Mission

The overall mission of the FERN Center, in a nutshell, is to "create things the world has never seen before."

As a child I would often find myself tinkering with different things. An old blender meant for the scrap heap, radio controlled cars, action figures, tonka trucks, etc. I was always fascinated to see what was inside them, what made them tick. How they were constructed, how they were held together. Opening some appliance my mother was throwing away was for me, in many ways, better than christmas morning.

I eventually discovered a love for biology. I mean, what is more interesting to understand, other than living creatures or the inner workings of the human body? I pursued medicine and was successful at this and I practiced clinical medicine for 13 years, before I hung it up to pursue the FERN Center.

Science was always my favorite subject in school. My 6th grade science teacher, Mrs. Davidson, had a way of making the intricate details of the universe seem so exciting and understandable. I remember wondering why I couldn't find any dinosaurs, or why was it so hard to look directly at the sun? She would answer all these questions and more.

At FERN Center, learning is an on-going process, never a destination. We believe in integrating the latest in engineering technology into our projects with inNovation as our ultimate goal.

National Academy of Sciences

July 29th, 2014
$15 Billion Annual Public Financing System for Physician Training Needs Overhaul
The U.S. should significantly reform the federal system for financing physician training and residency programs to ensure that the public's $15 billion annual investment is producing the doctors that the nation needs, says a new report by the Institute of Medicine. Current financing -- provided largely through Medicare -- requires little accountability, allocates funds independent of workforce needs or educational outcomes, and offers insufficient opportunities to train physicians in the health care settings used by most Americans. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
Styrene Reasonably Anticipated to Be a Human Carcinogen, New Report Confirms
A new report from the National Research Council has upheld the listing of styrene as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" in the National Toxicology Program's 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC). The committee that wrote the report found that the listing is supported by "limited but credible" evidence of carcinogenicity in human studies, "sufficient" evidence from animal studies, and "convincing relevant information" in mechanistic studies that observed DNA damage in human cells that had been exposed to styrene. The committee reached the same conclusion after conducting both a peer review of the RoC and an independent assessment of the styrene literature. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
Lessons Learned From 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Accident
A new congressionally mandated report from the National Academy of Sciences concludes that the overarching lesson from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident is that nuclear plant licensees and regulators must actively seek out and act on new information about hazards with the potential to affect the safety of nuclear plants. The committee that wrote the report examined the causes of the accident and made recommendations for improving nuclear plant safety and offsite emergency responses to nuclear plant accidents in the U.S. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
National Vision Needed to Reduce Risk Along East and Gulf Coasts
In recent years, an increase in the population and property located along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts has contributed to a dramatic rise in storm-related losses. Climate change poses additional threats to these coastal communities due to sea-level rise and possible increases in the strength of the most intense hurricanes. Because the vast majority of funding associated with coastal storms comes from the federal government -- and often only after a disaster occurs -- property owners and local and state governments have few incentives not to develop or rebuild in high-risk areas.A new report from the National Research Council recommends a national vision for coastal risk reduction that includes a long-term view, regional rather than project-based solutions, and consideration of the wide array of economic, environmental, and social benefits that come from risk management efforts. To support this vision, a national risk assessment is needed to identify coastal areas that face the greatest threats and are high priorities for risk-reduction efforts. Read More | Slides
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July 30th, 2014
Too Soon for 3-D Printing to Significantly Enhance Space Operations, Report Says
A new report from the National Research Council discusses the role additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3-D printing, could have in future space and aerospace missions. Both NASA and the Air Force are exploring the possibility of putting this technology to use, and although 3-D printing is a fairly mature technology, the report concludes that its application in space is extremely limited. The vacuum of space, zero gravity, and intense thermal fluctuations are a few of the harsh environmental obstacles the technology will need to overcome. In addition, the high costs of equipment operation, maintenance, and infrastructure platforms must also be considered in the cost-benefit equation. The report looks beyond production costs as the sole criterion for evaluating the benefits of space-based 3-D printing, however, and highlights the potential value of creating structures and functionalities not feasible without this technology. The committee that wrote the report recommends NASA and the Air Force cooperate across multiple levels, especially when utilizing the International Space Station for research. Read More3D Printing in Space Infographic
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July 30th, 2014
Science Fellows Celebrate 10 Years
The Jefferson Science Fellowship program held a gathering July 15 at the National Academy of Sciences building to celebrate the program's 10-year anniversary. Administered by the National Academies, the program supports university faculty on one-year assignments at the U.S. Department of State or USAID, where they serve as science and technology advisers on foreign policy issues, often traveling to U.S. embassies and missions overseas.
