From the Editor: 85.2 Science and the Sexes

Welcome to Issue 85.2 of the Yale Scientific Magazine! Continuing our 118-year legacy of high-quality science journalism as the nation’s oldest college science publication, the new 2012 masthead has been working diligently to introduce many improvements to the publication. Our new series, “Science Education at Yale,” will explore the past, present, and future of scientific scholarship at this institution. And as a conclusion to this series, the final installment will feature an assessment of high school science education in the U.S. written by a high school student as a part of our first annual National Science Journalism Mentorship Program Competition. In addition, our magazine, as you may have noticed, is now in all color, and along with this update, we have introduced stylistic changes to our design and layout, a “theme” page with quick facts and stats, and new outreach initiatives, which you can learn more about on our revamped website at

While Yale has been nestled between the flurry of controversies surrounding Title IV and the conflict of Sex Week and the inaugural Love Week, there has been no better time to consider the relationship between science and gender. Though it may seem like a trivial fact, it is actually quite astounding to think that a single chromosome is what originally differentiates man from woman — that by the luck of the draw, a certain sperm cell will penetrate the zona pellucida and fertilize the ovum, influencing much of the fate of the then-nascent embryo. This initial contrast eventually develops into drastic differences from the obvious physiological and anatomical features to more subtle distinctions in white and gray matter of the brain and even varying susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Although this field has been extensively researched, it only continues to grow with the efforts of researchers such as Michael Synder, the Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Molecular Cellular and Molecular Biology at Yale, who has conducted a comprehensive and groundbreaking investigation of gene expression differences between male and female mammals with promising implications for human health and medicine. And, of course, the matter of gender and science remains a restless topic as female scientists, including Meg Urry, the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Yale, continue to analyze sex-based disparities in the sciences, shining light on contentious issues of education, affirmative action, tenure assignment, and why science in general may be losing its appeal.

We hope that the science presented in this issue can perhaps offer another perspective and demonstrate just how multifaceted the issue of sex and gender are.

William Zhang