What is Radon? and how does it impact health?

Biomedical Sciences, cancer

By Ross Keller, PhD candidate in Biomedical Sciences

You have probably heard vague notions about the health impacts of radon, but what is it exactly? And how does it impact health?

Currently, radon is believed to be the second leading cause of environmentally caused lung cancer, following smoking. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 15,000-22,000 lung cancer related deaths per year are attributable to radon exposure, with the majority of them occurring in smokers who are also exposed to radon (1).

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Radon is radioactive, making it a risk for lung cancer (Pixabay)

Evidence for an increased risk of cancer from radon exposure comes from epidemiological studies as well as animal studies. It was found that occupational exposure to high levels of radon in miners was strongly linked to an increased risk for lung cancer (2). Lower levels of residential radon exposure was also linked to an increased risk in combined analysis of case-control studies in North America (3) and Europe (4). Furthermore, animal studies conducted in the mid-to-late 20th century clearly demonstrated the ability of radon and its decay elements to cause lung carcinomas (5).

Why Penn State College of Medicine Students Chose Graduate School

Graduate School

Intro

Everybody in this post has something in common.

After 12 years of primary and secondary school and 4 years of undergraduate education, we all decided that we weren’t done yet.

But why? As it turns out, the graduate students of Penn State College of Medicine have very diverse, inspirational reasons for choosing to continue their education and biomedical research careers. Take a look:

The Scientific Conference Survival Guide

General

By: Amanda White, Research Technologist in the Department of Psychiatry

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Image credit: Marianne Weiss (Wikimedia Commons)

Scientific conferences are an important way to learn about the latest developments in your field and to meet people who can help you advance your career. They are annual meetings organized by professional societies that include poster presentations, oral presentations, and social events. Conferences often take place in major cities (like San Diego, Washington DC, or Chicago), though the location of each conference usually changes from year to year. Conference attendees include professors, medical doctors, industry representatives, graduate students, and occasionally undergraduate students.

Conferences  can be a lot of fun, but they can also be intimidating and overwhelming! I attended my first two conferences this year – Animal Behavior Society (ABS) in August and Society for Neuroscience (SfN) in November.

Here are a few tips and tricks that I hope can help you survive (and thrive) at a scientific conference:

Why Graduate Students Should Meditate

Neuroscience

By: Caitlin Millett, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
― Aristotle

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Moyan Brenn (Flickr)

Meditation is an ancient practice dating back at least three millennia. It’s a fundamental component of many Eastern religious traditions and belief systems including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism, to name just a few.

The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices meant to clear the mind and build compassion and kindness. It may also ease some health issues, such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and stress. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes of Health, notes that:

“Meditation may be practiced for many reasons, such as to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to enhance overall health and well-being.”

Due to its purported benefits, recent decades have seen increased interest and additional funding for research on meditation and mindfulness. Moreover, mindfulness has reached an almost fad-like status in the Western world due to its potential positive effects on health.

In December, Penn State Hershey Medical Center offered a free seven-week class to learn meditation. Similarly, the Penn State Hershey University Fitness Center recently held their first ever meditation sessions. But for most of us, especially those of us in the sciences, the question still lingers- is there data supporting the benefits of meditation?

“How Can I Join a Lab as an Undergraduate?”

General

By: Caitlin Millett, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Program

girls in a labThere are many benefits to participating in undergraduate research. In most cases, especially in STEM fields, writing a research thesis is a requirement for graduation. Moreover, it’s necessary for a strong application to graduate or medical school.

That said, there are many aspects of choosing a lab that can be quite nerve racking. In order to avoid common pitfalls on the path to a thesis, students should be aware of the most important aspects of this process.

Here are a few gems of wisdom for a lab-bound undergrad…

You Can Get Involved!

Biomedical Sciences

3879955126_4417209ceb_oHey, readers! We want to hear from you!

In our new segment, “Ask a Scientist,” we’d like to answer your burning questions: don’t understand a scientific concept? Curious about life as a graduate student in the biomedical sciences?

Simply leave a comment on this post, or e-mail your question to lions-talk-science@psu.edu. A graduate student will address your query in a future blog!

We are also seeking guest blog posts from undergraduates who are conducting research in the biomedical sciences. What does your field already know about your work, and what are its bigger implications in medicine? For more information on how to contribute, visit the Contact page.

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