Lending a shore to fellow LI researchers

Strolling along the shore of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory at low tide, you might notice red and blue “crab condos.” They are part of a field experiment by neighboring Long Island University (LIU) Post and Adelphi University researchers that will help understand how Long Island’s mud crab population is being impacted by two invaders – a body snatching parasite and a competitor species called the Asian shorecrab.

Dr. April Blakeslee

Environmental and marine studies are not part of the CSHL research portfolio, but the Lab is happy to donate our shore to this important work that is revealing the potential for cascading effects throughout our local ecosystem. Continue reading

Posted in Academic Publishing, Faculty & Friends, science outreach, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

From the Laboratory of Barbara McClintock – Nobel tools inspire award-winning art.

Last September, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Association Director, Marjorie van de Stouwe, M.D. hosted Arts and Science: A benefit created by artists for science at the Hersh Gallery of Fine Arts in partnership with the Long Island Academy of Fine Art (LIAFA). The show featured paintings by Dr. van de Stouwe and other professional and semiprofessional artists who donated the proceeds to benefit the Lab.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Science is our candle in the dark”

In this edition of LabDish, we feature the thought-provoking remarks of Dr. Jack Walleshauser, on the occasion of his graduation from the Watson School of Biological Sciences on April 19.   That day, Jack shared his passion for science and his desire to see scientists communicate more readily with the public.

As a U.S. Army veteran on active duty from 2002-2006, with two years in Iraq during the Iraq war, and the father of three children with his wife of 10 years, Brandy, Jack offers unique perspective.
Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Unique Partnership


This post was written by Skyler Palatnick, a junior at Cold Spring Harbor High School with a penchant for writing about scientists. His first contribution to LabDish was about CSHL Director of Research David L. Spector. In this post, he introduces us to someone closer to home.

Continue reading

Posted in Academic Publishing, Bioinformatics, Genomics, Neuroscience | Leave a comment

Girls Who Code (at Cold Spring Harbor)

In this installment of the Lab dish blog we welcome Sabrina Bergsten, a junior at Cold Spring Harbor High School. She’s a member of Girls Who Code at CSHL, a club organized and taught by Watson School of Biological Sciences student Maria Nattestad. Maria and her students in the Girls Who Code club, including Sabrina, organized the Hour of Code event at CSHL to bring more women into careers in science and technology.

In the US, there are 1.7 million people employed in computing-related occupations. Men hold nearly 75% of those jobs. Girls Who Code (GWC) is a non-profit organization determined to fix this imbalance. Now, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has joined with GWC in their mission to empower girls with the tools they need to pursue a future in technology.

Each year GWC hosts summer immersion programs across the country in offices of some of the top tech companies in the US, including ebay, AT&T, and IAC. With groups in 15 cities across the country, thousands of high school girls will spend their summers learning not only how to code, but also crucial business-world skills.

As a GWC alumnae myself, I can sincerely say that this is a life-changing program. What makes it so great is that it doesn’t just stop at computer science. GWC teaches girls how to be confident in the workplace and how to stand up for themselves. Girls get experience with public speaking, thinking on their toes, and making important business decisions. By the end of the program, I was pitching an app to the co-head of technology at Goldman Sachs.

GWC is a powerful movement, making sure that more women find careers in technology. This past fall, CSHL’s DNA Learning Center began hosting a GWC after-school club. Girls interested in technology from schools all over Long Island meet once a week, work on computer science projects, and learn about what a future in technology might entail.

The club not only benefits the girls but also uses technology to give back to the community. On December 13th, our Girls Who Code club hosted an “Hour of Code” event at CSHL. We brought together different members of the community, from ages 4 to 104, for just an hour to learn how to code. Members of the GWC club went around the room as teaching assistants to help out all 90 people who spent the hour learning computer science. With events like this, the girls in GWC – with the help of CSHL – are well on their way to inspiring women of all ages, especially young women, helping the community by closing the gender gap in technology.

Posted in Education programs, science outreach | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fighting pediatric cancer

Today we welcome guest blogger Phil Renna, Director of Operations for CSHL Public Affairs. Phil is also the Director of the Christina Renna Foundation, dedicated to raising awareness and finding a cure for pediatric cancers. This weekend CRF hosted its annual Angel’s Wish gala to support their ongoing efforts.

I’ve worked at Cold Spring Harbor Lab for 33 years – never as a scientist, but over the years I’ve learned the value of basic research. I’ve seen researchers make Nobel Prize-winning discoveries and develop new drugs for devastating diseases. But I never could have imagined that the research done here would become so personally important to me.

