🔥🔥🔥 Rosalind Franklin: An Example Of Discrimination In Science

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Rosalind Franklin: An Example Of Discrimination In Science



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Rosalind Franklin: Great Minds

If girls were so constrained by their biology, how could their scores have risen so steadily in such a short time? In elementary school, girls and boys perform equally well in math and science. But by the time they reach high school, when those subjects begin to seem more difficult to students of both sexes, the numbers diverge. Although the percentage of girls among all students taking high-school physics rose to 47 percent in from about 39 percent in , that figure has remained constant into the new millennium. And the numbers become more alarming when you look at AP classes rather than general physics, and at the scores on AP exams rather than mere attendance in AP classes. The statistics tend to be a bit more encouraging in AP calculus, but they are far worse in computer science.

Maybe boys care more about physics and computer science than girls do. But an equally plausible explanation is that boys are encouraged to tough out difficult courses in unpopular subjects, while girls, no matter how smart, receive fewer arguments from their parents, teachers or guidance counselors if they drop a physics class or shrug off an AP exam. In a frequently cited study, a sample of University of Michigan students with similarly strong backgrounds and abilities in math were divided into two groups. In the first, the students were told that men perform better on math tests than women; in the second, the students were assured that despite what they might have heard, there was no difference between male and female performance.

Both groups were given a math test. In the first, the men outscored the women by 20 points; in the second, the men scored only 2 points higher. Less than one-third of the white American males who populate the ranks of engineering, computer science, math and the physical sciences scored higher than on their math SATs, and more than one-third scored below In the middle ranks, hard work, determination and encouragement seem to be as important as raw talent. The most powerful determinant of whether a woman goes on in science might be whether anyone encourages her to go on.

My freshman year at Yale, I earned a 32 on my first physics midterm. My parents urged me to switch majors. All they wanted was that I be able to earn a living until I married a man who could support me, and physics seemed unlikely to accomplish either goal. I trudged up Science Hill to ask my professor, Michael Zeller, to sign my withdrawal slip. Not on the midterms — in the courses. The story sounded like something a nice professor would invent to make his least talented student feel less dumb.

Seeing my confusion, he told me that he had been on the swimming team at Stanford. But he kept coming in second. I stayed in the course. Week after week, I struggled to do my problem sets, until they no longer seemed impenetrable. The deeper I now tunnel into my four-inch-thick freshman physics textbook, the more equations I find festooned with comet-like exclamation points and theorems whose beauty I noted with exploding novas of hot-pink asterisks. The markings in the book return me to a time when, sitting in my cramped dorm room, I suddenly grasped some principle that governs the way objects interact, whether here on earth or light years distant, and I marveled that such vastness and complexity could be reducible to the equation I had highlighted in my book.

Could anything have been more thrilling than comprehending an entirely new way of seeing, a reality more real than the real itself? I earned a B in the course; the next semester I got an A. By the start of my senior year, I was at the top of my class, with the most experience conducting research. But not a single professor asked me if I was going on to graduate school. Not even the math professor who supervised my senior thesis urged me to go on for a Ph. I had spent nine months missing parties, skipping dinners and losing sleep, trying to figure out why waves — of sound, of light, of anything — travel in a spherical shell, like the skin of a balloon, in any odd-dimensional space, but like a solid bowling ball in any space of even dimension.

I was dying to ask if my ability to solve the problem meant that I was good enough to make it as a theoretical physicist. Years later, when I contacted that same professor, the mathematician Roger Howe, he responded enthusiastically to my request that we get together to discuss women in science and math. Howe appeared remarkably youthful, even when you consider that when I studied with him, he was the youngest full professor at Yale. But it took me such a long time. Howe shrugged. There are a lot of different math personalities. Different mathematicians are good at different fields. He did have two female students go on in math, and both had done fairly well. No tenured women, Howe corrected me.

In , the department voted to hire a woman for a tenure-track job. That woman has yet to come up for tenure, but this year the faculty did hire a senior female professor. He stared into the distance. Not long ago, one of his colleagues at another school admitted to him that back when all of them were starting out, there were two people in his field, a woman and a man, and this colleague assumed the man must be the better mathematician, but the woman has gone on to do better work.

