Physical chemists study energy, molecular structures, and other behaviors and characteristics of matter on a tiny scale. Their work has many applications, from medical technology to energy storage, air conditioning, refrigeration, and heat. “Physical chemistry is a wonderful sort of union of physics and chemistry,” says Physical Chemist Barbara Hopf Offenhartz. She studied the structure and behavior of molecules of vitamin B12 and hemoglobin, both of which play key roles in respiration (the system that turns oxygen and sugar into the energy that helps your body stay healthy). The work Offenhartz did helped produce today’s sophisticated instruments for using light… Learn more
Chemists are architects on a tiny scale. They design and build molecules, structures composed of atoms. By precisely combining chemicals and sometimes using catalysts, molecules that help a chemical reaction happen more quickly, chemists create materials suited to all sorts of different uses, from gasoline to carbon fiber to lifesaving medicines. They also investigate the molecular structure of different types of already-existing matter. Biochemist and Cancer Researcher Eugene DeSombre discovered how different breast cancers react to estrogen and developed a test for that, helping doctors figure out how to treat different cancer patients. Physical Chemist Barbara Hopf Offenhartz studied the… Learn more
Topologists study shapes of different dimensions. Think of the shapes they study as malleable (squishy and stretchable, like clay). To a topologist, a solid triangle and a solid square are the same sort of two-dimensional shape (one with no holes in it). A shape that looks similar to a donut is called a torus. Some topologists study knots, which helps chemists model and understand the way molecules behave. Topology is also useful for scientists interested in the shapes DNA forms. Strands of genetic material tend to wrap around themselves … to tie themselves in knots. Mathematician Emille Lawrence, a topologist,… Learn more
What apps do you have on your phone? Where did they come from? Internet applications developers help people turn their ideas into virtual realities. Government, social media, corporate, entertainment, and other organizations collect and share information and accomplish their goals online and in other computerized formats. Internet Applications Developer David Scheiner uses his computer programming, people, and math skills to help companies “use technologies to further their goals.” Thanks to his efforts, they are able to collect and organize the information they need to deliver the apps we (their clients) rely on.
Data scientists teach computers to make insights about the world—some that humans can make easily, like telling your best friend’s face apart from your mother’s, and some, like whether you’re likely to get sick or make a new friend, that humans might otherwise miss. Alex Paul (Sandy) Pentland and his colleagues have taught computers to recognize faces and to predict the outcomes of face-to-face interactions, from speed-dating to business negotiations, with remarkable accuracy.
Computer scientists design and use the hardware and software of the machines we call “computers.” These machines help people collect and analyze information. Applied Mathematician Bernard Chazelle, Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, studies natural algorithms: the recipes behind the behavior of flocking birds, cells working together to make the human heart beat, and swarms of insects.
Applied mathematics involves using math to solve problems in the “real world.” An applied mathematician might answer questions raised by physicists, chemists, engineers, environmental scientists, or other people trying to understand or build things. Fern Hunt, an applied mathematician, studies “phenomena that you might observe either with numbers or in nature or in everyday life which seem unpredictable.” She asks questions about probability, dynamical systems, and chaos theory in her work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Applied Mathematician Erika Camacho builds mathematical models that help scientists understand how our eyes work. The math she does helps them… Learn more
Your nervous system helps your brain communicate with the rest of your body. Neuroscience is the study of the brain and the rest of the nervous system (including the spinal cord and the large network of nerve cells — neurons — that travel through most animals’ bodies). Theoretical neuroscientists like Brian DePasquale use computers and mathematics, as well as the results of experiments done by biologists, to improve our understanding of neuroscience.
When you think of evolution, perhaps you imagine a very long tree of life, extending across millions of years, starting with one-celled creatures and ending with us: human beings (Homo sapiens). But evolution also happens more quickly. The development of antibiotic-resistant species of bacteria is also evolution in action: some of the tiny creatures that cause illnesses in human beings no longer respond to medicine that once cure those illnesses. This challenges doctors and scientists to come up with new ways of protecting people. Evolutionary geneticists like Elizabeth Alter examine DNA and other genetic evidence to help us understand how… Learn more
Nutrition epidemiologists like Alison Gustafson, a registered dietitian, look at the ways the food we eat affects our health and physical activity. They study biology, nutrition, and biostatistics as well as epidemiology, which examines diseases and how they spread. And they help develop ways of improving the diets of large groups of people.