Eight years ago, I lost my daughter Christina at the age of 16 to a very rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma. Christina understood the challenges that she faced and fought with a courage that was truly amazing, but she longed for the normality of life that she lost during her treatment.

So along with members of my family, we started The Christina Renna Foundation (CRF). “A Prayer, A Wish and a Dream of a cancer free world” has been our mission ever since we lost Christina. Our foundation is dedicated to bringing pediatric cancer into the public eye, helping children and families through their difficult times, and finding cures for these terrible diseases.

How do we do this? To start, we donated $20,000 to MSKCC to start a pilot iPad program in the pediatric cancer area. Few people appreciate how isolating cancer is. These iPads will allow children to connect with their families and friends. But MSKCC has gone beyond just that and is using this technology to show children what its like to be in an MRI, to show them what procedure they will experience, and why it’s needed. The iPads are a connection to the outside world, a distraction, and an educational tool.

But we don’t just want to make cancer better for these kids – we want to cure it. Rare diseases fail to attract the research dollars of big pharmaceutical companies: the fact is that there is no real money to be made on developing a drug to help so few. So CRF has teamed up with the Michelle Paternoster Memorial Foundation, The Friends of TJ Foundation, and The Clark Gillies Foundation to fund basic research into rhabdomyosarcoma here at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as part of the Sarcoma Research Project. CSHL Assistant Professor Chris Vakoc is spearheading the efforts in collaboration with Oregon Health & Science University Professor Charles Keller, a renowned specialist in rhabdomyosarcoma research. This project is a directed effort to understand how sarcomas arise and to identify new therapeutic strategies.

I’ve seen the power of basic research firsthand here at the Lab, so I am eager to see where this work goes. I know that, for rare diseases like rhabdomyosarcoma, private philanthropy is needed to do what others can’t. So I am honored to be able to provide support through CRF. With the help of all those around us, I look forward to one day finding our dream of a cancer-free world.

Posted in Cancer, Disease research, Research Funding | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Investigators Join CSHL

This fall, the Lab welcomes six new faculty members. They’re a diverse group – a mix of junior and senior investigators, with research spanning across Biology. Want to know a little more? We’ve featured brief profiles all week. So look back for more!

Research Assistant Professor Scott Lyons, Cancer

CSHL Research Assistant Professor Scott Lyons

Where are you from?

Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and The University of Cambridge

What do you study?

I develop new ways to model and non-invasively image cancer in preclinical models.  The cliché states that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but this combination of technologies really is a powerful way to look at factors that cause cancer to develop, as well as to assess how new experimental therapies work before being tested in the clinic.

What motivates you?

Both directly and indirectly, cancer affects the lives of so many people across the globe.  We need better treatments.

What most excites you about CSHL?

I think there is great synergistic potential to make new discoveries by combining the science and molecular biology that CSHL is world-renowned for, with non-invasive imaging technologies (optical, ultrasound, PET, CT and MRI based) that we plan to bring to the laboratory.  Very exciting!

If you aren’t in the Lab, where can you be found?

If I’m not spending time with my wife and daughter, you’ll probably find me in the kitchen. And being a Brit, I love BBC Radio 6 and Match of the Day!

CSHL Fellow Lingbo Zhang, Cancer

CSHL Fellow Lingbo Zhang

Where are you from?

Most recently, I’m from MIT, but I grew up in southwest China

What do you study?

Stem cells – they have the ability to self-renew, which means that just one early stem cell can produce thousands of mature cells. I’m looking to harness this power to treat diseases such as anemia and leukemia.

What motivates you?

From a very young age, I’ve always been interested in science, life.

What most excites you about CSHL?

It is an amazing, unique place for biology.

If you aren’t in the Lab, where can you be found?

Watching soccer or enjoying walks along the beach here on campus.

Posted in Cancer, Disease research, Education programs, Faculty & Friends | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Junior Faculty Join CSHL

This fall, the Lab welcomes six new faculty members. They’re a diverse group – a mix of junior and senior investigators, with research spanning across Biology. Want to know a little more? We are featuring brief profiles all week. So check back for more!

Assistant Professor Jessica Tolkuhn, Neuroscience

CSHL Assistant Professor Jessica Tollkuhn is exploring how male and female hormones affect the brain and behavior.

Where are you from?

Entirely from California! I was most recently at UC San Francisco, but I grew up in Santa Cruz and did both my undergraduate and graduate work in California.

What do you study?

I am interested in how transient events during development program neurons to take on a specific identity and function. More specifically, I am studying how estrogen and testosterone generate sex differences in the brain and behavior.

