Hi, and welcome to the new home of Lab Rat here at Scientific American. I’ve moved here from Field of Science. My FoS blog will now cover random interesting things I find about working as a scientist as I make my way through my PhD, while this blog will cover all the exciting research and advances within my field.
For those who don’t know me, I’m a former biochemist who fell into the world of microbiology and never quite got out. I’m fascinated by all things small and intracellular, and especially by bacteria. I find bacteria amazing because each and every one of them has to do the same as any other organism (move, ingest food, sense and respond to surroundings, communicate with surrounding organisms) but within the small and restricted confines of a single cell, arguably the smallest cells of any living organism. Although they are often thought of as just isolated blobs many bacteria are capable of forming large organised social networks, and differentiating to carry out different tasks within a large connected structure. They can bond together to swarm, form multicellular chains, and create huge organised ‘biofilm’ structures to protect themselves against antibiotic attack.
Some are pathogenic and harmful, others vital for human survival. They live everywhere; from hot high-pressured springs deep below the sea to the frozen wastelands of Antarctica. They can share bits of their DNA with distantly related species, and even just mop up random genes from the environment. They evolve at a rate that multicellular organisms can only dream about and this has given them a huge amount of biochemical diversity. You can find bacterial proteins to do almost anything, from glowing in bright colours to eating dangerous toxins to dissolving concrete.
When I first decided to blog exclusively about bacteria I wondered whether I might start running out of things to write about. Two weeks later I realised I could blog the whole of my life and never run out of amazing things to write about, which is great because I’d rather like to do that. In my old blog I’ve already covered a huge variety of topics, including fossilised bacteria, plant bacteria and bacteria that group into large packs in order to hunt down weaker bacteria and eat them.
So this blog I’m aiming to fill with bacteria; everything from some technical research-blogging to lighter, more general information posts for (hopfully!) a wider audience. I might occasionally branch into virus’s as well and there will probably be the occasional deeply biochemical post (because I do miss biochemistry sometimes) but the overall focus will be bacteria.
I’m excited about moving here to SciAm, not just because it means I’m now officially a professional science writer, but because lots of my bloggy friends are moving here too! Take a look at some of the other folks on this network, they’ll all be great to read and follow. I think it’s going to be great fun blogging here and I hope you enjoy the ride.