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BU Prof Wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry MED’s Shimomura discovered what makes jellyfish glow

Osamu Shimomura was one of three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry. Photo courtesy of the Marine Biological Laboratory

It took more than 30 years for Osamu Shimomura to realize that his research on jellyfish would revolutionize the world of biology and another 14 for the Nobel Prize committee to recognize his contribution. Yesterday, after learning that his discovery of luminescent proteins in jellyfish had won this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry, he told reporters what he learned from the experience.

“If you find an interesting subject, go study it,” he says. “Don’t stop. There is difficulty in any research — don’t give up until you overcome that.”

Shimomura, a School of Medicine adjunct professor of physiology and a senior scientist emeritus at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., was one of three winners of this year’s chemistry prize. The other winners were Martin Chalfie of Columbia University and Roger Y. Tsien of the University of California, San Diego, both recognized for pioneering cellular research techniques that use the proteins Shimomura identified. The three will share the $1.4 million prize, which is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Shimomura is credited with the discovery of green fluorescent protein, or GFP, which he observed in 1962 in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, found off the west coast of North America. James Head, a MED professor of physiology and biophysics, recalls Shimomura’s stories of collecting the jellyfish — Shimomura began his research with 10,000 specimens — in Washington state.

“He and his wife used to spend summers at Friday Harbor and catch bucket after bucket of jellyfish,” says Head, who collaborated with Shimomura on research into the behaviors and uses of aequorin, another fluorescent protein. “In those early days, he would purify the protein directly from the jellyfish, getting small amounts of protein from bucketfuls.”

But although Shimomura pursued his studies of GFP for years, he said yesterday that he didn’t realize the potential applications of his work until 1994, when Chalfie’s research emerged. In an organism, GFP can be fused to proteins of interest to scientists, with minor effects on the organism’s behavior. Researchers can then observe the locations and movements of the studied proteins by monitoring the GFP, which remains fluorescent.

“This protein has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience,” according to yesterday’s announcement of the prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. “With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread.”

“These discoveries were seminal and decades ahead of their time,” says Gary Borisy, director and chief executive officer of the Marine Biological Laboratory. “They really have ushered in a revolution in cell biology.”

Since then, newer techniques have emerged, such as Tsien’s research into GFP mutations that create fluorescence in various colors, which allows researchers to track different cellular processes in one organism.

Shimomura, who earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Nagoya University in 1960 and began studying bioluminescence there before coming to America and joining a research team at Princeton University, says he never expected his work to change the world of cell biology.

“My subject was just discovery of a product,” he says. “I’m surprised. And I’m happy.”

Jessica Ullian can be reached at [email protected].

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Indoor Tanning Dangerous, Warns Med Prof

Indoor Tanning Dangerous, Warns MED Prof New report on perils of tanning salons

The title of a congressional report last month said it all: “False and Misleading Health Information Provided to Teens by the Indoor Tanning Industry.” With students already heading to tanning salons before next month’s spring break, Barbara Gilchrest, a School of Medicine professor of dermatology, is echoing the report’s warnings against bronzing on a tanning bed.

The risk of melanoma jumps 75 percent for people who begin indoor tanning before the age of 30, and among people who’ve tanned 10 times or more by that age, the risk of a melanoma diagnosis is six times higher than for those who’ve never tanned inside, according to the report. UVA, a type of ultraviolet (UV) light, from sunlamps, “can be as much as 10 to 15 times more powerful than midday sun,” the report to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce warns. And skin cancer rates have shot up along with the popularity of tanning. “Melanoma is now the most common form of cancer for white women between the ages of 15 and 29 years old,” the report says. “Since 1980, the rate of melanoma in this group has increased by 50 percent.”

Yet congressional investigators posing as teens in calls to salons found that 90 percent denied any health risk to fair-skinned teen girls. More than half said tanning would not increase a fair-skinned teen’s cancer risk. Four out of five salons wrongly insisted that indoor tanning had health benefits, from increasing vitamin D to preventing cancer.

Gilchrest: In general, heavy usage certainly continues through college age, the 16-to-25 age group, very conscious of appearance, very much in the dating game.

I think it’s more socially acceptable for women to actively spend time on improving their appearance. Certainly young men do try to tan. But doing things that consciously are intended to improve your appearance—I think that’s something generally viewed as feminine.

