BY: EKREM KAYA
With most of the world under the threat of the coronavirus epidemic, many countries have declared national quarantines and encouraged social distancing. How exactly does social distancing help the situation? Even before that what exactly is social distancing.
Here are the three elements of social distancing:
The U.S. has now been under quarantine for almost a month, has over 553,822 confirmed cases and this number is only continuing to grow.
Currently the data suggests that the growth of COVID-19 is exponential. Exponential growth means that the rate of the spread of the coronavirus only increases as time passes. This is explained by the fact that every infected individual is capable of infecting more than one person. In fact, looking at the numbers, we can say that each sick person infects ~3 others every 5 days (assuming people are asymptomatic for 5 days), after three generations there would be 27 infected people. See our infographic below for a visual description.
According to this piece of early COVID-19 research, the number of cases doubled every 6 days in the city of Wuhan. This indicates an exponential growth rate and is now clear as a similar pattern has continued on the global scale. For example, on March 31st, the number of global new cases was 57,610 and on April 5th, the number of new cases was 82,061. As you can see with each day the number of cases grew exponentially.
The United States has become more serious in social distancing and it has proven effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. State officials have warned citizens to take quarantine seriously and avoid non essential contact with others. On April 9th the number of new cases in the U.S. was 31,709 and five days later on April 14th the number of new cases was 29,308. Looking at these numbers we can see that the rate of spread has actually decreased.
Here is an infographic that mathematically explains how social distancing helps in flattening the curve:
By limiting the amount of people an individual can infect, social distancing reduces the rate of infection. The main reason behind applying this procedure is to not overload hospitals and run out of internal care units. There is a limited number of ICUs at any given time so by preventing everyone from getting sick at the same time, social distancing attempts to make sure that those who do immediately need intensive care can have access to it. In a sense, social distancing is making the pandemic last longer in order to maintain available ICUs for those in critical condition. If the government had allowed everyone to go out and get sick, most of the population would build immunity and recover and the pandemic would go away. However, this would result in great losses of life as those who would need intensive care would not have access to it with the increased number of cases.
So, continue to stay inside, listen to authorities, and take this seriously. The more of us that participate in social distancing, the better care our most vulnerable can get.
BY: EKREM KAYA
It’s easy to feel mediocre in a world where everyone seems to be involved in a lot of extracurricular activities for colleges these days. Over the past decades, colleges have become more and more competitive and the standard student has progressed just as much. Students are told to volunteer, do sports, join clubs, and maintain good grades but all of this doesn’t seem to be enough for those top, prestigious colleges. There is not a set recipe for being an Ivy league candidate but many counselors and alumni would agree that you need to have unique qualities to get distinguished among your peers. So with such competition, how do you even get noticed? I am not a college admissions expert however, as mentioned by Allen Cheng in this informative article, you need some sort of spike to set you apart from everyone else.
A spike is something in your application that is extremely good. Something not many others would have.This can be an amazing talent, or a respected achievement. Allen recommends being really good at one thing over being well rounded at many things. But at that one thing you’re good at, you have to be the best of the best.
Academic Olympiads. They are kind of like the olympics for nerds. The best of the best high schoolers compete in Math, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. However nerdy they sound, the science or math olympiads are the perfect way to create peaks on your resume, to show you’re world class at something. These olympiads occur every year and have national and international scales. Almost every country has an organization that runs these contests at the national level. Of course getting to compete at the international level is a lot harder. The generic olympiad process looks a little like this
These academic competitions by no means are easy. However, with enough prep and time, they are great ways to validate your talents to colleges. Signing up is quite easy, and even if your school does not have a club for these events, you can take the exams at a nearby school. On that note if your school does not have a relevant club, think about starting one yourself! You may approach a teacher and ask if they would like to sponsor. Be prepared to explain the details.
I cannot stress enough that the success in these olympiads are not guaranteed and requires dedication and hard work. However, with their potential to set you apart from the rest of your peers, they may be worth the effort.
BY: EKREM KAYA
Since the emergence of COVID-19 in Wuhan City, the whole world has been attempting to treat the disease and ultimately eradicate it. Hundreds of scientists and researchers are hard at work trying to rid the world of this disease. There are already thousands of completed studies with diverse conclusions and thousands still going on today. In order for the scientific community to have a better response to COVID-19 and for the U.S. to have a better plan dealing with it, the White House has ordered for the formation of a public database with the most up to date research and data on the coronavirus with over 45,000 articles called the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset(CORD-19).
Hosted by Kaggle, CORD-19 was formed with the help of Allen Institute, Microsoft, the National Library of Medicine, GeorgeTown University, and the WHO. In addition to having a large pool of scientific articles on COVID-19, all of the data in the dataset is machine readable thanks to the efforts of the Allen Institute.