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July 30th, 2014
New Institute of Medicine President Takes Office
Victor J. Dzau -- an internationally recognized trailblazer in translational research, health innovation, and global health care strategy and delivery -- begins his new role as president of the Institute of Medicine today. Dzau takes the helm at IOM after serving nearly 10 years as chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and president and CEO for Duke University Health System. Before that, Dzau held influential posts with Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Stanford University.In announcing Dzau's appointment, NAS President Ralph J. Cicerone said, "Victor Dzau is an internationally acclaimed leader and scientist whose work has improved health care in the United States and globally. Under his direction, the Institute of Medicine will continue to advance research and improve health by providing objective, evidence-based guidance on critical issues." "As a physician-scientist and leader in academic medicine," said outgoing IOM president Harvey V. Fineberg, "Victor has consistently demonstrated inspirational leadership, innovative thinking, and multifaceted achievement. Now, all of us at the IOM, both members and staff, will benefit more fully from his leadership." Fineberg, who served 12 years as IOM's president, is joining the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, for a one-year appointment as a presidential chair and will focus on global health policy and analysis.
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July 30th, 2014
Improving DOD Engagement in International Science and Technology
To remain globally competitive in science and technology (S&T), the U.S. Department of Defense should develop an implementable strategy to improve its awareness of the global S&T landscape and identify opportunities for collaboration, says a new report from the National Research Council. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
Despite Advances in Planning, Everglades Restoration Impeded by Financial and Policy Constraints
A new congressionally mandated National Research Council report finds that while planning for Everglades restoration projects has advanced considerably over the past two years, project implementation has been impeded by financial, procedural, and policy constraints. The report is the fifth in a series of biennial reviews of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a multibillion dollar project launched in 2000 with the goal of reversing the ecosystem's decline. This most recent evaluation finds that restoration progress to date has been moderate and focused largely on the edges of the Everglades.The impacts of climate change -- especially sea-level rise -- provide further incentive to accelerate restoration efforts, the report adds. Timely project authorization, adequate funding levels, and creative policy and implementation strategies are needed to achieve restoration benefits.
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July 30th, 2014
Winners of 2014 Essay Contest Announced
The National Academy of Engineering announced today the winners of its 2014 EngineerGirl essay competition. This year's contest was held as the NAE celebrates its 50th anniversary and asked students in grades three to 12 to describe how engineering has addressed societal needs in the past 50 years and suggest ways that engineering will impact society in the next 50 years in one of the following areas: nutrition, health, communication, education, and transportation. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
Effectiveness of PTSD Treatment Provided by DOD and VA Unknown
The U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs should track the outcomes of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder provided to patients and develop a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to do so, says a new congressionally mandated report from the Institute of Medicine. Without tracking outcomes, neither DOD nor VA knows whether it is providing effective or adequate PTSD care, for which they spent $294 million and more than $3 billion, respectively, in 2012. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
Assessing the Design of the National Children's Study
While the National Children's Study (NCS) could add immensely to knowledge about children's health and development, and while the study's proposed design has several strengths, the design needs stronger scientific rationale and further development of several key aspects such as sampling and measurement strategies, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
Assessing FAA's Staffing Processes for Air Traffic Controllers
The Federal Aviation Administration's models for determining air traffic controller staffing needs are suitable for developing initial estimates of the number of controllers required at terminal areas and airport towers, but the models used to staff centers controlling air traffic between airports can be improved, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. As a matter of priority, FAA should implement an enhanced scheduling tool for all facilities that incorporates fatigue mitigation strategies. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
Green Growth in Portugal
On June 11 the National Research Council welcomed Jorge Moreira da Silva, Portugal's minister of environment, spatial planning, and energy, who spoke about his country's efforts to move beyond economic crisis while growing in a sustainable way. In discussions with other European nations, Portugal has advocated goals of obtaining 40 percent of energy from renewable sources, reducing greenhouse gases by 40 percent, and increasing energy efficiency by 30 percent by the year 2030. The event also hosted panelists from Portuguese industry and research institutes, who explained the country's efforts to support electric vehicles, smart grids, and renewable energy such as floating wind power and wave power. Closing remarks were made by the U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe and Portugal's Secretary of State for Energy, Artur Trindade.The event was held by the Research Council's Network for Emerging Leaders in Sustainability Series, a seminar series for early-career professionals who are interested in building bridges with peers in D.C.-area agencies and organizations around sustainability efforts.
