Author Archives: Marielle Concetta Ravally

We are Bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Wait but literally we are bananas.

As I left class today, I realized it was time to reevaluate my thoughts on evolution. Like Dr. Cavener, I was raised in a religious household, however my parents never discouraged the formation of our own opinions. My high school science classes briefly touched on the topic of evolution, but never went deep into the subject. The one thing I took away from my high school biology class was that humans share 50% of our DNA with bananas.bananaToday’s class talk really got me thinking, about evolution. As a species, where did we come from?

The Beginning

According to, the earliest evidence of life on Earth can be traced back 3.8 billion years. These first life forms were single celled, similar to bacteria. As time passed the DNA strains present in these organisms mutated. These mutations caused both physical and psychological changes in species.

It was mutations like this that have caused giraffes to have long necks, as stated by Dr. Cavener, and has made humans the way they are. In fact, 3.794 billion years worth of mutations allowed for species to become bipedal. Bipedal is just a fancy way to say, walking on two legs.

Though mutations play an integral part in evolution, it is important to remember that mutations are random. The mutations happened by chance, but the mutations that have become mainstays in the animal kingdom are not exactly random.


The Darwinian Concept

English naturalist Charles Darwin’s theories regarding genetic mutation are widely excepted throughout the world. He claimed that though mutations in DNA strains are random, certain mutations remain and become the norm due to a process of natural selection. If a genetic mutation aided in the survival of an organism, then the organism would survive, reproduce, and pass that mutation to its offspring. This would continue onto the next generation and so on.

Years later work by biologist R.A. Fischer reinforced Darwin’s theories in his book “The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection”. Fischer used mathematical formulas and statistics to explain mutation survival. This quantitative addition, developed the evolution theory.

Who are we?

Genetic mutations make us who we are. Even the smallest of mutations can cause huge differences. Even if we share almost of all our DNA with another species, it just takes a few differences in the genetic makeup to cause them to belong to completely different classifications.

At this point I think it is common knowledge that we descended from primates. In fact we share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees. We also share 85% of our DNA with Zebra fish and 15% of our DNA is shared with Mustard Grass. Though we are incredibly genetically similar to these creatures, differences in the DNA sequence make huge impacts.

Faith or Fiction

Though my religious beliefs cause me to want to agree religious texts saying God created man out of dirt, my instincts tell me not to. The data and research is insurmountable. Like we talked about in class faith does not equal science, and in this case my faith is not strong enough to overcome reasoning.


Picture 1

Picture 2

The United States of Sexism?

I was fortunate to grow up in a household where woman were strong-willed and outspoken. In fact the only real sexism I was exposed to was the one time my very Italian uncle told me to go get my father and him some sandwiches since I was the only girl in the room (I responded with a quick no). However when I got to college, I started to notice a shift in my observable world. Some men truly felt superior to women. This new outlook on life has made me question gender relations in our country, and if gender inequality can actually be scientifically proven.

Validating Sexism

Some argue that sexism isn’t even a real issue. However a study from DePaul University has rejected the null that sexism has no effect on gender inequality. By setting forth several controls and utilizing time to nullify reverse causation, the researchers were able to validate their results and claim that sexism leads to gender inequality.

This past summer Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky set a world record. However she was overshadowed by her male counterpart, Michael Phelps.

This past summer Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky set a world record. However she was overshadowed by her male counterpart, Michael Phelps.

A separate study questioned the presence of sexism in the college environment. This study found that though sexist acts towards both males and females were reported, there was a much higher number of reported sexist acts towards female students.

These incidents have very concerning effects on individuals. In her writings NYU’s Emma Rooney refers to several studies that support the claim that sexual objectification can have negative effects in women’s mental health and physical health, often bringing about depression, eating disorders, and anxiety.


This video from ATTN: (originally accessed here) brings to light one of the largest aspects of sexism in our country, mansplaining.

