Author Archives: Kameron Villavicencio

Are ADHD drugs as safe as we think?

I became interested in this topic of ADHD medications because my boyfriend has ADHD and takes the prescription drug Vyvanse. He takes this drug out of necessity, and it helps him get through his day, but he isn’t exactly a proponent of it. He says that his medication has side effects such as memory loss, and I’ve noticed it. I never realized ADHD medications come with a lot of controversy.

unknown-4However, if you do have ADHD and take medication, please do not freak out. There are also many consequences of leaving ADHD untreated, such as higher rates of depression, and anxiety, and substance dependence, according to Huffington Post. I chose to look into this because it seems to affect someone I love, but I know that Vyvanse and other prescription drugs used to treat ADHD are widely used, and that has to count for something. And as we all know too well from commercials about prescription drugs, they all come with side effects. You have to as Andrew said, examine the risk. The Huffington Post article is really interesting, however, it is Canadian, and mentions things that only pertain to Canada, as far as their drug regulating system.

Side note: ADHD medications are stimulants. They work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. This helps to increase focus. The best treatment for ADHD suggests a combination of medication and therapy, and is known as the “multi-modal”. The therapy is nothing wild. Patients will simply learn skills to better adjust to day-to-day life.

I found a very interesting FoxNews article with a flashy headline. It notes several studies, and says that they were funded by pharaceutical companies, which has a clear conflict of interest.

The best thing you can do if you have ADHD is to know the side effects to your medication so that you are aware of what is normal per se and what is not. If something occurs that is not listed, consult your doctor. My boyfriend started to ween himself to a lower dose (with his doctor’s approval). Consult with your doctor and ask if you can switch. I am going to end before I start sounding like a prescription drug commercial. Thank you.


ADHD medication for kids: Is it safe? Does it help?


Caffeine…. Friend… or Foe?

I’ve always been curious about whether or not caffeine actually stunted a person’s growth. Before, I heard it, but never looked into it, and cut out caffeine. Then I realized that I’m 20 and at this point, I’ll probably never be 5’8″ and said “screw it”. Taking this class, however, has sparked my interest once more.

To embark on my research, I first visited an article from Harvard Health. One of the first things it pointed out was that there is no scientific evidence to say that caffeine will stunt a person’s growth. As we have learned in class, for example with the “Does prayer heal?” question, no scientific evidence does not mean no. This could be a result of the file drawer problem. Though, it does mention the overwhelming amount of studies that have been does on coffee, which makes sense for a drink that is so widely consumed.

Apparently there was a misconception that caffeine causes osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens your bones. It’s the reasons milk was most likely shoved down your throat as a kid (calcium helps prevent osteoporosis). Yet, osteoporosis has not been linked to reducing height. However, some time ago, studies came out suggesting that caffeine leads to calcium excretion. Despite the hype this drew, the results of calcium excretion were small. Also, it was noted that coffee drinkers drink less milk, which is a clear confounding variable that would seem to have a direct connection to lack of calcium and thus osteoporosis. *Osteoporosis can lead to height loss, but this is due to fractures in the discs of the spine.

It is also noted that human growth usually ends before excessive caffeine consumption starts. Women stop growing around the age of 15-17, and boys a little after. I know at least for myself, I did not start an obsessive coffee addiction until I got to Penn State. High school was a simpler time. Also, height is something that is largely controlled by genes (nature) rather than nurture. Nurture does play a part, but if you’re upset because of your height, blame your parents, or rather genetics.

A NY Times article says it’s really just an old wives’ tale. It mentions a study involved 81 adolescents. The null hypothesis is that caffeine will not stunt a child’s growth. The alternate hypothesis is that caffeine will stunt a child’s growth. The adolescents were studied for six years. This is a longitudinal, observational study. The conclusion found that the adolescents who consumed the most caffeine did not lose any bone density. This would accept the null hypothesis and reject the alternate hypothesis. However, it could be a false negative. It does not suffer the file drawer problem clearly because it is published, but that does mean the study itself is perfect. 81 people is not a large sample size, and six years is not that long of a period to follow. Since it is an observational study, it is also not possible to rule out confounding (third) variables, which very well could have attributed to the findings. I would love to see the results of a randomized, control trial. For now, however, it looks like caffeine is in the clear.

In conclusion, we’ve all stopped growing, so consume all the caffeine you won’t. It’s not going to affect your height at this point regardless. But continue to have calcium, because osteoporosis can still happen to you.



Cancer and Weed. A perfect combo?


