16th October 2017 – Liz Martin-Silverstone, University of Southampton and University of Bristol

Liz Martin-Silverstone.pngHi all! I’m Liz Martin-Silverstone, and I recently completed my PhD in palaeontology at the University of Southampton (but also associated with the University of Bristol) in the UK. My research is based on biomechanics and mass estimation in pterosaurs, the extinct flying reptiles that lived alongside dinosaurs (but are not actually dinosaurs!). I’m currently looking for post-doc positions, and working as a research assistant on a project involving zebrafish for a few months in the meantime.

I completed my BSc in palaeontology at home at the University of Alberta in Canada, where I became fascinated with pterosaurs, and got my first bit of research experience. I then decided to move to the UK and pursue grad school, doing my MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, where I began working on pterosaur bone mass. Fortunately, my MSc project led into a PhD project, and I moved to Southampton to continue this work. I’m currently more interested in the evolution of the air sac system in birds and pterosaurs, and would like to work on this in the future. I’m a big scicomm fan (otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this!), and currently help produce a podcast called Palaeocast, and also volunteer with a Canadian science blogging community called Science Borealis.

My week at Biotweeps is going to focus a bit on my own research, palaeontology in general (I’ll try to dispel some of those common palaeo myths), and a bit about what I’m doing now both in terms of research and scicomm. I’d also like to talk a bit about some of the issues I had to overcome as a PhD student, such as funding and university-related issues, and how these things can affect students.


14th August 2017 – Inés Dawson, University of Oxford

Ines DawsonInés is a final year interdisciplinary DPhil student at the University of Oxford. Her research, with a strong background in biological sciences, involves studying the biomechanics of insect flight, specifically how an insect’s flapping wing and body kinematics translate into the complex aerial manoeuvres performed during free flight. This combination of biology and engineering is aimed at inspiring the next generation of bio-inspired MAVs.

Apart from her research, Inés is also an award-winning science communicator in English and Spanish and runs two YouTube channels, Draw Curiosity and Inés-table, in order to make science stories interesting and internationally accessible. She is an enthusiastic and engaging educational speaker who enjoys informing and entertaining audiences of all ages and nationalities about different aspects of science.

In addition to her personal science communication work, she has also collaborated with BBC World Service, Discovery, Merck and Naukas to help put a human face on scientific research.

http://youtube.com/DrawCuriosity and http://youtube.com/Inestable and http://drawcuriosity.com


20th March 2017 – Jez Smith, Cardiff University, Eco-explore CIC

Jez SmithHi all! I’m Jez, a 2nd year PhD student at Cardiff University with a NERC GW4+ funded project. My academic passion is studying a small long distance migrant bird, the Pied Flycatcher which is currently in a steep population decline, hence my twitter handle @PiedflyWales. Using novel statistical techniques called Integral Projection Models (IPMs) I hope to try to understand the effect size that various factors have on population trends and which areas management and policy should be focussed on to reverse their fate. I have had the pleasure to study the Pied Flycatcher in Wales, Portugal and Ghana and am interested in all aspects of avian behaviour and migration. Some of my tweets will therefore be focussed around the topics of climate change, birds and animal behaviour.

Other tweets will revolve around different International days this week such as the International day of the forests and world water day. I want to share some of the amazing work that is being done on these topics both academic and non-academic.

One issue that I feel strongly about is the work life balance issue and so will therefore also be wanting to hear from people about their passions outside of work even if it relates to work (i.e. bird ringing). For me, besides my academic research I spend my time competing on the university Latin and Ballroom dance circuit, with a distinct preference for Jive.

Prior to the PhD I worked as a data analyst, expedition leader and ornithologist with experience having participated in and lead expeditions in Europe, Africa and Central America. I have co-lead a Senegalese research expedition with Dr. Rob Thomas identifying causes of decline in Reed and Sedge warblers, contributing to Dr James Vafidis’ PhD. All of the above are co-directors, with Dr Alexandra Pollard, of Eco-Explore (http://www.eco-explore.co.uk).

