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Mention “mutated DNA” to non-scientists and they’ll think of something harmful, genetic errors to be avoided at all costs. Mention “mutated DNA” to geneticists, and the reaction may be quite different, especially since the advent of CRISPR. This new genome-editing tool lets researchers modify the base sequence of DNA at very precise locations – essentially, producing tailor-made mutations – even in living organisms! Michaela Willi and her colleagues, for example, use CRISPR to generate mice with mutations in a super-enhancer that controls activity of a gene in mammary gland cells.

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“I’m an MRI scientist with physics training, which is very helpful to advance MRI,” explains Alexander Rauscher. Growing up in Salzburg, Rauscher’s interest in medicine was triggered by his civilian service work as a nurse in a Salzburg hospital. Combine that with his academic training in engineering physics, a large dash of neuroscience, and a solid grasp of signal processing, and you end up with a 2015 recipient of the Canada Research Chair (CRC) Tier II award in Developmental Neuroimaging! You also get an ARIT poster that highlights several facets of Rauscher’s recent work with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

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When the pilots let Tobias Niederwieser sit in the cockpit as the plane approached Vienna, they didn’t know that the experience would change the 8-year old’s life! Seventeen years later, Niederwieser has a private pilot certificate and is pursuing his PhD in Aerospace Engineering Sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder! And his fascination with flying now extends far beyond the Earth’s atmosphere: “First impressed by planes, that interest moved over to human spaceflight,” he says of himself.

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“In school, I was always looking for alternative solutions for mathematical or physical problems,” Philipp Haslinger (Recipient of the 2016 ASCINA Young Scientist Award) says, adding: “My teachers were not always very amused!” It’s likely that his childhood teachers in Großkrut, Lower Austria, would be impressed by his current pursuit of alternative solutions, as Haslinger applies his ingenuity to improving the measurement of tiny forces using atomic interferometry.

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Growing up in Grafensulz, Lower Austria, Marlies Meisel already had a deep interest in medical science and research. “I always wanted to know how the things work in the body and what happens when the body gets sick,” she says. Marlies had a strong personal incentive for understanding how the body works and why it gets sick.

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Maximilian Kasy enjoys life on the edge or, more precisely, at the intersection: “…between applied research, statistical theory, and general methodological … issues,.” At a time when borders are much in the news, he finds it “very fruitful and exciting to cross the boundaries between these.”

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Aleksandar Jovanovic’s career was inspired by his dual interest in natural science and the arts. Having competed in contests involving physics, music, geography, and ecology, he eventually chose a career in science – specifically, civil engineering and architecture. Here, he has found opportunities to “integrate [an] ethnographic approach to technology and develop novel methods in architectural research.”

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“Science is the thing that keeps me up all night,” said Georg Winter, reflecting on what inspired him to pursue a post-doc at Dana Farber Cancer Institute/ Harvard Medical School, and led to his present position at CeMM – the Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Science. Winter clearly loves his chosen field: “It has always been great fun,” he says,” to spend long hours in the lab.” 

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Barely two weeks ago – in mid-April – STEMCELL Technologies of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, announced its new partnership with the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology (IMBA) in Vienna, Austria. Their collaboration will develop products for researchers who use “cerebral organoid cultures.” From a business standpoint, the international agreement sounds promising for both organizations. But what is an “organoid culture” anyway? And why are these little blobs of brain tissue so fascinating to researchers in science and medicine?

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Concussions have been hot news recently. Jeanne Marie Laskas’ 2015 book on traumatic brain damage in U.S. football players was soon followed by a film of the same name, “Concussion,” starring Will Smith. Needless to say, while the medical community – and many parents – show signs of taking the problem seriously, the National Football League hasn’t exactly embraced the new findings. Let’s face it: Anything that challenges the machismo and big money of U.S. football has its work cut out for it.

But sports-related concussions aren’t unique to American football players – or even to boxers, whose brain trauma from repeated blows to the head was first described in 1929. Shift north 30 miles, just across the U.S.-Canadian border to Vancouver, BC. Here, at the University of British Columbia’s MRI Research Centre, neuroscientists are studying brain trauma. This being Canada, it’s no surprise that their focus is ice hockey players. Somewhat more surprising, one of their leading MRI researchers is an Austrian physicist, Dr. Alexander Rauscher.

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