ASBMB Today staff picks

Published July 1 2016

Staff picks for June 27-July 1, 2016

At ASBMB Today, we love to read as much as we love to write. We also love to talk about what we’re reading. Our office is always buzzing (whether it’s with not-so-hushed voices or the ping of email delivery notifications) as we share the inspiring, emotionally compelling, fascinating or simply funny articles or videos we can’t put down, stop watching or scrolling through. So, we figured, why not keep the conversation going? Here’s a compilation of what our staff has been reading this week. Enjoy, and feel free to tweet us your thoughts. 

Angela Hopp, Executive Editor (@angelahopp

The nature of violence

This is one of my all-time favorite essays. It’s about a ferocious insect and the fragility of life. I read it several times a year to remind myself what science writing can and should be. I also make all our interns read it. Just this week, I read it again after sending it to a new contributor for inspiration. The piece was anthologized in “The Best Science and Nature Writing” collection of 2007. For more about scientist/writer Jeffrey Lockwood and Gryllacrididae, check out this Radiolab podcast (h/t ASBMB Today Web Editor Ciarán Finn). 


This is a fabulous feature on Margalit Fox, longtime obituary writer for New York Times. Fox says: “We obit writers have to be the most extreme kind of generalists in the world. On Monday, we could be writing about the inventor of the reclining dental chair; on Tuesday, about an underwater cartographer; on Wednesday, about the president of Estonia.” And she usually has only about six hours to do the research, interviews and writing. Intense! (Side note: If you’re an aspiring science writer, subscribe to Creative Nonfiction. You won’t be disappointed.) 

The big uneasy: What’s roiling the liberal-arts campus

I’ve read many – and I mean many – analyses of the recent demonstrations and calls for diversity and inclusion on college campuses, but this is the only piece that seems to sincerely attempt to get to the heart of the matter. Nathan Heller writes, in part: “Today, (minority college students) are told that they belong there, but they also must take on an extracurricular responsibility: doing the work of diversity. They move their lives to rural Ohio and perform their identities, whatever that might mean. They bear out the school’s vision. In exchange, they’re groomed for old-school entry into the liberal upper middle class. An irony surrounds the whole endeavor, and a lot of students seemed to see it.” 


Rajendrani (Raj) Mukhopadhyay, Chief Science Correspondent (@RajMukhop

The humiliating practice of sex testing female athletes

This fascinating magazine feature delves into the dubious practices of gender determination in professional sports. 

How stories told of brilliant scientists affect kids' interest in the field

I loved this story because I too am intimidated when I hear someone pull off an amazing feat without much sweat. 

On careers and 42

ASBMB 2016 plenary lecturer Peter Walter discusses what it takes to be successful in science. I interviewed Walter for a Q&A recently for ASBMB Today and loved his down-to-earth style and humility. Those characteristics of him come through in this column he wrote. ‘Silicon Valley arrogance’? 

Google misfires as it strives to turn Star Trek fiction into reality

This one made me laugh because I live with a diehard Trekkie. 

Have drug hunters finally cracked KRas

Lisa Jarvis is a great reporter at Chemical & Engineering News who tackled a topic I was considering covering for ASBMB Today. She beat me to it! 

The Sad and inspiring reason this top Novartis exec stepped down

A top Novartis executive, Christi Shaw, stepped down to take care of her ailing sister. This was simply a poignant and inspiring read about love and family.


Lauren Dockett, Managing Editor (@ldockett

Feel me: What the new science of touch says about ourselves

As part of his tour of the recent surge in tactile research, the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik touches on modern prosthetics, absent cell phone vibrations, and how we catch an itch. 

Hidden fields 2013

I’m fascinated by this Sci-Art collaboration that allows dancing humans to warp particle dynamics. A theoretical chemist teamed with programmers, artists, musicians and dancers to make it happen. 


Allison Frick, Print and Digital Media Specialist (@allisonfrick

What does it take to get a drug banned for enhancing athletes' performance

This article caught my eye because in a recent editorial meeting we talked about covering performance-enhancing drugs as the 2016 Summer Olympics approach. I always end up clicking down a “related links” rabbit hole when I read articles online and found myself at the World Anti-Doping Agency’s 2016 Monitoring Program list. Low and behold, caffeine and nicotine are also on it. I immediately pictured an Olympic runner casually sipping Starbucks with a cigarette in hand before a big race. My response to the article was a melodramatic and oversimplified visualization, but the topic is fascinating. 

An army buddy's call for help sends a scientist on a brain injury quest

Why? I ask myself this question constantly. My first response to a story, a piece of information, anything really is – “But why?” In this piece, Jon Hamilton explores why one scientist says his brain injury research is not an occupation but rather an obsession. Hamilton’s explains “the why” with a powerful story of friendship, justice, loyalty and honor. 


Ciarán Finn, ASBMB Today Web Editor

New Elements Named - Periodic Table of Videos

I love this guy. I just want to give him a hug. 


Valery Masterson, Print and Digital Designer

Map of your mind: Whose #brainchild are you

This is interesting. As you answer questions, it tells you which regions of the brain are associated with your choices and why. 

Blade Runner: Typeset in the future

This is a ridiculously detailed typographical analysis of “Blade Runner.”