Over the course of a year, we all get a lot of UV light, even in an area like Boston. And nobody applies the proper amount of sunscreen. They apply somewhere between a quarter and a half of what is recommended by the manufacturer. So why is it a big deal in a tanning booth? One reason is there are areas of the body getting exposure in a tanning bed that are probably not getting it otherwise. And the intensity of the UV is probably many times higher. We don’t know, frankly, what that does. It may overwhelm the body’s ability to repair the damage.

I strongly recommend that people not use tanning booths, that it’s dangerous, that it encourages them not to use sunscreen. I would also recommend that people not smoke. Whether it should be against the law gets into how much should be forbidden and how much should be left to people’s judgment after education. But to make it a bit more difficult is a great idea—at a minimum, to have parental approval required for minors, and to go after the tanning parlors that don’t ask for it.

They are probably not up there with the banks, but there is a big tanning lobby, and they spend a lot of money on it. Until the Institute of Medicine report came out last November, industry spokesmen were saying there’s a vitamin D deficiency in the United States, you need to use tanning beds to prevent every condition under the sun. The IOM panel released an analysis of over 1,000 publications and studies and concluded there was absolutely no evidence to support those statements.

One of the problems is that young people think they are immortal. And that by the time they are 30, they should be dead anyway, because it’s disgusting to be 30.

Biophysical Chemistry: Study Of Biological Systems

What is Biophysical Chemistry?

Biophysical chemistry is the science which deals with the study of the biological systems by applying the combination of concepts of both physics (scientific study of both matter and energy and how they interact with each other) and chemistry (Complex application of physics which focuses on the interaction of matter and energy in chemical systems).

The interdisciplinary topic, biophysical chemistry combines the principles of biology, physics and chemistry and whose study mainly focused at the collection and quantitative analysis of data for predictive models of biological systems at a molecular level and chemical sequence level.

Unlike biophysics which covers all the scales of biological organization right from the molecular level to organism and finally populations, biology which focuses on the system’s phenotype which is to be studied and biochemistry which mainly focus on functions, role and structure of biomolecules, biophysical chemistry employs different physical chemistry techniques for probing the structure of biological systems. Biosystems are very complex and vast to understand however process becomes easy and simplified when we use physical model to learn how the changes occur in a system every time.

Some of the examples where the biophysical chemistry is applied using the concepts of physics, chemistry and biology includes −

With the use of physical concepts like quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, optics, electromagnetic and thermodynamics many biological processes can be explained physiologically such as

Muscle contraction

Neural communication

Vision etc.

The most recent Nobel Prize winning study which falls under the biophysical chemistry category is the X-ray crystallographic studies of ribosome which is the site of protein synthesis. Protein crystals includes the atoms of the whole molecule which are packed into a crystal shape and when X-rays are used causes diffraction of light.

Many biophysical chemists are known to show interest in the topics like protein structures that may include enzyme activity which is either due to shape of substrate molecule or an alteration in its shape when a metal ion is bonded. Also the structural and functional analysis of biological cell membranes using the studies on models of supramolecular structures like liposomes and phospholipids.

By understanding the thermodynamics, we can build the specific protein models. Protein folding is mainly governed by thermodynamics. Proteins tend to be in folded state as it reduces the free energy. Proteins has well defined 3D structures. The science of understanding proteins as molecules with legitimate structures is a new challenge in the present world and Protein Folding is an achievement or challenge in biophysical chemistry Diffusion which is the net movement of particles from high concentration region to low concentration medium until it attains an equilibrium is another interesting area under the umbrella of biophysical chemistry. Here movement of ions across the biological cell membranes is studied.

Fluid mechanics is another interesting area used in the biology where many biological processes involve the movement of particles in fluids for example during blood circulation, gas exchange etc.

Techniques for Study of Biological Systems

Biophysical chemists make the use of different methods of physical chemistry to gain knowledge about the biological systems at both atomic and molecular level. Here the methods are overlapped with the other fields of science like biology, physics, bio-chemistry and chemistry to study the molecular structures, modes of interaction, size and shape, polarity of different biological molecules. The three different biomolecules which are important for the survival of all the living organisms includes proteins, nucleic acids and lipids.

Some of the following techniques of biophysical chemistry which are important to study the structures and functions of biological molecules are discusses below. All the techniques are mainly focused on 4 categories. They are

Thermal Techniques

Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC) are the 2 techniques can be discussed in this category. These techniques provide information on nucleic acids about nucleic acids-ligand interactions, protein-ligand interactions.


It is a type of thermoanalytical technique in which sample cell containing molecules of interest and reference material are maintained at same temperature by heating simultaneously until it reaches a differential point. DSC hence measures the change in heat which is due to absorption or radiation during temperature difference between sample and reference.