I’ve long wondered what all these connections between cancer and marijuana were. My boyfriend’s grandmother has cancer, and had surgery last week to remove a malignant tumor. She wasn’t feeling well post surgery, and he told me he wanted to make her weed tea. I was curious why, and his reasoning was to make her hungry. I don’t think having the munchies is a great scientific breakthrough for the cancer and weed platform, but it pushed me to ask why marijuana had so many links to cancer.

Although a Huffington Post article assures that marijuana should not be considered by anyone to be a cure for the too-often deadly disease, a Newsweek article from last year calls it the “wonder drug“. And it is important to note that no evidence has shown definite facts that marijuana cures cancer, because there are anecdotes of people who have said it does and they can be powerful. I’ve even seen images as such, that also suggest the same.

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It reminds me of the detrimental anecdotes from people like Jenny McCarthy and other parents who claim that vaccines caused their children to get autism. They can be powerful, but it’s like myself saying that I took yoga, and my depression went away. Yoga has not been scientifically proven to cure depression, but I could provide a powerful anecdote to convince people it did and this could lead people away from proper treatment. The other problem with this, especially in regards to cancer, is that there is a multitude of types of cancers that originate different and it is impossible to make such generalized statements. Still, however, cancer and weed could be the perfect combo.

The Newsweek article I referred to talks of the benefits marijuana during chemotherapy. Chemotherapy has shown to be an extremely effective way of flushing out cancer, and has also shown to be a miserable point in any cancer patients’ journey to remission. Common side effects include fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. The article references a poll done back in 2014 by Wedmd and Medscape where three-quarters of physicians saw marijuana as a viable option.

But where are the well, organized, large sample size, randomized control studies, you ask? I ventured further. My next article took me to National Academic Press. There was a study done comparing THC (the active component in cannabis) and metoclopramide (a drug used against vomiting). First, they eliminated any possible confounding variables such as making sure none of the patients had received chemotherapy before. This was so ensure that vomiting had not become a reflex to the treatment.

Each patient received the same amount of cis-platin (chemo agent) and then we randomly assigned to receive either the THC or the metoclopramide. Alas, a randomized, control trial. The null hypothesis is that THC will not reduce vomitting in chemotherapy patients at a higher rate than metoclopramide, and the alternate hypothesis is that is will. The results were that 73 percent who had the THC omitted at least twice following treatment, compared to the 27 percent who had the other drug. It concluded that while it does reduce vomiting, it does not do so as a significantly effective rate. Thus, it rejects the alternate hypothesis, and supports the null. This could very well be a false negative.  Well this is only one study…. yet, the journal says additional studies have been done since that supported the null hypothesis as well. Important note would be that they were described as less rigorous.

This is a topic that has clear bias naturally, and a strong political component that can sway results. While it’s safe to assume that any cure or ease of treatment for cancer would be accepted with open arms, there are many opponents to legalized marijuana under any circumstances. There are also many advocates of legalizing marijuana under all circumstances, and this could lead to two problems. The fist being confirmation bias. The second being the Texas Sharpshooter Problem. They both play into each other. If proponents go looking for any benefits of marijuana during cancer treatment, that leaves a lot of things up in the air, and they might focus in on one whilst ignoring side effects and other data that could harm their end-game.

Obama has just come out saying that marijuana should be treated like alcohol and cigarettes (legal, regulated and taxed). 28 states have already legalized medical marijuana. I, myself, write this with the bias that I agree with Obama, however, I only seek fact here. Bottom line, it is still difficult to say with 100 percent certainty, as is anything, that marijuana is the drug for you should you find yourself facing the terrible disease that is cancer. Marijuana is a drug, and drugs effect every person differently as we each have such unique and complex internal systems- whether used medicinally and recreationally.


studies done on benefits of marijuana during chemotherapy tr…

Crispy? Crispier? C.R.I.S.P.R.?

C.R.I.S.P.R. stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. No idea what that means? Me either. I stumbled upon C.R.I.S.P.R. when reading an article on that discussed science lessons our next president will need to learn. I still don’t understand what the words means, but what you do need to know is that C.R.I.S.P.R. is what makes it possible for scientists to edits genes(It locks onto a specific DNA code, and make a precise cut). C.R.I.S.P.R. can essentially turn off and/or replace genes.
Why would this be important for Clinton or Trump to know? Well remember all that talk about how you may in fact be able to change your future baby’s genes to “perfection”? C.R.I.S.P.R. would make that possible.

