Connie Cepko

first_imgIn some ways, Connie Cepko’s job has gotten easier.The Harvard Medical School genetics professor is working to uncover the mysteries of the eye, to understand how it develops and what can go wrong. Her work ranges from understanding the genetic roots of diseases like retinitis pigmentosa, which afflicts 100,000 Americans, to basic genetic research using the latest technology.The work goes faster now than it once did because of major breakthroughs in genetics and information sharing made possible by the Internet. At the same time, there is an overwhelming amount of research needed to understand the complex interplay of genes involved in the development of the eye and the diseases that affect it.Cepko’s interest in this sort of work started long ago, sparked by a seventh-grade science fair. She grew yeast on agar plates, a completely new experience for her. Her experiment won first place and the attention of the judge, John Palmer, who ran a nearby laboratory.He invited her over to see the laboratory, and she found a new home. She grew up spending her Saturdays in his lab, which was dedicated to classifying tree fungi.“It was a fabulous experience and I just loved it,” said Cepko, who in addition to her HMS position is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigatorThere was no doubt about what she would study when she went to college at the University of Maryland. It had to be microbiology.She specialized in marine bacteria. That interest led her to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her graduate and post-doctoral work.Though she liked the field of virology, in which she worked for her thesis and postdoctoral projects, it felt crowded. It wasn’t the competition that bothered her, but the idea that so many people were spending their efforts on the same thing, she said. She looked for an area that was getting less attention and found the nervous system.Cepko started by studying the eye. She chose it because at the time it was an easy entry point for a rookie without a strong background in neurobiology. It was physically accessible and there were a lot of basics known about it.And yet, there was so much more to discover that she’s still at it today.There are 160 different genes that lead to blindness and it’s not clear what triggers the death of the affected photoreceptors, upon which vision relies.“Any little thing goes wrong and we go blind,” Cepko said.Researchers in her laboratory are trying to link genes with specific diseases and to better understand how the cells of the eye develop and what can go wrong along the way. Eventually, understanding what can go wrong may lead to new ways to intervene.When Cepko started, the only way to connect a gene to a problem was to painstakingly remove it from an organism. Researchers had to breed mice without the gene in question. But today, advances in RNA interference allow researchers to create bits of RNA that attach to a messenger RNA, efficiently blocking the function of a gene so researchers can see what happens without it.By using the RNA interference process over and over again on different genes, researchers are collecting the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle whose image is a better understanding of the eye and the diseases that attack it. With the advances in science, more pieces are falling into place.“Now, we have clues. We have many pieces of the puzzle,” she said. “Before, we had a 1,000 piece puzzle but only a few border pieces.”The explosion of the Internet fosters the work because information and advances in other laboratories are more readily available. Researchers can quickly absorb the latest advances in other laboratories and apply them to their own research.While her laboratory looks at the bigger picture of what makes a rod cell or a cone cell or another piece of the eye, it’s also tackling the specific problem of retinitis pigmentosa.The disease affects 1 out of 3,000 people. It’s a genetic ailment that affects the rods of the eye, used to see in near darkness. Perhaps most vexing is that once the rod cells die, the cone cells, which are used for all of our daylight vision, also start to die even though they don’t have a genetic defect.It’s not clear how the genes cause the rod cells to die or why the cone cells follow.Researchers in her lab are trying to get a better understanding of what happens as the disease takes its toll. They are looking at what genes change in their expression during different stages of the disease. A postdoctoral fellow, Claudio Punzo, began their work in this area, and has recently published his findings in Nature Neuroscience. His work has provided a totally new view of the disease, and suggests that the cone cells might be starving, and then undergoing autophagy, a form of self-digestion. Bo Chen, another postdoctoral fellow, working on what might keep the rods alive, has found that the addition of a gene encoding histone deacetylase 4 promoted rod cell survival far longer than in untreated animals. These clues are giving the group ideas on novel therapeutic targets to help prolong vision in individuals who are genetically predisposed to go blind.There is serious work going on in her lab, but there is a collegial atmosphere, said Jeffrey Trimarchi, a post-doctoral fellow who has been working with Cepko for five years.There are four Ph.D. candidates and nine post-doctoral students in the lab. Cepko chooses not only good scientists but also good people, Trimarchi said.“It’s important to have people in the lab who get along,” he said. “You need to have people who will share what they’re doing and be willing to talk about their work.”In some ways, she is hands off, letting researchers go in their own direction. At the same time, she works with them to put what they are doing into context.Trimarchi said he had heard good things about Cepko’s lab when he was looking for a place to do his post-doctoral studies, but it was talking with her that convinced him.“When I sat down with her, the ideas kept coming, one right after the other,” he said.She keeps a white board in her office and uses it frequently for brainstorming.While her primary focus is on basic research, Cepko keeps in mind potential real-world applications. She promotes that concept as co-director of the Leder Medical Sciences Program, which integrates the Ph.D. students with Harvard Medical School.Participants take courses covering the basics of human biology and disease. They focus on organ systems and diseases ripe for investigation and novel therapeutic approaches. At the same time, they attend clinical conferences, participate in the Mentored Clinical Casebook program and attend workshops, lectures and other dinner series with people who work at the interface of basic science and clinical medicine, from all different venues.“It offers them another perspective and lets them consider the possible applications of their laboratory work,” she said.last_img read more

