Dr Chris Emdin + GZA + The Bronx + Science + Hip Hop = Geek Out Science Genius

GZA

Hello All,

It’s Friday Geek Out time. I am so excited to introduce to you Dr Chris Emdin’s work as I have been slowly but surely developing the same concept here in London and cannot wait for one of my best friends who is a MC to finish a Science of Rap book project we have been working on (hint-hint). Dr Chris Emdin is a Professor of Math, Science and Technology and works for the Colombia Teachers College teaching at New York inner city schools. Christopher is the author of “Urban Science Education for the Hip-hop Generation”. Dr Emdin’s work has been featured on Good Day NY, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, in The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and others AND if that was not enough to wow you, he is also very handsome and extremely dapper *swoon*.

DrChris1

Currently, one of my clients is a inner city London science specialist school and the biggest challenge is engaging the young boys and girls with Science. I cannot tell you how much it hurts my heart to hear them say “Science is boring Miss”. Much like Dr Chris Emdin, my first point of call is to find out what they do find interesting, which is more often than not music and/or football and use that as a bridge to engage them actively with the science topic at hand. It always works a treat, despite my mediocre “rapping” technique, although thankfully my knowledge of football is good enough to pass ( I was called a G by the “leader” of my year 10 troublesome Science group last week, I told him I wasn’t his G and to refer to me as Dr E but secretly inside I was jumping for joy).

Hip-Hopeducation1

Click play on the video’s below and be inspired by the amazing work Dr Chris Emdin is doing in the Bronx and watch the young boys faces in part two when GZA from the Wu Tang Clang walks into the classroom. It is absolutely priceless.

Part one introduces Dr Chris Emdin and the program

Part two introduces GZA to the program

Also, I found this short comic relief skit with Catherine Tate & David Tennant to give you an understanding of how hard it can be for teachers to do the job at hand their when even one student is not engaged and disinterested in the subject.

Unfortunately, I have been into many science classes where this is the case. Please share this post with your teacher friends, your family and extended family. Let us start using creative ways to keep our young people in-line as GZA would say and use some of the things they enjoy and find interesting to engage them fully with Science or any other subject for that matter.

Hope you enjoyed the read, have a blessed weekend and remember genius is never impossible and always possible especially when we all work together like Dr Chris Emdin and GZA have just shown us. Peace.

GZA_DrChrisEyman

Advertisements

DJ decks made of paper. Yes, made of paper!

CoolDJdecks

Hello geeks,

Hope you have all had a blessed week so far and you are looking forwards to the weekend. I am sure you all know by now that I am a massive TEDx videos fan? If you didn’t, now you do. I recently came across this science technology video that gave me goose bumps whilst watching it for a number of reasons.

Reason one, Kate Stone herself is an inspirational figure and a wonderful example of how someone who is fearless in following her dreams, interests and vision despite not “fitting” in with or “following” conventional paths can still achieve success and greatness. Her complete journey and story is absolutely fascinating.

MusicPosterTwo, I don’t want to spoil the story for you but the fact that her parents sent her back to Australia had me laughing out loud,  I was sure only African parents did that!

Thirdly, the fact that science technology has advanced so much so that DJ decks can now be made out of paper completely blows my mind. I can still remember the days when DJ’s carried very heavy looking boxes of vinyl records into venues and was just getting used to the Ipads and computers being used. The rate of advancement in the science technology arena is crazy.

Click on  the video below and listen to Kate Stone’s story and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Geek out with Rosalind Franklin, DNA, The Brain, and Queens.

Rosalind Frankin

Hello Geeks,

Hope you have all had a great week. As you know I made a commitment to make sure I wrote a post every Friday and today I must say I almost missed it but for good reason; it is my younger brothers birthday today and we spent most of the day playing Aunty and Uncle at the London Aquarium with our niece. Much fun was had and here I am at 9.42pm on a Friday evening, working on this post making sure I fulfil my commitment to you all.