I’m looking forward to sharing some of my research with everyone and hearing others opinions on their work and the work of others.


13th March 2017 – Darwin Fu, Vanderbilt University

Darwin FuHello Biotweeps! I’m Darwin, a Chemistry PhD student in my final year (*knocks on wood* *prays to the ancient gods*) at Vanderbilt University. I spend my day writing programs for modelling how drug molecules interact with their targets. The goal is to improve our ability to use computers to predict which compounds will bind to a given disease target and the way they will bind. Better computational, or “dry lab”, experiments complement traditional “wet-lab” experiments, which can often be very time consuming.

I work in the lab of Dr. Jens Meiler (http://meilerlab.org) coding mostly for Rosetta (http://rosettacommons.org/), a software package for structural biology modeling. Rosetta is a collaborative project with 40+ research labs around the world actively developing methods for everything from designing catalytic sites of enzymes to predicting binding of HIV antibodies. You may have come across Rosetta in the form of Rosetta@Home, a citizen science distributed computing project, or through FoldIt, a computer game that converts unsolved protein structures into puzzles for players (see https://boinc.bakerlab.org/ and https://fold.it/portal/). You may have also heard about our recent exploration of comet 67P (just kidding, that is completely unrelated).

My research is focused on protein-small molecule docking and virtual screening for Computer-Aided Drug Design applications.  Depending on available collaborations, we work on systems ranging from G-Protein Coupled Receptors to Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription proteins. Part of the job involves making computational tools more accessible to researchers who may be less well-versed in modelling. This usually means making tutorials, web servers, and graphical interfaces. I would love to continue along these lines after graduation and work in scientific software development. I am also interested in researching rare diseases and using modeling to repurpose “failed” compounds to structurally similar targets.

My undergraduate degree is in Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego. I had a choice between working on hands-on biomaterials research and molecular dynamics modeling of influenza infections. I chose the latter and went down a computational research path. I planned to do more biochemistry in grad school but a few weeks in the cold room and my terrible gel loading skills quickly changed that.

Besides research, I’m interested in science communication and citizen science, particularly for adult education. I also moonlight as a pub quizmaster and connoisseur of “weird” foods. My non-science dream job would be working in sports analytics. Feel free to talk sports, trivia, or odd eats with me (also scotch…yum).

Sadly, there won’t be as many relevant cute animal GIFs over the course of this week, but I promise there will be dancing protein animations instead. I hope to share my love of computer modelling and to learn more about computing applications in your fields. I am also in the process of starting a new outreach effort and would love some input. There may also be a little structure based contest with a nerdy prize. Stay tuned!

Reach me via Twitter (@EquationForLife) or check out the blog I’m restarting (https://equationforlife.wordpress.com/)

27th February 2017 – Alex Evans, University of Leeds

alex-evansHi Biotweeps! My name is Alex and I’m a final year PhD student studying animal locomotion at the University of Leeds. My research is largely focused on integrating the mechanics and energetics of avian flight, but I also dabble in insect flight and terrestrial locomotion. I tend to work with small parrots such as budgerigars and lovebirds, but I’m a big fan of birds in general and will jump at the chance to work with any species!

My research generally involves looking at the mechanics and energetics from both the organismal level and the muscular level, so some days I will be training a flock of cockatiels and others I will be working with single muscle fibres. I’m also interested in the behavioural and aerodynamic aspects of flight, and hope to develop more skills in these areas in the future.

Prior to my PhD, I undertook an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation, which was also at the University of Leeds. My dissertation project focused on the risks posed by pesticides to British pollinators. I got to do some super fun fieldwork working with farmers and solitary bees, and this experience pretty much set me on the course towards starting my PhD.

Outside of the lab, I’m always looking to get more involved with science writing and STEM outreach activities. I have recently written articles for the Society of Experimental Biology and Biosphere magazine, and I enjoy presenting and discussing my research with a wide range of audiences. During my week of curation, you can expect to hear more about my work with birds, bees and beetles, as well as discussions about animal research ethics and methods of science communication … and hopefully we’ll have a little fun too!

