12th November 2018 – Landon Getz, Dalhousie University

Landon GetzI am a Ph.D. Candidate at Dalhousie University (Halifax, NS, Canada), and am studying Vibrio spp. environmental survival and host-pathogen interactions. Specifically, much of my work has focused on Vibrio parahaemolyticus and its interaction with human cells and the environment via a protein secretion system called the Type III Secretion System (T3SS). This bacterial protein secretion apparatus is particularly interesting because it acts as a tiny needle, injecting proteins directly into host cells. This allows many bacterial pathogens to subvert and take over the host’s cellular environment to their own benefit. This work has been supported by my supervisor Dr. Nikhil Thomas (@nikthomas5 on twitter).

I also explore the world of gene-editing technologies and the ethics surrounding them. Importantly, I believe we must recognize both the benefits and the harms that can arise from these new technologies and ensure they are used safely and effectively. Further, I work as a lecturer for Dalhousie’s Chemistry department, am the external coordinator for the Dalhousie Urban Garden Society, am a mentor for Dalhousie’s international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team, actively advocate for LGBTQ+ rights (I identify as a gay man), and am an occasional bread baker. My personal website is over at http://www.landongetz.com, and I usually tweet over at @landongetz.


5th November 2018 – Sujatha Jagannathan, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Sujatha Jagannathan.jpgSuja Jagannathan is a new Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. She leads a team of scientists to study how cells detect and degrade aberrant RNAs.

Throughout her scientific career, Suja has been interested in a biomolecule called the messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA acts as a disposable copy of the genetic information in the cell and serves as a template for the production of protein molecules that carry out most cellular functions. When the cell produces an erroneous mRNA, it needs to find it and degrade it promptly. Suja’s lab is interested in understanding how the cell manages this process, termed “RNA quality control”, and what happens when it fails to do so. Her lab uses a variety of techniques to track cellular RNA quality control including RNA biochemistry, cell biology, genome engineering, and functional genomics. More information about her work can be found at: www.jagannathan-lab.org

Before starting her own lab at the University of Colorado at the beginning of this year, Suja was a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle (2013 – 2017) and a graduate student at Duke University in Durham, NC (2006 – 2013).

29th October 2018 – Luis Pedro Coelho, Fudan University

Luis Pedro CoelhoLuis Pedro Coelho is a Young Principal Investigator at Fudan University.  He works on the analysis of microbial communities in different environments, such as the marine environment or the human gut using computational methods, namely metagenomic analysis and fluorescence microscopy analysis.
In particular, he is interested in comparing and contrasting the microbial communities in different environments such as the guts of different mammals and assessing how much they share in terms of genes and species and how exactly they differ. Luis also works on computational method development (bioinformatics) with a focus on enabling reproducible research and best practices with minimal user intervention. In this facet of his work, he is the lead on several scientific software projects for image analysis, metagenomics, and data science.
Before moving to Fudan in 2018, he was a postdoctoral researcher in Peer Bork’s group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). He has a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University where he worked under the supervision of Prof. Bob Murphy and a MSc from Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon.
Luis can be found at http://luispedro.org/ and his lab website is http://big-data-biology.org/ His usual twitter handle is @luispedrocoelho

22nd October 2018 – Katherine Raines, Univeristy of Stirling

Katherine RainesI have recently finished my PhD at the University of Stirling. My PhD investigated the effects of low dose chronic ionising radiation to bumblebees as part of the NERC Radioactivity and the Environment (RATE) programme.

My fieldwork involves visits to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and laboratory-based experiments to gain understanding as to what has happened to the wildlife over 30 years post-accident. The focus of my research has been at looking at life history endpoints in bumblebees such as reproduction and lifespan to understand if radiation dose rates found at Chernobyl cause damage to invertebrates. A development during my research resulted in a focus on the interactions between parasite infection and radiation dose rate both in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and in the laboratory.

Presently, I am preparing for my PhD viva and trying to put together a meta-analysis of the data on effects of radiation from research that we have undertaken during the programme on a range of different species.

I am just about to start a NERC knowledge exchange fellowship for the RATE programme. Pulling together all the research from across the wide-ranging programme and making it available for users such as regulators and governments. This research ranges from the physics and geology relating to the planning of the Geological Disposal Facility for high-level radioactive waste which has been proposed for the UK, the chemistry of how radionuclides move in the environment and in particular into human food chains and the biology of effects of radiation to wildlife.

