Category Archives: STEM

Have we Discovered How to make Drought-Resistant Crops?

Have we Discovered How to make Drought-Resistant Crops?

There are more than enough reasons to treasure science and to push the envelope towards progress. Some are driven by an insatiable need to personally know more. Others are pushed to research in hopes of improving efficiency for their industry’s bottom line. And others, still, are compelled to research because they need to solve a problem and they’re pressed for time. This third category is where the scientists working on the RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency) project find themselves.

There are a lot of changes in this world coming down the pike that will dramatically affect the way humans manage resources over the next century. These changes primarily relate to two quickly-increasing variables: human population and global average temperatures. As temperatures rise around the globe, droughts are expected to become more common and more frequent, leaving less time for afflicted areas to recover before the next drought occurs. Furthermore, the population of 7.6 billion humans living on the earth right now is projected by the UN to grow to approximately 9.8 billion by 2050. On top of this, roughly 70% of the world’s fresh water is allocated towards agriculture. The most important factors to healthy, sustained human life on Earth (besides oxygen) are access to food and clean drinking water.

These factors form a perfect storm of sorts. As population grows, we will need to find new ways to feed people. While many are attempting to address an incoming food shortage by curbing food waste, people are also looking into increasing crop yields through a deeper understanding of photosynthesis. This is where RIPE comes in.

RIPE scientists working out of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois seem to have found a way of engineering crops so that they use roughly 25% less water while providing the same yields. Through genetic testing on the tobacco plant, they found that by increasing the levels of the protein PsbS (Photosystem II Subunit S), the percentage of water lost per molecule of COassimilated by the plant was reduced by 25% without loss in yield or photosynthesis. And, since PsbS functions the same across all plants, they expect their results to be applicable to other crops as well.

To understand this a little better, it is important to have a slight understanding of what they did. The protein they manipulated, PsbS, is directly related to the functioning of the plant’s stomata. Stomata are the microscopic pores on the epidermis of a plant where gas exchange occurs. Here, COis absorbed to be used in photosynthesis in a process called assimilation, while, at the same time, water vapor is lost in what is called transpiration. Our Monocot Leaf Epidermis slide shows what stomata look like under a microcope:

Stomata in a leaf

The opening and closing of stomata is influenced by the humidity, the COlevels inside the plant, the quality of light, and the quantity of light. The RIPE researchers wanted to genetically alter the stomatal reaction to the quantity of light. Since PsbS plays an essential role in informing the plant on the amount of light available, they wanted test if excess levels of it would trick the plants into opening their stomata less.

They hypothesized that since atmospheric COlevels have increased so much over the last 100-odd years, the stomata on the plant would not need to open as much to take in the amount of COthey need for photosynthesis. That being the case, the smaller pores of the less-opened stomata would allow for the plants to hold onto more of their water and lose less through the pores.

After model tests and field tests, their results seemed to back up their hypothesis. That is a big deal. From here they plan to apply this research to food-producing crops, and, in the process, hopefully cut our agricultural water usage dramatically.

The necessity for research like this can be scary to think about. But, as I said earlier, sometimes science is done because we can’t do without it. That said, even without the prerequisite doom and gloom, the potential water saving aspect of this project is awesome and exciting. Progress like this opens up great new possibilities as to where to allocate resources and how to help the less fortunate people of the world in its drought-stricken regions.

— GSC Go Science Crazy and Jacob Monash

Thermo Fisher employees inspire students to take flight for Innovation at Tech Challenge

More than 80 employees from six of our California sites demonstrated their commitment to
STEM education by volunteering at the 29th Tech Challenge in Silicon Valley. The Tech Challenge  is an annual engineering competition set out to inspire students to combat a certain issue using engineering and design principles. This year’s theme was “Taking Flight” which challenged students to design and build gliders that could deliver supplies to a remote location.
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Students master engineering skills at 6th annual STEM Design Challenge

Something we are always striving for here at Fisher Science Education is helping students apply scientific concepts and principles into real-world applications. The STEM Design Challenge takes this to the next level for elementary and middle school students by testing their engineering, design, critical thinking and teamwork skills in an innovative way. Read on to see how students in the Allegheny County of Pittsburgh were able to apply all of these skills in a fun competition!

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The National Park Service turns 100

yosemite nat parkOn August 25, 2016 The National Park Service will be turning 100 years old. To get ready for this huge milestone in the organization’s history, they have been partnering with institutions across the country on different programs, events and activities to help increase awareness and support for America’s 407 national parks. Now more than ever, it’s important we encourage students to go outdoors and explore everything that nature has to offer and thanks to the National Park Service, we have been able to do that for almost 100 years.

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Dallas Students are STEM-credible with Donated Lab Safety Kits

The scientists and researchers who are making the next monumental breakthrough in science today all got their start in a classroom science lab. Whether it was the first time they looked at paramecium through a microscope or the first time they mixed hydrogen peroxide with potassium iodide, something clicked inside every one of those students and made them realize that science is going to be their life’s work. We here at Fisher Science Education are extremely proud to be the one providing students with products and resources that are used in this pivotal moment in their life so whenever we come across a school or district who does not have access to the necessary funding to provide these “aha” moments, we jump at the chance to help them. Read on to see how we implemented our new corporate social responsibility program to a school district in need.

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Chefs Rely on Ohaus to Teach Ingredient Consistency and Portioning

foodworld_penncollege_bodyphoto3Accuracy. Consistency. Reliability. These are the words that best describe Ohaus and the kinds of standards that are always top of mind when they’re designing their products. Their unwavering commitment to high-quality and durability makes them a staple in almost every industry so it’s no surprise that the students enrolled in The Pennsylvania College of Technology’s School of Hospitality’s Baking & Pastry Arts program are finding success with Ohaus balances.

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Ohaus Brews Up Perfection With Yonkers Brewing Company

You already know Ohaus has perfected the science of mass measurement with their state-of-the-art balances and scales. They’re constantly improving their capabilities and functions as well as ensuring their products are easy to use. Another field that Ohaus continues to raise the bar in is water analysis and testing pH levels. Their Starter Series line of water analysis products all contains intuitive software that is both straightforward and highly accurate. The Yonkers Brewing Company, located in Yonkers, New York, took notice of this and decided to use Ohaus’ equipment for their brewing process.

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Celebrating Pi!

Pi Day is right around the corner (March 14th) and there’s tons of fun ways to celebrate this day in the classroom or at home! We’ve gathered a few of our favorite Pi Day activities for you to try with your students to help explain the significance of this totally awesome holiday. Please let us know if you try any of these in the comments below!

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Beware Your Refrigerator

What has the world come to when you can be betrayed by your household appliances? Is nothing safe from cyber attack? Surprisingly, answers to these questions are related and very timely. In the world of cyber security, hacking has been taken to a new high with the recent development of “Funtenna.” While it may sound like fun and games, “Funtenna is malware that intentionally causes compromising emanation”, says developer Ang Cui of Columbia University and Red Balloon Security. In other words, it’s software that can steal protected data from networks whose owners thought were perfectly safe.

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Keeping Skyscrapers Steady

Skyscrapers blue sky Wallpapers Pictures Photos ImagesIf you’ve ever been perched high in a tree when a stiff breeze blows, you know how unsettling a slight sway from vertical feels. Imagine being in a skyscraper with 50 mile per hour winds, buffeting your glass-enclosed condo or office. Feeling queasy?

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