Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, but it could be a neuron!

As a scientifically minded person I often find myself seeing sciencey things in everyday objects like puddles and clouds. Sort of like the scientific equivalent of seeing Jesus in a piece of toast!

My most recent observation is that the logo of a petrol station chain is actually the cell body of a neuron!

Logo of Murco Garages Nerve cell

What do you think?

 

This has reminded me of a fun page on the Rockefeller University’s Trypanosome lab website where there are a number of Trypanosome sightings in art and other things including seaweed!

 

Selling things to Scientists!

Advertising, we can’t escape it. Next month there will probably be Christmas decorations for sale in shops.

In the Scientific world I can’t help but think that marketing takes a turn down bonkers lane! The weird and wacky pictures and analogies that companies use to get us to buy and use their products are truly strange and stranger still is that it works! So what is it about the mad scientists out there who succumb to these sneaky strategies?

Here are a few of my favourites that I have come across in the last few months…

This baby from LabTech is just chilling out at the beach with his best friend – Mr Chromosome

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This mouse is having a tough day! The people at Thermo Scientific keep trying to squidge him into a tiny tube!

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What bizarre advertising slogans or mascots have you come across?

Biological Baking, Basal Body Biscuit!

How much alliteration can be in one title!!! 

A few months ago I stumbled across a biscuit creation technique called pixel cookies http://www.flickr.com/photos/27064046@N00/sets/72157603857787202 not content to just copy the space invader idea, as groovy as it is I thought long and hard about how I could utilise the pixel cookie idea and apply it to my area of research!!! How geeky can I get?!

The pixel cookie scheme was filed in my brain under ‘tasks to be done’ until a recent publication (Ikeda and Graffenried, 2012) where the group demonstrated their findings about the structure and positioning of organelles with Trypanosomes using plasticine models! Whilst I love a good tomogram or reconstructed model as much as the next cell biologist the crafty inner me couldn’t help but smile at the models, if the groups thinks that is the best way to get their findings across then fair enough. The scientist in me noticed that there was no scale bar for the models, the crafter in me noticed the fingerprints in the modelling clay. However this is not a journal club blog! So on with the fun stuff!

To get back to the serious business of baking though! The paper sparked the idea to do flagella cookies with the 9+2 microtubule arrangement but after considering it I thought for my first attempt I would go with a simple basal body/centriole design.

Simple I thought! Wrong I was! 

First of all I got out my ingredients and a diagram of a basal body for reference because once my brain goes into baking mode its like I’ve never seen a pipette in my life! My chosen image is a particular favourite of mine (Fliegauf et al., 2007). 

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Once the batches of dough were made, coloured and had been banished to the fridge for 30 minutes I was ready to start! Using the play-doh fun factory I begun by pressing out the A microtubule and then the B and C microtubules followed. I squidged them together and put them back in the fridge to harden up a bit, which makes then easier to cut up later on. 

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Now I needed a connecting middle bit so they weren’t just ghostly floating microtubules! I just used a normal circle cookie cutter. The tricky bit was spacing out the 9 triplets as evenly as I could. Then I layer the slices of triplets in the dents. For any cell biologists reading this – yes I know I missed out details like the cartwheel but by this point I was running low on enthusiasm! 

So I popped it in the oven and 12-14 minutes later I was pretty please with what came out even if I do say so myself!

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At some point I plan to attempt an edible flagellum!

References!

Kyojiro N. Ikeda and Christopher L. de Graffenried

Polo-like kinase is necessary for flagellum inheritance in Trypanosoma brucei

J Cell Sci jcs.101162; Advance Online Publication (March 2012) doi:10.1242/jcs.101162

 

Manfred Fliegauf, Thomas Benzing & Heymut Omran

When cilia go bad: cilia defects and ciliopathies

Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 8, 880-893 (November 2007) doi:10.1038/nrm2278

Lab Coats for Cats!

Do not fear! It is not a new interpretation of Sir Lloyd-Webber’s masterpiece. Although if I ever see him I will suggest it :)

Not blogged for a while! The past few weeks have flown by! To bridge the silence I’m going to cheat! I’m going to blog about someone else’s blog post – is that allowed in blog etiquette?!  The blog post in question is from a favorite one of mine, Geek crafts. I recommend it! Go to http://geekcrafts.com/ to fulfill your urges!!!! The crafty item in particular that I think is super fab is instructions to make a teddy bear lab coat! Now I don’t have any teddy bears *sniff* to adorn with clothing but I do have a cat! Mwahahaha! The very inspiration for the name of this blog would you believe! and he is very partial to wearing clothes – usually knitted by bored OAPs – to keep him warm. When I saw the lab coat post I could not resist the idea of customising the pattern for his shape! So I have the pattern ready to go. All I need is material and a clue how to use a sewing machine. I have neither! Don’t panic yet though because I am booked onto a ‘using a sewing machine for dummies’ evening class in the near future and I think that is just my level of learning. For anyone wondering I actually booked the class before I found the lab coat design. Honest!!!

If I manage to create anything that resembles a lab coat and keep all my typing fingers then a follow up post with pictures will follow!!!!

If I get really good and have too much spare time I could create him lab coats in an array of colours! He could have a cat 3 lab coat! Maybe that’s too far?!!!!

You don’t know how lucky you are!

