Ants, impostorism and a few more updates

It’s been a while since my last update, although this time I have a better reason than usual for being so busy-my wife and I were blessed with a lovely baby girl a few months ago! Between frantically trying to finish up assignments before she was born, and then being busy/sleep-deprived taking care of a newborn, I haven’t had much of a chance to post any updates (and I’m not sure how regularly I’ll be able to update in the near future, so I’ve changed my website’s front page to a static About Me page).

That said, I did finish some nice articles before/shortly after the baby arrived, here’s a quick roundup:

    The Secret Lives of Ants: This was a really fun article about a researcher trying to create the first model ant system in order to understand ant communication and behavior. It turns out there’s currently no way to do genetics on ants, and the article describes all the effort put into trying to change that, with lots of fun little details.
    Feeling like a Fraud: The Impostor Syndrome in Science Writing: As someone who’s struggled with impostor syndrome at various points in my career, it was great to dig into the research that’s been done on this topic, and how it applies specifically to science writing/journalism. I’m not sure what surprised me most about this piece–all the high-profile, highly successful science journalists who said they felt like impostors, or all the others who had never experienced it and weren’t even sure it was a real thing…Either way, I think this article should serve as a useful resource for anyone who wants to learn more about impostor syndrome and how to deal with it.
    Discovering Novel Antibiotics: Another article for The Scientist magazine, this time for their Lab Tools section on techniques used to discover novel antibiotics. Given the rise in antibiotic resistance, there’s a lot of research being done to find new antibiotics. Interestingly, scientists have identified lots of hidden gene clusters in the genomes of antibiotic-producing bacteria. These clusters could serve as potential new sources of antibiotics, but first we have to figure out how to express them. This article highlights some of the promising new techniques being used to do this.
    I also wrote a couple more Inner Workings articles for the PNAS Front Matter:

    Tiny organisms could reveal how animals evolved: I’ve been fascinated by choanoflagellates ever since I found out about them while writing this previous article. These tiny eukaryotes are the closest living relatives to animals, and scientists have been studying them to figure out how multicellularity evolved. This article summarizes recent advances in our understanding of choanoflagellates and what we’ve learned from them about the evolution of multicellularity.

    Bacteria work together to survive Earth’s depths: This one’s a more in-depth look at some of the things I briefly mentioned in my Smithsonian feature on deep life from early last year–specifically, how exactly do bacteria get food deep under the Earth where there’s no sunlight and little air. It turns out different types of bacteria cooperate with each other to survive these harsh environments. It’s an interesting finding that wouldn’t have been possible even a few years earlier, before the advent of single-cell sequencing and protocols to extract and preserve high-quality RNA and DNA from tiny samples. And of course, it wouldn’t be possible without researchers spending countless hours in deep underground gold mines painstakingly collecting enough samples for their analysis.

So that’s a quick summary of some of my work from the end of last year/early this year. I finished a few more articles that have yet to publish, will post those whenever they’re up. It might be a little while before any other major updates, I’m currently taking things a bit slow, particularly when it comes to challenging features–turns out babies can be quite time-consuming (and a lot of fun :).


Also published on Medium.

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