Machine readable data makes life a lot easier for scientists by allowing extended analysis of data and aiding in drawing connections between otherwise unrelated pieces of info. The White House and all of the other contributors intend to use machine learning and data mining to answer the scientific community's specific and challenging questions regarding the novel coronavirus.
BY: EKREM KAYA
If you’re thinking about applying to college or any form of post secondary education, it is probably too late to change your GPA or win academic awards when you’re ready to apply. Those are the things that students should be aware of starting 9th grade if not earlier.. However, there are still some things you can do to make the right decision and put yourself in an environment where you can thrive. Here are some points to consider and some steps to take as you prepare your application.
Options for Post-secondary Education
First and foremost, a 4-year college is not the only path to take once you graduate from high school. In fact, there are many different paths: Something for everyone. The options include enlisting in the military, going to a community college, or taking a gap year. Each has their benefits and can be a good fit for someone. It is important to figure out what is best for you and which plan will put you into the career you have planned for yourself. Here is an article with more detailed information on the educational options after high school. It's important to remember that there is no shame in taking a year off or going to community college. Talk to your counselor, figure out what you want.
College Entrance Exams
Whether it is the SAT or the ACT you will most likely need to take a college entrance exam for the majority of secondary education pathways. First of all, decide which exam is best for you and would highlight your abilities. There are few differences between the two exams and here is a great comparison by the PrepScholar to help you decide. If you have already taken the exams, you might want to consider taking it again for a better score. This might set you apart from other students and increase your chances of getting into your dream school. There are many online study tools for either test but a great start would be Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice.
Major or Program of Study
Now that you have decided to go to a 4-year college or university, how do you figure out what to major in?There are hundreds of majors in all types of fields. Not every university offers the same majors so if you are determined on a specific major, the next step is to find a school that offers it. You can also choose to major in two different fields or minor in one study and major in another. There is no rush since many schools allow some time before you finalize your major so you can make the best decision for yourself and your career. In fact, this is a common practice among many students who choose their major in their sophomore or even in junior year. However, if you plan on continuing your education after a bachelor’s degree through law or medical school, you might want to consider majoring in a field that will prepare you for your future education.
The physical appearance and the feel of a campus can be a great factor in deciding which college you choose. Sometimes the atmosphere of a school makes you attached or acts as a deal breaker. Plan some visits and walk the campus, it will help.
College athletics is a whole world of its own with complex recruiting processes and limited number of roster spots. The NCAA oversees collegiate athletics and here their website to help see if it is the right move for you.
College can be expensive. Oftentimes, the debt acquired for a college education takes years to pay off. College prices vary from public to private colleges with public colleges usually being cheaper. Prices also vary between in state, out of state, and international students. All of these factors are critical when enrolling as the decision will impact your financial status for years. However, there are ways to reduce the cost of a college degree. Financial aid and scholarships can make your education more affordable. Each year, FAFSA, one of the major financial aid providers in the U.S., provides $120 billion in grants, work study, and low interest loans. Private colleges usually have their own financial aid policies and will provide income based assistance. Merit based scholarships are another way to reduce the cost of college. Universities can give scholarships based on academic accomplishments or athletic ability.
BY: EKREM KAYA
The novel coronavirus also known as SARS-CoV-2 has taken the world by storm. Since its origin in late 2019, the virus has taken 11,184 lives and impacted many more. Scientists around the world have devoted themselves to treating corona or formulating a vaccine for it.
One way that the scientific community has come together is by making data and research widely available. For a quicker solution to COVID-19, researchers and scientists have made their conclusions available to the public and any other researchers. Databases such as the GenBank have readily available genomic data on the virus and NIH has made a library of coronavirus research. This type of practice is called open sourcing and it has been enhanced by this pandemic.
Open source research is beneficial for the scientific community for many reasons. It saves money and resources when accessing information. It boosts collaboration and provides tools to researchers who otherwise may not have immediate access to such data. For example, when researchers from Fudan University first listed the entire genome of the novel coronavirus, they made the genetic sequence available to the whole world. This allowed scientists across the world to analyze the genome and break down the virus’s capabilities.
Despite its great advantages, open source is not flawless. . Although not frequent, open source research and data can lead to the spread of false information and controversial conclusions. There are already precautions against this such as peer reviews however mistakes are unavoidable. There are also some moral questions when it comes to open source research. One question arises when considering that people can use the public information for profit and individual benefit. Another problem is regulations on when and how original scientists should be cited and if they should be cited at all. These questions are insignificant in a crisis as such however it is important to keep them in mind as open sourcing develops and becomes the norm in more industries.
See this excellent post by a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford for more in depth discussion on how this public health crisis is contributing for science to become more open source.
BY: EKREM KAYA
With the coronavirus spreading like wild-fire, life for students has drastically changed. Many have found themselves in some sort of mid year break or extended summers. States like Kansas have closed out the school year and 99% of K-12 schools in California are currently closed. This brings out the question: Is school from home possible? And how can students continue learning in a crisis like this? Here are some favorites in online learning:
G Suite Services
Many school districts already use Google and its services to have an online platform of teaching. Teachers and students have access to tools like Google Classroom and Google Drive where they can communicate and share documents/assignments. Google even provides tools to enable learning in offline environments for those without stable internet access.
