A small Drosophila melanogaster fly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The first moment a virus infects a cell it has to deal with multiple cellular defenses. From surviving highly acidic conditions in endosomes to evading the host enzymes that can digest its very genetic code, an invading virus must navigate and eventually subvert the functions of a host cell. This intricate molecular dance has played out time and again for millions of years and modern science is just beginning to understand and appreciate the intricacy of these steps.
A recent paper published in Nature Immunology suggests that there may be even more steps in the virus-host dance than we had imagined. Outside of science fiction, I would have dismissed this mechanism until I read the paper “RNA-mediated interference and reverst transcription control the persistence of RNA viruses in the insect model Drosophila” by Goic and others (1).
Keep reading to find out more about this new exciting mechanism of viral defense. Continue reading
You may be asked to diagram you ideas, so be prepared. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This article originally appeared at Gradhacker.org on April 26th, 2013.
While my last Gradhacker post focused on the written aspect of comprehensive exams, for many graduate students there is another, equally dreaded component: the oral examination.
For even the most prepared students, this can be an intense and difficult experience. However, with enough preparation and the right mindset the oral examination can actually be an enjoyable experience where you get to talk about your ideas with members of your committee.
Having just completed this hurdle myself I’d like to go over some of the things that worked and those that I wish I had known before undertaking this process. This advice is the most relevant for those of you defending a written document that you’ve had time to prepare, but some of this will be applicable to more generalized oral examination formats. Continue reading
Leper colony in Khor Province, Afghanistan, run by the Scandanavian Charity Helping Hands (Photo credit: james_gordon_losangeles)
During the modern era of antibiotic treatment, we have gained unprecedented control over diseases that have plagued humans for centuries. Among the pathogens that the average American never encounters is Mycobacterium leprae, the causative agent of leprosy. This is also known as Hansen’s Disease, named after G.H. Armauer Hansen, who first isolated and described the bacterium in 1873. Thankfully though, while many of us have heard of this now-exotic disease, very few Americans will ever see someone with this condition.
So what is so interesting about leprosy and the bacterium that is responsible for this disease? Read on to find out. Continue reading
We’ve all felt like this at some point leading up to comprehensive exams. Photo from Flickr user Jixar, used under CC license.
This article appeared in its original form at Gradhacker.org on March 22, 2013.
The dreaded written comprehensive exam. Many graduate students will have to pass some form of comprehensive exam at some point in their program. This can often include putting together a multi-page grant-style project proposal. Putting one of these together for the first time can be a daunting process if you are unprepared. But have no fear, there are ways to make crafting a solid document far less painful and even somewhat enjoyable.
Now at this point I have to mention that this advice will be most relevant for students preparing an exam on their own projects in the style of an NIH grant. However, this basic approach can apply to putting together any large proposal for your project. Continue reading
English: at (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometimes I’m lucky enough to stumble across small treasures and this collection of the short works of Richard Feynman is a gem.
For those of you not familiar with Richard Feynman, he was a physicist who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on quantum electrodynamics. While he passed away in 1988, his scientific legacy as well as his impact on the world of ideas remains.
This book contains reflections on his wide ranging and impressive career that included working on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb (BEFORE he got his PhD). For anyone with a curiosity about the Manhattan project and what life was like there as a scientist, his unique insights into the inner workings of the project are fascinating. His account of being the only person to view the Trinity test without blackout glasses (he looked through a car windshield) and what came to his mind while witnessing this new power that he had helped to unleash is a moment that we should all reflect upon.
This entire work is worth reading, but specific chapters are of note. Any budding scientist should take the time to read his 1974 address to the graduating class of Caltech where he describes what he terms “cargo cult science” and the dangers of pseudoscience. His minority report to the space shuttle Challenger inquiry for NASA shows how willing he was to challenge institutions and hold them accountable to true scientific standards. Finally, his reflections on the role of science in society as how science and religion relate demonstrate a more philosophical viewpoint than one might expect from a physicist.
I highly recommend this book and think that any person who enjoys science can enjoy this collection of short works.
[Image via Flickr user ishane and used under a creative commons license]
originally appeared on Gradhacker.org
on February 22nd, 2013.
Anyone who had pursued a graduate level education knows that there is a great deal of work involved. At times, this workload can become overwhelming for any student once it follows you home and won’t leave.
However, it is times like this that we have to think back to the iconic line from The Shining: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Imagine him locked in that hotel with a thesis document or comprehensive exam to finish and suddenly Jack sounds like a burnt-out grad student.
Don’t let this happen to you! Continue reading