Isn’t it already possible to alter DNA? Why yes it is, but C.R.I.S.P.R. is more cost-effective and time efficient, which in the world of science is the jackpot.
Who can C.R.I.S.P.R. be used on? Not only who, but what is the real question. This technology could help to eliminate deadly and life-threatening diseases that are in our genes and potentially introduce certain genes to prevent diseases. They help the farming industry with a stronger colony of crops. In fact, the Chinese have already used this technology to create a strain of wheat with a resistance towards powdery mildew. Lastly, they also help the farming industry with healthier livestock, and milk cows without horns. The first would obviously make for human beings in tip-top shape, and the latter two could potentially help feed those humans.

C.R.I.S.P.R is not by any means new technology itself, but it is fast-approaching. So-called designer babies are not so fast approaching and the technology has not been proven to be flawless quite yet. The risks are lower when dealing with wheat is a lab, than when talking about bringing to life a genetically-modified baby.

As the late Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility”, (which by the way is a totally underrated quote because it really pertains to all areas of life) and C.R.I.S.P.R. is a powerful technology that will need to be regulated and funded, especially when it comes to the use of embryos. The tough questions then arise of who should fund them and how should they be regulated? Where do you draw the line? What classifies as genetic modification?

My question is for Andrew, if you’re reading this, which you probably are not. How do you feel about C.R.I.S.P.R.? Biology is your specialty, and I know that there are so many subsections of the topic, but as a scientist, do you see something of this degree as a dangerous slippery slope or a breakthrough for the world? Could we discuss this perhaps in class?


Mice have feelings, too.

Mice are friends. Mice have friends. Mice have feelings.
I must say again, I was attracted to an article due to the picture they featured. This time is was two mice snuggled up next to each other, and it was hard to resist.
Except this photograph then haunted me with everything I continued to read.
I’ve heard of the expression that goes along the lines of “They can smell the fear on you.” This probably has something to do with the pheromones that we give off. But I wasn’t aware that went for mice, too. Except they don’t smell fear. They smell pain. 
I was on when I stumbled upon the cute little mice, and upon doing further research, I found the same study published on These are both legitimate websites, and after seeing what it takes for a scientific journal to be published, I have some level of faith in what I am reading. 
At the Oregon Science and Health University in Portland, a group of scientists found this out on accident. Andrey Ryabinin and her colleagues were studying the affects of alcohol withdrawal, which is apparently hard to test on mice. There experiment was a typical experimental/control setup. In the experimental group, mice had alcohol mixed in their water solution which was then taken away after a period of time. The control group was only given water. The results from this experiment were disappointing so they altered it, and decided to put the control mice in a different room. They also injected the mice in the experimental group with a molecule that induced pain.
The mice that were housed in a separate room experienced up to 68% higher pain sensitivity. The scientists thought that this might be due to stress, so they administered stress tests. The results from the stress tests made it clear that stress did not play an important role which lead them to smell. They took the bedding that was in the experimental group’s room and placed it in the control groups room, and a connection was made. The mice in the control room, who were not given alcohol and were not experiencing withdrawal felt the heightened pain sensitivity.
The really cool part about this accidental finding? It’s never been found before despite the clear extensive experimentation on mice. Furthermore, could humans also experience this same effect of shared pain? This is unclear, but this experiment will definitely spark more research into the question.
Reading this article also lead me to look into animal experimentation in general. I chose to live a vegetarian lifestyle for humane reasons. I don’t project my eating habits on others, but testing on animals is different. I used to think that the science that was being discovered was at least a strong enough pro that is relieved some of the darker aspects. However, upon taking this class, I wonder if that much science is being discovered. I also understand that some people will say that it is better to experiment on a mice than a human being, but I like to believe that all living creatures all equal and have equal value. 

We, as humans, over our lives come to know what certain facial expressions mean. It’s how we know what people are feeling often times even if they don’t explicitly say it, and how even when people say “I’m fine”, we know that they aren’t. Some facial expressions are more obvious than others, such as a smile indicating happiness and a frown typically meaning a person is upset. Even if we don’t actively think about it, our own facial expressions and the ones that we encounter change the way we interact with our fellow humans.

I decided to venture onto Science, since Andrew discussed it is the world’s leading publication for scientists. I always wonder what is legitimate and not so trustworthy when I am on the internet, and have grown more skeptical over the course of this class. I came across an article that discusses these facial expressions. Dr. Paul Ekman, a world renowned psychologist, explored whether or not facial expressions were universal in the late 1960s. He experimented by showing pictures of Westerners with different facial expressions to remote cultures, such as Papua New Guinea. He concluded that facial expressions were universal when the people living in these cultures were able to identify all of the emotions being conveyed correctly. His conclusions were deemed truth and was not disproved for 50 years. It was noted in the article that his conclusions arose in the post war era when people wanted to feel as though all human beings truly were one. This is an important side note of the importance of examining the time period of when important scientific discoveries were made, and the climate of the society where they were made. This clearly influenced Tofrim’s discoveries which we talked about in class.