I finally came straight out and asked what he thought of my project. How did it compare with all the other undergraduate research projects he must have supervised? His eyebrows lifted, as if to express the mathematical symbol for puzzlement. The question took him aback. I asked if he ever specifically encouraged any undergraduates to go on for Ph. But he said he never encouraged anyone to go on in math.

They love what they do. Why not encourage other people to go on in what you love? Men wildly overestimate their learning abilities, their earning abilities. What, all those theoreticians out there are all Feynman or Einstein? Not long ago , I met five young Yale alumnae at a Vietnamese restaurant in Cambridge. Three of the women were attending graduate school at Harvard — two in physics and one in astronomy — and two were studying oceanography at M. None expressed anxiety about surviving graduate school, but all five said they frequently worried about how they would teach and conduct research once they had children. She met her husband on her first day at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Urry suspects that raising a family is often the excuse women use when they leave science, when in fact they have been discouraged to the point of giving up. All Ph. Yet women running the tenure race must leap hurdles that are higher than those facing their male competitors, often without realizing any such disparity exists. In the mids, three senior female professors at M. They took the matter to the dean, who appointed a committee of six senior women and three senior men to investigate their concerns. After performing the investigation and studying the data, the committee concluded that the marginalization experienced by female scientists at M.

Some argued that it was the masculine culture of M. This is what discrimination looks like in Not everyone agrees that what was uncovered at M. Judith Kleinfeld, a professor emeritus in the psychology department at the University of Alaska, argues that the M. But broader studies show that the perception of discrimination is often accompanied by a very real difference in the allotment of resources. In February , the American Institute of Physics published a survey of 15, male and female physicists across countries.

In almost all cultures, the female scientists received less financing, lab space, office support and grants for equipment and travel, even after the researchers controlled for differences other than sex. Jo Handelsman spends much of her time studying micro-organisms in the soil and the guts of insects, but since the early s, she also has devoted herself to increasing the participation of women and minorities in science. Although she long suspected that the same subtle biases documented in the general population were at work among scientists, she had no data to support such assertions.

My female students are smarter than the men! In , Handelsman teamed up with Corinne Moss-Racusin, then a postdoctoral associate at Yale, to begin work on the study that was published last year, which directly documented gender bias in American faculty members in three scientific fields — physics, chemistry and biology — at six major research institutions scattered across the country. Each faculty member was asked to rate John or Jennifer on a scale of one to seven in terms of competence, hireability, likability and the extent to which the professor might be willing to mentor the student. The professors were then asked to choose a salary range they would be willing to pay the candidate. The results were startling. I asked Handelsman if she was surprised that senior female faculty members demonstrated as much bias as male professors, regardless of age, and she said no; she had seen too many similar results in other studies.

Nor was she surprised that the bias against women was as strong in biology as in physics or chemistry, despite the presence of more female biologists in most departments. Biologists may see women in their labs, she says, but their biases have been formed by images and attitudes they have been absorbing since birth. In a way, Handelsman is grateful that the women she studied turned out to be as biased as the men. I asked Handelsman about the objection I commonly heard that John is a stronger name than Jennifer. She shook her head. And when you combine that subconscious institutional bias with the internal bias against their own abilities that many young female scientists report experiencing, the results are particularly troubling.

In Britain, biologist William Bateson became a leading champion of Mendel's theories and gathered around him an enthusiastic group of followers. At the time, evolution was believed to be based on the selection of small, blending variations whereas Mendel's variations clearly did not blend. It took three decades for Mendelian theory to be sufficiently understood and to find its place within evolutionary theory. In , Sir Archibald Edward Garrod became the first person to associate Mendel's theories with a human disease. Garrod had studied medicine at Oxford University before following in his father's footsteps and becoming a physician.

Whilst studying the human disorder alkaptonuria, he collected family history information from his patients. Through discussions with Mendelian advocate William Bateson, he concluded that alkaptonuria was a recessive disorder and, in , he published The Incidence of Alkaptonuria: A Study in Chemical Individuality. This was the first published account of recessive inheritance in humans. It was also the first time that a genetic disorder had been attributed to "inborn errors of metabolism", which referred to his belief that certain diseases were the result of errors or missing steps in the body's chemical pathways.

These discoveries were some of the first milestones in scientists developing an understanding of the molecular basis of inheritance. By the s, scientists understanding of the principles of inheritance had moved on considerably - genes were known to be the discrete units of heredity, as well as generating the enzymes which controlled metabolic functions. However, it wasn't until that deoxyribonucleic acid DNA was identified as the 'transforming principle'. The man who made the breakthrough was Oswald Avery, an immunochemist at the Hospital of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.

