Questions for ‘Cool Jobs: Diving for new medicines’


Marcel Jaspars, a chemist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, combines the study of molecules made by marine life with his love for diving.

Courtesy of M. Jaspars

To accompany feature ‘Cool Jobs: Diving for new medicines’


Before Reading

1. What do you think are the biggest risks to people diving deep in the ocean?

2. Why do you think scientists would look in the ocean for new medicines?


During Reading:

1. What is a sea squirt? What kind of chemical do some sea squirts make that’s useful to humans?

2. What are three types of medically useful chemicals that Marcel Jaspars found in seafloor sludge?

3. From what type of animal does the drug called discodermolide come? What does it treat?

4. What method is Shirley Pomponi studying so that researchers can one day study sponges without taking so many from the ocean?

5. What is biofluorescence? How is it different from bioluminescence?

6. What do scientists use GFP for?

7. In what type of animal did scientists discover GFP?

8. In what type of animal did David Gruber and his colleagues find a new fluorescent protein that glows red? What could this molecule be used for?

9. Why was a glowing green eel an exciting find for Gruber?

10. What surprising discovery did Gruber make about sea turtles?

After Reading

1. Some animals spend their lives anchored to one place on the seafloor. Why might they make chemicals that can be useful to scientists?

2. How have molecules from ocean animals already helped humans?


1. Assume that the PharmaSeas program turned up 4,000 extracts from seafloor samples. When they later narrowed the useful number of samples down to 700 (assume that is the correct number), what share — on a percentage basis — is that 700 of the original? If 11 of the 700 turned out to be new candidate antibiotics and three extracts more worked as anti-epileptic drugs, what share do these 14 drugs represent — on a percentage basis — of the starting 700 extracts? Show your work.