All posts by Caleb

United States Energy Policy


The United States is at a pivotal crossroads in energy usage. Currently importing approximately 7 million barrels a day of oil from foreign nations, the United States has become dependent on foreign oil. Such dependency on other nations is concerning, particularly given the global market for commodities, and the risk and volatility associated with oil. This paper outlines a history of United States energy policy, covers changes in technology enabling America to drill resources previously thought unrecoverable, explains the risks associated with oil markets, and the impact they could have on the United States, and covers several possible policy changes the United States government, particularly the executive branch, could make to reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil.White Paper

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What’s in a Name?


Names are one of the most unique identifiers a person has. People feel pride in and attachment to their name. A last name is important because of the family ties and the bond it implies to those related to you. A first name is more distinctive, picked by your parents and holds a special significance to the person possessing it. I think everyone is proud of their name, and appreciates when people use it. Continue reading What’s in a Name?

Dinner With the Most Interesting Woman in the World.


If I could have dinner with any living person in the world, I would pick Barbara Walters. A journalist for the past 50 years, she has had the opportunity to meet, interview and chat with some of the world’s most interesting and intriguing people. Each year since 1993, she has hosted a television special for ABC called “Barbara Walters’ 10 most fascinating people, which has ten people in the news from the past year, from sports, pop culture, entertainment or politics. Continue reading Dinner With the Most Interesting Woman in the World.

Prompt 9 – Who Would You Take to Dinner?


This week, the blog council wants you to write about a LIVING person you would like to have dinner with. This can be any person in the world, as long as she or he is not a family member. Some ideas for content include brainstorming questions you would ask them, thinking about where you would go to eat, what you would order and most importantly, why do you want to go to dinner with this person?

You can write it as an actual dialogue.

Use this to SHOW your reader why your person is interesting rather than TELLING the reader.  Showing more is a great writing skill.

Be creative with this prompt and have fun, we look forward to seeing your posts!

Featured image credit.

Biometric Password


I think it would be really cool if Elon Musk could design a single biometric scanning system for everything locking in your life. This would range from phones and computers to cars and house doors. Every person would be scanned for a few simple things at birth, like eyeballs and fingerprints. These would then be uploaded into a massive database controlling everything someone would want locked. Obviously this has been an idea tossed around for quite some time, but I think if all biometric information were centralized in one single database, it would be incredibly convenient and simple. Scanners could be set for only one person, like a phone password or front door. However, if someone wanted to enable another person to borrow their car, they could enable their biometric information to give them access to the car for a specific period of time. When the time expired, they would no longer have the ability to use the car. Another advantage of biometric information would be it is incredibly difficult to counterfeit. A person can easily find out someone’s computer password or make a copy of their key, but replicating their fingerprint or eyeball is much more challenging.  I know a lot of progress has been made in the field of biometric passwords, but I think within 10 years, all passwords should be like this, and would like to see Elon Musk help do so.

Report: Direct Correlation Between Nice Weather and Apathy to School


A recently self-published and self-conducted study by Bucknell University students uncovered some stunning information. Students display a much lower interest in classes and schoolwork when the weather becomes nicer in the spring. These shocking results were discovered after students enjoyed several days of gorgeous weather in the high fifties and low sixties in early April following a brutal winter with temperatures in the single digits, icy conditions and seemingly endless snowfall. A student who participated in the study and requested to remain anonymous said, “I’m just so thankful to see some sun and be able to wear t-shirts again”. Continue reading Report: Direct Correlation Between Nice Weather and Apathy to School

Illumina: Unlocking the Power of the Human Genome


The human body is an incredibly complex and amazing entity. No two people are exactly alike because no one two people have identical DNA. The human genome is the complete set of genetic information encoded as DNA sequences in 23 chromosome pairs. These chromosome pairs found in the nucleus of a cell are microscopic, yet vital to our existence. DNA is the building block for humans, and something as simple as a double helix has the ability to control all of our genetic programing. Because DNA is so crucial in determining characteristics of people, from something as simple as height and eye color, to something much more complicated like a predisposition to cancer, science has made a focused effort to learn as much as possible about the human genome, with hope information gained will allow people to live longer, healthier and better lives.

