Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My impressions on the recent Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

I recently attended the 2010 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, a “globally recognised forum for the transfer of knowledge between generations of scientists”. This exciting and mind-broadening conference was enriching in many ways (with actual science being only one of the many fantastic things about it), and in this post I’d like to share with you my impressions of it.

First of all, the historic city of Lindau (Germany) is a beautiful place, located near the Austrian, German and Swiss borders. The 2010 edition of this meeting was the 3rd one to be formatted in an interdisciplinary way, bringing together Laureates and young researchers working in biology, chemistry and physics. This made it all the more interesting since I had the opportunity to meet people from different fields and with varied backgrounds. 

Aerial view of Lindau Island (Image credit)

The meeting itself has been going on for 60 years now and it was started  after the Second World War as a way for scientists to meet each other and exchange ideas. The concept of also inviting students was put forward by one of the meeting's founders, the late Count Bernadotte. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 10 years ago that non-German students have been invited to participate. This year, notably, 70 different countries were represented at the meeting (or maybe I should say 71, because for some reason I was enrolled as a Spanish instead of a Chilean student), highlighting the global nature of this conference.

The lectures are available online, so if you are interested in the scientific aspect of the meeting, I encourage you to take a look at 3 that I considered to be among the most interesting ones in the biology field: Roger Tsien’s lecture (Laureate in Chemistry, sharing the Prize for GFP), Jack Szostak’s (Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, for his work on telomeres) and I highly recommend watching Oliver Smithies’s talk, which in my opinion, was really inspiring (you can comment on it here after watching it online).

The famous harbour entrance of Lindau (Image credit)
Besides getting to know more about the science behind a Nobel Prize, the thing that I considered to be most fascinating was the humane side to all of it. How researchers stumble upon findings (and most will tell you was sheer luck), and basically, how they went after the things they considered interesting and fulfilling. The take home message is this, then: work on whatever makes you happy and forget about prizes, they rarely come and if they do it is not by following any guidelines.

The other major aspect of the meeting is getting to know other students (undergrads, grad students, post docs and occasionally a young PI) from all over the world, which is always something exciting. The mixture of cultures, lifestyles and even research topics was remarkable. On this note I’d like to add that if you ever have the opportunity to attend this meeting (or another one of similar characteristics, if there is such a thing) I highly encourage you to attend: you won’t regret it.

In a nutshell, I learned 3 things from this meeting:
1) Work on interesting problems that make you happy.
2) Don’t be focused on awards and...
3) Do NOT walk from Lindau to Austria at 3 am (it was a 7 km walk back to my hotel!)


(Top image credit)


Read More......

Monday, July 19, 2010

[Direct Connection] Sweet and Sour: Glucose-6-Phosphate, Anoxia, and Enzyme Regulation

The “Direct Connection” section of MolBio Research Highlights includes blog posts discussing primary research articles in the field, but the interesting thing about it is that these posts are written by the authors themselves. This allows them to discuss the background, results and implications of their work with a wider audience and in a more relaxed format. Further, as it provides a direct link between the authors and the scientific community (hence its name), it promotes discussion.

In today's "Direct Connection", Christopher Dieni, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University, discusses his recent publication entitled "Regulation of Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase by Reversible Phosphorylation in Liver of a Freeze Tolerant Frog".

Sweet and Sour: Glucose-6-Phosphate, Anoxia, and Enzyme Regulation

A crazy model organism!

Grad school taught me a great many lessons, but I think many of them can be summarized in a brief and blunt statement: human beings aren’t that great!


ResearchBlogging.orgWell, when you think about it, we’re not that cool of an organism at all. We’re extremely inefficient (biochemically speaking), and we’re really not that adaptable to… well… anything that perturbs our internal or external environment, however slight.

By stark contrast, my graduate lab, or more accurately the lab of Dr. Ken Storey at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, studies a wide array of awesome animals -model organisms- that can withstand harsh environmental conditions. These include frogs and snails that survive the desert heat and dehydration, mammals that hibernate over the long winter, reptiles and amphibians that can get by for months on an oxygen-deprived environment and my personal favorite and the central model organism of my graduate work, the freeze-tolerant wood frog, Rana sylvatica, that can survive the freezing of ~70% of its extracellular and extra-organ water during the winter, and then thaw in the spring and continue about its normal life.

