Saturday, July 9, 2011


Make sure you update your bookmarks: we've moved to The MolBio Hut.

Follow me through my general RSS feed.

What's this 'generic RSS feed'? Read about it here.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We have moved!

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Due to some problems with the Blogger platform and for a number of other reasons, we have decided to move into our new blog hosted at Wordpress: The MolBio Hut.

Please update your bookmarks and your RSS feeds as this blog will no longer be updated.

We will continue our work at The MolBio Hut and we hope you follow us there!



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Friday, April 8, 2011

Einstein vs Stephen Hawking -Epic Rap Battles of History #7

Fantastic. Just great.


(H/T: @Katie_PhD)


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Thursday, April 7, 2011

MolBio Carnival #9

A new edition of The MolBio Carnival is now up at Alles was lebt

Check it out now!


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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Poll: Who would you choose as your PI?

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You always hear stories about people that have "the worst PI ever".
These stories almost always start with "the friend of a friend used to work in a lab where the PI..."

Many of these are exaggerations (and even funny in some cases), but in others, some PIs actually do the things you hear about.

I don't want you to get the impression that I think PIs are 'evil'; in fact, many (if not most) of them, are actually fantastic people. They are respectful, generous, honestly interested in your research, almost always available to discuss your results, etc. 

In any case, for this poll, I want you to think about the first class of PIs I mentioned.

If you were given the chance to enter one of the following labs, which one would you choose?

Who would you choose as your PI?

In case you don't know who some of these people are, here are some links.

Gregory House
Miranda Priestly
Simon Cowell
Charles Montgomery Burns
Eugene Krabs
Bill Lumbergh

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quotes from the science blogosphere: Tip for grad students and postdocs

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(...) This brings me to the observation that it is not just the case that we evil PIs only train PhD level scientists for technical work. It is also the case that some many trainees show little evidence that they themselves understand that bench work IS just technical work. If you don't have a conceptual grasp of what you are trying to understand, big picture, you are soooo not ready to be a PI. A scientist, yes indeed, but not a scientist ready to head up an independent research program. You don't get there only by reading papers. You get there by writing. Writing academic text. Whether that be for a dissertation that will only moulder in the library or for a manuscript ready for publication.
-DrugMonkey, on a post entitled "The Care and Feeding of Your PI: A tip for grad students and postdocs"


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Monday, March 7, 2011

The MolBio Carnival #8

A new edition of The MolBio Carnival is out!

Go check it out over at Thoughtomics.


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Friday, February 25, 2011

qPCR: quicker and easier but don't be sloppy

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Quick post just to direct your attention to a new article in Nature Methods, under the "Technology Feature" section, discussing qPCR. This is a very powerful technique, but care must be taken when setting it up in order to arrive to the right conclusions.


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Thursday, February 10, 2011

You know you’re a biologist when…

Hop over to the GE Global Research site and check John Nelson's full list...

Just a sample:

You know you’re a biologist when…

-You use the word “aliquot” in regular sentences.
-You’ve made dry ice grenades.


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Monday, February 7, 2011

The MolBio Carnival #7

It’s our turn to host the 7th issue of The MolBio Carnival and as usual, we have great posts to discuss and highlight. This is actually my first time hosting it, as last time, for the 1st issue of this Carnival, Alejandro did all the work, and a fine one, I might add.

Although I´ve been absent from posting for a very long time (mainly because of the revision of a manuscript I'm involved in), I hope to be more productive in the near future ("bloggistically" speaking at least) so that I can continue discussing articles from the cancer field.

Anyway, let's get straight down to business:

1. The host of the past issue of The MolBio Carnival, Michael Scott Long, discusses a recent publication in PLoS ONE in which the authors explore the synthetic biology world by testing de novo designed proteins for their ability to compensate for conditional mutations in bacteria. Interestingly, some of these proteins (which have no known function), were able to partially rescue mutant phenotypes! Further, apparently this had nothing to do with restoring the endogenous mutation.

