19th July 2017 – Goutham Radha, Howard University

Goutham RadhaEver considered why you choose the field that you chose? The very first time I saw rectus abdominis contracting in frog’s ringers attached to lever and a smoked Sherrington drum, I was awestruck. That is when I realized why I chose scientific research as my career. I worked on several research projects in Pharmacology during my Bachelors. It is during that time that I learned what it takes to do research.

After my Bachelors in Pharmacy, I worked towards a Masters in Cell and Molecular Biology. I worked in a lab working on Neurological Effects of HIV-1. Though a lot is established about what HIV-1 does in the peripheral body, we do not have much information about what it does in the brain. The virus can cross the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) and infect astrocytes, replicate and cause a latent infection. What worsens the condition, is that the Antireterovirals, do not cross the BBB, and hence the virus in brain is not affected. I used several methods in the lab to ascertain the effects of some of the viral proteins in astrocytes.

Currently, I’m working in a research lab at Howard University, in Washington, DC. The lab’s focus is to understand the pathology of Breast cancer. Aside from my research, I’m a Photographer and I love it. I have an almost active Instagram account and a website (which is still in progress, typical researcher, right?). Recently, I started playing Ultimate Frisbee and I absolutely love it. I try to stay active, run, workout, and Science!

1st May 2017 – Teresa Mastracci, Indiana Biosciences Research Institute

Teresa MastracciHi, Biotweeps! I am a Senior Scientist at the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute. A molecular and developmental biologist by training, I have a mad fascination for the study of diabetes. Diabetes is a disease characterized by the progressive loss of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Individuals with diabetes overcome this beta cell destruction or dysfunction by daily administration of exogenous insulin – a viable and long-standing therapy. However, the long-term complications associated with diabetes are never truly eliminated. So research efforts have recently moved to the generation of therapies that could fix, not just treat, the beta cell loss.

My lab uses the mouse and zebrafish model systems to study the signals that induce pancreatic progenitor cells to differentiate or insulin-producing beta cells to regenerate. Our work is motivated by the idea that once identified, we may be able to harness these growth, differentiation, or regeneration signals to create novel treatments for type 1 diabetes.

A Canadian by birth and at heart, I completed my BSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Guelph and my PhD in Cancer Genetics at the University of Toronto. I then moved south of the border for postdoctoral studies at Columbia University and began merging my interests in developmental biology and human disease by studying cell fate determination in mutant mouse models with dramatic diabetes phenotypes. My research interests eventually brought me to Indianapolis where I was recruited to the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (http://www.indianabiosciences.org ) — a non-profit research institute that brings together academic and industrial science. My lab has been going strong for a year and we’re excited about some pretty cool research that will be coming out soon!

When I’m not in the lab or writing, I absolutely love to travel. Seeing new places and meeting new people can open your mind to such extraordinarily unique perspectives. In fact, I’ve done some of my most creative scientific writing or experimental brainstorming on the plane rides home from somewhere. I’m excited to kick off May for the @biotweeps — I hope to share my love of developmental biology, diabetes research, and what’s new and exciting at IBRI!

Via Twitter you can reach me @tlmastracci or the Indiana Bioscience Research Institute @INBiosciences – keep up to date on exciting discoveries in general science, diabetes research, developmental biology as well as progress in biomedical research, technology and innovation in Indiana.

27th March 2017 – Alicia McConnell, Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School

Alicia McConnellHi Biotweeps! I am originally from North Carolina and was an Animal Science major as an undergraduate at North Carolina State University. For graduate school, I stayed in NC and received my Ph.D. in cell biology from Duke University. I then moved with my lab across the US to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles during my second year to complete my graduate research on lung stem cell biology. My work was funded by NASA, who wanted to know the risk of cancer in astronauts exposed to cosmic radiation (harmful radiation found in space). To test this, we studied the behavior of lung stem cells in mice after exposure to simulated cosmic radiation and saw how that correlated to cancer development. This really interesting project led to the discovery that an important tumor suppressor gene, Trp53, is not only required for radiation response, but also controls normal lung stem cell division and differentiation, or the process of creating a more specialized cell. Seeing how changes in stem cell behavior directly affects cancer development made me want to better understand the process of tumor initiation and progression.

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow studying cancer biology in the Zon lab at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. My research involves investigating the signaling pathways that cause normal pigmented cells, or melanocytes, to become cancerous. I use a unique zebrafish model to visualize the earliest stages of skin cancer formation. I love imaging, so be prepared for lots of microscopy and adorable fish pictures during my Biotweeps take over!

When I’m not in the lab, I am spending time outdoors hiking with my husband and two dogs, Roxie (a one-eyed pit mix) and Charlie (a Border Collie). I am also an avid aerialist and dancer; I love being upside down! Follow me on twitter @DrAMcConnell.

