The Science of Geneological DNA Testing

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Science Design on a Dime

A few years ago, we moved into a home that had far more usable wall space than we were used to. My husband and I decided to look for artwork online that spoke to our passion of all things science, and science fiction. While I won’t bother sharing links for our favorite Warcraft travel posters, Star Wars imagery or Star Trek episodes, I am happy to share with you some amazing science-themed and women in science posters that are free to download and print out, or available inexpensively. 

These series are awash in color and would be a stunning addition to any home. From NASA's planetary series to several lines celebrating women in science, these prints can help you create the perfect geeky haven!

NASA’s Visions of the Future 

A creative team of visual strategists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), known as "The Studio," designed a vibrant collection of 15 posters, titled "Visions of the Future." These free-to-download prints are a based on a series of exoplanets -- planets orbiting other stars -- to celebrate NASA's study of them. According to David Delgado, JPL Visual Strategist, the “point was to share a sense of things on the edge of possibility that are closely tied to the work our people are doing today.”

The team gravitated to the lush and nostalgic style of the posters the Work Projects Administration (WPA) created for the national parks in the mid-1930s through the 1940s. 

“The WPA poster style is beloved, and other artists have embraced it before us,” said Delgado. “Our unique take was to take one specific thing about the place and focus on the science of it. We chose exoplanets that had really interesting, strange qualities, and everything about the poster was designed to amplify the concept. The same model guided us for the posters that focus on destinations in the solar system.”

It’s truly a challenge to pick a favorite out of the collection! Ceres and PSO J318.5-22 have a fun old Hollywood feel, while Mars and The Grand Tour are a bit more colorful and late ‘50s early ‘60s mod. If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, the “Earth: Your Oasis in Space” poster may be the perfect fit.

The entire series is available for download and print here.

NASA’s Be a Martian!

science on a dime 3.png

Mars needs YOU! In the future, Mars will need all kinds of explorers, farmers, surveyors, teachers… but most of all YOU! Join NASA in the Journey to Mars by adding one of these recruitment posters to your home. With a hint of the same retro feel as the exoplanet series and a good helping of 20th century propaganda art, this series is awash with warm reds and oranges and could bring a fun exploration feel to any room. 

NASA originally commissioned this set of eight Mars posters for an exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex in 2009.

They are available to download and print here.

March for Science/Women in Science Posters Via Beyond Curie

As a way to connect the Women's March to the March for Science, Beyond Curie founder Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya created six gorgeous custom posters to help celebrate women and science. 

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The posters honor: 
Katherine Johnson - whose calculations were instrumental to America’s first manned spaceflight in 1960
Rosalind Franklin - whose photo of DNA and helped us to change our understanding of the structure of DNA
Maryam Mirzakhani - the first woman and Iranian honored with the Fields Medal - the most prestigious award in math
May-Britt Moser - Nobel Prize winner who helped pioneer research on the brain’s mechanism for representing space
Chien-Shiung Wu - the “First Lady of Physics”
Mae Jemison - accomplished engineer and physician and the first black woman to travel into space

Beyond Curie is a celebration of 35 badass women scientists to continue the discussion of women in science beyond the most obvious, Marie Curie herself. Including in the Beyond Curie project are all 16 female winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine/Physiology. Even if you’re not interested in the art, the site is a fascinating delve into women in STEM.

The posters are free to download. Simply download and drag the file onto your desktop. 

Be a… Read. Question. Think.

If you’ve a younger child and are remotely interested in the STEM fields, you’re probably familiar with Andrea Beatty - the author of Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist. Beatty celebrates ingenuity, invention, creativity, hard work and the desire to question and hypothesize in her wonderful rhythmic prose. They are perfect for young children who show an interest in sciences or how things work. 

Beatty and Illustrator David Roberts have made available a series of posters based on the characters from these books that could be a great addition to any scientifically-minded child’s room. You’ve five to choose from: Citizen, Scientist, Engineer, Astronaut and Architect. 

Click here to download.

Science Builds the Future by Paul Sizer

I will be honest, I am insanely and madly in love with this entire collection, and all of Paul Sizer’s work for that matter.  
Says Paul Sizer of Sizer Design + Illustration, “What started out as a one-off design exercise has become an ongoing call to highlight women in the STEM fields of science, with teachers and educators asking me for these posters to encourage female students of all ages to pursue careers in the science fields. Now more than ever, science and research must maintain a solid foundation towards building a better future for all of us.”

Equal parts propaganda and BioShock, these posters would be the focal point of any room they’re added to. 

You can purchase them through Sizer’s shop. And while you’re there, check out all of his posters, so many amazing empowered and stunning women from his kickass librarians to superheroes galore. 