A tool similar to Google Classroom, Schoology is utilized by many school districts across the nation. Here, teachers can assign homework and accept submissions by students. Schoology has many tools and resources that make the service an efficient virtual learning environment.
A completely free online learning tool, Khan Academy has videos and exercises for all K-12 plus many college level classes. With its diverse parent and teacher resources, you can assign students specific units and track their progress. With AP Exams coming up for many high schoolers, Khan academy can provide great review material.
Zoom provides video communication for an online, collaborative, classroom. Teachers can lead virtual classes in real time with HD quality. Zoom has even made its basic services free in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
Open Textbook Libraries
Numerous colleges hold open textbook libraries that can be used free of charge. University of Minnesota has a particularly large collection. These textbooks can be used to study and learn individually. Since they are completely virtual, they are accessible from anywhere as long as you have access to the internet.
Although these services won’t take the place of teachers and actual classrooms, they are great tools to use in times of emergency such as the one we have at hand. This is a time to use for self development and it is important to realize that the world does not stop. College Board has already declared that AP Exams will not be canceled so continuing education is essential for studens’ futures.
You may be wondering what a “molecular simulation” is anyway. We got this for you!
Molecular simulations or molecular modeling is a collection of ways for doing “computer experiments” on model systems. Model systems are simplified version of real world cases. Molecular models are guided by the theory and work through the tools of math and physics. But then the scientists end up with equations that are too difficult to solve in a simple and accurate form. Not surprisingly, computers or supercomputers are used for numerical solutions. As you figured by now, this is a very interdisciplinary field and is called molecular modeling or computational chemistry/biology.
In the simplest terms, results from computer experiments or simulations are to be compared with the experimental data for validation. After that, they are used to make new predictions about natural phenomena. This saves us a lot of human time with no safety issues as often is the case in “wet lab” experiments. Molecular simulations have limitations and will probably never be able to replace wet lab experiments but can serve as a direct supplement to them. Therefore, the two are used in a complementary way to shed light on a wide range of natural phenomena.
Today, we focus on a specific type of simulation called Molecular Dynamics (MD). MD simply simulates the time-dependent motion of molecules based on Newtonian mechanics. For biomolecules, you can imagine it like a biological microscope with a resolution of an angstrom (1x10^-10 meters!). Since a typical chemical bond length is about 1 angstrom, MD simulations can show how all atoms move: A real-time biological movie!
Since the beginning of the outbreak, the experimentalists have been working hard to reveal as much structural information as possible related to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). By the way, here is a good summary regarding how to name this human coronavirus. Anyway, yes, we have lots of structural information already available in the protein databank. However, they are static (snapshot-like) 3D structures. Although they provide a lot of useful information, to find the druggable sites or understand the mechanism of entry to the body, motion of the virus proteins will be invaluable. In the past, MD simulations captured motions that create potentially druggable sites in numerous proteins including the Ebola protein. Also, keep in mind that the experimental structure itself is a must information for MD simulations to start with. Therefore, the experiment and computation go hand in hand!
We hope this gives you some insights regarding the molecular simulations. Drop a comment below to continue the discussion!
BY: EKREM KAYA
With the coronavirus pandemic taking the world by storm, COVID-19 gets closer to home every second. With over 15,129 reported cases of the virus in the United States, the virus has become hard to track. Luckily health organizations and other outlets have made tracking the pandemic easier for the public with detailed, up to date, maps. We’ve gathered a short list of reliable online maps to help inform the public and prevent misinformation.
World Health Organization’s Novel Coronavirus Situation
As the main source of corona updates for most of the world, the WHO has gathered their info in a generic map. Their data, reported straight by national authorities, is as reliable as it gets. This map lists the number of cases for every country and even shows the date last updates per nation or territory.
Nextstrain Genomic Epidemiology of Novel Coronavirus (hCoV-19)
Nextstrain provides an extremely interactive map with tons of useful features for you to explore. The dashboard features a diverse pool of information contributed by different labs and authors. It’s available in multiple languages and even has an animation feature to help visualize the spread of this deadly virus. The website is a free open source tool for the entire community
Coronavirus Interactive Web-based Dashboard by Johns Hopkins University
Another map tracking COVID-19 with much detail, JHU’s map takes in data from WHO, CDC, ECDC, and many more. This map tracks all active cases as well as all cases of recovery from COVID-19. The dashboard also includes graphs and charts for a visual way to track the spread of the virus.
By now, we all agree that COVID-19 is to be taken seriously and precautions must be taken to stop the spread of the virus. Here’s CDC’s official page and here’s their tips on how to prepare. You can also check the proximity of the virus at the following link(source non-official).