Next Science Workshop: Professor Andrea Grottoli

Andrea Grottoli

Coral Reefs and Climate Change: How Will Reefs Survive?

Please join us at our next Science Workshop as we welcome Professor Andrea Grottoli of the School for Earth Sciences at The Ohio State University. You can access a pdf of a relevant publication here.

Science Workshop is 1:00, Friday October 7 in Dickinson 232.

Refreshments will be served.

FWT Work by Carlos Mendez (’15) Published

All students at Bennington participate in internships or get similar other positions during Field Work Term (FWT) – it’s one of the distinguishing features of a Bennington education. In science, this often means that students perform experimental work at research universities, gaining skills and experiences that compliment those developed through their coursework on campus.

BCR&TDuring FWT 2014, current graduating senior Carlos Mendez had the opportunity to do breast cancer research at The Department of Cancer Biology in the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope. Results from his research were just published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. He contributed to an investigation that examined the efficacy of a novel combination of drugs on so-called triple-negative breast cancers. Results indicated that this particular drug combination could offer new targeted therapies for such breast cancers, making a strong case that clinical studies in patients should be pursued.

Read the abstract here. Congratulations, Carlos



Genetics students publish paper in Journal of Student Research

jur figure

The protein-protein interaction network generated from data collected by students in Amie McClellan’s Genetics course. The figure is from the student co-authored paper just published in The Journal of Student Research.

Science courses at Bennington College are known for providing meaningful laboratory experiences involving original student research. Amie McClellan’s Fall 2013 Genetics students got to take this one step further – their term-long research project was just published in the Journal of Student Research. The students performed a genome-wide genetic screen to determine what genes, if any, were required for yeast to grow in the presence of sodium dodecyl sulfate, an anionic detergent commonly used both in science laboratories and commercial cleaning and cleansing products, such as shampoo and toothpaste. Over the course of the term, the students identified candidate deletion strains, conducted thorough re-testing for sensitivity, performed bioinformatic analyses of their data, and designed experiments to test their findings.The resulting manuscript, which is freely available through open access, can be found here: McClellan et al JSR 2015,  or via this  link.

Congratulations to all of the student co-authors: Laura M. Ammons, Logan R. Bingham, Sarah Callery, Elizabeth Corley, Katherine A. Crowe, Jennifer K. Lipton, Carlos A. Mendez, Tessalyn Morrison, and Claudia Rallis.

O Chemis-Tree! O Chemis-Tree!

Technician Abbey Killam brightened everyone’s Holidays with her Chemis-Tree. It is currently residing near the Dickinson Reading Room, so stop by and admire it if you haven’t seen it yet!

o chemistree

photo by Molly Forgaard





Happy Holidays from the faculty and staff in Dickinson!

Chemistry Sets as Cultural Artifacts

Something light but substantive for the final week of classes.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Philip Ball is a prolific science writer. Author of twenty science books that examine science and its contributions to, and role in, society, he also regularly writes columns for Nature, where he served as an editor for twenty years, Chemical World, and other publications. His latest book, Serving the Reich, was nominated for the 2014 Winton Prize by the Royal Society (a short video of him reading an excerpt is available here). I never need much of an excuse to use his books in my courses: Stories of the Invisible, The Bright Earth, and Life’s Matrix are just a few examples.


He just posted a fascinating piece on his blog, homunculus, about a collection of chemistry sets at the Chemical Heritage Foundation that will be the focus of an upcoming exhibition. He’s particularly interested in how these kits have changed over the years and what those changes say about society at large.

Well worth a look.


Science Workshop: Microtubule-based Motor Proteins

Have you ever wondered how cellular cargo gets transported from place to place along cytoskeletal networks? How vesicles travel down looooooooooooooong nerve axons to reach their destinations? How force is generated on spindle microtubules to permit chromosome movement during mitosis and meiosis? Would you be surprised to learn that “two-headed monsters” are involved???

Well, two-headed molecular motor proteins, at the least! Come hear Dr. Susan Gilbert, Professor and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences at RPI, talk at science workshop about her ongoing research on the Kinesin family of microtubule-based motor proteins.