Mansplaining encompasses many different things, two of which are:

  1. A man assuming he knows more about a certain topic than a woman solely based on his gender.
  2. The act of a man interrupting or talking over a woman to explain his views and opinions.

According to the video, studies show that men dominate the majority of conservations in groups. Other studies confirm that conversations in classrooms and meetings are also male-driven.

When regarding gender differences in a classroom setting, research collected in 1994 revealed that middle school boys were 8 times more likely than girls to call out an answer, yet they did so with little to no consequences. In contrast when girls called out answers they were reprimanded and told to raise their hands. If girls’ opinions are suppressed they could become less confident in sharing their opinions, falling into a pattern of allowing men to overpower them in conversation. This could be a possible mechanism behind the previous studies’ conclusions regarding male skewed conversations.


Now what?

The science and facts show a clear sexism problem in society. Studies prove not only that sexism is present in the world and our country; they go further to show that sexist incidents and objectification can lead to harmful health effects in women.

It is difficult to deny well-conducted studies. Some might choose to ignore what doesn’t agree with their own views, but as discussed in class that is a matter of faith and not science. In this case the science doesn’t lie. There is a problem in our nation. It is up to us to create a better world for the next generation of women.



Picture 1

Picture 2

Makeup and Confidence

In a perfect world, I would wake up everyday looking refreshed and my eyebrows on fleek. Unfortunately, instead I spent approximately 10 minutes every day putting on my “no makeup” look. On special occasions, my routine can take up to 45 minutes. Yup that’s right, I waste 45 minutes of my life putting guck on my face.

You might be wondering why. Well for me that answer is simple. When I’m wearing makeup I tend to feel more confident. I walk a little taller, am more open to talking to new people, and feel unstoppable. Don’t get me wrong I’m not an introvert by any means without makeup, but makeup gives me a little extra boost. So I wondered, is this a natural occurrence? Do women wear makeup because they like the look or are the addicted to the rush of self-assurance that comes with the practice?


In the First Place

My first question is when and where makeup practices started?

Since 4000 BCE Egyptians have been using cosmetics to enhance and compliment their facial features. In fact when thinking of ancient makeup, people usually imagine Egyptian political forces such as King Tut and ancient-egyptian-makeupCleopatra. Is it because of these historical figures that there is an association to power/confidence and makeup?

However I do not know if you could really test if the association is due to the figures. As Andrew discussed in class, there are some topics that are either untestable or very difficult to test. I think that this specific correlation would fall under difficult to test.

I can see no way to experimentally or even observationally observe this occurrence, so that only leaves data such as surveys and anecdotal data to be recorded, which does not have strong credibility in the scientific world.

Cold, Hard Facts

Though historical association might not be able to answer our question of whether makeup means confidence, this topic has become a popular test subject in recent years.

A study conducted at Hanover University measured the differences in college women’s anxiety levels when wearing makeup in different situations. In this study, anxiety levels were utilized to measure confidence. It found that anxiety was lowest when women wore “going-out makeup” while out with friends. Therefore saying that confidence was highest when the women were wearing makeup and spending time with friends.

However there are problems concerning this particular study. The most discrediting feature is that there were only four participants regarded in the study. Four participants do not produce nearly enough data to make any amounting conclusions. Also, the study did not have a control. It did not measure women without makeup in different situations; it only compared different styles of makeup in different situations.

Hanover University redeemed itself though in an additional study. Participants were asked to rate their level of makeup usage and then rate their level of self-esteem. The two levels were then compared. The study concluded a significant correlation between physical self-esteem and participants’ current make-up.

Whether this positive correlation is indicating causation is unknown, but it does show evidence that make-up could have a measurable effect on someone’s confidence. In regards to the question of a third confounding variable, there is a possible one: appearance. Makeup influences appearance, and appearance could influence self-esteem. The lines get a little blurred here however because though the make-up and appearance are two separate entities there very closely related nature causes them to be one-in-the-same.