Design of a collection of novel proteins and rescue of E. coli auxotrophs. From the paper discussed by Michael. 
Dormant bacteria (source)
2. Considering how treatments based on antibiotics that target biosynthetic processes in growing cells are less than helpful when dealing with persistent infections involving slow-growing or non-growing bacteria, S.E. Gould at Lab Rat comments on the strategies used to target these “dormant bacteria”.

I must say that the (hand-made) diagram she uses in her post is awesome; it takes me back to my college biochemistry courses! Go check it out

3. Hepatitis viruses are a major health issue in the world, affecting millions of people every year. James Byrne at Disease Prone blogs about the Hepatitis B Virus, the health problems it can lead to, and it’s "close connection" to Australia.

4. On her first submission to this issue of The MolBio Carnival, Becky Ward at It Takes 30,  discusses a recent PNAS paper studying some of the biophysical properties of bacterial biofilms, particulary its low “wettability” (which appears to be lower than that of Teflon).

The authors report that “the nonwetting properties are a synergistic result of extracellular matrix composition, multiscale roughness, reentrant topography, and possibly yet other factors related to the dynamic nature of the biofilm surface”.This opens a whole new area of antimicrobial research.

Inositol pyrophosphates inhibit
Akt signaling (Source
5. Dave Bridges over at Dave´s Blog comments on a paper in Cell in which the authors show that IP7 (an inositol pyrophosphate) appears to inhibit Akt, a “serine/threonine kinase that regulates glucose homeostasis and protein translation”. It is noteworthy that IP3 has been known to act as a second messenger for over two decades, yet the function of the highly related molecules IP6, IP7, etc., are still largely unknown. This article describes the function of at least one of these molecules in the context of insulin signaling, which can have important therapeutic implications for diabetes.

6. Closing this edition of The Carnival, and on her second contribution, Becky Ward discusses a paper analyzing the role of cell division in the non-genetic heterogeneity observed in a population of cells derived from a single cell (clonal populations). This article, published in Nature Genetics, shows that indeed the stochastic distribution of molecules at cell division may have a major role in the intrinsic differences between several members of a population (in this case between cells derived from a single division). Together with the variability resulting from gene expression noise, this just shows how different two cells arising from a single cell division can actually be.

That's it for this month's edition of The MolBio Carnival. You can check future hosts and past editions at the Carnival’s index page or at the blog. Be sure to subscribe to its RSS feed to receive notifications and summaries when new editions of the Carnival are posted. Also, be sure to submit your best molbio blog posts to the next edition of The MolBio Carnival using our carnival submission form. The next issue of the Carnival will be hosted by Lucas Brouwers over at Thoughtomics. More info here


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Monday, January 31, 2011

The Grad Student Rap

".... my new results, to be unveiled, are experiments to show why my experiments failed..."

(H/T: @apfejes)

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Follow me on Twitter: I tweet a lot more than I blog

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My blogging frequency is less than ideal, but that doesn't mean I've stop highlighting fascinating articles in molecular and cell biology or linking to interesting things on the web. For me, Twitter is a better tool for when you just want to direct people's attention to things on the web than a blog, basically, because when I mention something on my blog I like to take the time to give a little background on the item I'm highlighting. Lately time has been scarce, hence the low blogging frequency, but if you follow me on Twitter, you'll notice that I'm continuously linking to interesting things on the field, including research articles, videos, blog posts, magazine articles, etc.

The main point of this blog post is then the following: Follow me on Twitter!



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Monday, January 17, 2011

Poll at Science and a quote

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A recent poll at Science wanted to evaluate whether people would be willing to reduce their frequent travelling to meetings in favor of the environment. This poll was generated as a consequence of a letter by I. C. Burke urging scientists to examine the environmental consequences of their own frequent travel.

