I was invited to take part in a round-table on scientific careers at the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. This followed a few months after a fascinating conference/workshop I went to in January called We Scientists Shape Science. I went there with the idea of promoting science communication skills in PhD training, but ended up more focused on the larger problems of scientific careers.
After the conference, a few of us banded together to write out our thoughts and recommendations. You can find the piece here.
This week at the round-table, it was wonderful to hear that the Swiss Academies are listening and are trying to build a structure that will help give young scientists in Switzerland a collective voice. I imagine it will take a while but the gears are churning.
This amazing meeting was organized by Iain Couzin (MPI Konstanz) on the collaboration between University of Konstanz and Tel Aviv University. The Movement part of the meeting was focused on quantitative approaches to 'behavior' in a very broad sense: behavior of animals to behavior of cells. It was super inspiring to meet these people invited from all over the world doing creative out-of-the-box research on coordinated behavior. On top of that I was an invited speaker myself – I was thrilled to get to share my work on trophallaxis!
Computational biology will never cease to amaze me. I wanted to check how my protein of interest, an esterase that has evolved from a hemolymph-based hormone processing enzyme important in insect development, is managing to survive in the harsh environment of trophallactic fluid (ph 2!). There are some amazing tools out there! First I used I-TASSER to map my protein's sequence onto those of proteins whose structure is known, then evaluate which is the best match. Then I can take that information and feed it into PropKa to figure out the state of charge on each molecule of the protein in a given pH environment. Then! I can pop all of this into Chimera and visualize the charge all around the protein, and even head over to CASTp to look into the binding pocket! All of these magical science powers are available on the internet for free for non-profit/research use.
This experience has been amazing. The phenomenal fellow residents here (ranging from biochemistry professor to game designer with most people holding multiple titles/identities) have been constant inspiration, not only in their science and/or art, but in the way that each has built a way to have both in his or her life. This is a constant struggle in a world where we are constantly being told we need to focus exclusively on one or the other. It's wonderful to be here and to clearly and unabashedly be a person doing both.
One of my biggest lessons here has been that I should quit stressing about doing both and just do them. There have been a number of jokes about one positive of ageing: that you care less and less about pleasing others or fitting what the world wants from you. Working on it.
Another wonderful surprise has been the future-focused discussions/projects. A lot of the residents are working on projects about our shared future and how we are arriving in it, how the future is a participatory creation.
What have I been doing? I've been working on a new play tentatively called Unsupervised Learning about science, hubris and the wild confidence necessary for innovation. More info to come.
I had the pleasure of visiting the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Geneva last week. I was giving a talk as part of a symposium featuring six other women scientists and one man, all doing fascinating work on different aspects of biology involving distributed processes, cellular forces and membrane trafficking. Needless to say, it was a great visit. It's a very creative department tackling diverse problems and creating very cool new chemical biology tools. I hope to get the opportunity to interact more with them in the future!
How convenient: The ants fly from just outside the lab! Beautiful flight in the late afternoon light....
Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Haifa, the Privman lab, and the Institute of Evolution at the University of Haifa to give a seminar about my work social fluids and to work on the neofunctionalized enzyme collaboration. What a beautiful spot! And they said it wasn't a clear day....
Great news: Thanks to my cool ongoing project with the Dessimoz group at UNIL and the Privman group in Haifa on social neofunctionalization of hormone processing enzymes I get to travel a few times back to Lausanne for scientific purposes through an OMA visiting fellowship! Why? We're using the excellent and multi-faceted OMA to look at this neofunctionalization.
Big change! At the start of March I moved to the Weizmann Institute of Science to work for most of this year in Ofer Feinerman's lab with their awesome trophallaxis tracking system in the Department of Physics of Complex Systems.
It's exciting to plant some roots in a new place, especially a new place with great weather and great hummus!
I'm getting the double pleasure of getting to talk about my work on two campuses on the very same day: Feb 22, 2017. In Konstanz I will be talking with folks in the neurobiology side of things (social fluids are a type of chemical communication), while in Zurich I'll be talking more with evolutionary biologists and focusing more on the evolution of parental care. Thank you to Christoph Kleineidam (Konstanz) and to Barbara König (Zurich) for welcoming me!
Last year I had the pleasure of debuting a new six-week course for doctoral students in the Faculty of Business and Economics in at the University of Lausanne on "Mastering the Art of Public Speaking." It was a wild ride that ended in a beautiful event in La Grange de Dorigny and 6 excellent talks.
This year we are doing the course again but in just three days spaced out over a week! It starts next week. I can't wait to meet this year's class! The final event will be February 28th at 2pm, Extranef room 125, at the University of Lausanne.
I'm honored to get the opportunity to be one of the scientist/artists in residence this summer in the Djerassi Visiting Artists program. I'm really thrilled to get to meet and potentially work with some of these people!
An ant’s kiss may hide a sneaky form of communication
Science, Nov 29, 2016 "An ant’s kiss may hide a sneaky form of communication"
WIRED, Nov 29, 2016 "Carpenter ants 'throw up' on each other to say hello"
Gizmodo, Nov 29, 2016 "Ants Exchange Messages When They Make Out"
Science Daily, Nov 29, 2016 "Ants communicate by mouth-to-mouth fluid exchange"
DailyMail, Nov 29, 2016
Eurekalert, Nov 29, 2016
Phys.org, Nov 29, 2016
Business Standard, Nov 29, 2016
UPI, Nov 29, 2016
NewAltas, Nov 29, 2016 "When ants kiss, it's all about the chemistry"
La Vanguardia, Nov 30, 2016 "Las hormigas también se besan, y los científicos empiezan a entender el porqué"
Live Science, Nov 30, 2016 "For Ants, a Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss…It's Communication"
Mental Floss, Dec 2, 2016 "Ants Communicate by Swapping Spit"
Der Standard, Dec 4, 2016 "Soziale Insekten kommunizieren, indem sie Flüssigkeit austauschen"
STEAM register, Nov 29, 2016
Science Explorer, Nov 29, 2016
Sky.it, Nov 30, 2016
LaInformacion, Nov 30, 2016
India.com, Dec 1, 2016
New Zealand Herald, Dec 3, 2016
Yahoo Japan, Dec 13, 2016
EntomologyToday, Dec 7, 2016
Nature, Dec 15, 2016 "Ants 'talk' by swapping spit"
Boston Globe Jan 9th, 2017
Krone Jan 9th, 2017
Die Presse, Jan 9th, 2017
NZZ, Jan 9th, 2017
La Liberté, Jan 10th, 2017