The SIRS: A New Tool to Predict Social Symptoms in Brain Disease

Courtesy May Lesser/ National Library of Medicine
Courtesy May Lesser/ National Library of Medicine
Researchers in the MGH Frontotemporal Disorders Unit have designed a new clinical tool called the Social Impairment Rating Scale (SIRS) that measures the types and severity of social symptoms in brain disease. This investigation into the breakdown of social behavior in neurodegenerative disease exposes the emotional architecture of human personality. 

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The Language of Math, A Profile of Dimitri Bertsekas

MIT Stata Center by Dimitri Bertsekas
MIT Stata Center by Dimitri Bertsekas

Dimitri Bertsekas’ forty-four years of contributions to areas such as optimization theory, data networks, dynamic programming, and large-scale computation proves nearly impossible to measure. His 15 books take too long to summarize. But a few words capture his skill and passion: the language of mathematics. He ‘translates’ and ‘formulates’ and ‘expresses’ complex problems into a language of rules and numbers.

As Published in MIT LIDS

After spending his youth in Athens, Greece and earning his masters at George Washington University, Dimitri arrived at MIT in 1969 and completed his PhD thesis in systems science in two years. There, he witnessed a transition from a narrow focus on control theory to a much broader focus on systems analysis and its set of applications, which included data networks and power, communication, and transportation systems. It was a time when computation was primitive. As Dimitri thinks back to them, he chuckles. “At that time, a computer had 64,000 bits of memory—that’s 64 kilobits, not megabits, not gigabits like we have now,” he says. “The idea of moving messages between computers with those capabilities was mind boggling.” Though he coul d have never predicted the complexity of today’s networks, he has always been able to see through to their underlying mathematical structure.

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Improving Media Coverage of Climate Science with Hypothes.is

seaice-fullEmmanuel Vincent has launched Climate Feedback, a new web-based initiative to improve the accuracy of climate science reporting in the media. The first experiment with the method evaluated a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

As Published in Oceans at MIT

Climate science makes headlines every day: “Shrinking Sea Ice Could Put Polar Bears In Grave Peril by 2100.” “Warming World Could Make it Harder for Planes to Take Off.” “Climate Change May Spark More Lightning Strikes, Igniting Wildfires.” “U.S., British Data Show 2014 Could Be Hottest Year on Record.” “Volcanoes May be Slowing Down Climate Change.” “Polar Ice Sheets Melting Faster, Raising Sea Levels.”

Unfortunately, media coverage of climate science is often inaccurate. Stories may either under- or over-emphasize the risks of anthropogenic global warming. It’s easy to find reporting that cherry-picks data or represents widely discredited scientific concepts. Non-expert readers might not recognize skewed scientific information. Scientists, for their part, are often unsure of whether or how to speak out about public misrepresentation of science.

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The Missing Piece of the Climate Change Puzzle

Outgoing longwave radiation (left) and reflected shortwave solar radiation (right). Credit: NASA

Learn about what happened when MIT researchers set their minds to figuring out why climate models generate a finding seemingly at odds with our basic understanding of global warming.

As Published in Oceans at MIT and MIT News

In classrooms and everyday conversation, explanations of global warming hinge on the greenhouse gas effect. In short, climate depends on the balance between two different kinds of radiation: The Earth absorbs incoming visible light from the sun, called “shortwave radiation,” and emits infrared light, or “longwave radiation,” into space.

Upsetting that energy balance are rising levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), that increasingly absorb some of the outgoing longwave radiation and trap it in the atmosphere. Energy accumulates in the climate system, and warming occurs. But in a paper out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MIT researchers show that this canonical view of global warming is only half the story.

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Women in Marine Science Seize the Day

Penny Sallie Chisholm, Professor of Biology at MIT

The inaugural workshop of the Society for Women in Marine Science (SWMS) took place at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on September 26, 2014. A diverse mix of over ninety women in science filled the seats, ranging from new graduate students eager to build a community to post docs who are some of the only women on their floors at work, and from university deans who make hiring decisions to assistant professors at varying stages of career and family development.

It’s a well-known phenomenon: while many female graduate students work in the marine sciences, and STEM fields in general, less women go on to post doctoral positions, and even fewer to full professorships. “We think that by creating a group of women marine scientists who can support each other and their ideas, address the challenges they face, and engage in mentoring and networking, we might be able to address this problem of retention,” said Katya Frois-Moniz, a post doc in the Chisholm lab at MIT, who organized the workshop along with the other members of the SWMS steering committee: Alexis Yelton, a post doc in the Chisholm lab at MIT, Sophie Chu, a fourth year graduate student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, and Bethanie Rachele Edwards, a third year graduate student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program.

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Rare Disease Research Embodied in Science-Fashion Collaboration, Exquisitely at Descience

IMG_1821At the Koch Institute at MIT on Friday, a selection of science-inspired fashion designs from the recent Descience runway show were on display. Descience is the first-of-its-kind collaboration between science and fashion. Fifty-nine teams, each composed of one scientist and one fashion designer, work together to create garments inspired by the scientist’s work. The endeavor is a way to make different aspects of science tangible to large audiences in a celebration of  the artistic process.

Because of my interest in the study of rare disease, I was particularly drawn to Team OrphaCure, a pairing of Chris Gibson, a bioengineer who dedicates his life to discovering treatments for rare genetic diseases at his Salt Lake pharmaceutical company Recursion, and Candice Wu, Boston-based fashion designer. They created a stunning and sexy dress “inspired by the power and independence sparked within rare diseases patients by new technologies and treatments.”

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Going for it! …because love is out there.

http://katiebrandt.org/
Katie Brandt’s education and awareness campaign for frontotemporal degeneration, caregiving, and taking the power back from rare disease. org

Something great is in the works. It started with a tragedy and became an inspiration. My friend and colleague, Katie Brandt, lost her husband to frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a neurodegenerative disease that affects behavior, language, and cognition. The experience shaped the rest of her life, and most spectacularly, her career as a healthcare advocate.

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