Hi everyone! I’m Sarah and I’m a research associate at the University of Bath, where I work on developing new cancer medicines. It is possible that my takeover of the Biotweeps channel may take the channel closer to the Chemistry-Biology interface than ever before!
I’m really fascinated in designing new medicines against hard-to-drug cancer targets, such as medicines to inhibit protein-protein interactions. These are especially tricky to block due to their large and often flat interaction surfaces. This means there are often no binding pockets for conventional small-molecule medicines to bind to. Instead I have worked on using medicines that are larger molecules, such as peptides and as protein-based medicines, as these are arguably better as sticking to and therefore blocking binding interfaces such as these. My PhD focused on developing a new approach to functionalise a repeat protein scaffold to act as a protein-protein interaction inhibitor. Previous to my PhD work, I carried out my undergraduate masters in Chemistry at the University in Oxford and a masters in Biology at the University of Cambridge. This gave me a good foundation and sparked my interest in this field.
I’m also interested in science communication and throughout my PhD I enjoyed taking part in wide range activities from stand-up comedy about my research to carrying out an internship with the Royal Institution in London. I’m particularly interested in carrying out science communication activities for groups that are underrepresented in science with a view to this helping to increase diversity in science. I have a strong belief that diverse teams are more effective teams and hope I can do my bit to help make them more prevalent in science.
You can find out more about my research and science communication work at the following links:
Google scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=nvfSIO8AAAAJ&hl=en
Personal website: https://www.thegingerscientist.com
Jes is a polar ecologist, and essentially classes herself as a greedy scientist who cannot decide what discipline to follow. So, she does a little bit of all of them at once instead of having to choose! She uses zoology, botany, physiology, environmental science, a bit of soil chemistry, a dash of microbiology and general wistful thinking whilst looking at beautiful landscapes, to answer questions about how ecosystems work. She thinks that working out how all the interactions and connections that make nature what it is, is the biggest question she could possibly ask the planet. And especially in places like the Arctic and Antarctic, or up mountains, where ecosystems are the most sensitive to change. And the views are also not bad. Jes likes cats and cheese, in that order and definitely not at the same time. She doesn’t much like alien invaders and is regretting writing about herself in third person.
Her fickle nature has led her to a range of places, to look at a range of things: from studying tardigrades in glaciers on Svalbard; Arctic foxes in the mountains of Norway; moss in the upland bogs across the Pennines of England; and midge on a remote island in Antarctica. She loves being in these environments but dislikes being cold, so has developed a strong attachment to her tea-flask. She currently lives and works in Birmingham, UK where she still has to be cold owing to her current research into an invasive midge who, being acclimated to Antarctica, must be kept in rooms at a balmy ‘summer’ temperature of 4ºC. A lot of her current work for the University of Birmingham and the British Antarctic Survey, who she is a final year PhD researcher for, focusses on how this invasive midge is surviving where it shouldn’t be and what it is doing to the ecosystem of Signy Island, where it was introduced. The work so far has identified that this species is doing very well, is hard as nails and is likely to spread! So now her research is focussing on biosecurity and areas of policy that may mitigate this from happening.
Jes enjoys science communication and sits on the British Ecological Society’s public engagement working group, where she nags people about the importance of digital media. She is looking forward to taking over @Biotweeps, so expect an eclectic look at polar and alpine ecology, science news and science policy!
(NB: you can hear her speaking about herself and her work in first person, like a normal human, on the podcast Fieldwork Diaries: https://www.fieldworkdiaries.com/people/jes-bartlett/)
Megan recently finished her PhD with Jay T. Lennon at Indiana University where she specialized in microbial ecology and evolution. Her dissertation focused on how cyanobacteria-phage interactions within microbial communities evolve in response to nutrient limiting conditions. She’s now returned to her home state of Nebraska (USA) and is applying her technical expertise in microbial ecology and informatics to studying cyanobacterial blooms at the University of Nebraska Water Sciences Laboratory.
Megan is an advocate for undergraduate STEM education and community outreach. While at Indiana University, she was greatly involved with engaging underrepresented students in the Women In STIM (Science, Technology, Informatics, and Mathematics) Living Learning Center and designed seminar courses for undergraduate professional development.
When she’s not sciencing, Megan is likely out and about on her bicycle roaming the old railroads turned trails in Lincoln or hiking with her dogs, Nala (lab retriever) and Sarah (St. Bernard).
This week on biotweeps, she’ll be focusing on skills she’s picked up during graduate school, new analytical chemistry skills she’s learning at the Water Sciences Laboratory, discussion about harmful algal blooms in the news, informatics, and work-life balance.
You can follow Megan after Biotweeps on twitter (@meganllarsen) or on her website (http://meganllarsen.wordpress.com).