International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, so in honour of the day, I’d like to tell some stories and pay tribute to two of the women in science who helped start me down the path that led to my PhD. Continue reading “International Day of Women and Girls in Science”


Recruitment of a bacterial cell surface appendage to the cell pole

Disclaimer: I’m one of the authors on this paper. 

There’s a proper orientation to the human body. Imagine if instead of your arms coming out of your shoulders, they extended from your waist, or if your legs grew from your back. Like us, bacteria also have an appropriate orientation and appendages involved in movement have a ‘correct’ place to be assembled. A recent paper from the Burrows Lab at McMaster University by Carter et al. in mBio investigated how an appendage called a type IV pilus (or T4P) is recruited to the cell poles. I’ll give the gist of the paper here, but for a full appreciation of it, read the paper here! Continue reading “Recruitment of a bacterial cell surface appendage to the cell pole”

Bell Let’s Talk Day

Today in Canada is Bell Let’s Talk Day, an annual event to raise awareness for mental health.

Mental health in graduate school is a big deal but often overlooked. For Bell Let’s Talk Day, here are a few interesting reads on the topic. 

Mental Health in higher education by The Guardian
The awful cost of a PhD by Jennifer Walker
Paying grad school’s mental toll by Carrie Arnold
This is your mind on grad school from The Berkeley Science Review

Continue reading “Bell Let’s Talk Day”

Sigma factors and gene transcription at Canadian Science Publishing

I recently wrote a blog post for Canadian Science Publishing about a recent review published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology. The review from Davis et al. summarizes recent findings on the function of the sigma factor. A key component of bacterial transcription machinery – the stuff that turns DNA into RNA (hellooooo central dogma).

Find the blog post here: A primer on sigma factor regulation of gene expression

Continue reading “Sigma factors and gene transcription at Canadian Science Publishing”

Goodbye 2016, hello 2017

I’m a little late on this, but with the end of 2016, it’s always fun to look back on the year that was for some introspection.

2016 – the year in review

2016 was a bit of a challenging year. I went into it hoping to finish my PhD, but at the time, was still working to push out my first publication. I’d say one of the biggest challenges I faced all year was trying to find motivation in the lab to keep pushing when things felt bleak. I managed to do it, and at the end of the day it worked out – I pushed through to get a publication out , and by the end of the year, defended my PhD Thesis. Continue reading “Goodbye 2016, hello 2017”

Evolution of antibiotic resistance through multicopy plasmids

It’s lab journal club day tomorrow! So in honor of that, I’ll take it as a chance to work on writing general summaries of papers. SciComm! -Ryan

By now, you’ve probably heard that antimicrobial resistance is a major clinical problem. The ‘golden age’ of antimicrobials is coming to an end as the existing repertoire of clinically used antibiotics is becoming less effective and more bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics. Resistance typically arises through ‘target mutation’ (modifying the target of an antibiotic inside the cell), preventing entry of the antibiotic altogether, or directly degrading or modifying the antibiotic so it’s no longer active.

Genes associated with antibiotic resistance are often found on plasmids, circular pieces of DNA that are distinct from the bacterial chromosome. Plasmids are small compared to chromosomal DNA –  on the scale of 1000s of base pairs rather than millions. The amount of a plasmid within a single cell, referred to as a plasmid’s ‘copy number’, can vary from one to hundreds of copies. Continue reading “Evolution of antibiotic resistance through multicopy plasmids”

‘Just Write’

In one of my high school English classes, our teacher had everyone keep a journal. Usually once a week, the first 7-10 minutes of class was to write something. What we wrote never mattered, we just had to get sentences on paper. Our teacher encouraged the idea of writing for fun – getting pen (or at the time, HB pencil) to paper and writing what was on our mind. Of course, what came out was often unorganized, all over the place, and often grammatically incorrect. But it was fun. An outlet for creativity. Continue reading “‘Just Write’”