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.

23rd January 2017 – Lisa Whitenack, Allegheny College

lisa-whitenackI am a biology professor at Allegheny College, a small liberal arts college in northwest Pennsylvania (USA). I teach a wide array of courses, including introductory biology, statistics, evolution, paleobiology (the study of fossil organisms), and research seminars. My research is focused on predator-prey relationships through evolutionary time, encompassing paleobiology and biomechanics (the application of principles from engineering and physics to biological problems). The majority of my research has been on fossil and living sharks, especially focusing on their teeth, as that is what roughly 95% of their fossil record is. I want to know why fossil shark teeth (up to 250 million years ago) are shaped the way they are, and why they are so different than modern sharks. I also study other fishes, crabs, snails, and salamanders.

My students are required to complete a senior thesis in order to graduate. Most of my students study things that are different than my research, as they are passionate about different things, but still use the techniques that I use. My students have examined the prey capture mechanics of venus flytraps, the evolution of trilobites across mass extinctions, the effects of the Endangered Species Act on the shape of wolf skulls, and the biomechanics of sports such as soccer, baseball, and long jump.

My second area of scholarship is on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, from kindergarten through college.  I coordinate partnerships and events between Allegheny College and my local school district to improve STEM education in my community. I am also a member of the Gills Club, an outreach group that gives girls opportunities to engage with projects focused on sharks, nature, and the environment.

My Ph.D. is in biology, with the wonderful Phil Motta at the University of South Florida. I stayed at USF, but moved up to geology for a postdoc with Greg Herbert. Before USF, I earned my M.S. in geology at Michigan State and my B.S. in geology at the University of Illinois. I grew up just outside Chicago, and even though Meadville is now home, sweet home Chicago still has part of my heart.  My husband and kids (3 & 7 years old) help me maintain that whole work-life balance thing. We craft, we play outside, we build Lego, and we embrace our geekery.

You can follow me on Twitter: @WhitenackLab

My blog: https://whitenacklab.wordpress.com/

My website: https://sites.google.com/a/allegheny.edu/whitenack/

24th of October 2016 – Zarah Pattison, University of Stirling

zarah-pattisonHi! I am a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stirling working on the effects of connectivity on the abundance and presence of E.coli in freshwater lochs/lakes across the UK. This work forms part of the Hydroscape project led by Stirling University and has a great variety of scientist working on all things freshwater. I have just submitted my PhD thesis which focused on the effect of changing environmental conditions on invasive alien plants and how this may impact native vegetation communities. Now I nervously await my PhD viva in December.

My academic life is a total contrast to my previous 10 year career as a make-artist. Whilst working full-time I studied through the Open University to get the qualifications I needed to start an undergraduate degree at Royal Holloway, University of London. It was here that I changed from Zoology to Ecology and fell in love with plants and microbes. I also completed a research masters degree at Royal Holloway, assessing the role of plant-soil feedbacks in the invasive alien plant, Impatiens glandulifera (Himalayan balsam).

It is safe to say that I am now hooked on research, fieldwork and plant ID (“weeds” preferentially). As a south African woman, fuelled by coffee, I try and get involved as much as possible in STEM outreach and hope that somewhere in the near future we can encourage more young girls (and boys) to enjoy science as much as we all do!



22nd of August 2016 – Megan Larsen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Megan LarsenMegan 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).

15th February 2016 – Sophia Frentz, MCRI, University of Melbourne

Sophia FrentzSophia Frentz (@SophiaFrentz) is a second year PhD student in Genetics with the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the University of Melbourne. She investigates model systems and potential treatments for mitochondrial disorders, a project that is funded by the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, and really enjoys being able to engage with a group that’s involved from research to clinicians to patients (Last year she walked 35 kilometres in one of their fundraising efforts). Sophia did her undergraduate at the University of Otago, located in Dunedin, New Zealand, in Genetics with a minor in Microbiology – and took a few more fun courses, like food science and linguistics.

She’s chronically bad at focussing, so is also a passionate advocate for diversity in STEM, secretary of the University of Melbourne’s Women in Science and Engineering students’ group, President of the MCRI Research Students’ Association, co-lead tutor of a breadth subject at the University of Melbourne, writes for Lateral, and still finds time to have fun! (She’s currently playing Mass Effect 3 as part of that so no spoilers). She was featured on the cusp recently as one of “20 Young Australians on the cusp of greatness” which probably now means she has to do something great, and become Australian.

June 15th 2015 – Caitlyn Cardetti, Columbia University Medical School

Caitlyn CardettiI am a research assistant for the Behavioral Medicine division at Columbia University Medical Center. I have been in this role just over a year. I have a B.S. in both human biology and psychology. The day to day as an RA in my lab varies greatly because we are all simultaneously working on various projects. We have two exercise studies that are actively recruiting, one that is finishing up, a fourth that is just getting going, and we are in the process of adding two more studies. The main study I work on is a clinical study looking into the effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive function. I also have a very small role in the Midlife Development in the U.S. (MIDUS) study. I help with scoring the psychophysiological sessions for the refresher. MIDUS is a huge national, longitudinal, interdisciplinary study and I can’t even begin to describe all of its components but it definitely a very innovative study that has led to many, many publications.

I am very passionate about spreading my love for science so I’m excited to get to be a part of Biotweeps. The general public tends to be pretty clueless about what happens behind closed lab doors and I would love for this to change. So I try my best to stay involved with STEM outreach. I was fortunate enough to be accepted for a STEM mentor fellowship this past fall semester with New York Academy of Sciences and it was great. I co-taught an afterschool forensics module for 9-10 year olds and they loved it. Also I more recently got involved with Pint of Science and helped organize their three day science event this past May.

You can find me on twitter as @CaitlynCardetti While I mainly tweet about science, be warned that during hockey season a couple hockey tweets might slip through. If you’re interest in my lab you can follow their twitter @BMEDcumc which is full of information about our current studies and recent findings on how exercise impacts health.

February 9th, 2015 – Eleanor Senior, University of Birmingham

Eleanor SeniorI am currently a 3rd year Biological Sciences MSCi studying at the University of Birmingham, but i’m still a Lancashire lass at heart. My interests involve both microbiology and botany, particularly in the area of Plant Pathology. I’m writing my dissertation on how microbes can affect and regulate normal plant development and I’m striving to make people see that plants are not a dull as everyone thinks, a particular problem in schools where you just learn about photosynthesis for 7 years straight. I the future I hope to study for my PhD in either plant biology or microbiology (if they can put up with me for 4 years that is!)

I am currently interested in how our knowledge of plants and microbes can be applied to wide reaching fields of science, from agriculture to pharmaceuticals. This seems to be of particular importance now there are issues arising in food security due to the exponentially growing human population.

I also have a keen interest in sport and nutrition, as a keen runner and gym bunny i am fascinated with the biomechanical processes by which we are able to move and also the biochemical processes that allow us to function.

I love Science Communication and am now a STEM ambassador for Birmingham and Solihull. I’ve already had the fortune to work at the British Science festival and soon I’ll be at the Big Bang Fair, spreading my interests with a wider audience.