In 2011, psychologist Carlos Crivelli took his suspicions of Ekman’s work to the test, and began his own research with fellow psychologist Jose-Miguel Fernandez-Dols. Crivelli traveled to the Trobriand Islands off Papua Guinea, a step further into isolation than where Ekman traveled. The study itself had a rather small sample group. They questioned 72 people, only between the ages of 9 and 15. Right off the bat, it is clear that there are flaws in this experiment. He split the Trobrianders into two separate groups. The first group he asked them to name that emotion, from a given list. (The options were happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and hunger) The second group he proposed questions that put the emotions displayed more into context.
The biggest find would be that emotions themselves do not differ from culture to culture but rather how groups and individuals of different cultures perceive them.

There are not many studies that have been done to try and refute Ekman’s work, at least none that I can find. Does this say that Ekman’s work was that astonishing or that no one has been able to do any actual astonishing work since then?


All of this really makes me wonder. I was attracted to this article because of the photo it headlines.
Maybe it’s because I’m an actor that I find people so intriguing. We should find our own kind intriguing. We should be intrigued by the world in general. So many little things are so spectacular when you really look into them.


Dr. Paul Ekman


I was scrolling through The Atlantic online today and found an article about small talk. Small talk. The thing that my mother could have a job in and my dad creeps out strangers with. His idea of small-talk is seeing someone at a resort about to cook a steak and saying “Oo what’s for dinner?” The person then awkwardly smiles and runs away. My mom, on the other hand, will tell a cashier her life story. I’m convinced every cashier at our local Wegmans knows way too much about me thanks to her.
In the article, the author noted something that stuck out to me, and it was that small talk helps us to feel connected to our surroundings. I never thought of it like that. I know already that substantive conversation with others helps us feel connected to people, and I believe personally, and many psychologists I’m sure could back me up that connection to our fellow human beings is one of the most important parts of life. I, myself, am a mixture of my parents. There are some days where I want to sit in lecture and not have a person breathe on me, and other days where I want to tell everyone at Trader Joes that I love them. The article itself is actually very short, but encouraged me to poke around the internet to see what else had to be said on this topic on talking and happiness.
I found myself on the National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health’s website. The html ended with a “.gov” so I knew I was in good hands.Firstly, I’d like to note that both articles used the same example after mentioning small talk that made it seem like small talk was merely noticing a person had popcorn and then saying it was yummy. This to me, is odd because never have a heard someone other than maybe a grandma say such things. But that’s besides the point. It went on to talk about a study where undergraduate students had to wear an EAR (Electronically Activated Recorder) for four days that tracked bits of their conversations every so often. It used some weird math to come up with frequencies that essentially showed that people who talk to more people are happier, and that people who have more substantive conversations were even happier.

I definitely say that there is more that could be done with this, especially at a college level. I saw an article earlier this week on Onward State with a headline telling that State College Police had prevented two suicide attempts. As much as I was shocked, I was not surprised. Small talk might seem minor, but I wonder if science could prove it’s importance. I’m by no means saying that it is a solution to depression and suicide in college students, but I think there’s more to be seen.

As per usual in life, it’s importance to have a balance of small talk and substantive talk. With small talk you may not find out a person’s greatest fear, but you could make them smile, and then might even make you smile back, and what’s better than that?



If there is one thing this course has taught me in the mere four weeks we’ve been in session, it is to question EVERYTHING. It’s strange because I used to believe that the only thing real in this world was science.
During the summer, John Oliver did a segment on his show Last Week Tonight about scientific studies where he addressed their all-too-common faultiness. I wasn’t that shocked to hear that Kathy Lee and Hoda saying that drinking wine is better than going to the gym was false, but I was shocked by the lack of accuracy necessary to publish results for a study. This is obviously dangerous because human beings are typically insanely gullible. If you tell them something, and then attach “study” to it, a large percentage will believe it.

Then I come across a story on The New Yorker’s website about the mistrust in the science field. It is a commencement address at the California Institute of Technology in June given by Atul Gawande.
The first part of the speech reminded me of a lecture in Andrew’s class. He discussed what it means to be a scientist, even claiming that we can all be scientists if we adjust the way that we think.
He also touched on how science is a community that has no room for egos. Egos prevent interaction in a field that needs community for any legitimate advance to take place. Gawande notes the influence of education in challenging the trust of science. Education can introduce people to science but it can then also mislead those people into thinking that they have a position to say what it right and what is not right. My brain is getting very confused and I think maybe now I might be doing what this very article says is the problem.

