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The Menagerie on Partial Hiatus

Hi everyone. Thank you for following along on tales of the fascinating lives of microbes. For the next six weeks, I will be broadening my writing and tackling other fields of biology as the summer science writer at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). Today, I was working on a story about sex change in snails and tomorrow I will be interviewing a cephalopod expert! In the meantime, please follow along on MBL's blog The Well for some of the stories I am working on. I will not be posting about strictly microbiology stories here for a while, but don't fret, I will still share "Meet a Microbiologist" stories every other week as scheduled.

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Meet a Microbiologist: Kimberly Walker

Like many young scientists, Kimberly Walker took to her natural surroundings for study. As a child, she would do experiments on ants near her house. After a B.S. in medical technology, she pursued a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology. She studied the molecular pathogenesis of Gram-negative bacteria, specifically Bordetella pertussis, Proteus mirabilis, and diarrheagenic Escherichia coli.

She is fascinated by the secretion systems of Gram-negative bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria use different forms of secretion to transfer proteins from within the cell to the exterior. Secretion systems have many functions, whether to emit toxins or to build extracellular structures. “They are brilliant. Type II is my favorite,” she says. (more…)

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Meet a Microbiologist: Raphael Laurenceau
Chemical engineer turned microbiologist. Co-founder and co-organizer of a DIY biolab. Cultivator of photosynthetic bacteria. Raphael Laurenceau began his path in the sciences by studying chemical engineering. After watching several nature documentaries (thanks David Attenborough), he soon realized he was in the wrong field. There were too many fascinating things happening in the world’s ecosystems and Raphael wanted to study them. Though life is all chemistry, he wanted to study biology and used his chemistry background to leverage a career in biology. “I realized that chemistry is a great stepping stone to enter the world of biology. There is nothing more than chemical reactions happening inside cells,” Raphael says.

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Repairing Concrete with Bacterial Builders

Can bacteria be the solution to collapsing bridges and cracking roads? Researches from Delft Technical University are developing a bacteria-infused concrete that can repair itself.

Concrete is created from a combination of water, aggregate (such as sand, gravel, stone) and cement. It dates back to the Roman Empire and structures made from concrete such as the Pantheon and the Colosseum still stand today. However, concrete tends to form cracks, which reduces its lifetime. Once cracks form, water and chemicals can seep in further reducing its structural integrity. Traditional methods to repair concrete can be costly and require hands-on work. What if there was a way for concrete to heal itself? (more…)

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Meet a microbiologist: Meenakshi Prabhune

Meenakshi Prabhune morphed from a microbiologist into a biochemist and biophysicist and finally into a freelance science writer. As someone who has always been curious of the biological world, microbiology was a natural choice for study as she entered college. The first time she isolated bacterial colonies on an agar plate and observed bacteria swimming under the microscope sparked even more curiosity. “It felt like a whole new invisible world had opened its doors to me,” she recalled. Soon after, she began to suspect that her irritated eyes from using contact lenses were caused by microbes and sought to prove this hypothesis. She sampled her contact lenses and when she saw an agar plate full of pink colonies, she was shocked. Did this scare her away from wearing contacts? Nope. She still uses contact lenses but the incident inspired a more thorough cleaning regiment. (more…)