This is yet another type of thermal technique which is sensitive in qualitative and quantitative measuring of energy released due to interactions between sample molecules and the biological reference molecules.

Electrical Techniques Spectroscopic Techniques Miscellaneous

Many techniques now made possible to detect the structural changes in proteins which are responsible for their functioning and also to quantify the energetics of biological membranes. Radioactivity-based analysis technique is one such method which uses the radioisotopes to determine the influx and out flux measurement of ions and other substances across the cell membranes.


Biophysical chemistry is an application of basic concepts or principles of physical chemistry to solve the problems in biology. All the living organisms depend mainly on the three important biological molecules whose chemical characteristics are due to their organic and inorganic nature.

Proteins, lipids and nucleic acids are the three main macromolecules within the biological system. Biophysical chemists use many techniques of this field to study the biological molecules within the system. All these techniques are mainly categorized into 4 types that are thermal, electrical, spectroscopic and other miscellaneous group of techniques.

Four Wins And Three Misses For Apple Card In Year One

Apple Card has been available for just over a year now and looking back over the last 13 months, a new report highlights several aspects Apple and Goldman Sachs have nailed. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some areas ripe for improvement.

An Apple Card analysis from chúng tôi by Ted Rossman dives into what has made it successful over the first year, and notably, some ways the pandemic has helped the appeal of Apple Card.

Apple Pay focus

First, Apple using a digital first strategy with Apple Pay has proved successful, particularly as consumers have been using contactless payment more amid COVID-19:

The pandemic has greatly accelerated consumers’ appetites for contactless payments, mostly because many are afraid to touch bills, cards and payment terminals due to potential germs. Visa said contactless usage jumped 150% from March to July 2023.

Apple Pay is not the only mobile payment method, of course, but it’s the most popular. It’s also possible to pay by tapping a card itself, although the vast majority of American contactless users prefer to use their phones.

Rossman suggests with Apple Card holders getting 2% Daily Cash when using Apple Pay and the increase of contactless payment use in the pandemic, the behaviors could become long-term habits.

Simple cash back formula

While Apple Card has seen some criticism for having middle of the road rewards, the straightforward Daily Cash feature is paying off.

Differentiating Apple Card

Apple Card was promoted as a simpler and kinder credit card and Apple has followed through with that. Rossman notes Apple Card users getting pandemic relief from monthly payments without interest, something that has set it apart from the competition. There’s also super easy access to customer service directly from iPhone, no fees, and tools to help customers pay less interest.

From the beginning, Apple Card proclaimed that it would be a kinder, gentler credit card with no fees. Its financial management tools would actively encourage customers to pay less in interest, and it would be easy to contact customer service via text messages and phone calls.

During the pandemic, Apple Card’s customer assistance program has excelled. Upon request, cardholders have been able to skip payments without interest, potentially for many months in a row – a perk that has stood out in the industry for its generosity and longevity.

Greater security is also an important aspect of Apple Card with no numbers on the optional Titanium card and the natural security that comes with Apple Pay.


The report mentions Apple has done a decent job of expanding its 3% Daily Cash partners. The latest was Panera Bread in August this year. There are now 7 retailers that offer the 3% cash back in addition to Apple. However, Rossman argues Apple’s average rewards rate is still lagging behind its competiors.

Still, while Apple’s expanded list of merchants offering 3% cash back is a start, I don’t personally spend a significant amount of money at any of them, and I’d be willing to bet most people would say the same.

Blending the 3% merchants, the 2% Apple Pay rewards and the 1% physical card return, I suspect most Apple Card users end up below 2% on average. That lags the following cards which extend 2% cash back on all purchases: Citi® Double Cash Card (technically 1% when you buy something and 1% when you pay it off), the PayPal Cash Back Mastercard and the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature card.

This past summer Apple also expanded its 0% interest offer from just iPhone to now include iPad, Mac, and more.

Meanwhile, the report points at Apple Card’s $50 sign up bonuses it ran this summer as weak. We could chalk this one up as both a modest success in the first year and also a major opportunity going forward.

Joint accounts and additional cards

The report from Rossman didn’t dive into these next two opportunities, but they’re important to mention. First, there’s still no joint account support or ability to request additional cards.

There is certainly an untapped market for Apple Card users who share finances. Part of the issue is likely that Apple Card is tied to an Apple ID. Maybe Apple could figure out how to roll Apple Card joint accounts and additional cards into its iCloud Family Sharing. That would make it easy for not only partners to use but also allow parents to give their kids access.