Others Perceptions

Third variables, such as in the second Hanover study, play a large factor in the question of causation between makeup and confidence.

Arnaud Aubert, experimental psychologist, has found links between wearing makeup and trust from others/likeability. Several other studies show perceptions of confidence and health to be elevated for regular cosmetic wearers. There are several others studies out in the scientific world that further reinforce these conclusions.

These conclusions cause me to question the actual causality behind cosmetics and confidence. Is it the actual makeup that causes the confidence, or the knowledge of others’ perceptions that cause people to feel more confident?

So what actually is happening?

My research, especially the second Hanover study, has led me to rephrase my initial statements. I think instead of saying make up causes confidence, I think it is actually the act of wearing makeup that causes confidence. When you wear makeup, you are able to cover your imperfections and change your insecurities; naturally this altering of appearance would elevate one’s self-esteem.


Whether this is actually good for society is an entirely separate question. Should we need to alter our appearance just to feel good about ourselves? Probably not, but in today’s perfection centered world, I think it acceptable. If waking up 5 minutes early to swipe on some mascara means that I will feel better about myself, I’m game.



Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Searching for a maniCURE

Growing up, I dreaded getting my nails done. I am the daughter of an ex-manicurist, so often my dining room table was turned into a makeshift salon table. Though this would typically seem like a Libby Lu-obsessed tween girl’s dream, there was one issue; I was a nail-biter.

My nails were never “nice”, and even if they were polished, I would still bite them. My mom tried everything on me; specially formulated “no-bite” polish, acrylic nails, gel nail polish, yet nothing worked. So I wonder, what really causes nail biting, and is there any way to kick the horrible habit?


Why do we bite our nails?

It seems that many impulsive behaviors, such as nail biting, are a result of primitive instincts relating to grooming.

Nail biting can be triggered by a number of things. For a compulsive nail-biter, even mundane everyday activities can trigger a nail-biting binge. So much so, that the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders included Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders, which includes pathological grooming such as nail-biting. This pathological grooming has also been seen in mice, leaving many with severe hair loss.

Another reason why people bite their nail is simply because it is satisfying. Many use it as a stress reliever or it can be triggered by anxiety.

Why stop?

Nail-biting is not only a nuisance but it can also be very dangerous. The habit increases the risk of infection and sickness by leaving your body susceptible to bacteria and germs. Yet, as we discussed during class in regards to the hand washing experiment, it is unclear to how much of the bacteria on our hands is actual harmful.

You know you want to stop, but how?

A 1973 study showed that habit-reversal showed to be widely effective in decreasing nail biting. Though the trial was successful, when looked at closer it is seen that this specific study only involved 12 people. As Andrew taught in class, such studies no matter how effectively preformed do not provide sufficient evidence to responsibly validate a claim.

However the scientists involved in this particular study recognized that fact and preformed the study again in 1979, this time with 97 participants. Habit reversal, once again, proved superior, reducing nail biting by 99% throughout a 5-month observation. Though when considering what we have learned in class, I still find this data to be insufficient, since it involved less than 100 people and only followed their progress for a short period of time.

Scientists today are even going as far to observe the effect of pharmaceutical drugs on reducing nail biting. A 2013 double-blind randomized placebo trial found that a drug called NAC, significantly reduced nail-biting in children. Though this study is an experimental, controlled study, it is another small study observed only over a short period of time and had a large drop out rate. As it was instilled in us in class further testing is required before a solid claim can be made.


So what now?

For me, my nail-biting habit was insignificant. I grew out of it by high school, and now the nasty habit only comes back during finals and other times of high stress. However that is not the case for many.

As shown through the presented studies there has yet to be a clear cure for nail-biting. Leaving many compulsive nail-bitters turning to domestic remedies, such as regular manicures, to kick their habit. Some even go as far as hypnosis, of which is exemplified in this video.