Avery had worked for many years with the bacterium responsible for pneumonia, pneumococcus, and had discovered that if a live but harmless form of pneumococcus was mixed with an inert but lethal form, the harmless bacteria would soon become deadly. Determined to find out which substance was responsible for the transformation, he combined forces with Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty and began to purify twenty gallons of bacteria. He soon noted that the substance did not seem to be a protein or carbohydrate but rather a nucleic acid, and with further analysis, it was revealed to be DNA. In , after much deliberation, Avery and his colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, in which they outlined the nature of DNA as the 'transforming principle'.

Although the paper was not widely read by geneticists at the time, it did inspire further research, paving the way for one of the biggest discoveries of the 20th century. In , scientist Erwin Chargaff had read Oswald Avery's scientific paper , which identified DNA as the substance responsible for heredity. The paper had a huge impact on Chargaff and changed the future course of his career. I resolved to search for this text. Chargaff was determined to begin work on the chemistry of nucleic acids. His first move was to devise a method of analysing the nitrogenous components and sugars of DNA from different species. Chargaff continued to improve his research methods and was eventually able to rapidly analyse DNA from a wide range of species.

In , he summarised his two major findings regarding the chemistry of nucleic acids: first, that in any double-stranded DNA, the number of guanine units is equal to the number of cytosine units and the number of adenine units is equal to the number of thymine units, and second that the composition of DNA varies between species. These discoveries are now known as 'Chargaff's Rules'. Rosalind Franklin was born in London in and conducted a large portion of the research which eventually led to the understanding of the structure of DNA - a major achievement at a time when only men were allowed in some universities' dining rooms.

After achieving a doctorate in physical chemistry from Cambridge University in , she spent three years at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de L'Etat in Paris, learning the X-Ray diffraction techniques that would make her name. Then, in , she returned to London to work as a research associate in John Randall's laboratory at King's College. Franklin's role was to set up and improve the X-ray crystallography unit at King's College. She worked with the scientist Maurice Wilkins, and a student, Raymond Gosling, and was able to produce two sets of high-resolution photographs of DNA fibres.

Using the photographs, she calculated the dimensions of the strands and also deduced that the phosphates were on the outside of what was probably a helical structure. Franklin's photographs were described as, "the most beautiful X-ray photographs of any substance ever taken" by J. Bernal, and between and her research came close to discovering the structure of DNA. Unfortunately, she was ultimately beaten to the post by Thomas Watson and Frances Crick. Despite an age difference of 12 years, the pair immediately hit it off and Watson remained at the university to study the structure of DNA at Cavendish Laboratory.

Using available X-ray data and model building, they were able to solve the puzzle that had baffled scientists for decades. They published the now-famous paper in Nature in April, and in they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine along with Maurice Wilkins. Despite the fact that her photographs had been critical to Watson and Crick's solution, Rosalind Franklin was not honoured, as only three scientists could share the prize. She died in , after a short battle with cancer. Following Watson and Crick's discovery, scientists entered a period of frenzy, in which they rushed to be the first to decipher the genetic code.

He handpicked 20 members - one for each amino acid - and they each wore a tie carrying the symbol of their allocated amino acid. Ironically, the man who was to discover the genetic code, Marshall Nirenberg, was not a member. Today, scientists routinely use our growing understanding of genetics for disease diagnosis and prognosis. However, it took decades for cytogenetics the study of chromosomes to be recognised as a medical discipline. Cytogenetics first had a major impact on disease diagnosis in , when an additional copy of chromosome 21 was linked to Down's syndrome. In the late s and early 70s, stains such as Giemsa were introduced, which bind to chromosomes in a non-uniform fashion, creating bands of light and dark areas.

The invention transformed the discipline, making it possible to identify individual chromosomes, as well as sections within chromosomes, and formed the basis of early clinical genetic diagnosis. DeWitt Stetten, Jr. He decided to focus his research on nucleic acids and protein synthesis in the hope of cracking 'life's code'. The following few years were taken up with experiments, as Nirenberg tried to show that RNA could trigger protein synthesis. By , Nirenberg and his post-doctoral fellow, Heinrich Matthaei were well on the way to solving the coding problem.

