2020 Nobel Prize Winners in Science

Congratulations to the 2020 Nobel Prize Winners!
2020’s winners show us, once again, that Science, like the universe, is ever-expanding and the potential for scientific discovery is unlimited!

Nobel Prize Museum – Stockholm
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons


Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Dr. Jennifer Doudna: for the development of CRISPR-Cas9, a method for genome editing.

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Charpentier and Dr. Doudna are the first team of two women ever to win the
Nobel Prize!  In what has been called
“the most deserved Novel Prize of the past 20 years,” Doudna and Charpentier’s
technique of genome editing has made an absolutely massive contribution to
science, with a potential to revolutionize the entire field of the Life
Sciences. The possibility of genome editing has existed since the 1970’s, but
thanks to Charpentier and Doudna, it is now much more precise and effective, easier,
and with a greater applicability to curing genetic disease than ever
before.  Using “chemical scissors” known
as Cas9, a DNA-cutting enzyme derived from bacteria, the technique can target
and snip up to a single faulty or unwanted gene, just as you would replace a
single letter in a misspelled word.  New
DNA can then be inserted at the snip. 
The insertion is repaired via the body’s natural rNA functions, and the
new DNA functions as normal.  The
CRISPR-Cas9 technique has only existed for 8 years and has already had an
impact on agriculture and pest control. 
Its potential for human medicine is enormous and a CRISPR application
has already cured a human subject of Sickle Cell Anemia.  Their discovery has revolutionized the life sciences
and unleashed incredible new potential. 
As colleague Fyodor Urnov puts it, “the 21st century will be the age of
CRISPR, thanks to Jennifer and Emmanuelle.”

Why the discovery is so major
How CRISPR-Cas9 works
Jennifer Doudna giving a TED talk about her CRISPR technique


Dr. Roger Penrose: for
the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general
theory of relativity

Dr. Reinhard Genzel and Dr. Andrea
Ghez: for the discovery of a supermassive compact object
at the center of our galaxy

Image Source: Pixabay.com

The prize for physics this year is for the proof that there is a supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  This discovery is spectacular in itself,  but all the more amazing for the fact that it was 60 years in the making!  In the 1960’s Oxford physicist Roger Penrose and his colleague Stephen Hawking used the mathematics of Einstein’s theory of relativity to predict that Black Holes inevitably exist and should be found at the center of every galaxy.  This impressive theoretical proof of black holes was so comprehensive it also reinforced the overall feasibility of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, first expressed in 1907.  In a stunning demonstration of how scientific discoveries are constantly built upon the legacies of those that came before, Penrose first proved the theoretical existence of black holes in the 20th century.  When the telescopic technology to measure them finally caught up to Penrose’s ideas, Dr. Genzel and Dr. Ghez were able to observe and conclusively prove that black holes existed in the 21st century!  Genzel first and then Ghez, building on the previous work, used high powered telescopes in Chile and Hawai’i to carefully observe the motions of stars over several years.  Their careful observations and calculations prove that there is a massive dark object in the milky way with millions of times more mass than the sun, a.k.a., a black hole.  Thanks to these three scientists’ generations of work, we now know beyond any doubt that black holes exist, and they are at the center of every galaxy.

An astronomer explains how the discovery was made
A Q&A with the brilliant Roger Penrose
Andrea Ghez giving a TED talk about her search for a black hole


Dr. Harvey J. Alter, Dr. Charles M. Rice, and Dr. Michael Houghton:
for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus

Image Source: Pixabay.com

In a year marked by a global viral pandemic, the fact that the Nobel Prize in Medicine went to a trio of virologists highlights how important scientific research is to public health.  The three virologists made a massive contribution to the lives and futures of people all over the world with their discovery of the Hepatitis C virus, which affects 71 million people worldwide and kills 400,000  people a year.  Dr. Alter, Dr. Rice, and Dr. Houghton’s discoveries allowed for targeted vaccines,  treatments, and now, a total cure.  Alter, working from the NIH in America, helped discover the Hepatitis B virus in the 1960’s.  But after that discovery, he was confounded by the fact that there was still another unknown disease-causing agent that resulted in hepatitis, especially after blood transfusions.  This unknown form of chronic, blood-borne hepatitis debilitated patients for years before it killed them, and represented a serious global health problem, particularly for vulnerable people in need of transfusions and blood-based treatments.  In work that demonstrates the highly collaborative nature of science today, the three scientists all provided an essential piece of the solution.  Alter was able to demonstrate that what he called Hepatitis C was a virus, Houghton used an untested strategy to isolate the genome of the virus, and Rice provided the evidence that the virus was the cause of Hepatitis C.  Thanks to these three scientists, the millions of people worldwide affected by Hepatitis C now have a chance to be free of this terrible disease. 