This field of genomics has only been around for about thirty years, with massive strides made over the past twenty. The industry leader in developing and manufacturing life science tools and systems is Illumina. Based in San Diego, California, and founded in April of 1998, they have grown dramatically over the past five years, with a compound annual growth rate for revenue of over 23%. (Bloomberg) This ability to increase top line revenue has cultivated excellent returns for shareholders, as the stock has returned 389.33% since March 31, 2010, an annualized return of 37.64%. To put this number in context, the S&P 500 index has only returned 298.39%, or 32.09% when annualized, and this has been one of the greatest bull markets in history. (Bloomberg) A $10,000 dollar investment in Illumina on March 31, 2010 would give you a little under $50,000 today at today’s current share price. Economists like Milton Friedman would praise this dedication to creating value for a firm’s shareholders, as he argues “There is one and only one social responsibility of a business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits.” (Friedman, 227). However, social scientists like Ed Freeman would argue a company has a responsibility to all stakeholders, not just shareowners. Can a company somehow reward both groups, generating returns greater than the market average for shareowners, while also making the world a better place? This is the case with Illumina, as their stock price has performed fantastically, but they are also providing potential life-saving technology and information to the world.

To begin to understand Illumina and their commitment to transforming health care, a basic understanding is needed for what unlocking the human genome means. All living organisms have a blueprint for their lives encoded into their cells called deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. A complete set of DNA for an organism is called a genome. DNA has many small regions called genes, which appear in a double helix of nucleotide bases. There are four of these bases, called adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine, or A, C, G and T. Together, different combinations of these bases control every genetic factor of a living creature, including humans. Differing DNA sequences cause variations between organisms. “Changes can result from insertions, deletions, inversions, translocations or duplications of nucleotide bases.” (Illumina 2014 10-K, 5) (See exhibit 1 at end of paper for a picture of DNA.)

These genetic variations have many effects on humans, from simple physical appearance traits, such as height and eye color; to much more sophisticated medical consequences, like predisposition to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. “They can also affect individual response to certain drug treatments, causing patients to experience adverse side effects, or to respond well or not at all.” (Illumina 2014 10-K, 5) Illumina uses their scientific capabilities to facilitate the studies of these issues in universities, pharmaceutical and biotechnology labs, and governments around the world. Operating in five principal markets, Life Sciences, Reproductive and Genetic Health, Oncology, Enterprise Informatics and New and Emerging Opportunities, Illumina is committed to unlocking the human genome to transform healthcare and beyond. “By empowering genetic analysis and facilitating a deeper understanding of genetic variation and function, our tools advance disease research, drug development, and the creation of molecular diagnostic tests. We believe that this will trigger a fundamental shift in the practice of medicine and health care. The increased emphasis on preventative and predictive molecular medicine will usher in the era of precision health care.” (Illumina 2014 10-K, 5) Essentially, Illumina is studying the human genome with the hope of being able to identify what genetic traits offer a predisposition to certain diseases, and using this information derived from the human genome to tailor health care solutions built for the individual with the goal of improving lives. The video below provides a more technical breakdown of Illumina’s process of sequencing technology. 

Illumina’s Life Sciences business focuses on providing laboratories at universities, biotechnology companies, governments from around the world and pharmaceutical firms of all sizes with products across a wide spectrum designed for analysis and research of the human genome. Some examples are genetic variation analysis, gene expression analysis and targeted screening. Illumina’s second business segment, Reproductive and Genetic Health, serves a slightly different market. Here, preimplementation genetic screenings can be used to test in-vitro fertilization embryos for an abnormal number of chromosomes. The Oncology principal market focuses on discovering the genomic roots of cancer, and why a normal cell becomes a cancerous one. This area hopes to improve diagnosis and treatment for cancer, and is an area Illumina is making large strides. Enterprise Informatics allow for greater use of genome data generated by customers by aggregating, analyzing and sharing information discovered. Finally, New and Emerging Opportunities focuses on several next-generation genomic applications, like transplant diagnostics to assess compatibility for transfer patients, forensic genomics used in solving crimes and consumer genomics, which reveals ancestral information. These five segments combine to give Illumina incredible growth potential and the capability to transform lives. Their ability to develop, manufacture and sell integrated systems for the analysis of genetic variation and biological function will change the way health care operates.