I can’t help but geek out over and share with you one of my personal female role models in the world of genetics, and I am not alone; you may have noticed the google doodle tribute below on your home-screen yesterday. This is becasue it is the 60th Anniversary of Rosalind Franklin’s discovery at our very own Kings College London of the structure of DNA through X-ray images, the famous Photo 51. Yes, I said famous, and it is deserving of the word and you are about to learn why.

Rosalin_Franklin_94thThe images above and below denote one of the 20th century’s biggest scientific breakthroughs, and Rosalind Franklin is being celebrated for this contribution this weekend. Franklin’s Photo 51 below was one of the biggest contributing factors to helping us unlock the secret of DNA, even though she famously failed to share the Nobel Prize awarded to Francis Crick and James Watson for the work they admitted was built on her investigations. In-fact, it was “rumoured” that Franklin’s supervisor shared several of her images, including “Photo 51”, with James Watson without her knowledge or consent. Up until the time when they saw this particular image, Watson and Crick, had wrongly postulated that the DNA “backbone” was on the inside of the molecule. Her image pointed out their error in logic and they quickly revised their hypothesis and published it, which then led to them being awarded the Nobel Prize a few years later.

Photo 51

She got side-lined but this weekend she is being celebrated and recognised for her good work and efforts. Hard work always pays off in the end. The Guardian wrote up a brilliant article about her devotion to science research and her inspirational and pioneering career. She was finally recognised by the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine four years after her tragic death from ovarian cancer.

Tomorrow, Kings College is providing a free family open day at the University’s Cultural Institute at the East Wing of Somerset house. Visitors will be invited to watch real human brains being examined by anatomists, and learn about the wiring of the brain (not for the squeamish and an advisory age of 12 has been given). You will get the opportunity to meet with neuroscientists and learn about the structure of DNA upfront and close. The Institute is open from 11am-5pm.

It is also the last chance to visit the photographic exhibition of picture cells which of-course includes Franklin’s Photo 51. Schools are out, so this is a great opportunity for the family as a whole, aspiring medics and scientists, as well as everyday people geeks to get inspired.

I was trying to think of a fitting song tribute for this lady and as she is literally the Queen of Genetics, I finally settled on this ‘Queen’ by Janelle Monae feat Erykah Badu. I love this song and video for many reasons, too many to re-count here so click play below and enjoy!

Have a great weekend all.

E

Meet Ibrahim El-Salahi

Ibrahim_Salahi1Hello All,

Hope you have all been enjoying the glorious sunshine this past week in London, New-york, Paris and everywhere else in the world where the rays from that big ball of fire and light has touched.

This post is short and sweet and it is also not hugely scientific so a slight cheat, although like I said everything started with science including art! and this is my blog, so I am allowed to cheat once in a while especially when it is to big up one of my own.

I feel proud to tell you that the first Tate Modern exhibition dedicated to African Modernism traces the life and work of Ibrahim El-Salahi, a Sudanese artist. Sudan stand up. I am super excited to have the opportunity to support this great man from my home country.

“This major retrospective brings together 100 works from across more than five decades of his international career. The exhibition highlights one of the most significant figures in African and Arab Modernism and reveals his place in the context of a broader, global art history” Quote taken form the Tate site.

Ibrahim_Salahi2

We learn about Mr El-Salahi’s journey from Sudan in the 1950’s, his education in London and how he returned to Sudan in 1957 as a pioneer in the Art scene. His story is amazing, he shares his life, his joys, his deep spiritual faith and his dreams with you in his work and I urge you all to go and see it. It is showing from 3 July – 22 September 2013, do not miss it geeks.


Click on the video below and meet the man himself.

Also, while you are at the Tate you should also go see Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art also showing from 3 July – 22 September 2013.

Since the theme is Sudan here I’m going to introduce you to these beautiful young ladies who have re-created some of our cultural songs which I used to hear my grandmother and great aunts sing around a coal burning coffee pot. I absolutely love this rendition of this song and I hope you do too.

Thank you for reading, please share the information and have a great weekend everyone.