Maybe one day we will find a cure, but until research catches up we will just have to deal with a society of short nails and wasted manicures.


Picture Links:

Picture 1

Picture 2

A Joint a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

From my experience living in East last year, I can tell you that freshmen are not strangers to the smell of marijuana wafting through the halls. Whether it’s coming from outside, your next-door neighbor, or even from your own room, one is bound to smell the infamous “skunk scent” somewhere. Recent news has brought to light many cannabis-linked health benefits. Despite this, medicinal marijuana is only legal in half of the United States.

Doctors and healers have been utilizing marijuana since ancient times. Uses for cannabis include anesthetics, pain relievers, and treatments for epilepsy. Even today many doctors still believe in its healing abilities. So I wonder, are there legitimate health benefits to utilizing marijuana in medical treatments?


Marijuana and Pain

A 2007 placebo-controlled study was one of two studies concerning medical marijuana conducted by University of California integrative medicine specialist, Donald Abrams. The 2007 study showed that marijuana was more effective than morphine for treating pain caused by nerve damage in HIV patients.

It is thought that this is due to cannabinoids, active ingredients in cannabis. The primary cannabinoid known as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) directly interacts with the brain’s CB1 receptor, signaling the body to suppress pain response. This would be considered to be the mechanism behind the reduced pain.

As discussed in class, correlation does not always mean causation, however due to the controlled study and identification of a mechanism, one can reject the null hypothesis that marijuana had no effect in reducing patient’s pain. 


Marijuana and Cancer

I have even seen the benefits of medicinal marijuana in my own life.

In 2011, my grandmother, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her chemo treatments caused her to loose her appetite. She was becoming weaker everyday, and malnutrition was impeding her progress. After evaluating the situation, her doctor prescribed her a medicinal marijuana pill, in hopes that would encourage her to eat more regularly.

Clinical evidence has led many doctors to prescribe marijuana to cancer patients in order to relive nausea, increase appetites, and reduce pain and anxiety. However other studies show that cannabis-related drugs are not as effective as other treatments to treat symptoms in patients. However, marijuana’s ability to treat several side effects simultaneously makes it a formidable option for sick patients.

In my grandmother’s case the marijuana proved to be effective. Though her appetite was still quite low, when taking the marijuana pill she asked for food more often. It also reduced the nausea she was feeling due to her chemo treatments. Though she only took the pills on her “worst days”, she found comfort in the fact that she had options.

Why is Mary Jane still taboo?

Still despite our modern research and studies the majority of Americans are denied the right to utilize medical marijuana. An agent for this could be a serious lacking of studies. As we talked about in class some subject material is just difficult to test, marijuana falls into this category.

Since marijuana is an illegal drug, in order to perform any studies with it, researchers must be granted special permission by the DEA. This is not only expensive, but also very complicated and time consuming.

In addition, it is hard to obtain good placebo trials. Since many of the symptoms being examined are qualitative, it is difficult to get hard evidence to successfully prove or reject any hypothesis.



Medical marijuana has a place in modern medicine. However limited studies, leave many to question the validity of its benefits. I think that more research has to be invested in the subject, so that we can get patients the help that they need. So next time you smell skunk in East, just think about the amount of sick people that one joint could help.




Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4


How to Beat the System.. and the Exam

Exams. My worst enemy.

Honestly I don’t even mind actually taking an exam, it’s the preparation and studying for the aforementioned exam that cultivates self-doubt, worry, panic, anger, and pretty much every other emotion associated with anxiety. I never know what to study or when to stop studying. I never feel like I’ve done enough. Which led me to my question.. Could science help me be a more effective studier?

Martyn Denscombe attributes exam stress to four reasons: concern about the outcome’s effect one’s life, low self-esteem, fear of judgment, and fear of disappointing. This added stress could cause a multitude of problems during not only the exam itself but also during the preparation for it.

