Kellen McGee

Host, Exploradio Origins

Kellen McGee is currently pursuing a PhD in nuclear and accelerator physics at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2014.  She’s held a number of research positions, ultimately becoming a research assistant in a biophysics and structural biology lab at Case Western Reserve University. There, the Institute for the Science of Origins instantly became her intellectual home. Central to the ISO’s mission is science communication.

The past few years have highlighted the need for scientists to emerge from the ivory tower and fulfill their half of the social contract-- to go find out cool stuff and then come out and tell people about it. Kellen hopes Exploradio Origins will find people wherever they may be, at work, in their cars, or at home, and welcome them to peer in the windows, with the message that what’s inside—the quest to answer some of humanity’s deepest questions-- belongs to all humans, not just scientists.

Ways to Connect

PROF. CHRISTOPHER CULLIS / CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

What if I described a plant that has nutrient-rich beans, protein-rich roots, produces high quality oil, and, grows in desert regions where rural communities desperately need a drought-resistant crop? Sound too good to be true? Maybe not. I’ve just described the wild Marama bean, native to Africa.

“It has never been grown as an organized crop, it’s just collected out of the bush. The idea is can we find ways of developing a set of lines that give you decent yield which we can give to farmers,” Christopher Cullis, professor of biology at Case Western Reserve University, said.

A photo of a bottle of Depo-testosterone.
Wikimedia Commons

How do embryos know how to become male or female? Prof. Mike Weiss, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Indiana University, is studying how one protein, known as the sex-determining protein Y, or “SRY,” can program gender.

“SRY is like the light switch. The bulb is this downstream developmental pathway that leads to the formation of the organs,” Weiss said.

A visualization of Einstien's theory of gravitational waves.
NASA / Wikimedia Commons

In 1916, Einstein made a bold prediction- that gravity actually travels in waves. These “gravitational waves” would be ripples in the fabric of space a bit like ripples on a pond, and would slightly stretch and squash the distances between things as they passed.  

“Einstein himself who came up with the theory didn’t think that this would ever really be detected,” Kenyon College professor Leslie Wade said.

NASA

We all enjoy the moon on a clear night, but what if it could do more for us?

Glenn Starkman, professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University wonders if the moon could be a detector for dark matter--the stuff that causes the extra gravity needed to hold galaxies together as they spin.

It turns out that finding it is….hard.

photo of brain painting
ABHIJIT BHADURI / FLICKR/CREATIVE COMMONS

Mark Turner is an Institute Professor and Professor of Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University. He studies how our brains can innovate or form new ideas, and one of his methods actually involves digging into our use of language.

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