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Does cancer follow the rules of math? This scientist certainly thinks so — and she's onto something.

Franziska Michor is quickly becoming a rising star in the worlds of math and medicine and for good reason.

In 2005, at the age of 22, Franziska Michor finished her doctorate in evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

Michor was born in Vienna, Austria, the child of a nurse and a mathematician. Early on, she developed a passion for math that — luckily for humanity — has stuck with her into her adult life.

In a 2007 profile in Esquire magazine, she joked about her father's policy that she and her sister either had to study math or marry a mathematician.


"We said, 'Oh, no, anything but that!' So we studied math."

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

While you might think that science, medicine, and math just go together, Michor says that's not the case.

"If you like science but don't like math, you go into medicine," she told Esquire, noting that while the people in medicine might not like math, cancer does.

If we're going to make progress in the fight against cancer, it's going to take math. And that's why her passion for both is so important.

In Vienna, she studied both math and molecular biology, a somewhat unique academic path. With her options limited at home, she moved to the U.S. for her graduate studies.

Since graduating, Michor has become known for her unique, mathematic approach to treatment of one of life's scariest situations: cancer.

Now a professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard School of Public Health, Michor incorporates quantitative methods and evolutionary biology in trying to understand what fuels cancer cells.

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

As she frames it, "Cancer is the body's fight with rapid evolution within the body."

That is, the human body is in a constant state of change. At any given moment, the body is home to millions (or even billions) of mutated cells. While there's always the possibility that any one of these cells might become cancerous, the overwhelming majority of them are harmless and are eventually destroyed by the body (phew!).

The trouble with treating cancer is that it doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are treatments that can wipe out cancerous cells, but if it's also destroying healthy cells essential to survival, that pretty obviously presents a problem.

In 2015, she received the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science for her work developing new approaches to treating cancer.

So much of her work has centered around optimizing the scheduling and dosages used in drugs for treating cancer. Her approach has found some major success.

Vilcek Prizes are given to "immigrants who have made lasting contributions to American society through their extraordinary achievements in biomedical research and the arts and humanities." Michor certainly fits that category.

From the Vilcek Foundation's website:

"Michor's efforts are driven by the courage to test approaches that defy convention. Her prominence in the United States cancer research community is embodied in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute-based Physical Science-Oncology Center, a collaborative, interdisciplinary endeavor that she has led since 2009, thanks to a competitive $11 million grant she received from the National Cancer Institute; at the center, researchers apply physical sciences to solve problems in cancer biology. Because the willingness to embrace path-breaking research is embedded deep within the DNA of the American scientific community, says Michor, she finds herself at home in the United States: 'WhatIloveaboutthe UnitedStatesisthatthepeoplearenotrisk-averse. In Europe,youhavetobeveryconvincedthatsomethingis goingtoworkbeforeyoutryit. Iamverygratefulthat Ihave collaboratorswhoarewillingtosupportmeandhelptestmy ideasintheclinic.'"

Her work may save millions of lives, and it's in part the product of her having the opportunity and resources to customize her academic path.

She wants to "teach math to medicine," meaning to take medicine, teach it math, and as a result, create better medicine. Better medicine is always welcome.

Photo from The Vilcek Foundation.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

People share experiences with intrusive thoughts.

When I was younger I used to think I was dying or that I would get kidnapped by a random stranger, but I kept it to myself because I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that telling people would confirm this fear, so I kept it inside my entire life until I was an adult and learned it was part of ADHD and other disorders, such as OCD and PTSD. But it doesn't have to be part of a disorder at all—a vast amount of people just have intrusive thoughts, and a Twitter user, Laura Gastón, is trying to normalize them for others.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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