One of the most substantial ways to reduce exam anxiety is to SLEEP. Researchers at UCLA found that decreased hours asleep lead to an increase in learning problems the next day. Also research from nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott shows that when one sleeps 6 hours rather than the recommended 8, cortisol’s (the stress hormone) presence in the blood stream goes up by 50%.


In her article, “22 Science-Backed Study Tips to Ace a Test”, Shana Lebowitz combines several studies, offering a multitude of study tips to her readers.

Her first piece of information states that studying when tired has many benefits. Studies show that our brain retains and strengthens memories during our sleep cycle. By studying before going to sleep, there is an increased chance that one will better retain what they just reviewed.

Lebowitz also sites a Harvard Magazine article. Both article’s describe a study technique called “spaced repetition”. This utilizes reviewing small, categorized sections of study material for long periods of time before moving on to the next segment. Studies on this new way of thinking has shown improved retention rates and increased knowledge in medical students and residents.

Another study technique offered by Lebowitz suggests regularly changing your environment when studying. Research shows that we are able to better retain information studied in different locations because our brains affiliate the information to a multitude of environments.

There are also simple steps you could take to be a more effective studier. Writing things out, saying things aloud, and repeatedly quizzing yourself have all proven to have major benefits regarding memory and recognition.

Whatever study technique you decide to try, it is also important to remember that exams are not everything. In my own life, I inflict a lot of my own exam stress. I often put added pressure on myself, which tends to psych me out before a big exam. Exams are only one part of college; as long as you are well prepared and try your best the rest will come easy!


Facebook.. Friend or Foe?

Facebook – A wonderful wasteland of pet videos, political posts, and grandmas mistaking their status bar as Google search. However what if I told you this sweet, sweet time waster was actually causing depressed feelings?

A 2015 article delves deeper into this issue while summarizing the work of UH researcher Mai-Ly Steers. Studies conducted by Steers showed a correlation between time spent on Facebook and signs of depressive symptoms in both males and females. However as we learned in class, correlation does not always mean causation. In this instance there could be a confounding variable. Steers study concluded that the depressive symptoms are linked to social comparisons made through social media. The more time on Facebook allowed users more opportunities to draw comparisons between their own lives and those of their friends. Social media sites are heavily filtered and only show a small fraction of an individual’s life, however for many people, especially those who are already emotionally distressed, comparisons drawn from this distorted viewpoint can have detrimental effects.

Social media isn’t all bad however. A study at Berkley University stresses that person-to-person communication on Facebook has shown to improve personal well-being. However the paper goes on and describes how other social media related activities that do not promote direct communication, such as Facebook’s News Feed decrease one’s well being due to comparisons being made. This thought directly coincides with the study conducted at the University of Houston.


In my own life I have witnessed both the positive and negative effects of Facebook. Social media sites, such as Facebook, have afforded me the opportunity to connect with my family members all around the country. I have cousins in Washington, California, Florida, and everywhere in between. By utilizing Facebook I am able to stay up-to-date with their daily lives. In the end I feel that this connection brings us closer together.

On the other hand, I have seen Facebook also have crippling effects on my friends’ self-confidence. If an updated profile picture doesn’t get enough likes, or they receive negative comments on their posts they often delete whatever they posted. The same mentality goes for other social media sites, such as Instagram. These events make them feel depleted and like they are not good enough, causing them to post things that are not true depictions of their actual life. Often their posts glorify their life, so when they are forced to return to their actual, less “glamorous” life they are discouraged and disengaged.


At the end of the day, I think Facebook’s benefits outweigh the negatives. However, as with everything in life, it has to be taken in moderation as to not interfere with one’s psychological well being. Overindulgence in Newsfeed browsing can lead one to draw comparisons, which can often cause symptoms that resemble depression. So go forth with your tending your Farmville pastures (if that’s even still a thing), and keep watching those hilarious videos of animals doing weird stuff, but just remember sometimes life online isn’t really life at all.