Eyman

Beauty By The Geeks

BeutyByGeeks1Hey Geeks,

The weather is beautiful in London today, it is hot and sunny, I kid you not. I am very excited about that. I Hope it is just as glorious everywhere else in the world. If you read my last blog post you will know what I have been up to lately and I remember mentioning to you that I wanted to introduce you to some of the amazing people I have been blessed to meet. This is the first of those introductions.

I geeked out when I came across Brigitte West and Rose Brown at the STEMettes event last month. Not only are they both lovely ladies, but they are also brilliant entrepreneurs who had an idea that they confidently nurtured creating a business that helps people understand the science behind beauty products. This in itself is inspiring but the amazing thing is, they achieved all of this while studying full time medical science degrees at university.  They are 21 and 20 years old respectively. Brilliant young ladies. And, they named the buisness Beauty By The Geeks. Whaaaat. Total geek out.

BeautyByGeeks2

Click on this link and find out how to make your own beauty products at home using ingredients from your kitchen. Also, see if you can catch them at the British Science Festival and if you work in a school or are a member of your parental governing body at your children’s school, suggest some of the educational courses they offer in and around England and help them make science more engaging (school girls love make-up whether parents like it or not, it is the the truth of our times so let us use it to our advantage and educate).

Keeping with the theme and because I miss Brazil and because it is perfect for this sunny day, click play and enjoy the sunshine with Pharrell and Snoop in Brazil.

Until next time, enjoy the sunshine and have a great weekend.

E

Can I live?

Can I liveSweater by my friend with skills on his label B-Side by Wale. For more click here.

Hello Geeks,

Firstly and most importantly I need to say a huge THANK YOU to you for all the lovely messages of support and appreciation I have received thus far. I do not have the words to convey to you how much it means to me to open my in-box after a few weeks and find so many encouraging messages. I know I have been very slack of late with my posts and so I wanted to take a moment to let you all in on what has unintentionally kept me away for so long.

This year has been exceptionally busy and I have learnt lots. I have definitely learnt that running your own consultancy business, writing a bog, teaching, caring for your parents and having a social life all at the same time totally messes with your time management scenario. However, you will be pleased to know that I think I have a handle on it all now and will be religiously aiming to put geeky science associated words to keyboard every Friday at the very least from this day on. Word to my mama (who is visiting from Sudan at the moment :-).

I wanted to give you a quick run down of some of the things I have been doing lately and let you in on what I’m working on next before moving onwards and upwards with the blog. I find it quite difficult to talk about myself in this context but I have been given strict advice by my mentor and good friends to start self promoting myself more, so here it goes. Of-course, I have “scientific” evidence to show for my lack of postings and self promotion in the form of stories and photographs you will be please to know.

I was asked to panel on the Africa Today show with Henry Bonsu to discuss the use of genetically modified foods in Africa. It was my first major TV experience and I was super nervous having only been asked to do it a few days before. I had a lot of fun and I am looking forwards to more experience in that area in the near future (watch this space).

TVA month or so later, I was invited to speak at Oxford University. I shared my experiences in science to date, my PhD research, my blog and what I thought the future of science education and research would be. It was an amazing experience, one that I will not forget and the food at the gala was immense.

Oxford1Oxford2I have also been busy giving lectures, talks and panelling at events in and around greater London, visiting schools, Universities as well as community groups. It has been humbling to meet so many varied people ranging from Essex to Lewisham to Eaton and I have learned so much in the process. The new generation of youngsters coming out of school are incredibly inspiring. I cant wait for the world to meet them.

SchoolThe most recent event I had the pleasure of being invited to panel on was hosted  at the Deutsche Bank head quarters in London for the STEMettes event aimed at presenting Women in Science Technology, Engineering and Maths. I met some amazing women and will be sharing more of that with you soon.

STEMettesI also just came back from an amazing vacation in Brazil, Salvador Bahia. I was starting to burn out and I have always been a firm believer in the concept that if you want to achieve great things you need to give your body the energy and love it needs to keep taking you upwards and onwards. So I listened, and ignored all the millions of reasons for why I should not take a break and listened to my tired body, mind and spirit and spent three weeks relaxing in the sun, sea and sand. It was bliss.