Integration with budgeting software

While Apple Card has definitely made progress over the last year by launching the ability to export transaction data as CSV and OFX files, it’s still behind the times. For example, you can pull in Apple Card to budgeting software like Mint, but it doesn’t include transaction data for now. So you just see things like balance, available credit, and your interest rate.

Hopefully, we’ll see Apple improve integration with Mint and other budgeting software to be as feature-rich as competing credit cards in the coming months.


Shortly after Apple Card launched last fall, Goldman Sachs’ CEO called it the “most successful credit card launch ever.” While it’s hard to say for sure if that’s the case (and by what metrics) Apple Card has certainly had a solid debut with a lot of potential going forward.

And in the short term with Apple’s September event expected to bring a new Apple Watch and iPad Air and the iPhone 12 around the corner, a new wave of customers may pick up Apple Card thanks to the enticing 0% interest offer.

If you want to apply for Apple Card, we’ve got a detailed walkthrough here.

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Bringing A Spark To Bu

Bringing a Spark to BU First annual TEDxBU served up inspiration and laughs

Jim Russell (COM’15) earned laughter with his talk about gender roles and expectations of masculinity as one of the speakers at TEDxBU on Saturday, April 4. Photos by Harris Allen for TEDxBU

One speaker said he never felt a sense of belonging until he discovered hip-hop as a young teenager. Another wondered why we’re asked to “man up” and be tough, but never to “woman down” and be more empathetic. A third explained all the ways that music affects the brain. And another crawled onto the stage and asked the audience to consider when cowardice might have value.

Each was a featured speaker at last Saturday’s daylong TEDxBU event, which drew faculty, students, alums, and others from around the globe to BU Central. The theme was the spark that drives each person to achieve. Areas of focus were community, empowerment, individual identity, and education, but the 11 individuals who took their turn standing on the big red TED dot on stage pushed those topics in their own highly individual directions.

The TED talks are world-famous gatherings begun in 1984, where luminaries from any field give short talks (18 minutes or less). The topics were originally all connected to technology, entertainment, and design (TED), but now cover an almost endless range. TEDx events give local organizers a chance to put on similar events customized for their communities.

TEDxBU organizers Ben Lawson (CAS’17) and Salma Yehia (CAS’15) didn’t even know each other last June when each applied separately to the TED organization to run an event at BU. Yehia is a longtime TED fan who had been dreaming of putting something like this together for years. Lawson had attended TEDxSomerville last March and “was just so inspired by how the local voices there really do embrace their communities that I wanted to bring that type of event to BU,” he said.

Lawson applied a week ahead of Yahia and got the license, but the project quickly turned into a collaboration. “One of the TEDx people finally got me in contact with Ben, and we agreed that we both want this to happen at BU, so let’s work together,” Yehia said.

“Our speakers were talking about their individual sparks and their passions, and how their passions spark every moment of their day,” Lawson said. “The goal was to have audience members discover that, to find what their passion is, if they don’t already have their spark. And we hope through interaction, they’ll be able to discover their spark and share their spark with others.”

More than 300 people applied to attend, but the under the TED rules, the audience was capped at 100. Additional seating was provided in an overflow room, and the event was streamed live on the internet.

The welcoming remarks from Daryl Healea (STH’01, SED’10), Residence Life associate director for student and staff development, connected the TEDxBU event to the University’s roots in Boston Personalism and its most famous alum, Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59). Chelsea Roberts (COM’14), who uses spoken word to promote pro-black activism and empowerment through the arts, spoke passionately of the difficulties of being a person of color in the “crockpot” of ethnicity at BU, facing frequent questions of, “So what are you?” She told the audience, “I just want to shake them and say, I’m a human being.”

Speaker Anna Kasdan (CAS’16) is a neuroscience major who is minoring in piano performance. She used a diagram of the brain to illustrate all of the places where listening to music has an effect, and got a big laugh when she said that evolution explains “why girls today are attracted to men with guitars.” Kasdan has worked for the past three years at the Sargent College Aphasia Research Laboratory, where she is engaged in research in music and language. She became serious when she described seeing patients unable to speak, yet so roused by music that they can sing songs—an experience she called mind-blowing.

Christopher Walsh (GRS’95,’00), a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of English and acting director of the CAS Writing Program, is the author of the recent Cowardice: A Brief History (Princeton University Press, 2014). He literally crawled onto the stage to make a point: he wanted the audience to empathize with the soldiers pinned down by enemy fire in a picture projected behind him. Walsh told the crowd to think of their creative spark as a duty they must enact despite whatever fears come with it. The possibility of being labeled a coward, he said, “pushes us to ponder what it is we should do and what it is we are afraid of.”

