The Biochemist Blog

My hidden disability and how I owned it

By Brittany Dodson, Penn State University, USA

My world is quiet. I don’t hear thunder until it’s right on top of me, and sometimes I can’t hear a person talking to me. When I pick up the phone, the person on the other end sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher from the Peanuts cartoons. I’ve had this hearing loss all my life. It wasn’t until graduate school that I realized I avoided situations, because I wouldn’t be able to hear well. And it started to affect my professional life as a scientist.

How plant science will change the world

By Erica Hawkins, John Innes Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Plant science is a lot more important than you realise.  It has often been cast as cell biology’s less exciting sibling. What is the point of studying root growth, flowering or stomatal aperture? There are way more important things to be researching… aren’t there?

Epigenetic tags for personalized diagnoses

By Sarah Kearns, University of Michigan, USA

There’s more to our genetics than what’s within our DNA code. Though the code itself is the basis for life, on its surface there are chemical alterations that change how it’s expressed. Because DNA’s structure is that of a helix, modifications either make it coil up or unwind where the unwound form allows for transcription. Epigenetics is the concept of chemical marks on DNA, or associated proteins that control gene activity, that act independently of the genetic code itself.

Environmental pharmacology: how safe is our chemical jungle?

By Christopher Connolly, University of Dundee

The human population has grown from 1 billion in the 1800’s, to 7 billion in 2012 and is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050. Feeding this burgeoning population, as cheaply as possible, has driven the global industrialisation of agriculture. Now large monocultures replace a diverse natural habitat. In so doing, the natural ecosystem balance has been damaged and we have opted for the easy solution – chemical warfare against pest species.