This was that poll:

On 10 December 2010, we asked you to consider the environmental benefits of reduced travel and then choose the option that best reflects your answer to this question: Would you participate in an annual meeting remotely (via video teleconferencing or other technology)?

Yes: Participating remotely would be about as valuable as attending in person.
Yes: It would lose some value, but the trade-off would be acceptable given the environmental benefits.
No: It would lose some value, and the trade-off would be unacceptable despite the environmental benefits.
No: Participating remotely would be about as valuable as not attending at all.

You can access the poll results here.

I considered one of the reactions to this poll interesting.

“Until we come up with holographic teleconferencing with the ability to eat virtual lunch together in smaller groups, there will always be a need for large gatherings from time to time.”

—John Burke Burnett


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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Great books for the summer!

I'm super excited as my sisters just gave me this fabulous book:

Phage and the Origins of Molecular Biology, The Centennial Edition

Here's its description:

This hugely influential book, published in 1966 as a 60th birthday tribute to Max Delbrück, is now republished as The Centennial Edition. On first publication, the book was hailed as “[introducing] into the literature of science, for the first time, a self–conscious historical element in which the participants in scientific discovery engage in writing their own chronicle. As such, it is an important document in the history of biology...” (Journal of History of Biology). And in another review it was described as “required reading for every student of experimental biology...[who] will sense the smell and rattle of the laboratory” (Bioscience). The book was a formative influence on many of today’s leading scientists.

I'm currently finishing Watson's Double Helix for the 2nd time (a great edition I picked up in the States a few years ago), so this will be a great read after that. Also in my reading queue:

which is sitting in my desk asking me when I will pick it up.


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Sunday, January 9, 2011

What is a "least publishable unit"?

I've recently linked to a Letter in Science arguing that there's nothing wrong with the publication of “least publishable units” (LPUs) and that we needn't worry about a hypothetical paper glut and it's alleged effects on paper quality, provided a rigurous peer review system exists (See Quotes from the science world). This was published as a response to this letter

Dave Bridges posted the following comment on my entry:

(...)to me the question boils down to what the least publishable unit is. Can you publish a single well controlled experiment. Or does it have to be in the context of a story?

So, I wanted to get your impressions on this matter. What do you think constitutes a LPU? How do you feel about these sort of articles, particularly in the context of the advancement of science?

Be sure to check the comments on my last post  and the two related Letters in Science (see here and here).There are pros and cons, obviously, so I wanted to know what fellow scientists think about this interesting subject, which has been discussed at length before, but for which new readers can have interesting insights.

Comment away! Also, follow me on Twitter, as fantastic discussions usually take place through it. 


UPDATE: There are some comments over at Friendfeed.


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Quotes from the science world

(...) Most of us who are actively involved in science today do not worry about a hypothetical paper glut, for the simple reason that we store scientific documents electronically, not on paper. In the electronic age, the claim can be made that a manuscript is suitable for publication if it is technically sound and that the importance of any particular article should be determined after publication by the readership. This is the claim made by PLoS ONE, whose explosive success in scientific publishing is an indication that the contemporary scientific community endorses the claim.With a rigorous peer-review system, competent scientists can publish and will flourish; incompetent scientists cannot publish and will perish. In the end, science wins.

(my emphasis)

-Roberto Refinetti, on a recent letter to Science, entitled "Publish and Flourish".

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Santiago is the place to be in 2011

We may not have the money or technology available in other research centers, but we have a kick-ass city!

Part of the new Gabriela Mistral Center, right next to my University, is to the right. The Lastarria neighborhood, filled with restaurants and bars is at the back (Image credit)

When science resources are scarce, you can always travel abroad as part of collaborations and do the experiments you can't do in your University. What you really wouldn't be able to get around of, is living in a boring city with nothing to do. Luckily, this is not our case.

Santiago, Chile, has been picked at the #1 place to visit in 2011 by the New York Times. Many things will go down here throughout the year, so if you have the opportunity to visit us, take it!


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