Illumina is well regarded from an investment standpoint and from an innovation standpoint. S&P Capital IQ speaks favorably in their research report on the firm, saying about Illumina, “Analyzing and understanding genetic variation and function are critical to the development of personalized medicine, a key goal of genomics. … Illumina’s tools assist researchers in processing the billions of tests necessary to convert raw genetic data into medically valuable information to improve drugs and therapies, customize diagnoses and treatment, and potentially cure diseases.” (S&P Capital Research Report) Of the 28 analysts who cover Illumina on Bloomberg, 19 analysts rate shares of Illumina a buy right now, and have a 12-month return potential of 20% for shares. (See Exhibit 2) However, Illumina is also well regarded by publications like Forbes, who rank Illumina as the 36th most innovative company in the world in their most recent rankings based on August 2014 data. With customers ranging from genomic research centers, academic institutions, government laboratories and clinical research organizations, Illumina is a rare company capable of rewarding shareholders and stakeholders.

An example of Illumina helping people is their DNA test for identifying fetal chromosome abnormalities. This test, noninvasive prenatal testing using cell free DNA, “significantly reduced the rate of false positive results and had significantly higher positive predictive values for the detection of fetal trisomies 21 and 18” (Women’s Health Weekly) when compared to standard screening methods. The team of scientists, led by Dr. Diana Bianchi, found Illumina’s cell free DNA test “had a ten-fold improvement in the positive predictive value for trisomy 21, commonly known as Down syndrome, compared to standard prenatal aneuploidy screening methods.” (Women’s Health Weekly)  Another practical application of Illumina’s technology is from a 2013 study conducted at Duke University, where information was gained about the specific genes contributing to ovarian cancer. Though this is a little technical, “The cancer risk alleles of rs2242652 and rs10069690, respectively, increase silencing and generate a truncated TERT splice variant.” (Study Data from Duke University), it provides medical professionals a greater knowledge of what causes ovarian cancer, and where they should look for mutations to DNA. This information is something researchers can take and use to design better treatments for ovarian cancer, and hopefully prevent it.

Overall, Illumina, as they say on their website, is at the intersection of biology and technology. They simply sum up what they do as “At the most fundamental level, we enable our customers to read and understand genetic variations. We strive to make our solutions increasingly simple, more accessible, and always reliable.” (Illumina Company Website) Only 25 years after the human genome project began and ten years after all three billion base pairs in human DNA were read, people now have accessibility to reading their entire DNA. This will “be cheap enough to be used regularly for pinpointing medical problems and identifying treatments. This will be an enormous business, and one company dominates it: Illumina.” (Zimmerman)  However, there are serious ethical implications that must be considered with such a powerful tool as analyzing a person’s entire DNA.

People never know how exactly how long they have to live. This is both a blessing and a curse. People can always say they would do something different, something they had always dreamed of if they know exactly how much longer they have to live. On the flip side, it would be incredibly stressful waking up knowing exactly how long the clock ticking on your life has before it hits zero. Illumina’s technology hasn’t reached this capability yet, but it has life-changing implications that can identify someone’s predisposition to cancer, cardiovascular disease, or see if an embryo has Down syndrome.  Based on the immense power this technology wields, serious ethical thinking is needed to determine how to apply it.

My opinion is a consequentialism view of ethics should be applied. As defined on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Consequentialism is the view that morality is all about producing the right kinds of overall consequences.” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) To boil this point down further, “if you think the whole point of morality is (a) to spread happiness and relieve suffering, or (b) to create as much freedom as possible in the world, or (c) to promote the survival of our species, then you accept consequentialism.” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). I believe Illumina’s goals as a company fit perfectly with points a and c above. Their objective is to provide people with information on their genetics, and offer solutions, providing personalized medical solutions. I think people are happier with a greater knowledge of their health, and can better tailor their lives to mitigate genetic risk. For example, if someone finds out they have a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease later in life, they can make preventative changes now to help keep their heart as fit as possible. They can make a more conscientious effort to exercise for an hour a day, not use tobacco products and eat a balanced, healthy diet. Illumina clearly is also working to promote the survival of the human species, as unlocking the human genome will enable better customized medical treatments for people in the near term, and eventually strives to eradicate diseases like cancer.