SMC group supports AllianceND

first_imgEditor’s Note: This article was edited on April 24 to correct the incorrect portrayal of the restrictions on SAGA’s programming during visits by the Board of Trustees. As the University’s decision approaches on whether to approve AllianceND as an official student club, the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) hosted a panel discussion Monday about the work of the Saint Mary’s College Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) in combating prejudice since its recognition in spring 2005. Sarah Medina Steimer, a 2006 alumna of the College who served as SAGA’s first president, said lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LBTQ) issues were addressed by a somewhat “underground” group of students prior to SAGA’s recognition as an official student group. “Before [SAGA was recognized], we would only hear about things on the National Day of Silence and National Coming Out Day, when students would draw with sidewalk chalk, wear ribbons or present a slip of paper to their professors about the day of silence,” Steimer said. Initially, the College administration did not strongly oppose the recognition of SAGA as an official club, Steimer said, though the proposed club’s intentions were sometimes misrepresented. “There was some worry that having a gay-straight alliance would turn into a sex club that would promote homosexual behavior, which we had to keep in mind when planning events and fundraisers,” she said. “In trying to get approved, we were showing the need for awareness, not trying to get a group of women together to start dating each other.” Steimer said the student body’s support helped the club achieve official recognition. “We had a lot of student support and not a lot of backlash. There wasn’t much opposition in student government either,” she said. “We had a lot of support from the Student Diversity Board, which had a position for a SAGA member, so that really helped.” During SAGA’s first year, the club worked to increase its visibility on campus and make its mission known to the Saint Mary’s community, Steimer said. “We tried to make a name for ourselves so people would see that we were there to promote diversity and a safe space for lesbian, bisexual and questioning students to come together without making them vulnerable,” she said. “It was very important to have this inclusion and show that a gay-straight alliance is really important on a college campus, especially one that’s faith-based.” Steimer said she and her fellow SAGA members emphasized how the club’s mission coincided with that of Saint Mary’s as a Catholic institution. “We tried to show how much this group supported the school’s mission and would make Saint Mary’s a better place for its students,” she said. Above all, the founding of SAGA provided students with a more informal arena for peer-to-peer interaction and conversation about LBTQ issues on campus outside of the counseling services available to students, Steimer said. “The members of SAGA found it important that students knew we were there as a resource to use. You need multiple areas of support, and by having a recognized group, you know there are people you can talk to,” she said. “Not all students feel comfortable going to the Counseling Center because of the power dynamic it creates, whereas having a peer-to-peer group allows students to talk to others going through the same situations and creates a better place to talk to someone in the same age group about their experiences.” Although its operational structure has evolved in recent years, the mission of SAGA in providing a safe space for peer support and discussion on campus has remained constant since the group’s inception, senior and vice president of SAGA Rebecca Jones said. “The focus was originally on having a peer support group for students who had faced issues on campus, but it didn’t do much in terms of campus programming or outreach,” she said. “Then a new group of officers came in, and they had a vision for totally hybridizing the group into a support group that does something about the things they talk about.” Jones said SAGA focuses on incorporating its concerns into academic issues on campus and works to promote its ally outreach program at Saint Mary’s and outside the College. “Last year, it came to our attention that we were the only campus of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross that had a gay-straight alliance. We didn’t figure it out until Holy Cross students started coming to our meetings, so we tried to help them get conversations going on their campus,” she said. “This year, we got in touch with PSA to work on outreach at Notre Dame to see what we could do to help get AllianceND approved.” Although reception of the club has been generally favorable on campus, Jones said SAGA faces certain restrictions in its programming because of the College’s Catholic character. “In planning our events, we’re not allowed to raise money for or promote things that go against the Catholic mission of the College, such as same-sex marriage,” she said. Despite these restrictions, Bueno said SAGA strives to create programming that brings more students into the conversations the group has on a regular basis through awareness events like Ally Week and Pride Week. “It’s great to have big events to get other students interested in SAGA events, and we gear a lot of events towards allies,” Bueno said. “We really try to have speakers who can educate, be inspiring and get people involved. The question and answer sessions afterwards show that students are interested in these issues, so we’re glad we can provide that for them.” Mary Rose D’Angelo, associate professor of theology at Notre Dame, said the role SAGA plays at Saint Mary’s could be filled by an approved gay-straight alliance at Notre Dame without posing a threat to Catholic teaching or injuring the Catholic character of the University, as opponents of the proposed AllianceND often argue. “Any group that helps make campus a more welcoming place should be considered an advocacy group, and it’s clear that the Saint Mary’s group has been effective,” D’Angelo said. “Catholic teaching and Catholic character are far from simple, but the catechism affirms that people must be treated with respect, compassion and dignity.” The catechism states every sign of “unjust discrimination” should be avoided, and refusing approval for AllianceND is a prime example of unjust discrimination, D’Angelo said. “[AllianceND] looks like a really good means of carrying out the mandate of acceptance articulated in the catechism in that it would be a place where LGBTQ students and allies can work to create a sense of human solidarity,” she said. “The focus of the group would be to provide social support, but because it’s explicitly an alliance, it isn’t a dating service for gay students. It’s a venue for student relief where students are treated with compassion and sensitivity.”last_img read more

