Photos from #xBio

On conferences and coffee

By Paula Rincon

“Coffee stunts growth in children.”

“Drinking coffee is detrimental to any weight-loss plan.”

“Coffee is addictive and messes up your teeth.”

You’ve probably heard some variation of these warnings. With such a bad reputation over the years, you might wonder why this dark beverage is still served at professional events. In fact, an increasing body of evidence is demystifying dated beliefs associated with coffee consumption, and some experts are even advising the addition of coffee to a healthy lifestyle.

I don’t think that the fact that I work at a specialty coffee roaster by any means biases my opinions. Well, maybe a little ;-)

I don’t think that the fact that I work at a specialty coffee roaster by any means biases my opinions. Well, maybe a little 😉

Here I’ll go over some of the most recently found therapeutic properties attributed to drinking coffee:

  1. It may prevent diabetes: A recent study, authored by Shilpa Bhupathiraju at the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that drinking more than a cup of coffee per day over a period of four years lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  2. It stimulates metabolism of lipids in liver: A study recently published in the journal Hepatology featured caffeine as a “potent stimulator” of lipolysis (breakdown of lipids) in mammalian liver cells. In this strudy, Rohit Sinha et al., demonstrated that caffeine intake can reduce the lipid content of livers of high-fat-fed mice.
  3. It may lower the risk of suicide: Scientists at HSPH identified caffeine as an antidepressant in cohorts of American men and women in a longitudinal study that spanned over 10 years. Michel et al. concluded that caffeinated coffee halved the risk of suicide in these large cohorts, presumably due to the increased production of dopamine and serotonin associated with caffeine consumption.
  4. It can help you ward off tooth decay and cavities: Trigonelline and nicotinic and chlorogenic acids in coffee have been shown to have antiadhesive properties against the bacterium Streptococcus mutants.
  5. Coffee is a great antioxidant: A 2012 study revealed that 3,5-dicaffeoyl-quinic acid and isomers in coffee have DNA-protective effects against free-radical damage.
  6.  And coffee can make you happy: According to a study with rats, the coffee bean aroma helps reduce the stress often caused by sleep deprivation. Now you know there’s a reason why you might find yourself joyfully gravitating toward that freshly brewed pot of coffee in the morning.

This being said, everyone processes coffee at different rates, and, if you are a regular coffee drinker, you might know the limits of your coffee indulgence. Being Colombian myself, I’ve seen the whole spectrum of tolerance to caffeine in the people around me. If you get jittery, opt for decaffeinated! Whatever your level of tolerance, I’m sure you agree with me that coffee is a cultural experience around which interesting conversations cook and chance encounters emerge. Allow yourself to enjoy holding a cup of warm coffee while reading the Experimental Biology conference program, and rest assured that the old days when coffee was thought of as toxic are gone.

It will not only give you that energy boost that you need, but will keep you rejuvenated and cheerful!


Rohit A. Sinha, et al. (2014). Caffeine stimulates hepatic lipid metabolism by the autophagy-lysosomal pathway in mice.

Michel Lucas, et al. (2013) Coffee, caffeine, and risk of completed suicide: Results from three prospective cohorts of American adults.

M. Daglia, et al. (2002). Antiadhesive effect of green and roasted coffee on Streptococcus mutans’ adhesive properties on saliva-coated hydroxyapatite beads.

Jian-Guo Xu, et al. (2012) Antioxidant and DNA-Protective Activities of Chlorogenic Acid Isomers

Han-Seok Seo, et al. (2008) Effects of Coffee Bean Aroma on the Rat Brain Stressed by Sleep Deprivation: A Selected Transcript- and 2D Gel-Based Proteome Analysis.


An introduction (and some fashion advice)

Greetings! I am Paula Rincon, one of ASBMB’s official meeting bloggers.

I have been to several scientific conferences in the U.S., but I can comfortably say that nothing compares in breath to the Experimental Biology meeting. With thousands of scientists convening in San Diego this year to discuss subjects ranging from molecular biology to anatomy, this is where all those networking skills so frequently reinforced during career-development workshops will pay off.

I am at the dawn of my scientific career, so I must admit that growing my professional network and learning valuable career-path lessons from accomplished scientists are my main goals of attending EB this year.

I know I’m not alone in this quest for professional enlightenment, so this year I will be sharing my experiences here. My posts will reflect the highlights of my networking encounters as well as anything interesting that I come across during the meeting. For updates, follow my Twitter feed, @rincon_mp, and my Instagram feed, also @rincon_mp, to see the meeting in real time!

Now if, like me, you’re planning to make awesome connections at the meeting but are still unsure of what to wear, let me just emphasize that being comfortable must be the bottom line. Be prepared to walk long distances, so keep high heels and newly purchased shoes out of your luggage.

Also, being underdressed can not only make you come off unprofessional, but it can be uncomfortable, as the A/C is always on at the convention center and the rooms are often chilly.

Most people wear black, brown or grey, but why not try floral-printing or pastel colors? It’s springtime, and we are meeting in Sand Diego — not in Toronto.

For ladies: If you have only limited room left in your travel bag and still haven’t packed a top for every day of the conference, try using the same neutral color shirt but accessorize with colorful, but not too flashy, necklaces and hair pins. You will surely receive compliments that can easily lead to awesome scientific conversations.

Whatever you do at EB, keep in mind that there is only one chance to make a first impression, and we all know how important that first impression is!

