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Change of scenery

Posted by: coccolr | April 14, 2014 | No Comment |

As we near the end of the semester, the distractions all around us are becoming harder to ignore. Mostly, I think, because we want them to distract us.

For instance, I had every intention of composing a blog post of notable academic laude. Instead, I found a picture of a borrowing owl and stared at it for an unknown amount of time.

While it’s important to keep the nose to the grindstone, it’s hard to hide from your own imagination. Don’t ignore it, but satiate it accordingly.

Good luck studying and take care,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2016

under: April 2014

The Warmth has returned!

Posted by: coccolr | April 11, 2014 | No Comment |

It’s 5:45 am. The birds are chirping and the thermometer says 45 degrees F outside.  It seems early and I didn’t get eight hour of sleep, but my eyes and my smile are wide open now.

This week of warmer weather (it got up to 68 F yesterday!) has changed the landscape for the better! Green lawns are starting to replace the drab beige. Even brighter colors are cloying their way through the earth and into the pedals of the flowers. The bird songs are beautiful at all times of the day, calming the mind and banishing the winter-made cabin-fever. The neighbors are out! I knew that they existed, but I couldn’t prove it. We are all starting our spring cleaning and are slowing beginning to remember the joys of simple human interaction.

I’ve had the Detroit Zoo on my mind for some time now. April is a great time to go: warmer weather, the animals are in their spring fling mode, and most people are still at school/work. Perfect beyond words!

Take care,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2016

under: April 2014

I stumbled upon an article yesterday called Stress alters children’s genomes. It may seem like a bold to claim to associate such a precious micro-process (i.e. DNA replication) with something so social and political charged (i.e. the chronic stress of indigent, inner-city children), but I beg to differ. These scientists are taking what I call the Einstein route: they are looking at the pieces to the puzzle – the facts that we already know – and putting them together.

So how do we know now (and, really, always knew) that stress can alter a child’s genome? We look to the telomeres.

When DNA replicates, imagine the major replicating protein running along the DNA like a train on a track. When it runs out of track, it just stops there. The telomere is supposed to be extra track that can be sacrificed in order to cut the DNA replicator from the track. The more you replicate the DNA, the more track you cut away, getting closer and closer the the DNA that DOES matter.
Though the research paper did not publish a theory, here’s mine: stress promotes cell death. Stress kills the cells, but the viable cells automatically respond by replicating themselves. Thus, the cells are replicating more quickly than they would in a more relaxed environment.
Also, replicating cell DNA is like playing telephone: you can pass along the message as best you can, but it will never be as perfect as the original. We know that shortened telomeres is closely associated with aging and wrinkles*. In this case, it might be good practice to remember the basics: the genotype influences the phenotype. Below I have listed three environment causes and their three known effects:
Stress from physiology (cancer, disease) = wrinkles.
Stress from sunlight = wrinkles.
Stress from environment = wrinkles.
But there is a step missing. There needs to be a mechanism to get from stress to wrinkles. I think that these researchers are getting closer to hitting the nail on the head.
Take care,
Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2016
*Look at the next related link from Nature: “Telomerase reverses aging process”. Telomerase is an enzyme that actually ADDS bogus nucleotide links to the end of your DNA to protect it. Here’s a great video on DNA replication and the need to telomerase!

 

under: April 2014

Stations of the D – April 11th

Posted by: coccolr | April 4, 2014 | No Comment |

The UDM campus ministry never fails to amaze me.

Every Friday during lent, they have organized something called “Fish Frydays”, where they take a bus to a random church in Detroit. The students learn about the Church, but they also enjoy a free fish lunch, compliments of that particular church.

On Friday, April 11th, the UDM Campus Ministry is organizing an even called “Stations in the D”. It is much a play on the Stations of the Cross that is “adapted to the city of Detroit”. The Detroit Bus Company will pick up students at 5pm, drive them around Detroit for “a prayerful, but not formal experience that allows you time to reflect on how the joys and challenges of our City are intermingled with faith”.

The Bus return to Lansing Reily (the Jesuit home) for a 7:15 fish fry dinner. (The chief at Lansing Riely is famed! She isn’t formally trained, but she and her assistant cook from the soul. Food always tastes great when the secret ingredient is love.

Though I am not a particularly grounded by religion, I am spiritual and have borrowed many religious philosophies to shape my life and personality. I think that this event could be some good soul-time.

Take care,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2016

under: April 2014

Study with Spring!

Posted by: coccolr | March 31, 2014 | No Comment |

It was a long, harsh winter, but the polar vortex has finally receded. As natural as it seems to stay inside (after all four months of practice), it’s time to breath the fresh air again!

After a high-energy morning of spring cleaning, I am out on my front porch and enjoying the sun, the birds, and the nearly nonexistent breeze.  I can still see some snow piles on my neighbors’ lawns (places where the sun doesn’t often visit, apparently), but I can’t even articulate how wonderful this feels.

I had thought that this weather would make it more difficult to keep my nose to the grindstone, but I discovered that I can study AND enjoy the weather: flashcards. I spend some time reviewing the details of my notes when I write them, but the result is a portable and succinct version of monotonous powerpoint slides. It’s fantastic!

Given that I have an exam on Wednesday, I should get back to studying. Thankfully, this doesn’t preclude me from enjoying the beauty of nature.

here’s to a wonderful day,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2016

under: March 2014

It’s Raiding Men! Hallelujah!

Posted by: coccolr | March 28, 2014 | No Comment |

Detroit is bankrupt, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t mean to clean house.

As with all cities, the fate of Detroit lies in our ability to create and maintain the environment that we want. Right now, that environment is a patchwork of conflicting interests. While Quicken Loans and other start-ups are trying to establish a young, modern vibe in the center of the city, the immediate outskirts of Campus Martius are dilapidated houses, windowless liquor stores, and dialysis clinics. Drug lords are parole-breakers swing through these empty houses like monkeys in the jungle, content that our underfunded police force can’t find them in the vastness.

But things are changing. Drug raids are not new to Detroit, but Detroit Police Chief James Craig is strengthening the charge. Despite death threats and scary messages, Craig has led many seasonal operations, beginning with the November of 2013, wherein 32 people were arrested and charged in one building. This was the largest crime sweep that Detroit had seen in 20 years.

Craig mentions that, in the November raid, even one of the men that he arrested had thanked Chief Craig for “keeping his family safe”.

The raids have continued monthly, each one addressing more neighborhoods and unearthing more scum. For more information, look for Tuesday’s “March Madness”, January’s “Operation Restore Order”, and December’s “Operation Mistletoe”.

Thank you, Chief, for being the face of the charge; the face that faces the enemy; Detroit’s white knight, if you will.

Take care,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2-16

P.S. The title “It’s Raiding Men! Hallelujah!” is a play off the song “It’s Raining Men! Hallelujah!”. It was raining today, so the title seemed like a natural fit. (The best jokes are always the ones that need an explanation, right?)

under: March 2014

The internet can be such a wonderful resource! Of course one must tread with caution, not everything is of scholarly origin or intent. That being said, there are plenty of opinions out there that are important to read in order to understand how people think.

One of the most common complaints that I hear from dissenting individuals is “I just don’t know how they can think that way…”. My response to them is “why not find out?”

Everyone has a reason for believing what they do, saying what they say, and acting how they act. Even if you don’t agree with someone’s conclusion, I think it scholarly and noble on your part to discover the origin of their arguments. Just telling someone “you’re wrong!” is not going to give you satisfaction, nor will it help the other appreciate your opinion of their opinion.

So if you want to be scholarly, remember that people are infinitely complicated. Study people. Study their logic. You may be surprised by what you find.

Take care,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2016

under: April 2010

Revamp in the system – Beta 1 to Beta 2

Posted by: coccolr | March 24, 2014 | No Comment |

It looks like our blog page got a face lift! I’ve been informed that we just updated our system from Beta 1 to Beta 2.

Though I love the new look and the “over one hundred updates”, I can’t help but laugh at that names of the software: beta 1 and beta 2.

In Pharmacology, I am reviewing the details to the adrenergic and cholinergic systems to better understand drug interactions. Beta 1 is a receptor found in the heart and kidneys. When stimulated with norepinephrine, you can expect your heart to race, pump harder, and your blood pressure to spike. Beta 2 is a receptor found in the lungs and smooth muscle. When stimulated with norepinephrine, you can expect the smooth muscle of your lungs to dilate, allowing you to intake more air.

So this is why I have to laugh: the Beta 2 software is helping us breathe easier. :D

Take care,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2016.

under: March 2014

I was never big on the whole Dooms-Day parade, but when NASA funds a study that discusses how how our industrial civilization (as we know it) is headed for “irreversible collapse”, I want to read into that.

We often analyze the fall of civilization under two models: forces or nature or forces of man. We have, of a sort, looked at these destructive forces independently. But have modern advancements not taught us that everything is interrelated? Safa Motesharri, applied mathematician for the US National Science Foundation, organized a project that analyzed the human-nature dynamics.

The results scream for social and political reform. Over-consumption of resources combined with grandiose economic stratification (with the economically Elite using the vast majority of resources) “‘is a central role in the character or process of collapse’”. It’s the same old tale of old: when the resources dry up, the Commoners are the first to feel the effects and the first to die out. The Elite can carry on as usual, either ignoring the problems or believing that it could never catch up to them. But, as everything my exist in harmony and balance, the Eilte dies out as well. Such is the fall of man as it always has been. Such is the fall if we don’t review our mistakes and fix them accordingly.

So what do we fix? Motesharri suggests that the best place to start is at the root of the problem: inefficient use of resources much be fixed. “Policy and structural changes” must be addressed and implemented.

We must be willing to accept the changes for our own good. It’s a big pill to swallow, I understand that, but I would rather live well (not in the American sense, but in the humanistic sense).

Take care and think critically,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S

under: March 2014

It’s Payback Time! Repaying Student Loans

Posted by: coccolr | March 14, 2014 | No Comment |

Payback. Am I talking about vengeance? Nope. But I am talking about a dish best served cold: cold, hard cash!

I’m talking about repaying student loans! (Definitely cold, but not as hard as you think.)

In my time at UDM, I’ve taken out two kinds of loans: unsubsidized federal loans (interest accrues immediately after disbursement) and subsidized federal loans (no interest accrues on the loan until 6 months after graduation).

Though I took out the unsubsidized loan recently, I’ve had enough fortune to where I can repay that loan now, before more interest accrues. So how did I repay just my unsubsidized loan?

When you take out a loan from the federal government, you will get a letter from “Direct Loans Department of Education”. This is the formal correspondence that states the the government is giving THIS amount of money to THIS school, who then gives it to THIS person. It’s more like your federal receipt so that you know that you know how much money is coming through your school’s Financial Aid office.

When you want to repay the loan, however, you need to understand that your lender is the federal government, not your school. My lender, for example, is MyFedLoan.org (The Department of Education). They have every loan differentiated, organized, and tracked for me. I can make payments online, schedule monthly payments (either now or for the future), or do anything that I could possibly imagine relevant to obtaining, monitoring, or repaying a loan.

To access MyFedLoan.org, they will ask for your account#/SSN# and your email. If they can’t render an account for you, then you probably haven’t made an account in their system. (Between FAFSA and all of the other government accounts, it can be hard to keep yourself organized. It’s ok, it happens to all of us.) Making a new account is easy as can be! I will also attest that they may have developed the most user-friendly payment system that I have ever encountered.

Even if you don’t need to repay your student loans now, I encourage you to become familiar with the system. Know what you’re looking for, what you’re looking at, and how to approach it when the time comes.

Take care,

Lisa Cocco, PA-S 2016

under: March 2014

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