The story of the discovery
The Life and Research of Dr. Harvey Alter
Dr. Nazeem Afdhal giving a TED talk on Hep C and the 25 years of work towards a cure

Check out some of these fun at-home science experiments & give them a try! Who knows, you may just be a Nobel Prize winner one day!

All Thumbs
Space Case
Germ Game

Spotlight on STEM Careers: Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace Engineer


Aerospace engineering is the primary field of engineering concerned with the development of aircraft and spacecraft. It has two major and overlapping branches: Aeronautical engineering and Astronautical Engineering. Avionics engineering is similar, but deals with the electronics side of aerospace engineering. Aeronautical engineering was the original term for the field. As flight technology advanced to include craft operating in outer space, the broader term “aerospace engineering” has come into common use.

Aerospace engineering may be studied at the advanced diploma, bachelor’s, master’s and a Ph. D. levels in aerospace engineering departments at many universities, and in mechanical engineering departments at others. A few departments offer degrees in space-focused astronautical engineering. Some institutions differentiate between aeronautical and astronautical engineering. Graduate degrees are offered in advanced or specialty areas for the aerospace industry. A background in chemistry, physics, computer science and mathematics is important for students pursuing an aerospace engineering degree.

Click here for this informative and educational web page for more information on Aerospace Engineer’s.


Black History Month


Black History Month is observed in February and the reason that we have Black History Month is so that we can remember the important contributions and achievements that African American’s have brought throughout this Nations history.

One person that thought should be honored this month is Mae Jemison. She was the first African American to be accepted into the astronaut program.  Then, She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992.

She was interested in science from the time that she was a child. She had good grades in school, continued to learn and grown and was accepted into Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the university in 1977. After graduation, she entered Cornell University Medical College and, during her years there, found time to expand her horizons by studying in Cuba and Kenya and working at a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand. She received her Medical Degree in 1981 and years later she decided to fulfill a life long dream and apply to the astronaut program.

After spending 190 hours in space and conducting several experiments, Mae Jemison was noted saying…”That society should recognize how much both women and members of other minority groups can contribute if given the opportunity.”



Source: Pixabay
Sources: Google Pics

Word Slam Poetry and STEAM

On Friday, April 29th there will be a Asheville Word Slam taking place at the Dr. Wesley Grant Southside Center from 6:30pm until 8:30pm. High Touch High Tech is sponsoring this community event in support of STEAM education and community involvement.

STEAM education is and acronym for the studies of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Adding Art and Design into STEM education is crucial in order for future generations to drive innovation. Watch as John Maeda speaks at TED in June 2012 about  technology, art and deisgn working in unison to inspire true innovation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAuDCOl9qrk

So how does Slam Poetry fit into the realm of STEAM education? Slam Poetry is a type of Art where the poets recite their own work or work from others that use dynamics (going from a whisper to a shout), pacing (speeding up and slowing down) and pausing to add drama. This type of Art is a great way to inspire individuals in an audience about different topics. Topics can include current events, social issues, religion, and much more!

Would you buy a STEM Doll?

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Image Source: MGA Entertainment – Permission grated to use Image on  8-11-2015

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics make up the acronym STEM. The integration of STEM has gained momentum in education in the United States. This is partly because of the increased emphasis on it by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and federal funding of legislation for STEM.

Recently the toy company MGA Entertainment launched a line of four dolls, each of which focuses on an aspect of STEM. Each doll comes with a working experiment kit, so kids can play and feel inspired to learn more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The line of dolls called Project Mc² comes with a matching experiment kit, to create working volcanoes, lava lights, glow stick necklaces or blueprint skateboards.  Customers can build and rebuild all of these projects using household ingredients.


Why dolls?

In response to a growing demand to get girls interested in STEM, MGA Entertainment released dolls that could act as smart, empowered role models.

In addition to incorporating STEM, MGA Entertainment didn’t want every doll to look exactly the same.

