Congratulations to Winners of the 1st Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award!

Blog Award

10553501_493503330779647_3927423967298963676_nThe judges’ scores have been tabulated, and we’re thrilled to announce the winners of our inaugural blog award!

Thanks to everyone for participating. We’ll be back with a shiny new prompt next year!

We’d like to extend a huge thanks to Dr. Michael Verderame, Dr. Kirsteen Browning, Amanda White, and Jordan Gaines Lewis for judging the competition this year.

Phospholipase C Activation May not be Dopamine D1 Receptor Signaling

Blog Award

The following post is the third in our series of entries submitted for the 1st Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award. This piece is by Sang-Min Lee, a 5th year PhD candidate in Pharmacology.


Image credit: Bill Branson (Wikimedia Commons)

The concept of receptor-drug interaction has been the main mechanism for how drugs develop their clinical benefits. Drugs generally have target molecules and regulate their activity to make significant changes originated in cells.

My research field is the dopamine D1 receptor, and it has been a promising drug target because its activation has shown to improve the symptoms of at least two neurodisorders: motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and verbal working memory in schizotypal personality patients.

Nonetheless, more desirable D1 receptor activators are still required to maximize clinical efficacy and applications because the current D1 activators have several side effects and pharmacokinetic issues.

The Danger of “I’m so OCD!”

Blog Award

The following post is the second in our series of entries submitted for the 1st Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award. This piece is by Caitlin Millett, a 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Image credit: Alan Levine (Flickr)

Image credit: Alan Levine (Flickr)

Have you ever heard a friend exclaim “I’m being so OCD right now!” when they can’t help but double check for their house keys before slamming the front door? It seems that this phrase has become a cultural colloquialism, it is used so often.

Luckily, most people who say “I am so OCD!” do not, in fact, have a debilitating anxiety disorder marked by uncontrollable obsessive thoughts and behavioral compulsions, the hallmark features of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Though the term obsessive-compulsive is often misattributed to those of us who are perhaps too meticulous, prone to anxiety, or a combination thereof, we as a society have familiarized ourselves with the term through our exposure to literature and media to the extent that it is now a part of our lexicon.

Exploring the Gene Myth

Blog Award

The following post is the first in our series of entries submitted for the 1st Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award. This piece is by Lina Jamis, a student in the Anatomy Graduate Program.

Image credit: FDA (Wikimedia Commons)

Image credit: FDA (Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers who study genetic interactions—of which there are thousands currently under study and billions more to be studied—often find themselves trying to explain their field to non-technical audiences.

And if there’s anything I’ve learned as a student who has taken various levels of human genetics as an undergraduate and now at the graduate level, it’s that the average person has many preconceived notions about genetics that are mostly inaccurate, if not altogether wrong. These misconceptions are often perpetrated and perpetuated by our educational systems and media that aim to simplify a field that is intrinsically un-simple.

There are few absolute truths when it comes to human genetics. Absolutely, there are disease genes, but there are also modifiers of disease genes, and modifiers of modifiers of disease genes. It goes on. Incomplete penetrance, genetic heterogeneity, pleiotropy, and gene-environment interactions—these are just some of the factors that make studies of relatively simple-seeming genetic diseases extremely challenging.

1st Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award: Accepting Submissions NOW!

Blog Award

blue-ribbonsSince launching last May, Lions Talk Science has published over 30 blog posts written and edited by a bevy of talented, diverse graduate students at Penn State College of Medicine.

The blog has been featured in a publication by the Association of American Medical Colleges, received thousands of page views, and has been widely shared with local and national high school and college educators as well as the Pennsylvania Society for Biomedical Research. Posts are enjoyed by both the lay and academic communities thanks to strong support from our Medical Center and College of Medicine social media team.

We are thrilled to announce our 1st Annual Blog Award, and we’re accepting submissions now! Whether you’ve written for the blog a dozen times or have yet to contribute, we want to read about your work!