In between speakers there were songs, a poem reading, videos of famous TED speakers, audience-participation comedy, and breakout sessions that included group photos and a painter at work. About 30 volunteers were involved in putting on the event, many of whom knew the TED name, but not each other before they started. Organizers hope that their “big family” of volunteers and attendees will continue on now that the event is over.

All of Saturday’s speakers were either nominated or applied through the website and had to provide a personal video telling “why you want to speak at TEDxBU specifically.” Those who had a generic message were rejected (including a Harvard professor the organizers diplomatically declined to name). Among the 11 speakers chosen were 3 current BU students. Alexander Golob (CFA’16), who has a background in grassroots campaigns and cofounded the nonprofit Wellesley Parents Supporting Art Students to support visual arts in his hometown public schools, talked about student organizing within the higher education system. And Jim Russell (COM’15), a Posse Scholar from Georgia, who is cofounding a record label and film production company, spoke humorously about gender inequalities and definitions of manhood.

“It’s a nice way to take a break from the day-to-day,” said attendee Susmita Gadre (CAS’16). “People get caught up in that and forget why they’re doing what they’re doing. This gives people a chance to think about what really inspires them in the first place.”

“People want to be inspired, and we’re drawn to people who give us that inspiration,” said Lauren Extrom (CAS’16).

The combination of speakers impressed Tyrone Hou (CAS’18). “They all came at the topic from different angles,” he said.

While there have been other one-off TEDx events at the University in the past, Lawson and Yehia hope to set themselves apart by holding such events on a regular basis, and are considering the move to becoming an official student group.

“It was amazing reading through those 300 responses from prospective attendees, because the amount of passion and the spark that every student exhibited through their applications was just amazing and inspiring,” said Yehia. “This is going to be bigger than 100 people eventually.”

The original live stream of the event is available for viewing here.

Bu Grad Lands Marshall Scholarship

BU Grad Lands Marshall Scholarship Viktorya Vilk (CAS’07) to study art conservation in London

Marshall Scholar Viktorya Vilk (CAS’07) will study museum curating in London. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Viktorya Vilk missed the phone call from the regional chairman of the Marshall Scholarships because she was doing laundry. By the time she saw the message, it was too late to call back, so she spent a sleepless night worrying about her fate.

“I called him in the morning and was absolutely ecstatic to hear the news,” Vilk (CAS’07) recalls. “I tried to sound mature, but I think I just babbled ‘Thank you so much!’ repeatedly into the phone. I felt as if I’d won the lottery.”

Vilk, a summa cum laude graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, was one of 40 American college graduates chosen for this year’s prestigious British scholarship, and the only scholar from Boston University. She joins an exclusive club that includes the likes of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (Hon.’95), inventor Ray Dolby, and Pulitzer Prize–winning writers Thomas Friedman of the New York Times and Daniel Yergin, author of The Prize.

The competitive scholarships, each valued at approximately $60,000, offer American students who have excelled in college the opportunity to further their studies at any university in the United Kingdom. The British government launched the program in 1953 in gratitude for the Marshall Plan, America’s post–World War II effort to help Europe rebuild.

The CAS art history major hopes to study curating at London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, one of the world’s leading centers for the study of the history and conservation of art and architecture. Founded in 1932, the institute houses iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, as well as numerous other important works from the Renaissance to the 20th century.

Vilk can’t wait to haunt the museums of London and Europe. “I’m absolutely obsessed with art and thrilled that I’ll have access to some of the greatest art in the world,” she says. “In the past, however, I focused more on the masterpieces these museums housed rather than the museums themselves — architecturally, contextually, socially. I’ve realized that a museum’s location is integral in defining its programs and exhibitions.”

Vilk was four when her family emigrated from Ukraine in 1989, eventually settling in Boston. As an undergrad, she interned at Christie’s Auction House in London, the Nichols House Museum on Beacon Hill, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where she researched the museum’s extensive Monet collection. Until she starts her studies next fall, Vilk is working at BU’s Office of Sponsored Programs, helping search out grants for humanities professors — invaluable training, she says, for a future museum curator.

“She’s been an engaging, enthusiastic, and extremely bright student,” Hall says. “It’s extraordinarily prestigious that she’s been awarded a Marshall Scholarship. It’s very nice for the University, it’s very nice for the art history department, and, of course, it’s very nice for her. She’ll be able to study at the premier art institution in the UK, and she’ll bring that knowledge back with her to the States.”

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at [email protected].

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