“We wanted the characters to reflect what a real life group of friends would look like,” Isaac Larian, CEO of MGA Entertainment said. “Each character is engineered to stand at a different height, has a unique face sculpt and represents a different cultural background.”

In addition to the release of the dolls, a Netflix Original series also titled Project Mc² will premiere on August 7, 2015. The show focuses on four girls inspired by the dolls who are recruited to join a top-secret spy organization.

Available NOW on Netflix!!

LEGO’s New Toys Celebrate STEM & Women in Science

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Good news for lovers of tiny, plastic science – female LEGO researchers will hit shelves this August. On Wednesday, the company announced a new collection titled “Research Institute,” an all-female line with characters pursuing three distinct fields: astronomy, paleontology and chemistry.

The project came about after Swedish geochemist Ellen Kooijman submitted it to Lego Ideas, a fan-based incubator that allows the Lego community to vote on potential collections. After earning the required 10,000 votes, “Research Institute” went on to be selected by the Lego board — beating popular franchises such as SherlockAdventure TimeBack to the Future and The Legend of Zelda.

The new set is a result of the LEGO Ideas project, which allows users to create and upload their own toy concepts. People then vote on the ideas and the winner is turned into a real product, as Geekosystem reports.

Previous winners have included a Mars Curiosity Rover and a DeLorien from Back to the Future, but we’re not sure that they’re as awesome as the winner of this Winter 2014 Review – which includes a female paleontologist, astronomer and chemist, AND a dinosaur skeleton.

The set will be titled the LEGO Research Institute and the idea was initially submitted by Alatariel Elensar, who wrote, “The motto of these scientists is clear: explore the world and beyond!”

LEGO joins the ranks alongside other toy makers that are realizing the importance of STEM & the growing need for women in science. Check out our archived blog post on Goldiblocks, a company reaching millions of little girls via their innovative engineering kits.

Fewer than 3 out of 10 graduates in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields are women. And barely 1 in 10 actual engineers are women. Early in a girl’s life, the toys marketed to her are usually things that don’t encourage her to enter those fields. 

In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math… and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8. Toys that are geared toward STEM, such as the new LEGO & GoldieBlox are determined to change the equation. These toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys toys”. 

We can’t help but get excited to see toy companies & manufactures truly inspiring a whole new generation of future scientists! 

Company Aims to “Disrupt the Pink Aisle” with Fun Science!

Fewer than 3 in 10 graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are women. And barely 1 in 10 actual engineers are women. Early in a girl’s life, the toys marketed to her are usually things that don’t encourage her to enter those fields. 

In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math…and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys toys”. By designing a construction toy from the female perspective, GoldieBlox is “disrupting the pink aisle” & inspiring the future generation of female engineers.

This company is teaching young girls that these fields of science can be fun – and apparently, epic by the looks of this super-genius 2-minute video. Watch & Learn! 

If you like what GoldieBlox is doing to innovate for girls’ toys, you could Like them on Facebook. And if you want to see them win a chance at airing their commercial in the Super Bowl, make sure you go & vote here

GoldieBlox spent three weeks building a magical machine of toys with a crew of future inventors, present day engineers, and imagination specialists. Among the leaders was Sabrina, a 7 year old who walked the film crew through the garage portion of “The Princess Machine” of GoldieBlox. Check out all of the behind-the-scenes magic of this epic video! http://bit.ly/HWNb4S — check out the toys that made this possible. 


The inventor and CEO of GoldieBlox, Debbie Sterling, went to Stanford University to earn her engineering degree. Looking to make your own mark in the engineering world & STEM movement? Start here to see the list of the best schools for engineering

Want more STEM? Check out our monthly STEM Spotlight! 


STEM Spotlight: Neurologist – Elephant Band Leader!

A neuroscientist by day, Dave Sulzer explores synapses formed by the midbrain dopamine projections that underlie reward, learning and voluntary motor control. But by night, as Dave Soldier, he’s an avant-garde musician.

Should we be surprised, then, that he has such an appreciation for the artistic accomplishments of elephants? Or that he conducts an orchestra of multi-ton retirees from the logging industry? An orchestra that, boasts his partner in the enterprise, Richard “Professor Elephant” Lair, is “three-times the weight of the Berlin Philharmonic”?