Alex Benoit

first_img Alex was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years Helen; parents, Fannie Lee Sonnier and Cleophas Benoit, Sr. and siblings, E.C. Bourgeois, Elizabeth Hebert, Fannie Lee McKinnon, Mary Leger, Cleophas Benoit, Jr., and cousin Droza Towery.A gathering of Mr. Benoit’s family and friends will be from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., with his Rosary recited at 6:00 p.m., Sunday, October 11, 2015, at Broussard’s, 505 North 12th Street, Nederland. His funeral service will be 10:00 a.m., Monday, October 12, 2015, at Broussard’s, with his private family interment to follow at Memory Gardens of Jefferson County, Nederland.Memorial contributions in Mr. Benoit’s name may be made to Alzheimer’s Association 700 North Street, Suite M., Beaumont, Texas 77701 and Mid County 16-18 Babe Ruth League, 7635 Ontario, Nederland, Texas 77627 or the Nederland Babe Ruth League, P.O. Box 1051, Nederland, Texas 77627. Alex Benoit, 89, of Nederland, died Thursday, October 8, 2015, in Beaumont. He was born on February 15, 1926, in Morse, Louisiana, to Fannie Lee Sonnier and Cleophas Benoit, Sr. Alex retired from the National Maritime Union, as a merchant mariner.  He was primarily assigned to the Texaco Mississippi from 1959 to 1992 until the vessel was sold for scrap metal.   Baseball was his passion. Alex was an associate pitching scout for the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. He spent most of his free time dedicated to Babe Ruth Baseball in Nederland, East Texas and the Southwest Region.Survivors include his sons, Michael Benoit and his wife, Marcee, of Katy and Marvin Benoit and his wife, Molly, of Vidor; daughter, Melinda Benoit of Nederland; son, Martin Benoit of O’Fallon, Illinois; grandchildren, Amanda Journeay and her husband, Blake; Derek Griffiths; Morgan Benoit; and Sydney Benoit. The family would like to thank the dedicated caregivers at Harbor Hospice and the College Street Health Care Center for their selfless service and loving care of our father, Alex.Complete and updated information may be found at: read more

Martin Audio Ships WPS

first_imgMartin Audio is already shipping its WPS, the fourth model in the Wavefront Precision optimized line array series. The Wavefront Precision architecture delivers improved coverage, consistency and control compared with standard line arrays, making the product series uniquely flexible, upgradeable and financially accessible.The latest addition to the Wavefront Precision range can achieve a peak SPL of 133 decibels and is perfect for applications that require a high output array with reduced weight and footprint. This makes it ideal for live sound reinforcement and installations in theaters, concert halls and houses of worship, while rental companies will see scope in deploying WPS arrays as front-fill, delay or side-hang support for larger Wavefront Precision systems.The passive three-way system integrates a high density of drive units in a very compact enclosure, specifically 2×8″ LF drivers, 4×4″ midrange drivers and 4×1″ exit HF compression drivers loaded by a molded HF horn which occupies the full width of the enclosure — defining the 100° horizontal constant directivity coverage pattern of both the HF and midrange sections.For extended low frequency performance, WPS is designed to be partnered with the SXC118 cardioid subwoofer and its flyable variant, SXCF118.WPS is here.A video we shot from ISE 2019 on WaveFront is here:last_img read more