Nirenberg and Matthaei ground up E. Coli bacteria cells, in order to rupture their walls and release the cytoplasm, which they then used in their experiments. These experiments used 20 test tubes, each filled with a different amino acid - the scientists wanted to know which amino acid would be incorporated into a protein after the addition of a particular type of synthetic RNA. In , the pair performed an experiment which showed that a chain of the repeating bases uracil forced a protein chain made of one repeating amino acid, phenylalanine. This was a breakthrough experiment which proved that the code could be broken. Nirenberg and Matthaei conducted further experiments with other strands of synthetic RNA, before preparing papers for publication.

However, there was still much work to do - the scientists now needed to determine which bases made up each codon, as well as the sequence of bases within the codons. Around the same time, Nobel laureate Severo Ochoa was also working on the coding problem. This sparked intense competition between the laboratories, as the two scientists raced to be the first to the finish line. In the hope of ensuring that the first NIH scientist won the Nobel Prize, Nirenberg's colleagues put their own work on hold to help him achieve his goal. Finally, in , Nirenberg became the first person to sequence the code.

In , his efforts were rewarded when he, Robert W. By the early s, molecular biologists had made incredible advances. They could now decipher the genetic code and spell out the sequence of amino acids in proteins. However, further developments in the field were being held back by the inability to easily read the precise nucleotide sequences of DNA. In , Cambridge graduate Frederick Sanger started working for A. Chibnall , identifying the free amino groups in insulin. Through this work, he became the first person to order the amino acids and obtain a protein sequence, for which he later won a Nobel Prize. He deduced that if proteins were ordered molecules, then the DNA that makes them must have an order as well.

He initially began working on sequencing RNA, as it was smaller, but these techniques were soon applicable to DNA and eventually became the dideoxy method used in sequencing reactions today. For his breakthrough in rapid sequencing techniques, Sanger earned a second Nobel Prize for Chemistry in , which he shared with Walter Gilbert and Paul Berg. HD is a rare, progressive neurodegenerative disease which usually manifests itself between 30 and 45 years of age. It's characterised by a loss of motor control, jerky movements, psychiatric symptoms, dementia, altered personality and a decline in cognitive function.

As the disease is adult onset, many people have already had children before they are diagnosed and have passed the mutant gene onto the next generation. In , a genetic marker linked to HD was found on Chromosome 4 , making it the first genetic disease to be mapped using DNA polymorphisms. However, the gene was not finally isolated until In , the first gene to be associated with increased susceptibility to familial breast and ovarian cancer was identified. Scientists had performed DNA linkage studies on large families who showed characteristics related to hereditary breast ovarian cancer HBOC syndrome.

They named the gene they identified, which was located on chromosome 17, BRCA1. However, it was clear that not all breast cancer families were linked to BRCA1, and, with continued research, a second gene BRCA2 was located on chromosome If a person has 1 altered copy of either gene it can lead to an accumulation of mutations, which can then lead to tumour formation. In , The National Research Council recommended a program to map the human genome. The Human Genome Project officially started in , with the U. Many organisations had a long-standing interest in mapping the human genome for the sake of advancing medicine, but also for purposes such as the detection of mutations that nuclear radiation might cause.

The project's goals included: mapping the human genome and determining all 3. In , to demonstrate the new strategy of "shotgun" sequencing, J. Craig Venter and colleagues published the first completely sequenced genome of a self-replicating, free-living organism - Haemophilus Influenzae. Known as H. Prior to this breakthrough, scientists had only managed to sequence the genome of a few viruses, which are around ten times shorter than that of H. The project took around a year and was a remarkable achievement. Its success proved that the random shotgun technique could be applied to whole genomes quickly and accurately, paving the way for future discoveries. The world famous Dolly the sheep was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.

The feat was ground-breaking - whilst animals such as cows had previously been cloned from embryo cells, Dolly demonstrated that even when DNA had specialised, it could still be used to create an entire organism. Dolly was created by scientists working at the Roslin Institute in Scotland, from the udder cell of a six-year-old Finn Dorset white sheep. By altering the growth medium, the scientists found a way to 'reprogram' the cell, which was then injected into an unfertilised egg that had had its nucleus removed.

The egg was then cultured to reach the embryo stage, before being implanted into a surrogate mother. Cloning from adult cells is a difficult process and out of attempts, Dolly was the only lamb to survive.

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