Jordana Cepelewicz

Staff Writer

Lede photo of a giant virus under a microscope
Abstractions blog

New Giant Viruses Further Blur the Definition of Life

March 5, 2018

A newfound pair of giant viruses have massive genomes and the most complete resources for building proteins ever seen in the viral world. They have refreshed the debate about the origins of these cellular parasites.

520px photo of Barbara Engelhardt
Q&A

A Statistical Search for Genomic Truths

February 27, 2018

The computer scientist Barbara Engelhardt develops machine-learning models and methods to scour human genomes for the elusive causes and mechanisms of disease.

520px illustration of genome packaging
genomics

How Cells Pack Tangled DNA Into Neat Chromosomes

February 22, 2018

For the first time, researchers see how proteins grab loops of DNA and bundle them for cell division. The discovery also hints at how the genome folds to regulate gene expression.

520px photo of lit neurons
Abstractions blog

With Strategic Zaps to the Brain, Scientists Boost Memory

February 6, 2018

Stimulating part of the cortex as needed during learning tasks improves later recall. The finding reveals more about the brain’s memory network and points toward possible therapies.

520px photo of Jarvis holding a zebra finch
Q&A

In Birds’ Songs, Brains and Genes, He Finds Clues to Speech

January 30, 2018

The neuroscientist Erich Jarvis found that songbirds’ vocal skills and humans’ spoken language are both rooted in neural pathways for controlling learned movements.

520px 3D illustration of tissue curling
Abstractions blog

Tissue Engineers Hack Life’s Code for 3-D Folded Shapes

January 25, 2018

Mechanical tension between tethered cells cues developing tissues to fold. Researchers can now program synthetic tissue to make coils, cubes and rippling plates.

520px illustration of microbial networks
microbiology

Simpler Math Tames the Complexity of Microbe Networks

January 19, 2018

The dizzying network of interactions within microbe communities can defy analysis. But a new approach simplifies the math and makes progress possible.

Aribidopsis thaliana inflorescence
Abstractions blog

With ‘Downsized’ DNA, Flowering Plants Took Over the World

January 11, 2018

Compact genomes and tiny cells gave flowering plants an edge over competing flora. This discovery hints at a broader evolutionary principle.

Illustration: altered DNA in bears
synthetic biology

Is a Bigger Genetic Code Better? Get Ready to Find Out

January 2, 2018

Evolution settled on a genetic code that uses four letters to name 20 amino acids. Synthetic biologists adding new bases to DNA will be free to improve on nature — if they can.