This speech outlines even more so to me the caution we must take when approaching everything. “You can believe everything you hear” now pertains to a lot more areas that I thought it did. I know read The New Yorker, what I consider to be a reputable news source, and I now wonder. But perhaps that’s the point, though. To question everything, while also you may never have the answer to anything.



Over the past decade, we have seen a shift in farming, grossly due to advancements in technology. Factory farming is something that many at least have a general idea of thanks to teachers wanting to show Food Inc. in health class. Any person who has gone to the grocery store in their life knows the overwhelming new varieties of “organic” or “free-range” options with a special Non-GMO certified label.

Organic has definitely become trendy but many believe, including myself, that it is for good reason that it is trendy. It wasn’t until September 15th in my SC200 lecture that I felt I had any reason to think otherwise. Andrew stated that there is no evidence to prove that genetically modified organisms are bad, and challenged anyone in the class who found valid evidence to prove him wrong. I sat there and thought, “Okay. How hard can this be? I’ll google are GMOs actually bad for you?” I hoped maybe some reputable science journal would pop up in one of the top searches claiming that they are in fact bad for you. But I didn’t find this. I did find an article stating that Bill Nye apparently doesn’t think GMOs are dangerous for our health, and if Bill Nye says something, I’m inclined to believe him slightly.
I did find an article however on Slate, that goes in depth discussion of how the anti-GMO crusade is largely full of fear mongering tactics and fraud. It talks about how a quarter of a billion children are suffering from vitamin deficiency, a problem that GMOs help to aid.

Nutrition is a field that I feel is constantly changing or at least media outlets will promote this idea for money, but I don’t believe everything with an “organic” label is healthy. I think the healthiest good is food that is grown locally without genetic modification, but it’s expensive.
I eat a lovely Trader Joe’s diet off my parent’s dime, but most of the population cannot shop at the prices that local, organic and free-range usually call for. The biggest argument for GMOs is the sustainability that comes along with it. Genetically modified food, factory farming feeds significantly more people than organic does. Chipotle is a fast growing chain but McDonalds still feeds the most people.

I’ve realized now that I never did enough research into GMOs, at least not on both sides. I took an idea and believed it, which is dangerous, because I have then contributed to spreading false ideas. I never thought GMOs could be anything other than bad, and now I’m realizing that they might in fact be really good.


Hello all. I’m Kameron Villavicencio. New York City has my heart and I was born in the Bronx, but I’ve been living in Easton, Pennsylvania for fifteen years now, so I guess I have to say that I’m from here. I am a junior, which is still scary to say, and I’m pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance. Yes, I would like to be an actress. Yes, I want to be in television and film. Here at Penn State, my classmate and I started Wonderlust Theatre Company, which as of today is officially recognized as a student organization. We seek to explore life’s illimitable questions through original and published works of theatre. We have our first general interest meeting this Friday at 4:30 in room 230 of the Theatre Building. Come check us out! I swear this isn’t a shameless plug. Our goal is to promote community engagement through the arts, and I think it vibes well with what Andrew wants this course to be.


I am not a science major because my heart has always been with acting and I can’t imagine pursuing anything else. Not to mention, I’m terrible at it. That and math. However, I do like the point that Andrew brought up in class and that is that math and science, the STEM courses, are not taught well in high school. I remember my math teacher my senior year telling me how many of the people who are excellent at math and science will not go onto be a teacher in high school for those courses because they could make much more money pursuing a career in that line of work. I googled “Why good science teachers don’t teach science?” and it brought me to an article from US News from five years ago. In the article there is a quote from the CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative, Tom Luce, that reads “If you don’t have content knowledge then it’s very difficult to not only teach the class, but it’s virtually impossible to inspire somebody.” The article discusses how many people are not certified to instruct the STEM courses they teach. It brings up the startling statistic that “30 percent of chemistry and physics teachers at public high schools did not receive a major in these fields.” Of course I realize that this was five years ago, but I went to a public high school, and not in a good school district, and only graduated two years ago, so perhaps I can’t vouch that not much has changed. I don’t want to go into detail on our crumbling education system because that would take a million blog posts, but it should be noted that that statistic is terrifying.

That took a disappointing turn. I’m excited to be in Sc200. I like that I get to call my professor my his first name. My opinion of science has definitely shifted from the stereotypical “I hate science. Science sucks.” point of view, and I am ready to have an open mind. I like to think I’m good at critical thinking and humans are critical thinkers by nature, right?