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July 30th, 2014
Report Examines Military Research on Health Effects of Low-level Radiation
The Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI) carries on a robust program of research on the biological and health effects of ionizing radiation exposure, but it is not substantively advancing research on health risks arising from exposure to low-level radiation, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. However, AFRRI's unique infrastructure, which would be difficult to reproduce elsewhere, positions it to contribute to low-level radiation research.
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July 30th, 2014
Substantial Scientific and Technical Advances Needed for Microbial Forensics
Much as human DNA can be used as evidence in criminal trials, genetic information about microorganisms can be analyzed to identify pathogens or other biological agents in the event of a suspicious disease outbreak. The tools and methods used to investigate such outbreaks belong to an emerging discipline known as microbial forensics, but the field faces substantial scientific and technical challenges, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report offers an initial set of research priorities for advancing the capabilities needed to make microbial forensics a more effective tool for identifying and attributing the sources of biothreats. Many of these challenges are shared by other disciplines, such as medicine and public health, so bridging the gaps in microbial forensics could also strengthen capabilities and knowledge in these other areas. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
Report Outlines Research Needs for Safe and Efficient Use of Increasingly Autonomous Aircraft
Civil aviation is on the threshold of potentially revolutionary changes with the emergence of increasingly autonomous unmanned aircraft, but barriers to their incorporation into the existing aviation system remain, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report recommends a research agenda to help overcome these hurdles. Read More
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July 30th, 2014
NASA Should Focus on Mars as "Horizon Goal" for Human Space Exploration
The expense of human spaceflight and the dangers it poses to the astronauts involved can be justified only by the goal of putting humans on other worlds, concludes a new report from the National Research Council. Currently, the only technologically feasible destinations for human spaceflight are the moon, asteroids, Mars, and the moons of Mars. The report recommends that NASA pursue a "pathway" approach, which encompasses executing a series of missions to one or more of these destinations as intermediate accomplishments toward the "horizon goal" of putting humans on Mars. While the report does not recommend a particular pathway to pursue, it found that returning to the moon would make significant contributions toward a Mars landing and would provide opportunities for international and commercial cooperation. The success of this pathway approach would require sustained national commitment, international collaboration, and a budget that increases by more than the rate of inflation, the report says. Read More | Video Report Summary | Video Webcast
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July 30th, 2014
Members Awarded 2014 Kavli Prizes
Five members of the National Academy of Sciences, one of whom is also a member of the Institute of Medicine, were among the nine winners of the 2014 Kavli Prizes announced today.MIT's Alan H. Guth and Stanford's Andrei D. Linde, both NAS members, will share the prize in the field of astrophysics with a third scientist, Alexei Starobinsky from the Russian Academy of Sciences, "for pioneering the theory of cosmic inflation."Sir John Pendry, an NAS foreign associate with the UK's Imperial College London, will share the award in nanoscience with France's Thomas W. Ebbesen and Germany's Stefan W. Hell "for their transformative contributions to the field of nano-optics."McGill University's Brenda Milner, an NAS foreign associate, and Washington University's Marcus E. Raichle, a joint NAS/IOM member, will share the prize in neuroscience with the UK's John O'Keefe "for the discovery of specialized brain networks for memory and cognition." The Kavli Prizes are awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Laureates in each category -- astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience -- share a cash reward of $1 million.
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July 30th, 2014
The Importance of STEM Education
At the 2014 White House Science Fair, new steps to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education were announced as part of the president's Educate to Innovate campaign.The Academies have produced dozens of expert reports on this topic, including a recent report that focused on integrating STEM disciplines in K-12 education and what would most likely lead to positive learning outcomes. Also important, STEM learning outside the classroom in informal and after-school settings is the subject of a June 3-4 workshop.
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Inspiration

Inspiration, according to Merriam-Webster, is something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create. I've always found Preisdent John Fitzgerald Kennedy's "Moon" speech at Rice Stadium to be exceptionally inspirational. In it, he challenged our country to rise to best within us to acheive a seemingly impossible goal; to put a man on the moon. Here are some excerpts from that speech.

As a young child I was in part, inspired by the achievements of the brave men and women at NASA to pursue a career as a scientist. I have worked as a practicing physician for 13 years and now I am returning to my roots as a scientist. I have always loved the beauty of the natural world. It has fascinated me since I was a little boy. Through patience, hard work and discipline, I have been able to learn a great amount about how our world works. I now am fascinated at the prospect of learning more, and using that knowledge to continue to help people in a new way.

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Last Updated: July 12, 2011

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Last Updated: July 12, 2011