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Site Explains Science Research in Layman's Terms

February 13, 2008 | by Marla Paul
CHICAGO -- How will your personal genome determine the medicines your doctor prescribes for you in the not-too-distant future? And, what the heck is a genome anyway?

Scientific research and discoveries -- on subjects from genetics to global warming -- often seem impenetrable to the average person.

Northwestern University aims to change that. The university is demystifying the world of science with a new Web source, Science in Society, that explores the university's cutting-edge research with engaging articles, video and audio, all in layman's language.

"We want to show what we are learning about how the world works, the solar system, our health and the health of our environment," said Michael Kennedy, originator and editor of the new Web site and director of educational and research programs at the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

"Science is advancing so quickly," Kennedy said. "We want people to truly understand these advances, and how research can affect them. Not only do we want to explore the science of gene chips but also the personal aspects of learning about your own genetic makeup and how it might benefit you -- or be used against you."

The Web site is the beginning of an ongoing "conversation" between Northwestern scientists and the public, not just about university research but also about important discoveries around the country and the world.

The site is also a central spot to learn about the university's upcoming science programs for the public such as a symposium on stem cells, an evening stargazing at the Dearborn Observatory, or a Science Café chat about obesity and metabolism.

Science in Society's first article features the oncofertility research led by Teresa Woodruff, the Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School. Woodruff's research focuses on preserving a cancer patient's ability to have children in the face of life-saving yet fertility-threatening treatments. Readers can also e-mail questions to the experts and explore the topic further through original multimedia content.

An upcoming article by Laurie Zoloth will examine the ethical issues associated with fertility research. Zoloth is professor of medical humanities & bioethics at the Feinberg School and professor of religion at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The Science in Society Web site will be updated quarterly. The public can be notified via e-mail or RSS feed of upcoming articles and news items. The site also will offer its video and audio content to the public via YouTube and iTunes.

The Science in Society Web site is a project of Northwestern's Center for Genetic Medicine and is also sponsored by the Office for Research.