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Multitudes of life in Ed Yong's I Contain Multitudes

"Remember that animals emerged in a world that had already been teeming with microbes for billions of years. They were the rulers of the planet long before we arrived." -Ed Yong

Last week, I was able to attend Ed Yong's book talk at MIT. At his talk, Yong took us on a journey through his recently published book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. In this microbial tour de force, Yong describes the diverse ways microbes interact with plants, animals, humans, and basically anything on this earth. Microbes are ubiquitous and Yong explores the ways microbes may shape our global ecosystem and vice versa. (more…)

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Vibrio natriegens as the new E. coli?

Anyone who has dabbled into molecular biology knows that Escherichia coli has been the go-to model organism for quite some time. As an organism that is easy to grow and easy to genetically manipulate in the lab, E. coli has become one of the most commonly used microorganisms in labs that study a variety of biological systems. It has been used to inform the behavior of other bacteria (which may be harder to grow or more difficult to work with). Outside of strictly microbiology research, E. coli has been used to produce many biomolecules by inserting genes needed to produce these molecules into the bacterium. (more…)

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Microbes at work in your kimchi

Kimchi is the national dish of South Korea and has become a global trend in the last several years. With its distinct and pungent odor, people seem to either love this stuff or despise it with all their passion. Kimchi is a mixture of vegetables and seasonings that is fermented before it is eaten. It is spicy, salty, and tangy all at the same time. (more…)

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The Olympics: Microbes vs. Humans

As the world watches the Olympics, the journal Nature Microbiology hosted the Microbial Olympics.

Here are some highlights from this year's Microbial Olympics events:

(1) Synchronized swarming: Swarming is a coordinated movement of bacterial populations to spread out over solid or semi-solid surfaces. Swarming speeds are comparable to swimming speeds in the same organism. In the synchronized swarming competition, bacterial populations are judged on how quickly they swarm on a semi-solid agar surface. Bacterial populations start in the middle of the surface and move outwards to the finish line. The medalists for this event are the well known swarmers, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (gold), Proteus mirabilis (silver) and Bacillus subtilis (bronze). (more…)

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Lost in translation: From scientists to the press and to the public

"You don't really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother." - quote attributed to Albert Einstein

As a scientist, we often find that people have a hard time understanding what we do. Family and friends may expect that we make giant strides in our work everyday, making important breakthroughs or discoveries left and right. They may not understanding how slow science is or why our research is important or even what our research is about. (more…)