Field of Science


Neglect... so much neglect. Been swallowed up by my move to Indiana and settlement attempts. Haven't really been keeping up with my SciAm blogging either, but I do intend to return here and post the occasional snippet of something random and perhaps even technical, that I don't want to bother with in terms of translating to a human language. That was an awful sentence -- see what a lack of writing practice can do?

For the few who may care about personal life, well... being a full-time researcher takes up a lot of time, it turns out. Particularly when your experiments aren't really shining in glory or anything like that. And when your gentle introduction to a subject you despised all through undergrad happens to be a grad-level course you absolutely have to do well in. In other words, I've been thrown off into population genetics at the deep end. The course was great, actually, and think I learned *a lot*, but a little bit intensive to someone who merely a year ago defiantly ignored claims that evolution involved 'populations'.

In terms of research life, feels like I'm involved tangentially in enough projects to get away with not really doing anything in particular. In addition to maintaining some ciliate and diatom mutation accumulation lines (long, boring and painful multi-year project to ultimately measure the mutation rate and spectrum, which is actually very exciting as a final product!), I'm trying to learn the art of harnessing ciliate growth rates to be able to have them undergo autogamy (recreating their macronuclei, etc etc) at just the right times to gather RNA for sequence data (that is not my project), and figuring out imaging techniques for deciphering the identity of food vacuole bacteria that persist after longterm starvation for some inexplicable reason. In addition, also trying to start up new protist mutation accumulation lines to ultimately get a phylogenetically sounder sense of eukaryotic mutation rates.

As you can see, lots of trying and attempting and figuring stuff out, and not a whole lot of results and data, which gets frustrating after some time. But rumour has it that's not unusual when starting in a new lab.

Another shift was going from a protistology haven to being some sort of a sole regional expert on protist diversity, entirely for lack of anyone else in the field around here. It's rather alienating, and you can't argue with people about arcane topics in protist phylogeny and taxonomy as they'll just go with whatever you assert. Which renders argumentative assertion a lot less fun. On the other hand, there's an exciting challenge to convert locals to the dark side, and I'm trying to do anything I can in that department, mwahaha! After all, Indiana U used to be quite a bustling centre of protist research, back in the days of Tracy Sonneborn, his deciples and Paramecium genetics. A handful of us in this lab are all that's left of IU's proud protistology tradition...

So that's what I've been doing lately, leaving little productive time for blogging (but, of course, plenty of time for unproductive procrastination). Not easy getting started after a long break either...

Anyway, enough rambling, and onward with moar protists!


  1. Re: MA lines - are you looking specifically at ncDNA or will you also assay mito-DNA?

    A mitophile wants to know ;-)

    -The Other Jim

  2. We're focusing primarily on the nuclear genomes, but I think we're gonna sequence all the acid we can get our hands on, while we're at it! Ok, only nucleic acids, but still exciting... ;-)

    From what I understand, ciliate mitochondria aren't as bizarrely weird and awesome as, say, those of dinoflagellates or many other protists in the phylogenetic area. Except for the reduced ones in anaerobic ciliates like Nyctotherus.

  3. How many times did I proclaim to my cell biology and histology students my outright loathing for genetics?

    What class did I end up having to teach? Genomics. Ok, it's not genetics, but you best know some to teach genomics. Yeah, I know, but I don't have to love it. Sigh.

    Congrats on your move to Indiana (and to Sciam)

    I am paying "blog calls" to each @scio12 attendee to say "Hi" and give your blog a shoutout on twitter. I look forward to seeing you in January!


Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS