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Across the world, scientific laboratories are ramping down in the face of COVID-19. At Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, some brain scientists are pivoting from their own research and launching new efforts to combat the novel coronavirus. "Lab in the Time of Coronavirus" explores these projects and the daily lives of the researchers behind them.
May 10, 2021 @ 6:43 pm

One Year In


Meet the leaders who shepherded science through a challenging year


Take a moment to think back to March, 2020, a little over a year ago. The World Health Organization had just declared COVID-19 a pandemic. People running research institutes across the world were scrambling to gather information while crafting plans and making decisions that would impact the future of science.


In this episode of Lab in the Time of Coronavirus, we sat down with three leaders and administrators tasked with piloting the Zuckerman Institute through the storm. Join us for a behind-the-scenes peek at the balancing act they faced as the world locked down: trying to keep scientists safe while keeping facilities running to prevent years of research from disappearing. Learn about how the crisis surfaced issues of equity while offering up new models for organizing communities in science.

February 22, 2021 @ 10:07 am

Building a Better Antibody


Meet a protein aficionado working on a new way to treat COVID-19. As an expert on proteins, biochemist Barry Honig, PhD, has explored a huge variety of topics during his career: from color vision to cancer. He’s a theorist, a scientist interested in understanding general principles of how proteins interact and how those principles carry over from one problem to the next.


In this episode, explore how Dr. Honig is applying lessons learned from studying brain cells to the treatment of coronavirus. He and his colleagues recently received a grant to build better antibodies that block viruses from penetrating human cells. Inspired by previous works on AIDS, such antibodies could provide a new way to combat COVID-19. 

December 17, 2020 @ 11:52 am

Uncovering the Lingering Health Effects of COVID



Researchers recruit New Yorkers who have recovered from coronavirus to be scanned for long-term damage to the heart and other organs.


So you contracted COVID-19, and you got better. You took an antibody test: It was positive. But do you feel that you've truly recovered?


Reports of long-term health problems linked to the coronavirus, from brain fog to hypertension, have been making the news. To better understand the extent of COVID's lasting impacts, researchers at Columbia have launched a study to scan large numbers of survivors for damage.


In this episode of Lab in the Time of Coronavirus, join Zuckerman Institute Principal Investigator Tommy Vaughan to explore how scientists are using MRI technology to check the hearts of New Yorkers. And if you want to participate and live in the New York area, sign up to see if you're eligible today. 

September 9, 2020 @ 3:09 pm

Back To School


What does it look like to start graduate school in the middle of a pandemic? In this episode, meet incoming students at Columbia’s Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior and at the Zuckerman Institute. These young minds are navigating safety concerns and immigration policies while preparing to begin their careers in science: from Francisco Sacudura, who studies how the brain controls the body, to Rachel Frazer, who hopes to explore music and the brain. And they’re getting help, from older students opening up lines of communication and from the co-directors of the doctoral program, Darcy Kelley, PhD, and Wes Grueber, PhD, who are adapting to these difficult times.

July 23, 2020 @ 10:39 am

Digital Defense


You’re a graduate student. You’ve spent five to seven years in the lab, doing experiments and analyzing data. At last, the big day comes to present your PhD research, defend your written thesis and get your degree.


Then COVID breaks out.


Tune in to hear the stories of four women who gave one of the biggest presentations of their lives, their thesis defense, over Zoom. Follow them as they prepared their bedrooms and their basements, grappled with technical issues and discovered surprising advantages to defending online.

July 2, 2020 @ 12:41 pm

Masks Come Clean


Across the country and the world, people are getting into the habit of wearing face masks to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. But what’s the proper way to clean a mask when it may have become contaminated? What should someone do with their mask after visiting the grocery store or working a shift in a warehouse?


Meet a team of Columbia researchers testing out different procedures for sterilizing N95 face masks at home, using common appliances that generate heat. They’re digging through the science to debunk myths about mask use and designing experiments to help people stay safe as the pandemic continues.

May 29, 2020 @ 10:23 am

Harnessing Antibodies


As the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine, researchers in New York are developing a strategy for curbing the pandemic that might be available sooner: treating people who have the virus with antibodies collected from those who have recovered. 

Tune in to hear about their efforts: from using powerful microscopes to map the atomic structure of the virus to learning how it evades detection by the immune system. And imagine a future in which an injection could prevent or cure the disease.

May 13, 2020 @ 11:42 am

Making a COVID-19 Home Test


As America loosens its COVID-19 restrictions, many worry that a second wave of the virus will emerge. To avoid this scenario, scientists around the country are developing new coronavirus tests. Being able to track who is infected, before symptoms emerge, could help to curb transmission of the virus and keep infection rates under control.


At Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, a group led by scientist Andrés Bendesky is coming together to develop a home test: one that we could use to check ourselves once a week or even every day. The researchers behind the test, which has shown promise in the laboratory, plan to try it out at the Zuckerman Institute. Their work could help to keep people safe as the Institute and the nation ramp up activities.

May 7, 2020 @ 10:07 am

Research, Going Viral


In the midst of the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, a new forum has emerged that brings together leading researchers, physicians and scholars from across the world. Every week, they’re sharing the latest research with a speed and openness unthinkable before the virus: at Columbia’s weekly Virtual COVID-19 Symposium.

What are U.S. physicians learning from doctors in Italy? How can scientists develop treatments that keep up with the virus’ ability to mutate? What do we know about keeping healthcare workers healthy? How are people spending their money during the pandemic? Tune in to this week’s episode of Lab in the Time of Coronavirus to learn about this unique gathering, the questions it tackles and the collaborations it fosters.


April 29, 2020 @ 12:30 pm

Scientists, Mobilized


How did a young Columbia researcher organize hundreds of young scientists to combat coronavirus in a matter of days? It all started with a call for help sterilizing hospital masks. The overwhelming response he received laid the foundations for a veritable army of volunteers, called Columbia Researchers Against COVID-19 (CRAC). 


This episode of Lab in the Time of Coronavirus follows the evolution of CRAC and introduces some of the many projects supported by this grassroots organization – from making use of its members’ scientific expertise to catalogue COVID samples for research studies, to drawing on their enthusiasm to wash scrubs and keep healthcare workers safe.

Lab in the Time of Coronavirus
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