Another area Illumina has applied consequentialism to their work is improving the number of false positive tests. These can be immensely stressful and hurt people’s overall quality of life. If a person falsely believes they have a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer, it may cause them to do something dramatic like have surgery to remove their ovaries, like Angelina Jolie. Another example where a false positive test may present an even broader problem is beginning to genetically engineer children. As mentioned earlier, Illumina provides a test to tell if a child is likely to have Down syndrome prior to in-vitro fertilization. This establishes a dangerous precedent of allowing parents to pick and choose the qualities their child has. However, this test also provides parents the benefit of knowing their child likely will have Down syndrome and gives them nine months to prepare themselves to have a wonderful child who may be slightly different than what they had expected. In this sense, Illumina is providing parents a great service. Their tests also dramatically decrease the rate of false positives, so parents are dealing with more accurate information, enabling them to have greater confidence and plan accordingly.

Overall, I believe Illumina’s tests and preventative medicine with customized solutions for people will revolutionize the world. I think they will provide people with better information on their genetic predisposition, allowing them to make decisions accordingly. Though I don’t think anyone should be required to submit to genetic testing, it should be a choice made by an individual, not something mandated by an employer or health care company, people can better understand their genetic risks if they chose. The information Illumina provides undoubtedly spreads happiness and relieves suffering on a macro scale, as it can save lives. These risks outweigh the downsides of false positives and genetic engineering, in my opinion, hence the consequentialist attitude towards Illumina. Perhaps even more important, Illumina is working to promote the survival of the human species and has the power to transform medicine as is becomes more preventative and precise. Humans will become healthier and live longer thanks to Illumina, making them a rare company providing society as a whole a large benefit, while also creating substantial value for shareholders. This is a company I admire and am excited to see what the future holds.

Works Cited:

Study Data from Duke University Update Knowledge of Ovarian Cancer.” Women’s Health Weekly 16 May 2013: 118. Global Issues In Context. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

DNA test better than standard screens in identifying fetal chromosome abnormalities.” Women’s Health Weekly 13 Mar. 2014: 64. Global Issues In Context. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

Illumina Corporation. (2014). Annual Report 2014. Retrieved from http://www.illumina.com/company/investor-information/events-and-presentations.html

“Corporate Fact Sheet.” Illumina. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

Loo, Jeffrey. “S&P Capital IQ NetAdvantage.” S&P Capital IQ NetAdvantage. McGraw Hill Financial, 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

“Illumina.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

Zimmerman, Eilene. “Why Illumina Is No. 1.” Technology Review. N.p., 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

“Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

Friedman, Milton. “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits,”      New York Times Magazine 32 (September 13, 1970).

Illumina: Innovation through Ingenuity


The human body is an incredibly complex and amazing entity. No two people are exactly alike because no two people have identical DNA. DNA is the building block for humans, and something seemingly so simple as a double helix has the ability to control all of our genetic programming. Recently technology has helped us begin to unlock the secrets DNA has encoded, and our ability to understand the human genome has greatly expanded. The company at the forefront of this life sciences industry is Illumina.  Continue reading Illumina: Innovation through Ingenuity

Best of Boston: BCG


One of the “big three” management consulting firms, Boston Consulting Group is a prestigious, private company providing advisory services to many public, private and non-profit firms, with over two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies as clients. An elite, highly competitive firm, BCG is also apparently a great place to work, ranking second on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2015. I find this rare because finance and consulting firm’s with such strong reputations typically aren’t listed among the top places to work due to the pressure, money and high stakes of the industries. I have never had any sort of interaction with Boston Consulting Group, but based on reputation, their website and third party reports, I am impressed.

Continue reading Best of Boston: BCG

Survivor: A Game to Us, Life to Others


Like many Americans, I am a big fan of the CBS TV Show Survivor. The show’s 30 season premiered last Wednesday, and the general premise has remained virtually unchanged. I think everyone is pretty familiar with the concept of Survivor, where tribes of people from different walks of life join together to compete in challenges. The team that loses the challenge is sent to tribal council, where they vote one tribe member off. The last person left standing at the end of 39 days wins the title of Survivor, and the million dollar prize. Continue reading Survivor: A Game to Us, Life to Others