Outside of academia, I love gardening, dressmaking and keeping two stepchildren off the Xbox by running around in the Scottish outdoors.

15th October 2018 – Cassie Freund, Wake Forest University

Cassie FreundI am a PhD student at Wake Forest University. I study community ecology in tropical forests and my current research focuses on the role of a large natural disturbance, landslides, in shaping Andean montane forests. My research site is in and around Manu National Park, Peru, and I am part of the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group (www.andesconservation.org). I am particularly interested in how these forests regenerate after landslides, what this means for carbon storage of montane forests, and how landslides and climate change may interact in the future. My work integrates fieldwork, drone technology, and LiDAR (in collaboration with Dr. Greg Asner) to understand the role of landslides in Andean landscapes.

Prior to starting my PhD I worked in Indonesian Borneo for about five years, first doing research on tropical peat swamp forests and later as the program director of the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program. I’ve written or contributed to articles about topics ranging from microtopographic variation in peat swamp forests, to the orangutan trade, to ecosystem services! I will touch on many of these things during my week hosting Biotweeps. Finally, I also write popular science articles for Massive Science, and my articles can be found here: https://massivesci.com/people/cassie-freund/. My personal website is: https://cathrynfreund.wordpress.com/ and I usually tweet over at @CassieFreund.

8th October 2018 – Ramesh Laungani, Doane University

Ramesh LaunganiRamesh Laungani is an Associate Professor of Biology at Doane University in Nebraska. His scientific research focuses on the impacts of both climate change and climate change mitigation strategies on grasslands. Specifically, he and his students examine how biochar additions to grassland soil can store carbon for the long-term and how biochar affects grassland plant communities and nutrient cycling. He connects his college students to K-12 classrooms across the globe by having his students explain scientific research papers to K-12 students (at the appropriate level) so that his students can develop their own #SciComm skills, while also expanding the types of science that the K-12 students see.  Additionally, he has spearheaded a science communication project called the 1000 STEM Women Project, which curates a library of 90-second scientist introduction videos for use in K-12 classrooms. The overall goal of the project is to diversify the view that students have of scientists and STEM careers. He has also helped organize a number of science communication events in his community over the last few years.

24th September 2018 – Aileen Baird, University of Birmingham, Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (funded by NERC through DREAM CDT)

Aileen BairdHi Biotweeps! I’m Aileen, and I’m just entering the 2nd year of my PhD at the University of Birmingham funded under the NERC DREAM CDT. Prior to my PhD, I studied for an MSci in Human Biology, also at the University of Birmingham. During my degree, I realised that microbiology was my real passion, and actually, I was more interested in environmental microbes than microbes in humans! My interest is primarily in fungi: notoriously under-loved and under-studied. So prepare yourselves for a week of me waxing lyrical about the wonderful world of fungi…

My research is on temperate forest fungi and how these fungi are affected by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the air. Due to climate change, we can expect that carbon dioxide concentrations in the air will continue to rise for a number of years, and it is really important to understand how forests will response to this changing planet.

I work at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) Free Air Carbon Enrichment (FACE) experiment. At our Mill Haft site in Staffordshire we have a unique set up, with 30m high towers forming rings around areas of the forest. These towers spray out extra carbon dioxide into areas of the forest, mimicking what carbon dioxide concentrations we will have in the air in about 2070.

This is an amazing experiment which offers a large number of researchers (including me!) an incredible resource to study how forest ecosystems are affected by climate change. Fungi are really important in forest ecosystems in particular, playing roles in: decomposition, as pathogens (diseases) on plants and in humans, and even on plant roots delivering extra nutrients to plants. Fungi can have a significant impact on the forest ecosystem, so in order to understand how the forest as a whole responds to carbon dioxide, we need to understand how the fungi respond.

Outside of my mushroom-bothering day job, I love to cycle and explore the wonderful countryside we have in the West Midlands! I also work part-time for the Brilliant Club, an organisation which places doctoral researchers and post-docs in schools to deliver university-style tutorials to students from ages 8-18. The aim is to not give the students an experience of studying in university style, on a subject outside of the curriculum- with the end goal of increasing entry of students from under-represented backgrounds into top universities.

I look forward to chatting to you on Twitter this week!


Twitter: @alienbaird