Vicki did her PhD in Molecular Biology at the University of Edinburgh. She had been working as a postdoc in several Russel group UK universities while honing her skills in scientific and creative writing. She is now a Technical Officer at the Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, and pen for hire. Check out my proudest achievement, which may be useful for you: The BiteSizeBio Guide for Protein expression

Articles by Vicki Doronina

Career Highlight: Technical Officer

Career Highlight: Technical Officer

An ad about a Technical Officer position is usually nebulous. For example: “The post holder work as part of a technical team and provide both routine and specialist services in support of undergraduate, postgraduate, outreach and revenue-earning activities.” What Does a Technical Officer Do? In fact, a technical officer role can be summarized in two…

Top Tips on How to Prevent Cell Line Cross-Contamination

Top Tips on How to Prevent Cell Line Cross-Contamination

Recently we wrote an article about widespread cell culture contamination and how to detect it. This follow-up article will provide practical tips on avoiding cross-contamination in the first place. Be Cautious While Working The first way of cross-contaminating cultures is by accidentally mixing two cultures together, which may lead to an unintended co-culture or the displacement…

Gene Synthesis: Cloning of The Future?

Gene Synthesis: Cloning of The Future?

I remember the time when elves and wizards walked the Earth and DNA oligonucleotide synthesis was $5 a nucleotide. But the world has changed, nobody thinks twice about ordering an oligo. Whole gene synthesis, which is synthesis of long oligos and their assembly into a very, very long oligo. With prices of around 25–35 cents per…

Banish the Background with Toxin–antitoxin Cloning Systems

Banish the Background with Toxin–antitoxin Cloning Systems

One of the most annoying traits of “classical cloning” is an imperfect system of discriminating between the clones containing an empty vector and vector with insert after cloning. Even when your self-ligation control plate is empty, you can have a lot of colonies containing an empty vector on the “vector + insert” plate. Even the blue-white…

Assembling the Puzzle: Cloning with Compatible Cohesive Ends

Assembling the Puzzle: Cloning with Compatible Cohesive Ends

Consider a jigsaw puzzle. While most of the pieces have a different picture on their surface, all pieces fit together in an interlocking pattern. As unlikely as it may seem, restriction enzymes from different organisms can produce interlocking pieces of DNA – so called compatible cohesive ends (CCE). These are pieces of DNA, which fit…

A Sneak Peak at ‘The Bitesize Bio Guide to Protein Expression’ – a Bitesize Bio eBook

A Sneak Peak at ‘The Bitesize Bio Guide to Protein Expression’ – a Bitesize Bio eBook

If I piqued your interest in the first post about my new e-Book ‘The Bitesize Bio Guide to Protein Expression – a Bitesize Bio eBook’ check out this excerpt from the book explaining what an expression system is and how to choose the right one.  What is an expression system anyway? There was a time…

Seven Frivolous Reasons Not to Attend a Conference

Seven Frivolous Reasons Not to Attend a Conference

Scientific conferences are a peculiar throwback to XIX century, when bearded white men in wool suits were meeting in ale houses to discuss the latest experiment they did at home – once. In our time of instant communication and telepresence, conferences are obsolete and I’ll tell you why. 1. The main reason not to go…

Kick Start Your Research With Crowdfunding!

Kick Start Your Research With Crowdfunding!

Like most scientists, you rely on grant monies to fund your research. Sustaining it depends on your ability to devise promising new ideas, collect new data and show proof-of-concept before writing another proposal to keep the cycle going. Only the best-of-the-best pilot projects seem to make the cut for experimentation when scarce lab funds are…

Tips for Heating up Agar in the Microwave

Tips for Heating up Agar in the Microwave

One of our readers posted the following question to us and we decided to pass it along to everybody’s favorite microbiology expert, Aunt Yersinia: For one year I am working in different research laboratories, after I got from school. I keep wondering why EVERYBODY is using pre-made Agar solutions for pouring plates, and EVERYBODY is…

Focus on Isoelectric Focusing

Focus on Isoelectric Focusing

Isoelectric focusing electrophoresis (IEF) of proteins is nowhere near as popular as its cousin – sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis aka SDS-PAGE. While in both methods the proteins are denatured, IEF is a gel-based electrophoretic separation of proteins using difference in their overall charges. The sodium dodecyl sulphate – SDS part of the usual gel…

How to Identify Protein Motifs from Protein Sequences

How to Identify Protein Motifs from Protein Sequences

Wouldn’t it be great to put your nucleotide sequence into a program and get back a 3D-structure of your protein and a full description of its functions? In theory, because the protein 3D-structure is determined by the aminoacid sequence, given the right algorithm and a powerful enough computer, this should be simple.  In practice, because…