Science Workshop: Ryan Johnson (Bennington ’06)

Catalyzing CO Oxidation; from Surfaces to Single Atoms

CO ox

Model for CO Oxidation, from Peterson et al, Nat. Commun. 5:4885 (2014)

Please join us Friday, September 26th for a special Science Workshop with Bennington alum Ryan Johnson (’06). Ryan received his Ph. D. in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico earlier this year, culminating an exceptionally productive graduate career; he co-authored seven research articles in 2014 alone (so far) in journals such as The Journal of Physical ChemistryThe Chemistry of Materials, and Theoretical Chemistry Accounts.

ryan johnson

Ryan Johnson on the Bennington College campus, December 2013.

His thesis work on computational studies of catalytic processes will be the main focus of his talk. For those wanting to read about some of his research, Ryan just published (on Sept. 15) a paper in Nature Communications entitled, “Low-temperature carbon monoxide oxidation catalysed by regenerable atomically dispersed palladium on alumina”, available here . He will discuss the research and its larger significance, and promises to add some personal insights concerning his choice of pursuing science as an adventure.

Don’t miss it.


Signs of Spring

bets ball

Forsythias are finally beginning to flower. Geese are on the pond and will soon be keeping watch over the foot bridge and jealously guarding their precious goslings. And students are feverishly completing research projects and planning how to communicate their results in the form of informative and artistic posters. Yes, it’s Sciencepalooza time again and we wanted to make sure to get the word out early. This year’s event will feature, as always, many posters from students doing original research in a range of courses. It will be on the final Friday of the term, May 23rd, from 12:30 to 1:30. There will be lots of food, drinks and, of course, some terrific science to enjoy.

Until then, we wanted to let you know about a few other events we’ll be hosting. This Friday, May 9, there will be two student presentations at Science Workshop: Joe Kendrick and Elsa Costa will give talks on their advanced work (click here to read the abstracts). And next week, to celebrate Spring and to get some sunshine and fresh air, we’ll be taking a break from normal Science Workshop goings on to have student/staff/faculty SOFTBALL GAME. So bring your mitt, if you have one, and a good sense of humor over to the soccer field at 1:00, Friday May 16th for what promises to be a great time.

Alum News: Celeste Schepp ’13


Celeste Schepp ’13 will begin genetic counseling training at Johns Hopkins University and the National Human Genome Research Institute in the fall of 2014. Genetic counseling is a versatile profession that involves providing patient, professional, and community genomics education. While most traditionally it has been involved in working directly with patients as they face reproductive decisions, the field has exploded to include disease susceptibility counseling and research opportunities. The JHU/NHGRI program will enable Celeste to gain a graduate level mastery of human genetics and the skills necessary to provide non-directional and supportive counseling to individuals facing a health or reproductive crisis. She plans to complete her ScM in genetic counseling in 2016.

“Pssssst. Buddy, I got some news you wanna hear.

genetics lab2

 Original Post: But I’m only telling you ‘cuz you got an honest face. Can I trust you?


Not out loud! Just nod your head. Good. Like that. Now, can I trust you? OK.

Write this down: Friday, December 6th is WinterPaloozaPosterFestFeast. C’mon, don’t look so surprised, pal, you knew it was coming. It happens every year at this time. And this year it’s gonna blow them argyle socks right off yer feet. You want Genetics? The WHOLE flippin’ Genetics class is doing a project that they’ll present in a poster. That’s them down there, right below.

genetics lab1

Oh, I get, you’re one of them there physics types, I can tell by that look in yer eyes. There’ll be tons of physics posters. And math. And so many animal phys posters you won’t be able to swing a dead cat without hittin’ one. And for the coop degracey, we got more than a baker’s dozen of posters in two – that’s right two – flavors of ecology: Landscape Ecology and  Agroecology.

Now, can I count on you?

Yes, yes, yes, there’ll be chow – lots of pizza, drinks, desserts. Word on the street is there may even be some vindyloo. The grub’ll be ready at noon and posters’ll  be startin’ at 12:30. Where? In Dickinson – all over the building.

physics lab




You in? Great! Now go spread the word.”



Update (12/6): Terrific job today, everyone – lots of great science was enjoyed by all.