The details:

  • Your blog post must adhere to this prompt: “Discuss a common layperson’s misconception related to your field of study, and set the record straight.”
  • The target audience for your blog should be the local Hershey community; assume a high school education or less, and keep the piece a reasonable length (400-600 words).
  • Submissions are due two weeks from today (Monday, June 30). Please e-mail your entries in Word format to with the subject line “Blog Award Submission.” If you have not previously submitted to the blog, please also include an image of yourself and a short bio for our Contributors page.

typing-on-laptop2Prizes and certificates will be awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in the amount of $50, $25, or $10 to the Penn State bookstore or Starbucks (your choice!).

Our panel of judges includes:

  1. Dr. Michael Verderame, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
  2. Dr. Kirsteen Browning, Assistant Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences
  3. Jordan Gaines Lewis, 3rd-year graduate student and Lions Talk Science Editor-in-Chief
  4. Amanda White, Penn State alum and research tech

Please contact with any questions. Note: at this time, the contest is only open to Penn State College of Medicine students.

Happy writing!

Why Do We Need Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins in our Diet?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Patrick Brown, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Program



There are an endless number of diet plans available today that purport to be the answer to all of our weight loss needs.

Most of them are based on calorie restriction or minimizing intake of one of the major macromolecules found in food – fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Probably the most famous example of this is the Atkins diet, which suggests you cut carbohydrates out of your diet and sustain yourself on protein and fat.

Although these diet systems have led to weight loss for many people, we should be careful about upsetting the balance of the macromolecules we ingest. After all, the body needs all of them to function properly.

What’s it like to get an MRI?


mri_womanBy: Jordan Gaines Lewis, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Program

During my first year at Penn State College of Medicine, I participated in an MRI research study. I laid in an MRI machine for 45 minutes and looked at pictures of chocolate while smelling chocolate odors. Tough life, right?

(Hershey really is the sweetest place on Earth…even in the labs!)

The MRI machine is rather big, rather loud (I wore headphones), and…rather claustrophobic. But it operates on a rather GENIUS principle!

Brain Attacks: What Happens When the Immune System Targets the Brain


By: Lina Jamis, 1st year student in the Anatomy Graduate Program

brain_on_fireAnybody who knows me knows that I love a good read. So when I picked up a bright yellow book entitled Brain on Fire, in late 2012, it wasn’t a surprise that I devoured it in the course of a single afternoon.

Brain on Fire is the firsthand account of New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan’s “lost month of madness,” pieced together by an imperfect memory of the events surrounding her hospitalization and descent into madness—the result of what became a rather surprising diagnosis.

War on Cancer: Tumor Therapy

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

764px-Chemotherapy_vials_%281%29Chemotherapy is one of the most important aspects of cancer treatment. Although an undesirable, draining procedure, it has extended the lives many cancer patients over many decades.

However, there are significant limitations to drug therapy treatment for cancer. The biggest limitation is the fact that many tumors relapse (return) after treatment. Many don’t understand, however, why or how this happens. How does a tumor come back after it has been treated? And why do promising chemotherapy drugs usually cease to work after relapse?

Your Brain on Fiction


By: Lina Jamis, 1st year student in the Anatomy Graduate Program

BrainBook-300x199People love stories—we build social networks around them, we recount them to our friends and families at the end of our day, we whisper them in the dark to our children before they sleep. Stories are all around us, even in the most unlikely of places. It’s a human tradition with an effect on the brain that might explain why we love them so much.

Researchers have long known that classical language regions like Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are heavily involved in the interpretation of spoken and written word, respectively.

But what science has come to realize recently is that fiction stimulates many other parts of the brain, suggesting why the experience of reading can elicit such strong empathy. (You know you cried a little when Dumbledore died).

In fact, it seems that the brain does not make much distinction between reading about an experience and encountering an experience in real life. In each case, the same brain regions are stimulated.