BahiaBeachSunsetI am so thankful for the blessings that I have been given so far and I have returned from Bahia with so much renewed energy. I am very excited about what’s coming next and look forwards to sharing with you. I will be adding a new subsection to my blog and it is going to be called Real Geeks where I will be interviewing some of the many new and interesting people I am meeting who I feel are total geeks who can share with us all some amazing stories about what they do and/or what they are passionate about in the world of science, art, health and more. It is going to be so much fun, I cant wait to share the first interview with you. In the meantime, I am going to share with you some new music that I love. If you do not have the new Omar album titled The Man, please do yourself a favour and buy it now. Click play below for a taster.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading my story and I’m looking forwards to writing and posting my next FIG post. Oh, I am also in the middle of designing a new logo for the blog that I will reveal soon, good times :-).  Have a great weekend all.

E

Q- Dr E, how do I know if I am lactose intolerant or not?

SayCheese_Lactose

Happy Friday Geeks,

It has been a while since my last knock knock post and I’m excited to put this one out. I get asked this question all the time and it is not an easy one to answer scientifically but I am going to give it my best shot. It is science “thick” but I am going to do my best here to touch all bases and hopefully make the science easier for everyone to digest (like my little pun here?)

I hear people say they think they are lactose intolerant quite often and they usually go to the extreme of cutting out all dairy products. I can definitely understand why that would be the first point of action for many, but it has always worried me because dairy products are our main form of calcium intake (as well as good protein and carbohydrate sources). Calcium is a very important part of our diet and it is hard for many to grasp how important it is until they are at an age (50 and over) where they are prone to an increase in bone fractures and other calcium related dis-orders associated with calcium restriction.

Let me start by explaining to you what lactose actually does for us. Lactose is the main source of sugar from milk and milk products from all mammals except the sea lion. After ingestion, lactose passes into the small intestine where it comes into contact with lactase (a natural enzyme within our bodies) at the intestinal brush border where it is hydrolysed/converted into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose (sugars), which are easily absorbed. In-short, lactose is good for us because it can be converted to sugars by lactase which are then used by many bio-chemical processes in our systems. Remember sugars are not bad!, sugars are basically our human fuel or petrol, a car can’t run properly without a good supply of petrol and the same goes for our bodies. Over subscription to sugars is what is bad.

Save_Lactose

Now that is out of the way. What do we mean when we say someone is lactose intolerant? And this is where it can get a little confusing. Time for the hard-core science section.

Non-digested lactose can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea and distending the intestines (bloating, cramps, abdominal discomfort) as well as psychological symptoms, events that are likely to lead to clinical symptoms.

Lactose malabsorption refers to inefficient digestion of lactose due to reduced expression or impaired activity of the enzyme lactase.

Lactose intolerance is when the gastrointestinal symptoms are clinically observed in an individual with lactose malabsorption.

Lactose_Intolerance_Diagram

What causes lactose malabsorption I hear you ask? The most common cause of lactose malabsorption is lactase non-persistence also known as lactase deficiency, a common condition in which lactase expression decreases during infancy. What this means is that we naturally start off needing lactose as it is our earliest form of providing our systems with the sugars/energy it needs to grow and develop to adults. But, as we get older we don’t need it as much. I am about to really go in on this, hope you are ready?

Lactase activity changes during development. In most humans, lactase activity reaches a maximum in late pregnancy but declines after 2–3 years of age and reaches a stable low level at age 5–10 (this is thought to be a process which might help weaning). However, a proportion of the human population, especially Caucasians from Northern Europe or Northern European descent, retain high lactase levels during adulthood. This is known as lactase persistence. Just to be clear, lactase persistence means you and lactose can be good friends, if you want to.

Therefore, lactase persistence and non-persistence are both “normal” human phenotypes. What is very interesting, is where lactase persistence is found and why?  The prevalence of lactase persistence is high  in most regions in Scandinavia, the British Islands, and Germany (80–95%); however, this condition is observed in only 20–40% of Indian adults, 30% of Mexicans, 30% of African Americans.

