chemical reaction: A process that involves the rearrangement of the molecules or structure of a substance, as opposed to a change in physical form (as from a solid to a gas).
colleague: Someone who works with another; a co-worker or team member.
COVID-19: A name given to the disease that erupted into a massive global pandemic in 2020. It first emerged in 2019 and is caused by a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms can include pneumonia, trouble breathing, feeling too tired to walk more than a few steps, fever, headaches, low blood-oxygen levels, blood clots and brain “fog.”
degrade: To break down into smaller, simpler materials — as when wood rots or as a flag that’s left outdoors in the weather will fray, fade and fall apart. (in chemistry) To break down a compound into smaller components.
develop: To emerge or to make come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing.
dissolve: To turn a solid into a liquid and disperse it into that starting liquid. (For instance, sugar or salt crystals, which are solids, will dissolve into water. Now the crystals are gone and the solution is a fully dispersed mix of the liquid form of the sugar or salt in water.)
Ebola: A family of viruses that cause a deadly disease in people. All cases have originated in Africa. Its symptoms include headaches, fever, muscle pain and extensive bleeding. The infection spreads from person to person (or animal to some person) through contact with infected body fluids. The disease gets its name from where the infection was first discovered in 1976 — communities near the Ebola River in what was then known as Zaire (and is now the Democratic Republic of Congo).
efficacy: The ability of something to work as expected or achieve desired results.
engineer: A person who uses science and math to solve problems. As a verb, to engineer means to design a device, material or process that will solve some problem or unmet need.
flu: Short for influenza. It is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages causing fever and severe aching. It often occurs as an epidemic.
Food and Drug Administration: (or FDA) A part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FDA is charged with overseeing the safety of many products. For instance, it is responsible for making sure drugs are properly labeled, safe and effective; that cosmetics and food supplements are safe and properly labeled; and that tobacco products are regulated.
immune: (adj.) Having to do with immunity. (v.) Able to ward off a particular infection. Alternatively, this term can be used to mean an organism shows no impacts from exposure to a particular poison or process. More generally, the term may signal that something cannot be hurt by a particular drug, disease or chemical.
measles: A highly contagious disease, typically striking children. Symptoms include a characteristic rash across the body, headaches, runny nose, and coughing. Some people also develop pinkeye, a swelling of the brain (which can cause brain damage) and pneumonia. Both of the latter two complications can lead to death. Fortunately, since the middle 1960s there has been a vaccine to dramatically cut the risk of infection.
messenger RNA: A type of genetic material that is copied from DNA. This mRNA carries the instructions for building a cell’s proteins.
molecule: An electrically neutral group of atoms that represents the smallest possible amount of a chemical compound. Molecules can be made of single types of atoms or of different types. For example, the oxygen in the air is made of two oxygen atoms (O2), but water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O).
muscle: A type of tissue used to produce movement by contracting its cells, known as muscle fibers. Muscle is rich in protein, which is why predatory species seek prey containing lots of this tissue.
outbreak: The sudden emergence of disease in a population of people or animals. The term may also be applied to the sudden emergence of devastating natural phenomena, such as earthquakes or tornadoes.
potent: An adjective for something (like a germ, poison, drug or acid) that is very strong or powerful.
prototype: A first or early model of some device, system or product that still needs to be perfected.
risk: The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard — or peril — itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)
species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.
syringe: A plunger-type device used to extract blood from the body or to deliver a liquid medicine through the skin via a needle.
technology: The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.
vaccine: (v. vaccinate) A biological mixture that resembles a disease-causing agent. It is given to help the body create immunity to a particular disease. The injections used to administer most vaccines are known as vaccinations.
Velcro: The commercial name for a widely known hook-and-loop type adhesive.
virus: Tiny infectious particles consisting of genetic material (RNA or DNA) surrounded by protein. Viruses can reproduce only by injecting their genetic material into the cells of living creatures. Although scientists frequently refer to viruses as live or dead, in fact many scientists argue that no virus is truly alive.