I can often be found posting animal GIFs and preaching about tabletop games on Twitter at @alexevans91 and I blog about birds and bioscience topics over at BirdBrainedScience.

5th December 2016 – Ashley Otter, Royal Veterinary College, University of London

ashley-otterHi everyone! I’m Ash and I’m a 2nd year PhD student based at the Centre for Emerging, Endemic and Exotic Diseases (CEEED) at Royal Veterinary College (RVC), part of the University of London. At the moment, I’m currently trying to get as much data for my PhD that is based on studying transcriptional regulators in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the biggest killer worldwide by infectious disease.

You could say I started my career in microbiology when I was studying my A-levels (just before university), where I had two amazing biology teachers that inspired me to go on to pursue microbiology at a university. I eventually decided to start a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology at Cardiff University School of Biosciences in 2011. Here, I was lucky enough to undertake a professional training year (PTY) as part of my degree, where I could take a year out of my undergraduate studies to experience a research laboratory.

I secured a place in the laboratory of Prof. Les Baillie, researching anthrax specific bacteriophages (more of which I will talk about if people are interested!). This year of working in a research lab and gaining lots of experience made me want to continue a career in microbiology research.

After finishing my PTY, I then went back and finished my undergraduate degree and graduated in July 2015. During my final year of study/university, I applied for a PhD project with research focused on transcriptional regulators in the Mycobacterium genus, a highly diverse group of bacteria including the pathogens Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the major cause of the human disease: Tuberculosis), Mycobacterium bovis (predominant causative bacterium of Tuberculosis in cattle) and Mycobacterium leprae (the cause of leprosy).

More specifically, my work is focussed around the elusive TetR family of transcriptional regulators (TFTRs). In M. tuberculosis and M. bovis, TFTRs are a group of regulators previously identified as being involved in regulating various genes involved in things such as antibiotic resistance, cholesterol metabolism and branched chain amino acid metabolism. My work consists of some bioinformatics and then applying this bioinformatic knowledge to a range of molecular biology tools to determine the functions of these TFTRs and what genes they are involved in regulating.

I look forward to hearing from everyone and hope to answer some questions!

21st November 2016 – Lindsey Thurman, Oregon State University

lindsey-thurmanI am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and a Research Fellow with the Northwest Climate Science Center. I’m in my 5th (and final!) year, which is exciting and slightly terrifying. My research focuses on the link between local (community) and landscape (biogeographic) drivers of biodiversity patterns in an effort to improve predictions about community-level response to climate change. I typically use amphibians as a model system because, not only are they extremely sensitive to environmental change, they exhibit diverse life history strategies, differential plasticity, and complex community dynamics.

My dissertation research aims to provide a diverse assessment of amphibian species vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate change. The experimental portion of my research has involved the quantification of complex direct and indirect interactions among co-occurring amphibian species under natural and novel environmental conditions (e.g. climate warming and rapid pond drying). I examine how shifts in these conditions alter individual species sensitivity and the strength and direction of species interactions, and conversely, how coevolved interactions mediate the effects of climate change factors. Within this context, I examine the costs vs. benefits of behavioral and physiological plasticity as a mechanism for rapid adaptation.
I am also particularly interested in how species respond to climate change as a complex network of interacting species and how these inter-dependencies affect the footprint of amphibians on the landscape. You may see me tweeting about the use (and often misuse) of co-occurrence data as a method for incorporating biotic interactions into species distribution models.
I got my M.Sc. at Oregon State, but before coming to the great Pacific Northwest I did my undergrad at the University of Florida (Go Gators!). I hail from the flatlands of Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast and grew up in Gulf Breeze (a tiny peninsula town near Pensacola Beach). When I’m balancing work with life, I like to do most anything outdoors like salmon fishing, duck hunting, hiking and playing with my youthful 8 year old Lab, Sierra.
Looking forward to talking with my fellow Biotweeps! In the meantime, follow me on Twitter @ectothurm, check out my personal website www.lindseythurman.com, or join us at the Early Career Climate Forum (@ECCForumwww.eccforum.org