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.

1st October 2018 – Vanessa Pirotta, Macquarie University

Vanessa PirottaVanessa Pirotta is a conservation biologist and science communicator who has recently completed her PhD at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Her research focused on identifying conservation gaps for cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Vanessa investigated the types of anthropogenic and natural threats faced by cetaceans and other marine megafauna (e.g. large fish such as sharks and manta rays, marine turtles, pinnipeds, sirenians and large seabirds). Her work also highlights the use of citizen science for marine mammal monitoring.

Vanessa’s most well-known research involves the use of emerging technologies such as drones for marine megafauna conservation. She collaborated with industry experts to develop custom-built, waterproof drones to collect whale snot (visible plume of spray) from large whales. This device uses a remotely operated flip-lid petri dish to minimise sample contamination from air and sea water. Lung microbiota collected from this research was used to provide a non-invasive assessment of whale health.

Vanessa completed her Master of Research (MRes) in 2014 where she investigated the effects of underwater construction and whale alarms upon migrating humpback whales off Sydney, Australia. Vanessa has a Bachelor of Science from the Australian National University where she majored in Zoology and Evolution and Ecology. Before entering into academia, Vanessa worked in marine turtle rehabilitation and as a zookeeper.

Vanessa has a wealth of experience in marine fieldwork and is a qualified coxswain (vessel operator), naturalist and marine mammal observer. She has worked in a variety of challenging remote locations around Australia and the South Pacific. Last year, Vanessa spent 51 days on a research voyage down to the Sabrina coast off East Antarctica. During this time, she saw her very first aurora.

Vanessa is extremely excited to host Biotweeps and will feature a diverse range of interesting work from biologists around the world.