November 9th 2015 – Moe Wehbe, BC Cancer (UBC Pharmaceutical Sciences)

Moe WehbeMy name is Moe Wehbe and I’m a 4th graduate student at the University of British Columbia doing research out of the BC Cancer agency in Pharmaceutical sciences. My goal is to create lipid nanoparticles for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive and common type of primary brain tumour. The human brain is naturally shielded from the rest of the body through the blood brain barrier. Although, this is important to keep us healthy it provides a unique barrier that needs to be overcome when trying to treat brain tumours. GBM is commonly treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Many chemotherapeutics are unable to reach the tumour due to this barrier, this makes treatment difficult. Cancer treatment through chemotherapy is often given as a combination of drugs, GBM cannot be treated this way due to the insufficient number of drugs able to enter the brain and reach the tumour. Thus, I would like to increase the number of drugs available to treat GBM. My hypothesis is that for drugs that have some propensity to cross the BBB, increasing circulation lifetime should increase the amount of drug accumulated in the tumour site. Increasing drug circulation lifetime can be achieved through encapsulation by liposomes. The alteration in drug pharmacokinetics has been well documented with different liposome formulations created using a variety of lipid compositions. The model drug I’m using for this work is Carboplatin which does show some propensity to cross the blood brain barrier and the ability to kill GBM cells. An important aspect in my approach to drug formulation development is to ensure that everything I do is scaleable to larger batches. This is a necessity to have what we do in the lab translatable to larger batches and eventually the clinic. For this reason, the formulations themselves remain very simple using a passive equilibration to achieve high and efficient loading in the liposomes themselves. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have on lipid based drug delivery, challenges associated with brain delivery and drug pharmacokinetics.

October 12th 2015 – Tuula Eriksson, University College London

Tuula ErikssonI am just about to finish a PhD in tissue-engineered 3D tumour models at University College London (UCL). I did my undergrad in Molecular Biology at the University of Glasgow, which is where I stumbled upon on-going work on regenerative medicine constructs and tissue engineering. Along the way, I also did placements on cancer biology, e.g. at the Wellcome trust in Oxford.

One of my lecturers also held a really interesting short workshop on advanced microscopy techniques (advanced for undergrads who’d at that point only got to use light microscopes in the labs).

Based on these three fun aspects of my degree, I then decided to apply for an MSc in Regenerative Medicine at UCL in London. This turned out to be one of the best things I did; a fresh change of scenery, new ideas by new lecturers and a very inspiring interdisciplinary atmosphere.

I ended up doing my six-month MSc research project in a lab in the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering department, and the rest is, as they say, history.

My PhD research has involved developing two models for an oral jaw tumour called ameloblastoma. The tumour initially develops inside the jaw bone, is surgically removed, but often redevelops a few years later in the soft tissues surrounding the original site. My research has developed co-culture models of the tumour with both a soft-tissue scaffold and a bone-like scaffold to see what happens in the tumour, how the cells interact with each other, if there is an invasion happening, and what drugs we could potentially use to reduce the size of the tumour in the clinic.

I’m also interested in things like engineering, cell mechanotransduction, other types of tissue engineering and cells in general. Currently, I’m also interested in job opportunities in a tissue engineering lab, as I’ll need a post doc or job soon!

I tweet @tuulawoo, where my aim is to follow the 70:20:10 rule, where 70% of my tweets are work related (usually complaining about a microscope), 20% are other interesting stuff (running and cycling) and 10% are random (in my case, mostly dogs).

During my week on Biotweeps, I intend on discussing things like my research, the need for 3D models, tissue engineering concepts, writing, papers, supervisors, conferences, STEM, out-reach, and plenty more. Let the thesis writing procrastination commence!

October 4th 2015 – Leigh Nicholson, University of Sydney

Leigh NicholsonI am a PhD candidate in my second year at the University of Sydney, Australia. My project started off in reproductive biology; looking at different proteins and cellular properties that affect pregnancy and how that can improve IVF techniques. I have been sidetracked slightly since then and am now researching the same things but in cancer cell migration, specifically endometrial (uterine) cancer. The work that I am currently doing is looking at different protein amounts in cancer cells, comparing between normal, benign and malignant.
I will be tweeting about all these different areas, as well as other broad issues in science, like diversity and “scientific culture” problems!

March 16th 2015 – Wes Wilson, University of Queensland / UBC

Wes WilsonWes Wilson is a molecular biologist in Canada, whose work is focused on proteins involved in breast cancer tumorigenesis as well as previous studies on the epigenetics of tumor progression in pediadric brain cancers. He has a passion is for the health sciences and occasionally blogs over at MostlyScience (http://mostlyscience.com/) to help demystify evidence based medicine. Wes is also an ardent programmer and developer and sits on one of the organizing committees for Hacking Health (http://www.hackinghealth.ca/) where both his interests collide. Wes is also the academic life editor over at ScienceSeeker (http://scienceseeker.org/) and you can follow his science and other coffee fueled endeavors on his twitter @WesleyWilson (https://twitter.com/WesleyWilson).