Lactase persistence is thought to be related to the development of farming during the last 10,000 years. Just in-case you really really wanted to know, the genetic polymorphism responsible for most cases of lactase persistence in Caucasian individuals is the13910C/T variant (it’s all very straight-froward :-), T at position 13910 upstream of the lactase gene within a putative regulatory DNA-region causes persistence; C leads to non-persistence). Basically if you are from any of these regions you are good and if you are mixed, then you are also good because lactose malabsorption is a recessive condition meaning you need a homozygous genotype as a heterozygous/mixed geneotype is considered clinically negative.

African tribes that herd cattle in Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania also have high prevalence for lactase persistence. However, lactase persistence is mediated by a different polymorphism (gene/DNA change). Importantly, this tells us that lactase persistence developed several times independently in human evolution in different areas of the world. So again, if you are east African you and lactose can be good friends. Of-course exceptions to the rule do exist, as they do with everything. (for review, see Ingram et al Human Genet 2009; 124: 579–591)

Lactose_Map

Statistical calculations of genetic data estimated that selection for lactase persistence commenced relatively recently, during the last 10,000 years. Lactase persistence was beneficial for our ancestors by providing a clean source of fluid and a source of protein, fat, and carbohydrates  generating a selective advantage of 1.5–19% in each generation. This indicates a strong selection pressure comparable to malaria resistance genes (2–5% for G6PD deficiency, 5–18% for sickle-cell trait) in various parts of the world. That is a big deal by the way, selective advantages are hard to prove.

So those rumours that humans are not supposed to drink milk, especially cows milk are questionable for two reasons, two very different reasons, in my humble opinion. Firstly, no significant bio-chemical difference between lactose in breast milk and cows milk has been observed, they both get digested in the same way via the lactase enzyme, which is common and present a birth. It is very rare that you are born lactose intolerant (known as congenital lactase deficiency). Secondly, cows milk has been reported to be ingested by humans from times dating back to the father of man, The Prophet Abraham according Biblical and Quranic scriptures and that tells me something, whether you are spiritual or not, history should at least strike a cord here? or maybe be not? As a scientist, I personally believe all evidence should be taken into account, including historical, religious, spiritual evidences.

Saying all the above, I do appreciate that many people are experiencing discomfort when ingesting milk and dairy products. So what do you do if you are one of them?

Treatment of lactose intolerance should not be aimed at reducing malabsorption but rather at improving digestive symptoms. Reduction of lactose intake rather than exclusion is recommended because long-term effects of lactose restriction may help improve gastrointestinal complaints but can lead to other damages. For example, the long-term effects of a diet free of dairy products may be a concern as you are significantly decreasing the amount of calcium. Low calcium levels are leading to an increase in fractures and orthopaedic problems. Adolescents require approximately 1300mg and over 50’s approximately 1200mg of calcium, which is roughly equal to 3 cups of milk per day. Furthermore, in blinded studies results indicate that most patients with self-reported lactose intolerance can ingest at least 12g lactose (equivalent to 250ml milk) without experiencing symptoms and taken with other foods, up to 18g lactose can often be tolerated (Suarez FL, Savaiano DA and Levitt MD, N Engl J Med1995; 333: 1–4).

I know I took you all through the paces with this one, but I really wanted to flesh this one out. As with everything all food groups are important and good for you as long as it is taken with moderation, completely cutting out a good source of calcium because you think you may be lactose intolerant is not recommended. But, if you are then you should take all necessary steps to make sure you are providing your body with the healthy amount of nutrients it requires. Many lactose supplements and calcium supplements produced as “drugs” are available that can be taken to supplement your diet, but I hope you go the foodie route, it is much more colourful, fun and tastes all so wonderful.

Lactose_ComicStrip

Hope you enjoyed the read and if the science was too “thick” for you ( ha, not sure why I like that word today, but like I do) click play and relax to this brilliant song by James Blake.

Have a great weekend all.

E