Have you ever been at the receiving line of this statement? Did it make you feel this big -> .  <- thought so. When I was first being trained in a molecular laboratory I was in that situation. The catalyst of the comment being the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Mainly being about the DNA polymerase used in the reaction I was setting up. The ‘you don’t know how lucky you are’ (YDKHLYA) was a reference to the polymerase actually being Taq polymerase from the thermophile Thermus aquaticus. Most importantly it was because I did not know how lucky I was and still to this day just can not wrap my head around how lucky I am, how lucky we are. It should be said that this ‘YDKHLYA’ was shortly followed with a ‘back in my day’ (BIMD) and unfurled into a reminiscence of PCR before the use of thermo stable DNA polymerase. My eyes nearly fell out of my head. I know, Right? PCR before Taq, what an era! So they continued… ‘BIMD we had to top up the DNA polymerase for each cycle’ can you imagine?! I sometimes think back in a hazy fog of fondness to the days I used Taq before going to the dark side and being a Phusion groupie. So thinking that my PCR programme that takes 40 minutes would have taken a day, even days not that long ago in the grand scheme of science history seems barmy!

Makes me wonder when I’d old and grey and wearing purple what will I be preaching about to my student victims?

Trypanosome awareness day, it should be a thing

We’ve all been there. You’re chatting to a distant family member that you haven’t seen since uncle bob’s funeral and there it is, hanging in the air, ‘So what is it that you do?’. If you’re like me then this instantly sparks a myriad of answer option in your head and yet I always say ‘scientific research’. It’s the cop out option. I know I’ve lost their interest at that point and they say something like ‘Oh great…. I think I’ll get some more sausage rolls’.

Recently I increased my social circle and happened to start chatting to a medic. When the inevitable exchange of profession came around he did not give me the glazed eyes response, he actually asked questions. He wanted to know what I do in the lab, he wanted to know why Trypanosomes were better than Plasmodium – but that shall have to wait for another blog post!

Why do I always expect people to be bored by what I do – by what I LOVE doing? Why do I short change myself and my unsuspecting colleagues? What is this culture that we have where science can’t be fun? Whiffle I say!

It reminded me of a talk I went to a few years ago given by a researcher from University of Glasgow http://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/iii/wtcmp/. He mentioned a project that his lab were doing to educate the locals about Trypanosomes and what sort of work the lab got up to. He handed out cool comic style booklets. I thought it was an awesome idea. I have heard and read about this project a few times since then and I think now is the time I did my bit to spread the word.

Below is a picture of the team at the Glasgow West End Festival Parade 2010

Massive puppet Trypanosome

Video of the team at the west end festival parade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyX2mH18-xA

 

The group now have a rather groovy website dedicated to their mission to educate the public about parasites http://www.parasites.me/Parasites.Me/Introduction.html

 

To round up! It important to remember science is fun! Be inspired! If you loose sight of that fact them how will you inspire the next generation of scientists?

Bloggers guilt

How many of you are sufferers? I think most people can identify with it. Were you tweeting instead of reading the paper for journal club or blogging instead of writing your coursework/thesis/journal manuscript/grant proposal? Why do we find it so hard to do the tasks that should be given priority? I often find I can quite happily get lost in my endnote library, chasing down references or finding obscure historical literature but when it comes to journal club I have read every paper except the one we’re discussing. Just because when I sit down to read it, it feels like work and the devil on my shoulder convinces me the freezer needs to be defrosted and the dog needs to be walked. I don’t even own a dog. I know I am not alone in this phenomenon, when I talk to colleagues about impending application deadlines I often find they have not finished or started but that’s ok because their DVD collection is in alphabetical order.

Perhaps this feeling of guilt is misplaced. Think of it this way…. Why should I feel guilty that I am decreasing my stress levels by having a creative output for my thoughts? Why should I feel guilty about improving my writing and communication skills by blogging?

So if before today you were a sufferer of bloggers guilt just take a moment to think why should you not feel guilty?

Who knew proteins were so pretty?

Look at these drawings! Inspired by the structure of the protein! Amazing! Hidden pictures for scientific minds! This work obviously requires a very sharp imagination to see the shapes in the ribbon diagrams! I love them!

See them here on May K’s blog: http://maykayart.wordpress.com/

Happy Monday!

DNA art, super geeky but we love it anyway!

The recent conception of an outreach project to bring PCR and electrophoresis into the classrooms of local school has filled me with a new obsession for DNA.

I find myself constantly trying to think of new ways to make pupils feel WOWED by DNA and all the magic it encodes like a really tightly coiled spell book. Really, really tightly coiled.

Whilst on one of my Google explorations missions to find good a plenary for our school sessions I have come across the most amazing things you can do with your DNA. Anyone who watched CSI NY may be thinking ahead at this point…. Genetic art. Yep! There is a company, who will create bespoke pieces of home furnishings, which is your DNA fingerprint. If you were feeling flashy you could have a family fingerprint, just to prove your children were your genetic offspring. Embarrassing if they weren’t and an awkward topic of conversion hence forth!

‘Who does this?’ I can sense your pondering, well a certain little Hobbit has. Not sure about that view though.

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It’s not just the brazen wall art, oh no! If that is too understated for you, you could go for a themed room… wallpaper, water feature, and rug. You name it and it can be adorned with your personal nucleotide bands. If DNA bands are not your style or clash with your zebra print cushions how about a fingerprint bowl for your coffee table? It’s probably only a matter of time before you can buy an Elvis fingerprint fruit bowl *sigh*.

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If you are business minded and like to share things with the world you could even commission some very personal business cards. Oh yeah.

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All images sourced from http://labs.dna11.com/

For more custom made genetically themed products visit http://labs.dna11.com/

 

 

Learning to insert video…