A notable thing about the wood frog’s survival mechanisms is that one molecule plays a key role in keeping the frog alive during its frozen, unfathomable state: glucose. Most people find it hard to believe that this simple and ubiquitous six-carbon sugar can have such a prominent role in this extraordinary organism and yet, evolutionarily speaking, it makes perfect sense. Take a molecule with such universality and harness it maximally, not only for its biochemical and metabolic properties, but for its physical properties as well. High intracellular glucose can act as a cryoprotectant, as it prevents both intracellular freezing and the loss of intracellular water to the extracellular environment caused by the osmotic imbalance of extracellular freezing.

Read More......

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Non-coding RNAs and eukaryotic evolution - a personal view

Here's a video interview with non-coding RNA expert John Mattick, in which he explains why he thinks non-coding RNA is fundamental to eukaryotic evolution.


Source: BMC Biology 2010, 8:67 . You can find an edited version of the video transcript there too.
Format: MP4
Size: 45.9MB
Download file


Read More......

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quotes from the science blogosphere

"(...) is that the rule of peer-review is not to just vote something up or down, but rather provide constructive, sometimes qualitative advice or suggestions, to help improve the science"

- Deepak Singh on his recent post entitled "Peer-review has a place".


Read More......

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Who said circadian rhythms were boring? There is a film... sort of

I was browsing the Internet after a tiring afternoon of RNA extraction from a circadian time course, when I came across with something that caught my eye.

There is a movie actually entitled "Circadian Rhythm"!

Will it tell the story (a documentary maybe) of a young and handsome Latin American scientist who works hard to study the molecular mechanisms underlying these fascinating oscillations?

Or maybe the movie is a thriller, in which problems arise with a period of 24 hours and the hero has limited time to save the world.

Here's the trailer and synopsis:

Sarah L. Caul (Rachel Miner) is 24 years old, attractive, skilled in martial arts and hyper-intelligent. The only problem is that she has no idea who she is, where she is from or how in the world she wound up in a white infinity room, in the middle of nowhere. Caught in a mind-bending web of high-tech murder and espionage, she soon realizes that what she holds could expose the U.S. Governments darkest secrets, and that the assassins that pursue her will do everything they can to make sure those secrets die with her. Can she find the truth before it’s too late, or will the visions of a past she never knew ultimately destroy her?

Ok, so it has absolutely nothing to do with the daily rhythms in gene expression, physiology and behavior that are present in most organisms, but still: the subject of my research made it into a movie title :)

(Image source)


Read More......

Monday, July 5, 2010

The 2010 HAL Medical Blog Awards: We won!

I've just been informed that our blog, MolBio Research Highlights, has taken a top place in the 2010 HAL Medical Blog Awards, sponsored by Apredica, under the "Future Leaders of Biomed – Best Blog Award" category!

This category recognizes the top blogs covering biology and medical issues written by graduate students with exceptional promise.

Our blog was described as:
Excellent selection of important news items relating to molecular biology on this blog by grad students Alejandro and Francisco. Detailed, in-depth, and very high quality.

We are honored to have been nominated for this award and to be among the finalists together with some other great blogs like Hematopoiesis and Bayblab.


Read More......

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My article on Yeast Recombinational Cloning is out!

In a previous post, I highlighted the wonders of using yeast recombinational cloning as an alternative to “classic” cloning, particularly when a high-throughput approach was to be taken [See An alternative cloning strategy: yeast recombinational cloning].

Some time after posting it, I was contacted by the people at Lab Times, who asked me to write an article about this fantastic methodology for their journal. This, of course, was an invitation I gladly accepted, as I was very excited about the fact that a post on my blog had reached the people at this German-based journal. In fact, one of the most positive aspects of blogging involves being able to get through to scientists all over the world.

My article, entitled "Yeast Recombinational Cloning", was written for a section called "Bench Philosophy" which includes articles dealing with attractive methods and techniques.

The article is now live as part of the 03-2010 issue and you can check it out here.


Read More......