Dunn Lab Past and Present in Splash Teaching Extravaganza

Many members of the Dunn lab organized and partook in the Splash program over Halloween weekend, and we taught a variety of classes ranging from electronic transitions, to slime molds, to introductory biophysics.  The classes were all great successes and we all really enjoyed interacting with the students over the course of the weekend.

In the electronic transitions class, we burned different metal salts to show various colored flames.  See below.  Almost everyone in the Dunn lab was involved in teaching this course, and we recruited the help of other Stanford graduate students in addition.  We had the students guess which salts were burning based on the color of the flame and they were curious to learn the fundamental chemistry behind this phenomenon.  Also, the students wanted to see all the metal salts burned together, so at the end we had the finale with a very colorful flame.

Emerson Glassey, who is  currently an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz and a Dunn lab alumni, taught a course on slime molds.  The class went really well; the students were mostly curious what a Slime Mold is, and were intrigued to learn how unique an organism it really is. They gasped when Emerson told them it moved at speeds over 2cm/second and were all interested in how they could get there own slime mold pet.

Finally, Armen and Craig taught an introductory biophysics class with the following topics:
Protein composition and structure and the role of protein structure to function
Enzymes: basic concepts and kinetics
Effect of force on chemical reaction kinetics
Polymer dynamics and its role in biological function

They showed several animations from biophysics literature including one of “Optical Trap Tetris” and several experiments tracking single-molecule F1-ATPase from the Kinosita lab.  Also, they performed a live demonstration with magnetic beads tethered to glass with DNA and manipulated them using external magnets.  The students were engaged during the entirety of the class and stayed an additional hour after the allotted time to discuss other biophysical examples.  This was extremely fun for Craig and Armen, as they got to talk about their own research and also discuss the students’ academic plans and scientific interests.


Please let us know other class ideas for the next Splash event by commenting and be sure to do the poll 🙂

Until next time.  -Dunn lab


November 15, 2011 at 1:58 am Leave a comment

Science is Elementary

Hi folks,

Sorry about the delayed updates, but we’ve been busy with some exciting outreach activities.  Two weeks ago, Diego and Armen volunteered at the Mariano Castro Elementary School in Mountain View as part of the Science is Elementary program, check out our “Outreach” page for more info on this program and others that we participate in.

Armen helped out with the 1st grade class, teaching them about concepts like gravity and air resistance through a fun and interactive project of making paper airplanes and testing them out.  Diego taught the 2nd graders about electricity and building circuits using little breadboards and resistors.  Both Diego and Armen felt fulfilled after this event, because the 1st graders were convinced they could become aeronautical engineers and the 2nd graders believed they could become electrical engineers.

November 8, 2011 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

Levitating Superconductor!?

So here’s a video that Diego uncovered, which is pretty awesome.

As the page describes, the superconductor is cooled to very low temperatures allowing it to levitate when placed above a magnet.  This is still very odd to me, so I’ll do some more reading to understand this.  Nevertheless, to describe this in one word: awesome (period).


And here’s another awesome video showing the same thing

Click the image


October 21, 2011 at 7:01 am Leave a comment

New Cell Pictures Show on Hearing!!

To go along with a previous post on how hair cells dance with vibrations (from music), here’s the most recent Cell Pictures show on hearing (link at bottom).  Actin-rich bundles called Stereocilia that protrude from hair cells lining the inner ear vibrate in response to sound waves.

The image below highlights the hearing mechanism in flies, which has similar characteristics to hearing in vertebrates: sensory neurons react to sound-wave induced vibrations, converting mechanical force into electrical signals.  The sensory neurons in flies reside in a stretch receptor called the Johnston’s Organ.

I wonder if social behavior in certain animals would be altered  by replacing their hearing sensory cells and proteins with those of different animals.  For instance, would a cat still be intimidated by a dog’s bark if it had a dog’s hearing organs?

How Flies Hear


October 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm Leave a comment


Did you know that Slime Mold, despite its moldy name, is not a fungus? As an organism capable of inching along like a caterpillar or of pseudopodia, Slime Mold is a truly unique organism.

Here’s a wonderful NYTimes slideshow titled “Beauty and the Blob,” with images showcasing the different types of slime molds.  To all those people who think they’re disgusting, I say they’re beautiful 🙂


One of our undergraduate alumni , Emerson Glassey, is teaching a class on slime molds at Stanford’s Splash program this year (October 29, 30 for all those people interested!) and I’ll provide an update on his class, hopefully with some pictures!


October 20, 2011 at 10:42 pm Leave a comment

Arjun and Jack present their work at the 2011 AIChE conference in Minneapolis

I believe a “pat-on-the-back” and a statement of “nicely-done” is in order for Arjun Adhikari and Jack Chai.  This week, the two of them took the journey to Minneapolis, Minnesota to present their work at the 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) conference.  Arjun’s talk was titled “Mechanical Strain Decreases the Rate of Fibrin Gel Degradation by Plasmin” and Jack’s talk was titled “Monitoring the Effect of Mechanical Load on Fibronectin Conformation Using 3-D Magnetic Tweezers.”  Both of their presentations were warmly received and we congratulate them on this milestone towards academic and intellectual maturity.  I cannot say enough to commend their efforts and highlight the exquisite nature of their work, especially the fibrin project data analysis 😉

Courtesy of Google Images

October 20, 2011 at 6:29 am Leave a comment

Cell Picture Show

Courtesy of Cell Press, a slideshow on cell motility.

I’ll let the pictures to do the talking. (link at bottom)

Fire the Filopodia


October 13, 2011 at 8:01 am Leave a comment

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