The Dining Hall Blues

With college comes a lot of firsts: sometimes its your first time doing your own laundry, your first time living alone, but the most prevalent is probably that its your first time choosing when and where you eat for every single meal. A result of this new culinary freedom is often the dreaded Freshman 15. However I beg the question, is the Freshman 15 actually a thing or is it rather just a scare tactic employed by our parents to ensure we continue to eat our daily servings of fruits and veggies?


You meet a lot of personalities in college, and your dining hall serves like a exhibit, displaying those personas in their most natural form. As you walk through the tables you will probably see toothpick thin girls nibbling on lettuce and sipping water, those whose recent liberation from Mom made them realize they can in fact have ice cream for dinner every single night, and 18 boys who resemble “Super-Super Seniors” balancing 10 plates on one tray. To outsiders these trends might seem to be just stereotyping, however a recent study of college students in Taiwan show a direct correlation between personality traits and eating habits. Some of the most confounding results of this study state that more neurotic people tend to eat breakfast less often, those who score high on the conscientious scale tend to stay away from desserts, and eating out for college students is heavily dependent on employment status. In regards to the Freshman 15’s legitimacy, this study found that freshmen have the least time to eat out, leaving them susceptible to unhealthy dining hall options or simply just skipping meals which slows the metabolism.

Another huge downfall in college students’ diets is a lack of fruits and vegetables, shown both in the Tawian study and a 2011 study conducted at Oregon State University. The OSU study recorded the eating habits of over 500 students, most of them being freshman, and showed that students are only eating about 4 or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a week. The research went further and revealed that though male students tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, female students tended to be more conscientious when it came to eating healthy and skipped fewer meals. This coincides with the Tawain study, again stating that a student’s susceptibility to gaining weight their freshman year is heavily dependent on one’s traits


Ironically, malnutrition has a large factor in the Freshman 15. As presented in this article, the high cost of healthy food in combination with higher living/tuition expenses and lower incomes, cause over 59% of college students to have a phenomenon labeled as “food insecurity”. They often eat less often and when they do eat they eat unhealthy foods lacking any nutrients. This sporadic eating in addition to unhealthy choices cause weight gain, depression, and erratic behavior.

It is clear through these studies that eating habits definitely change once you enter college, especially for freshmen. Whether or not you gain the Freshmen 15 though is entirely dependent on lifestyle and the choices that you make. It might be hard to pass up those cookies in the dining hall and life is too short to stop eating Creamery Ice Cream, but you have to remember that when indulging, lifestyle adjustments need to be made to counterbalance these choices. Though taking the Bloop or Whoop to class everyday might be tempting, walking from East to Willard every morning could help to work off those late-night Pokies. So the question becomes, are you going the Freshman 15’s next victim?



Science = Dope Cat Memes

Hi everyone my name is Marielle and I’m a sophomore from Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
I don’t really consider myself much of a “science person”, so when I saw SC200, a course designed for those not necessarily interested in science, I was definitely intrigued. Plus I still needed to fulfill a GN so this was the perfect solution.
I remember dreading science class everyday in high school, I never felt fully engaged in the class. However I think most of that was due to how the class was structured. Most of my teachers would spit out facts for us to copy down. We were never asked to think critically about scientific questions. Even during labs, we would receive a list of instructions, and a detailed description of the desired result. If our results didn’t match the description our teacher would correct the mistake for us. We weren’t challenged to come up with the solution on our own.
That being said I am very optimistic about this class so far. Just by looking at the calendar and the topics we will be covering I can already tell that we will talk about things not covered in my past science classes so I’m excited to see what lies ahead.
With all of that being said, I think it is pretty clear why I do not plan on being a science major. I simply just am not that interested in science. I definitely have an appreciation for science and its complexity (such as the things presented in this Buzzfeed video ), but building a career around it is not ideal.
I’m looking forward to this year and to seeing what SC200 is all about. Also here’s a dope cat meme because science can be funny too..