side. That's a waste of space and makes it difficult to read. Do everyone a favor and make your axes readable and not some minute font which nobody can understand. 

Step 3: Make a plan of how you're going to lay all your data out. 
Again, do this one on paper first, its much easier and convenient for novices like ourselves. An important thing to remember while doing is the order of operations should be clear. Don't put random boxes in any order to make it look "creative".People should know what's the order of the text. 

Step 4: Colors, Fonts and Sizes.
I feel this is the most needed tip as most of us are grossly bad at it and choose outrageous color schemes and fonts for our posters. If you don't know what looks good and what doesn't, ask someone who does. Also, its good to be proud of your school and the place where you came from, but that doesn't mean you have to use your school colors to design your poster. 
Use atmost three colors, using a different color only to distinguish something. Dont use light colors on white, or green on red. Be aware that the colors you see on your screen and the colors printed on your poster look slightly different. So don't go for any intricate gradients or color schemes. Keep it simple. 

Fonts! Ideally, use only two font types, one for your titles and one for your body. Here are some Font size guidelines for you: (assuming your software knows the final size of your poster)
Title Size: 86 pt
Headings/Authors: 56 pt
Sub-Headings : 36 pt
Body: 28 pt
Captions: 18pt

Step 5: Lay it out in software. 
Please please do yourself and this world a favor and dump Powerpoint for making posters. Its terrible at this stuff and just a huge recipe of a disaster poster. Familiarize yourself with design software like InDesign, Illustrator or Inkscape. They're really easy to learn, and going to make your job easier. Plus, if you've already done steps 1-4, this shouldn't be too much trouble. 

Step 6 : Print the poster and Hang it a week before the conference. 
Highly recommended step. Cannot stress it enough. 

Step 7: Go to the session! Know when and where you're supposed to be, whether you're supposed to bring pushpins, etc etc. Be confident, interact, and present your poster well! 


These are all the wise wise words and ideas of Tim Miller of Spoken Science, and I claim no right over them whatsoever. Hope we all learned something!