They are also available through the March For Science - with proceeds going to the March.  

Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science

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Rachel Ignotofsky’s book “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World” is a must for all young girls interested in STEM. As a mother to one such girl, I will do everything in my power to foster her love. And, considering she attended 2016’s March for Science dressed as Marie Curie, her love is strong. 

Ignotofsy’s illustrations are also available for framing and make wonderful and whimsical artwork for any aspiring astronaut or biologist’s room.

To view Ignotofsky’s artwork, click here.

To order her prints, click here.

If you decide to add any of these pieces to your home, we’d love to see it!

The Science of Black Panther: Is Vibranium Real?

With everyone eagerly anticipating Black Panther's Feb. 16, 2018, release, we wonder, is vibranium real?

To say that folks are excited about the Black Panther movie coming out this February would be a gross understatement. It was little surprise when the number of advance tickets sold in a day exceeded any previous Marvel movie. Even Lupita Nyong’o had trouble getting a ticket to see the movie on opening night (well, the latter is a bit surprising... they didn’t give homegirl enough complimentary tickets?). And why shouldn’t we be excited about a genius martial artist with all the super abilities that you would expect of a hero named after a large wildcat (e.g night vision, smell, speed, agility, and strength)? He rules the nation where Vibranium comes from (Captain America’s shield is made of a Vibranium-steel mix or alloy), wears his own Vibranium suit, and gets many of his powers from ingesting an herb that was exposed (like much of Wakanda’s plant and animal life) to Vibranium radiation.  

Since Vibranium is so central to Black Panther’s powers, you might have wondered if there were any such material in the real world. Vibranium’s key feature is that it absorbs energy, for example from sound waves, vibrations, and the kinetic energy from impacts, and it uses this energy to become stronger. Are there other materials like this?

Unlike Vibranium, most materials become weaker the harder you hit them. Mangalloy, a type of steel alloy made with 11-14 percent manganese, is an exception. Under impact, its surface becomes nearly three times as hard while its interior stays at its original unbreakable strength. It is also highly abrasion resistant, meaning that it is not easily worn down or corroded and, in fact, it takes on a brilliant polish when rubbed or scratched. Unlike Vibranium, it is also non-magnetic so it might be a smart choice in a battle with Magneto. But you would have a difficult time making armor or even a shield from Mangalloy for some of the same reasons that make it such an amazing material. It’s almost impossible to work with because you can’t soften it by heating it (annealing) and if you try to use a machine to grind it or cut it, it gets harder. Superman could do some damage though, since, although not easy to do, it’s possible to grind it down with diamonds.

Source: West York Steel

Source: West York Steel

We might be getting closer to creating a Vibranium-like armor though, as scientists have recently discovered a nanomaterial, two-layer graphene that becomes as hard and stiff as diamonds upon impact. Graphene is a super-thin film, the thickness of a single atom, of bonded carbon atoms. It is constantly amazing scientists with its material properties and its unique physical characteristics have led scientists to use it frequently as an additive or nanofiller to enhance the properties of polymers. It turns out that when you compress two-layer graphene (exactly two), even with a diamond indenter, it takes on a diamond-like structure with the same rigidity and toughness.   

Source: Wikipedia, Graphene

Source: Wikipedia, Graphene

Speaking of polymers, new plastics are being developed. These plastics, called mechanophores, “heal” stronger than they started when they are subjected to stress. One particular synthetic polymer developed by a team of scientists at Duke University becomes stronger when it experiences a shear force or a tearing due to a mechanical force because this exposes places in the plastic for new bonds to form with the carboxylate molecules included in the material. But Plastic Man is in the DC universe so…

The creation of materials that can rival Vibranium is very much still in progress, but there have been many interesting developments in recent years. The people that research these materials are called, unsurprisingly, material scientists, and they have expertise in a variety of disciplines including chemistry and physics.

Real Life Superheros and Material Scientists:

Professor Jenny Nelson

Professor Jenny Nelson

“Jenny Nelson is a physicist whose research is devoted to characterising the materials used to build and improve photovoltaic devices, which convert energy from the Sun into electricity. She applies a range of tools that include physical models, simulation and experiments to optimise the performance of such devices through their composite materials…

Since 2010, Jenny has also been studying the potential of photovoltaic technologies to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted during the generation of electricity, lessening the impact on climate change. She is the author of a popular text book, The Physics of Solar Cells (2003).”

Text excerpted from The Royal Society .

Martha Sanchez

Martha Sanchez

Martha Sanchez is a material scientist and, according to Forbes, one of the first Latina researchers at IBM’s San Jose Almaden lab. She is very involved in outreach, working with kids in inner city schools to share her love of science and technology.

She wrote on her blog at IBM, “When I tell people I work in lithography, the first image that often comes to mind is a process for reproducing fine art. In addition to producing art that’s suitable for framing, lithography is the key method in making computer chips, which is my area of expertise. We use predominantly photolithography to produce fine lines made of polymers using light to create the connections between transistors on chips that help process data.

By researching new ways to print connective lines out of polymers, we can improve the speed and computing performance of chips for today’s computers. Our goal is to create increasingly smaller lines that allow us to create greater connection density, essentially letting chips process more information faster while taking up less space.”

Supporting the March for Science

March for Science shirts are on sale for a limited time only.

On April 22, 2017 scientists and supporters of STEM from all over the United States marched on National Mall in Washington D.C. to protest the Trump Administration's anti-science doctrine and policies. Normally, the science community abstains from politics. However, with the Trump Administration's determination to promote policies that will be detrimental to the advancement of science programs, scientists and supporters of science from all over the U.S. believed they needed to take a stand and fight.

Scientists joined global protests on Earth Day to denounce proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health as well as Trump's views on climate change and the safety of vaccines.

Source: March for Science. Click on photo.

Source: March for Science. Click on photo.

To continue the good fight, March for Science is selling merchandise to fund the next march on Earth Day, 2018. From super cute t-shirts and baby onesies, to retro posters, March for Science has the goods.

Are you going to the next March for Science? If you make a purchase, Ge'NeL would love to see photos of you wearing March for Science gear.

5 Inspiring Female Scientists and How You Can DIY STEM

There have been many exciting developments in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. As I started this article, I wanted to tell you about a few of the many amazing women doing groundbreaking work in STEM. However, as everyone who knows me has long since realized, the one thing I love more than telling an entertaining story about science is showing how the science works and letting people get their hands dirty experimenting for themselves.

So, I would like to introduce you to five inspiring women in STEM today and also suggest how you might experience a taste of the work they have pioneered. Some of these projects you can do at home for little or no money, while others require some investment. Either way, these experiments are exciting and I hope you find these scientists as inspiring as I do. I hope you get a taste for their passionate work as well as a reminder that science is for everyone, including you.

Happy New Year!


1. Dr. Fabiola Gianotti

By ATLAS Experiment © 2011 CERN

By ATLAS Experiment © 2011 CERN


Dr. Fabiola Gianotti became the first female director-general of CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 2016.  The Italian physicist led the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment, ATLAS, when ATLAS and the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) made the Nobel-Prize winning discovery of the Higgs boson.



2. Dr. Nina Tandon

By SiliconANGLE

By SiliconANGLE


Dr. Nina Tandon is a biomedical engineer and the CEO of EpiBone, a company working on growing bone transplants from a patient’s own stem cells on a 3D printed scaffold.

You can learn how to create your own 3D printed scaffolds for cell cultures from artist Amy Karle who has photos of her incredible work online.


3D Printed Scaffold


3. Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani

Mirzhakani photo from Stanford University

Mirzhakani photo from Stanford University


The world suffered an enormous loss when Iranian mathematician Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani passed away in July 2017. In 2014, Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize for mathematical achievement, analogous to a Nobel Prize for mathematics (of which there is none). Much of her research was on hyperbolic surfaces and Mirzakhani was awarded the Fields Medal for her “outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces.”

You can build models of hyperbolic geometric structures at home, hopefully gaining along the way some small bit of the enormous enthusiasm Mirzakhani had for mathematics in general and, more specifically, for Hyberbolic Geometry. She is quoted as saying that the more she spent time on mathematics, the more excited she got about it.



4. Dr. Jeanette Epps




In May 2018, Dr. Jeanette Epps will be the first African-American to live on the International Space Station for an extended period of time. Epps was a NASA fellow while earning her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland, did research with Ford Motor Company, and worked as a Technical Information Officer for the CIA for over 7 years, and completed a nine-day underwater NASA research mission with NEEMO.


Orbital Space Flight Simulator


5. Dr. Jennifer Doudna

Photo by Duncan Hull

Photo by Duncan Hull


Dr. Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist at UCBerkeley, is one of the primary developers of Crispr-Cas9, a revolutionary technique for genome editing. Crispr is now widely employed because doing so is so much easier, less costly, and more precise than previous techniques for genomic engineering. Crispr could potentially be used to eradicate infectious diseases and more controversially could also be used for eugenics or the development of biological weapons. Since part of its benefit is its ease of use, it can not only be used by labs everywhere but also by you at home with one of the DIY Crispr kits now available for sale.