What motivates you?

I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. Talking about new data with interesting colleagues over a good drink is the best way to spend an evening.

What most excites you about CSHL?

Being immersed in this spectacular community. Everything seems to be designed to facilitate innovative science. The beauty of the campus and the sense of history really get into one’s brain as well.

If you aren’t in the Lab, where can you be found?

I am a bit of a music nerd. I don’t make it out to many shows these days, but my prize possession is my 1958 all-tube Zenith Hi-Fi. I can both connect it to Wi-Fi and play records, including 78s!

Assistant Professor Je Lee, Genomics

New Assistant Professor Jay Lee is developing technology to understand where and when genes are active in the cell. Here Lee (in green) stands with colleagues from his postdoctoral lab at Harvard Medical School.

Where are you from?

George Church’s Lab at Harvard Medical School, but I grew up in Alaska.

What do you study?

How cells sense and remember timing, location and history, and how their surroundings influence their signals with other cells. I also develop various imaging and molecular sequencing methods for tracking genes, molecules and cells to understand how cancer cells arise and evolve.

What motivates you?

I love working with imaginative colleagues, posing important questions, and challenging consensus views.

What most excites you about CSHL?

A great collaborative environment where I can think quietly and deliberately, while engaging with the world’s best scientists through CSH meetings throughout the year.

If you aren’t in the Lab, where can you be found?

I like to spend time thinking and reading about the principles that govern complex behaviors in biology and society. That is, until my kids burst into my room, pulling me away to beaches, parks, and playgrounds.


Posted in Education programs, Faculty & Friends, Genomics, Neuroscience | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Senior Faculty Join CSHL

This fall, the Lab welcomes six new faculty members. They’re a diverse group – a mix of junior and senior investigators, with research spanning across Biology. Want to know a little more? We’ll be featuring brief profiles all week. So check back for more!

Professor Adam Siepel, Chair of the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology

Adam Siepel recently joined CSHL as Professor and Chair of the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology. Here he is at the Kunming Institute of Zoology in Yunnan Province, China where he taught a workshop a few years ago.

Where are you from?

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

What do you study?

Human population genomics. This means asking, for example, how long ago different populations diverged or looking for evolutionary signatures across populations. My lab is also interested in understanding what regulates transcription, or how genes are activated.

What motivates you?

Solving puzzles and capturing the fundamental essence of nature in math.

What most excites you about CSHL?

The culture of excellence and focus on biology. There are great people here, doing great work.

If you aren’t in the Lab, where can you be found?

With my wife and two kids – but if not there then on my bicycle.

Professor Douglas Fearon, Cancer

New CSHL Professor Doug Fearon is looking to harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer.

Where are you from?

The University of Cambridge, England

What do you study?

The interaction between the immune system and tumors. My goal is to develop an immunotherapy to treat cancer.

What motivates you?

I started out as a medical doctor, but I became disappointed. I realized that doctors rarely have the power to cure disease – they can only modify it in some way. My goal is to find cures.

What most excites you about CSHL?

The rigorous scientific environment and the commitment to originality.

If you aren’t in the Lab, where can you be found?

On the golf course.

Posted in Autism, Bioinformatics, Cancer, Disease research, Faculty & Friends, Genomics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Election Day: making medical research a priority

If you’re reading this blog, we wager that biomedical research is important to you. Maybe you’re a scientist here at CSHL or somewhere else around the world. Or maybe you’re a patient looking for the latest developments on a disease. Perhaps you are a science enthusiast looking to keep up with what’s new in the fascinating world of Biology.

Whatever the reason, you are not alone. More than two-thirds of Americans consider medical research a high priority. Yet government funding that supports the majority of this research is on the decline. Total federal support for basic research has steadily decreased in proportional terms over the last decade, from 1.11% of the federal budget in 2005 to just 0.82% in 2014.

So what can we do about it? In this election year, CSHL has partnered with Research!America and other organizations across the country to find out where candidates stand on research funding. The campaign, called “Ask Your Candidates!” (AYC), is a bipartisan effort to engage our elected officials on the importance of research. The goal is to empower voters to make an informed decision on Election Day.

The election is only five days away so now is the time to start a dialogue – tell candidates why research for medical progress is important to you, and ask them where they stand. You can find all the resources you need on the AYC website – instructions for sending an email to your local candidates or sending them a category-specific tweet (hashtag #AYCresearch). On Election Day, vote for the candidate who best reflects your priorities. If we don’t speak up about the importance of medical progress, our nation could pay a heavy price.

Posted in Disease research, Research Funding | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment