Francis Collins, physician and geneticist, is widely known as director of the National Institutes of Health, former director of the Human Genome Project and an outspoken advocate of reconciling science with belief in Christianity.
He’s less known as a blogger, but he’s been posting fairly regularly for almost two years at directorsblog.nih.gov. Mostly he highlights new research into a wide range of topics: childhood asthma and teen depression, obesity and brain research, and, recently, the genomics of and potential vaccine against Ebola.
For the past few weeks, he’s also been posting a series of “Cool Videos,” drawn from a competition sponsored this summer by NIH. They’re short, usually funny, and comprehensible — to varying degrees — to the nonprofessional viewer.
One, from the University of Florida, goes to coral reefs off the Florida Keys, showing researchers harvesting cyanobacteria and other compounds for medical uses, but it gets interrupted by a clip from “Finding Nemo,” with a stingray proclaiming, “Stromalitic cyanobacteria! . . . An entire ecosystem contained in one infinitesimal speck!”
Research into treatments for multiple sclerosis is illustrated with the University of New Mexico’s parody of “Breaking Bad,” where mild-mannered professor “Walt White” puts on a porkpie hat and tough attitude to bring science into clinical practice because, as Walt’s teen sidekick says, “Some of these people can’t walk, yo.”
A “stop heart attack” refrain echoes through Rockefeller University’s “molecular biomedicine music video” featuring some flashy animation and seriously geeky dancing. And Alzheimer’s researchers at the Weiner Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, wearing matching white coats and blue latex gloves, do clapping routines at the lab bench to highlight a hypothesis about the cause of the disease.