Columbia scientists take no vacations!

Defying conventional medical technology, one Columbia engineer has decided to build his way out of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. The mChip, now passing its fourth year of testing, aims to deliver the diagnostic capabilities of a full-fledged lab to patients on a hundred-dollar chip. In case that’s not impressive, the lab-on-a-chip has a 100-percent detection rate for HIV in only 15 minutes testing time. The project’s team hopes to extend the chip’s superpowers to also detecting hepatitis B or C as well as the most common sexually-transmitted diseases. The team even plans to integrate the chip with satellite or cell phone equipment in order to transmit results wirelessly to doctors—though in a post-Steve Jobs world, we can only hope that all that miniaturization doesn’t get in the way of usability.

Seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory briefly poked their heads into the media to help ease New Yorker’s concerns over this week’s earthquake. In addition to helping bump up the quake from a 5.8 to a 5.9, the scientists are going to use the collected data to learn more about the underlying rock. Who knows, maybe they’ll find an entire village buried beneath Central Park.

For the first time ever, Columbia neuroscientists were able to convert ordinary skin cells into functional forebrain neurons using direct reprogramming techniques. The recent achievement offers a glimmer of promise for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. While gene therapy has shown its success in treating “bubble boy” disease, we wonder if someone has tried their regeneration experiment on a familiar campus icon.

A new study by the university’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has found that teenagers who use online social networking sites are more likely to engage in drug use. The risk increases fivefold for tobacco, threefold for alcohol, and twofold for marijuana. Some even say a parallel can be drawn to another cultural phenomenon involving ironic facial hair. (Just say no, 2015ers)

Scientists via Wikimedia Commons