Monthly Archives: November 2012

Best thing since sliced bread

In case you hadn’t gathered from all of the posts about the Rothamsted wheat trials, I have a bit of a soft spot for wheat. Wheat isn’t just globally important (as one of the Big Three staples, providing around 20% of our calories and a decent amount of protein for a cereal), it’s also really interesting. It has three genomes, making it incredibly genetically diverse, and therefore able to grow in a really wide variety of climates. That also means that it can undergo some nifty genetic changes: if one copy of a gene starts to evolve in a potentially-cool-but-potentially-hazardous way, there’s usually another ‘back up’ copy, allowing more divergent evolution than in a diploid like rice.

Map of wheat production (average percentage of land used for its production times average yield in each grid cell) across the world compiled by the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment with data from: Monfreda, C., N. Ramankutty, and J.A. Foley. 2008. Farming the planet: 2. Geographic distribution of crop areas, yields, physiological types, and net primary production in the year 2000. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 22: GB1022

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Round Up #4

Back when I was blogging regularly, and when I was writing more about science news and less about the woes of being a PhD student I did a few round ups of interesting things I had read that week which I didn’t have the time to write an entire blog post of. Given how much stuff I’ve managed to stray across this week (mainly because I seem to be back on Twitter, after a long hiatus) I thought it was time for another one.   Continue reading

Starting Grad School: Get Sociable

Moving to a new city to start my postgraduate studies was one of the most daunting things I have ever done. Going to uni in the first place as an undergrad was a piece of cake: I’m musical, I’m sporty, I’m religious and I like giving people food. I’m not amazing at making close friends but I am very good at making friendly acquaintances. And everybody else was in the exact same boat, desperate to meet their new best friends and super keen to be involved with everything.

After I graduated I worked in a lovely, supportive school, that expected all of the staff to be involved in much more than just teaching. Even if there hadn’t been the immediate camaraderie of bitching in the staff room about disruptive kids, I got to know people through the musical side of the school, and Duke of Edinburgh, and Christian Union.

Moving here was a whole other ball game. The postgrads separated out neatly into:  Continue reading

Clock is ticking for better stomatal control

One of the things that I find really frustrating about academia (and a significant part of why I enjoy teaching so much) is how narrow your focus has to become. I have lots of biological interests: I find stress biology incredibly interesting. I am fascinated by epidemiology. I did an internship looking at sexual systems in plants. As a scientific researcher though, most of that gets shut down. If there isn’t a viable possibility for collaboration then you may as well forget it. Time spent reading about neurology or viral resistance is apparently time wasted for me.

Thankfully, I have a blog, and today – having given blood this morning – I am in no shape for lab work. If I were sensible I would be reading or writing or being otherwise productive. But, using the excuse that I would probably accidentally delete my entire Methods section (give me some credit, I faceplanted the floor of the donation room twice) I am reading about other interesting science.

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Idiot’s guide to Western Blots: Part 1

Having not touched them since … June maybe? Perhaps even May … I’m back to doing Western Blots, a technique that I wasn’t amazingly confident with to begin with. I did a dry run with samples that didn’t matter on Friday, knowing that Iw as likely to make tonnes of little mistakes all over the show, forgetting things that once seemed too intuitive to write down. What I need, I thought to myself, is an Idiot’s Guide.

There’s something that bothers me about Idiots’ Guides: They never tell you where something will go wrong. Or what will happen if it does. So here I present the Baking Biologist’s guide to Western blotting: The things that can go wrong, why they will go wrong, and whether to carry on or just scrap the whole thing.

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1092 humans, 14 populations, 1 map.

A little while ago, I wrote a tiny bit about the  1000 genomes project, in which scientists hoped to sequenced the genomes of 1000 individuals and use them as a basis of comparison to pin down the genetic variation contributing to disease. About a week ago, the consortium published their findings, and somehow I missed it: shock horror. Continue reading