How to prepare for EB 2014

We at ASBMB look forward to seeing our members, students and other investigators at Experimental Biology 2014 in San Diego later this week. In the April issue of ASBMB Today, we provided a ton of tips for how to make the most out of the experience. Hope these are helpful to you! — Angela

  • Double-check your packing list: Shaila Kotadia, ASBMB’s science policy fellow, came up with this handy checklist so that you’ll be prepared to travel and shine once you arrive in San Diego.
  • Ready, set, tweet: It’s time to start thinking about how you’ll communicate your science and the science presented by others during the meeting. Make sure to use the #xBio hashtag and come see us at the ASBMB Twitter breakfast (newbies will be trained)!
  • Get out of the convention center: Part of the fun of a conference is traveling and checking out a new city. So why not take a break and explore San Diego? ASBMB’s science policy fellow, Shaila Kotadia, did the homework for you!
  • Learn about outreach: The ASBMB meeting once again will feature a full slate of programming from the Public Outreach Committee. If you are interested in getting involved with outreach or just curious about what outreach is, put these events on your itinerary.
  • Have your say about funding: The ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee has launched a project with a goal of moving the biomedical research enterprise onto a sustainable path. A panel session on the second day of the meeting will address the barriers to sustainability and discuss possible mechanisms to overcome these impediments. Sitting on this panel will be four distinguished guests with experience bridging the divides among academia, government and industry.





It’s time for a cold one….


So– it’s the last day of the conference.  If you’ve been walking around in those designer heels all day, chances are your poor feet are probably aching right about now. Do you feel like you’ve told your “story” a million times over the past few days?  Are you exhausted from all of the smiling and nodding?  Whatever it may be, a cold beer may make you feel better.  If relaxation or a temporary escape is what you seek, swing by the Samuel Adams Pub in the West Wing of Level 1.  You’ll find sports on the big screen, and good company at the bar.

Watch your language!

Science is difficult to make accessible to the public. Why? Because it is hard, explained Scott Asakawa, the Outreach Coordinator for NOVA. Scott shared ways to make science more accessible at the Science Cafe 101 session. What is a science cafe and is there one in your city? These answers can all be found on the science cafe website. In short, science cafes encourage dialogue between scientists and the public.

Scott shared several tips to engage the public with science. A few tips include using props, learning about your audience, and being visually appealing. Additionally, scientists should watch their language! Scientists should avoid using scientific terms and jargon when explaining research. Obviously, this takes practice. You can check out scientists and engineers practicing explaining their research in under 30 seconds at the secret life of scientists and engineers.

Science cafes are currently in 49 states, excluding Wyoming. If you live in Wyoming or can’t find one by you, then send an e-mail to to setup a science cafe in your city.

Are you trying to make a fashion statement?


Well,  “A Slice of Life” scarf or tie by designer Eve Reaven may be just the touch you were looking for.  These 100% silk scarves were designed with the scientist in mind.  Each piece features patterns derived from biological structures.  From mitochonria to kidney glomeruli– she’s got it.  And guess what?!  The designer is a cell biologist. Each garment is a reproduction of her personal electron microscopy images (as well as those she’s come across over the years). Check out her items for sale at Booth 533 on the Exhibit floor.  Oh–and hurry! They’re going like hotcakes.

Cheerleaders in the lab?

Much attention has been focused on the gloom and doom of science funding, and some may be losing sight of the power of research. This is a perfect time to explain and remind people how scientists can save the world. In a session sponsored by the ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee, Tania Baker, Darlene Cavalier, and Craig Mello each discussed the incredible discoveries that are saving millions of lives, and how science holds many of the solutions to problems like hunger, health, and sustainability.

With all of this winning research, you might wonder why researchers and engineers aren’t becoming cheerleaders. Well…

they are doing just that and we should join them!

Darlene Cavalier, founder of the Science Cheerleaders, helps break down stereotypes of researchers, promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and engages the public in research and science policy.

We can all be cheerleaders for science by engaging our own local communities and sharing the exciting research taking place at our institutions!

Learn a few ways you can engage the community by reading Shannadora’s post on the interactome.

Takin’ it to the streets

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that today is Earth day.  Oddly enough, I was reminded of today’s significance in a science outreach workshop put on by ASBMB’s Public Outreach Committee called “From the lab to the kitchen table: communicating your science to a lay audience.”

During the workshop, Daniella Scalice, Education Public Outreach Director for the NASA Astrobiology Institute talked about the organization’s efforts to convey science through its international Fame Lab competition.  The goal of the competition is to seek out scientists and engineers with a “flair for communicating with public audiences” and encourage them to use the skills they learn in their respective fields to communicate their work to society as a whole.  Through the competition, scientists like 2012 winner Didac Carmona (check out his winning presentation here) are beginning to broaden the view of what it means to be a scientist.

Morgan Thompson, a Harvard graduate student, shared how she communicates science as the Project Manager for the student-run Science in the News organization, whose mission is to explore the science behind media reports and present them to the general public.  The goal is to better distinguish “scientific fact from pure speculation.”   When speaking of the organization’s “do-it-yourself” approach she said “you don’t have to be a senior-level scientist to be out in the community talking about the work that you do.”

This sentiment was echoed by P.A. D’Arbeloff, Director of the Cambridge Science Festival, a yearly festival in Massachusetts that brings in scientists from around the country who share their love of science, technology, engineering and mathematics with the community.  The festival’s latest initiative “Science on the Streets” was designed with the goal of making science “accessible, engaging, and fun.”

These were just a few examples of how people are communicating science to the public in unique and interesting ways.  How are YOU getting out the message?

AAA Celebrates 125 years

100_1446r. Moody and

If you find yourself on level 1 of the West Wing, you may want to take a stroll past the American Association of Anatomists visual timeline of its past and present members who’ve made remarkable contributions to the science world.  For example, did you know that Mary Blair Moody, U.S. physician, anatomist, and founder of the Buffalo Women’s and Children’s Dispensary was the first female member of AAA?  Go take a look at the timeline and learn more interesting facts about Dr. Moody and other influential members.