Unexpected consequences of early retirement

first_img ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr Early retirement can have a surprising impact on your social life and David NingPretty much everyone, at one point or another, has wished for an early retirement. The freedom and flexibility of not worrying about how to make a living is certainly very appealing. But once you start down the road of saving for early retirement you may find these surprises waiting for you.Your career can still feel very long. Even if you plan to retire at 45, which is considered an incredibly young age to stop working, you are still going to be working for two decades. And early retirees need to keep their living expenses lower and save significantly more of their paychecks than people planning to retire at a more traditional retirement age if they want to leave the workforce for good. It can be difficult to maintain the focus and commitment required to save enough to retire at a young age.Working so hard could make you want to retire even sooner. The more you think about a life in which you don’t have to go to work, the more you will want to move up that date. Instead of retirement at 45, you may want to quit your job at 42, or even 40. But each time you move up your retirement age, you will have to work even harder to earn and save more. Don’t work so hard that you become burnt out and unable to meet your goal.You might be afraid to quit. Even if you have saved enough money, you might find yourself apprehensive about leaving your job. Doubts will creep in about being able to afford your expenses for the rest of your life, and you may find yourself wanting to work longer to beef up your finances so that you can better weather the possibility of running out of money. There’s no way to know what inflation will be over the next five decades or if there will be another significant financial downturn. Staying in the workforce a few more years can seem safer than beginning to spend down the savings you worked so hard to acquire. continue reading »last_img read more

FBI: Purveyors Of Fraudulent Native American-style Goods And Products Sentenced In Federal Court In Albuquerque

first_imgFBI News:ALBUQUERQUE – Jawad Khalaf, 72, of Albuquerque, Nashat Khalaf, 73, of Gallup; Sterling Islands, Inc.; a wholesale jewelry business in Albuquerque and Al-Zuni Global Jewelry, Inc., a wholesale jewelry business in Gallup, were sentenced Thursday in Federal Court in Albuquerque,In April, the defendants pled guilty to misrepresentation of Indian-produced goods and services in an amount greater than $1,000 as part of a scheme to import Native American-style jewelry from the Philippines and sell it to customers in the United States as authentic.  Another defendant, Taha Shawar, 49, of Breckenridge, Colo., remains a fugitive.Jawad Khalaf and Nash Khalaf were sentenced to 2 years’ supervised release and Jawad Khalaf must also perform 100 hours of community service. Sterling Islands Inc. was sentenced to 5 years’ probation and 50 hours community service, while Al-Zuni Global Jewelers, Inc. was sentenced to 5 years’ probation and 20 hours community service. Collectively, the defendants will pay $300,000 to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and forfeit their interests in $288,738.94 seized by investigators in the case.A grand jury returned an indictment on Dec. 19, 2018, charging these defendants and three other people with conspiracy, smuggling goods into the United States and misrepresentation of Indian-produced goods and products. The defendants admitted that on Oct. 28, 2015, they displayed and offered for sale miniature canteens at Al-Zuni Global Jewelry in Gallup.  These canteens were not actually Indian-produced but could have reasonably been mistaken for authentic Indian-produced canteens.“I want to express my appreciation for the hard work of the investigators and prosecutors who brought this case to conclusion,’ said John C. Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “It is the culmination of countless hours of diligent work and cooperation among our partnering law enforcement agencies on behalf of Native American artists and artisans. We stand ready to bring the power of the law to bear upon those seeking to profit from cultural theft.”“This U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-led investigation uncovered a transnational criminal scheme that defrauded U.S. consumers and Native American artists,” said Assistant Director of the Office of Law Enforcement Edward Grace. “I would like to thank our special agents for their exemplar investigative work as well as our state and federal partners, who because of their collaboration and dedication to duty, these defendants were sentenced yesterday.”“The Land of Enchantment’s identity and economy relies heavily on Indian art and culture,” said Meridith Stanton, director of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB), U.S. Department of the Interior. The IACB by statute is responsible for enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which includes criminal penalties for marketing counterfeit Indian art and craftwork, to protect the economic livelihoods of Indian artists and artisans.“Consumers must have confidence that the ‘Indian art’ they are purchasing in New Mexico is authentic, and not imported from factories in the Philippines,” Director Stanton said.  “At the same time, Indian artists and economies must be protected from unfair competition from counterfeit Indian art. Robust Indian Arts and Crafts Act enforcement ensures that Indian artistic traditions can be passed down from one generation to the next to preserve an important American treasure – authentic Indian art. The Board commends our colleagues at the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement for their extraordinary dedication, diligence, and commitment in working with us to combat the sale of counterfeit Indian art.”“The FBI hopes this case sends a loud and clear message that those who try to cheat Native Americans of their cultural heritage will be held accountable,” said James C. Langenberg, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque Field Office. “We will continue working closely with our partners to make sure our nation’s precious artistic resources are protected.”“These individuals conspired to exploit the rich culture and work of Indian artisans for their personal gain by selling counterfeit merchandise and passing it as genuine Indian art and craftwork,” said Erik P. Breitzke, acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) El Paso. “This sentence sends a powerful message to others who believe they can do the same and elude justice. HSI will continue to cooperate with our law enforcement partners to assist in protecting and preserving Native American cultural heritage.” “Yesterday’s sentencing marks a turning point in this case and provides some closure to those who were victimized by this unfair practice,” said Sonya K. Chavez, U.S. Marshal for the District of New Mexico. “This collaboration affirms law enforcement’s commitment to pursuing those who believe they can get away with fraud against our state and our unique cultural resources.”“The Department of Game and Fish is proud to have been an integral part of this multi-jurisdictional prosecution,” said New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Director Michael Sloane. “We take pride in both conserving wildlife and protecting the diverse cultures of New Mexico. We congratulate our partners on a job well done.”The Office of Law Enforcement for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service led the investigation of this case with assistance from the Albuquerque Division of the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathon M. Gerson, Sean J. Sullivan, Kristopher N. Houghton, and Stephen R. Kotz prosecuted the case.last_img read more