Without a score or elaborate cueing and with few limitations beyond Dave’s deliberate gestures to start and stop them, these lucky instrumentalists play pretty much what they want and have a ball improvising on cymbals, gongs, renaats and harmonicas. Dave says some of the players don’t stop when he tells them to do so—even when they KNOW that’s what they should do—just for the fun of it! What teases!  Read More Here >

Other Links & Resources:

NOVA: The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers – Dave Sulzer

Video of Dave Sulzer’s Scientific Studies with The Elephant Orchestra

NPR: The Biggest Thing Out of Thialand – An Elephant Orchestra

Love Bugs? Become an Entomologist!

Entomology is the science of insects. People who study insects are called entomologists. Insects have been observed for thousands of years, but it was not until as early as the 1500’s that insects were scientifically studied.

There are many things that we don’t know about the insect world. An Entomologist’s goal is to learn more about insects; like how they are related, how they reproduce, and how they can be kept away from the food we eat! There are billions of unknown species of bugs throughout the world, and billions of things to learn about them!

Entomologists have really important jobs. They study many different things about the world of insects like their classification, life cycle, distribution, behavior, ecology, and populations. Because there are insects all over the world, Entomologists study insects in all environments. Some Entomologists study insects that live in cities, while others study bugs that live in our backyards and even on our pets! These scientists also may work with our helpful insect friends like honeybees, silkworms, ladybird beetles, and wasps.

Helping Hands – The Taxonomist:

Biologists who group organisms into categories are called Taxonomists. They help entomologists categorize newly found insects. They also meet together to talk about their study of insects and to share ideas, just as all scientists do.

Learn more about the Bugs of Summer and participate in our
HTHT @ Home Science Experiment:

Spotlight on Real-World STEM: Marine Biology!


The ocean is a majestic mystery; if the seas were the size of this screen, the representative amount that has been fully explored by humans would be the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Not very much, right? With the earth being about 70% water, there is an overwhelming amount of exploring to do. That’s why the world needs most marine biologists! How else are we going to discover our history, where we came from, and how our world is evolving? All these answers can be traced back to the sea, where all life on earth began. Still interested? Dive a little deeper and read on!

Marine Biology in itself is a very broad spectrum, so there are often times areas of specialization, such as, Environmental Consultants, Fish and Wildlife Biologists, Fishery Management Biologists, Ichthyologists,  Aquarists, and Oceanographers, to name a few (Not sure what those are? Click here  to find out!) One thing they all have in common? You are guaranteed at some point to get your hands dirty and your body completely soaked. They don’t call it working “in the field” for nothing.

Although none of the campuses in the USF system offer a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology, it is offered as an area of concentration in the Biology department. As a Biology/Marine Science major myself, I’m allowed to be a little biased in saying that this major offers a plethora of opportunities, as far as careers go. If you want a career in this field, here’s some important information you should know.

  • Receiving a master’s degree or Ph.D.  in marine biology is the most common approach to becoming a marine biologist. A bachelor’s degree is sufficient in many entry-level areas as well, so don’t be scared if grad school wasn’t in your initial plan; it’s not required, but recommended.
  • The majority of work conducted by marine biologists is research, research, research. Knowing how to properly work in a laboratory and read/write scientific papers is critical. Various types of technology are used as well, so this is definitely a hands-on type of career.
  • If you ask about the pay in this field of study, many marine biologists will probably laugh at you. The pay varies greatly and depends on your amount of experience and education. Most of the time, however, the job is considered more fun than a high-paying, but as they say—if you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Many marine biologists are very passionate about what they do, so the benefits of their work greatly outweigh the pay.
  • Many positions in this field are very competitive. Because of that, an allotted amount of time is dedicated applying for grants to get funding for your work. But as mentioned before, the rewards are unrivaled. How will you be considered a competitive candidate? Get experience, and as much as you can. Get involved with volunteer work, internships, and travel to gain knowledge of the different marine ecosystems around the world. Many marine biologists will tell you: while schooling is very important and required for a career position, oftentimes it is the amount of experience you have outside of school that will land you the job. So get out there, learn, explore, and discover everything you can!

No matter what aspect of marine biology interests you, one of the most important factors that all marine biologists strive towards is conservation. Humans are the oceans’ worst enemy and their only hope. It is our responsibility to save what we are destroying with pollution and depleting with fishing and harvesting. If the oceans cannot thrive, neither will we. Become a marine biologist to help make a difference in our world, on both land and sea.

Click here to learn more about the growing field of Marine Biology!