Westhampton Beach Commencement

first_img Share Westhampton Beach High School had its 111th commencement on Friday, June 28, at 6 PM and celebrated the graduating class of 2019.The commencement started with a welcome speech from the principal, Dr. Christopher Herr, and continued on to the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem sung by the Chamber Singers.The anthem was followed by speeches from class historian Anna Sophia Perino, salutatorian Frank Murphy Lapinski, and valedictorian Christopher Nathan Bender.The graduation ended with the students receiving their diplomas and flipping their tassels. Congratulations to the new graduates.last_img read more

Court’s Verdict: Stuffed Dog An Illegal Sign

first_imgThere was a split decision in the case of the East Hampton Village store owner who had a stuffed dog with a welcome sign around its neck outside her shop on Park Place. In a verdict written on February 28 and shared via fax on Monday, East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana found the owner of Petit Blue, Colleen Moeller, not guilty of illegally displaying merchandise outside the entrance to her store on Park Place, but guilty of violating East Hampton Village zoning code regarding signage.A code enforcement officer for the village, Robert Jahoda, wrote the charges up against Moeller on November 8. Moeller’s attorney, Daniel Rodgers, did not dispute certain facts in the case, including that Moeller had placed two large plush stuffed dogs outside her toy store, along with a chalkboard for children to write on. On one of the stuffed animals, a Golden Retriever that Moeller said during her testimony was named “Happy” by her daughter, had a wooden welcome sign around his neck.Rodgers did dispute, and Moeller affirmed in her testimony during the trial, which lasted a bit over an hour, that neither of the stuffed dogs outside the shop were for sale. Rana agreed.Moeller also told the court that she had placed the dogs outside the shop because, during the offseason, so many stores in the village are closed that she wanted to show hers was open.Rana found the placement of the dogs on the stairwell to the shop with the sign hanging on one “was to attract the attention of the public,” and therefore was not allowed under the village code, which, she wrote, prohibits such signage or advertising structure.Rodgers said in an email that the sign section of the code was crafted over a century ago.“Over a century later, particularly with competition from online retailers, this law related to brick-and-mortar business ‘attracting the attention of the public’ seems entirely inappropriate, meaningless, and mean-spirited,” he said.Sentencing, which could include a fine of up to $500, and, theoretically, a jail sentence of 15 days, will take place on March [email protected] Sharelast_img read more