Bad Reference? It’s Not the End of Your Science Career

Bad Reference? It’s Not the End of Your Science Career

The conventional sequence for getting a new job in science (or anywhere else) goes like this: 1) Apply for job 2) Get an interview 3) Ace the interview 4) Pray that your references hold up. So if you had a bad relationship with your last boss, you’re in trouble. Because no matter how well you…

Easy Yeast RNA isolation without the Trizol

Easy Yeast RNA isolation without the Trizol

Recently BsB author Yevgeniy Grigoryev shared a total RNA isolation protocol. The one I use is even simpler—no expensive Trizol, which is a mix of phenol and some salts, all that is required is some Tris, SDS and phenol/chloroform mix. I have never used this protocol on non-yeast cells but I am almost sure that…

Alternatives to presenting your science with Powerpoint

Alternatives to presenting your science with Powerpoint

I was shocked recently at a seminar called  “Writing with style” by the Manchester University writer-in-residence, Chris Simms. He opened by saying that he has never done a presentation using Powerpoint in his life. What? Surely biologists and PowerPoint presentations (PPT) go together like biologists and white lab coats. They teach you to make PPTs…

Science and the Media – Dos and Don’ts

Science and the Media – Dos and Don’ts

Have you ever wondered how the media can write (often cringingly inaccurately) about a recently published scientific paper? Attending Standing up for Science media workshop organised by the Sense about Science charity shed a lot of light on this issue for me There are times when the media are hungry for any news, mostly during…

10 Top Everyday Items Useful in the Lab

10 Top Everyday Items Useful in the Lab

Every research lab is full of equipment specially designed for specific technical and experimental requirements, unfortunately this means said equipment is often expensive. Thankfully there are simple and cheap everyday items which can help you with your experiments and generally make life a lot easier. 1)  Perforated metal ladle – to fish out samples from…

The Reproducibility Initiative: Let Them Eat Cake!

The Reproducibility Initiative: Let Them Eat Cake!

Despite obvious differences between the Korean professor-biotechnologist Hwang Woo-suk and German-born postdoc Jan Hendrik Schön, who used to work in the US on semiconductors, both of these scientists have something in common. Since Hwang Woo-suk’s and Schön’s groundbreaking articles were published in Nature and Science, nobody has been able to reproduce their results  and the…

Second Chance Saloon: How to Western Blot a Coomassie-stained gel

Second Chance Saloon: How to Western Blot a Coomassie-stained gel

In her article How to Get Perfect Protein Transfer in Western Blotting, Emily Crow recommends Coomassie staining your gel after transfer to the membrane to check the quality of the transfer. A good transfer should not leave behind proteins and PVDF membrane, stained by 0.1% Ponceau S in  5% phosphoric acid and destained with water…

Restriction Enzyme Wars: The Natural Function Of Restriction Enzymes

Parents  of small children attending nursery know that the period of time from September to June is a succession of colds and flues for the whole family – children with their underdeveloped immune system exchange viruses, creating new potent strains. Well, that’s probably how bacteria feel all the time in the natural environment teeming with…

Antibiotic Stability: Keep Your (Gun)powder Dry

Antibiotic Stability: Keep Your (Gun)powder Dry

The stability of an antibiotic depends on its chemical structure, method of isolation (from natural sources or chemical synthesis), and the mechanisms of inactivation. First generation antibiotics isolated from natural sources, such as penicillin, are the most unstable, followed by its semisynthetic derivatives (such as ampicillin and carboxycylin).  Aminoglycosides (kanamicin, spectinomycin, etc.) are more stable….

Top Ten Tips for TAP

Top Ten Tips for TAP

Tandem affinity purification (TAP) is a versatile technique allowing the isolation of proteins for various purposes including Western blot and mass-spectrometry. The target protein is fused with protein A from streptococcus and the calmodulin binding domain, which together comprise the TAP-tag (for an introduction to TAP-tagging, see this article). To purify a TAP-tagged protein from…

How to Amplify Difficult PCR Substrates

How to Amplify Difficult PCR Substrates

During my postgraduate studies, I did literally one PCR reaction with a pre-optimised protocol on a not especially difficult template. So my karma came back with vengeance, when as a part of my first postdoc I had to amplify a template containing a 35 bp-long GC-rich stem-loop, which proved to be extremely difficult. This was…

Zero Tolerance: A Perfectionist’s Guide to Aseptic Technique

Zero Tolerance: A Perfectionist’s Guide to Aseptic Technique

Arguably, molecular biology is impossible without microbiology – even if you work exclusively with transgenic mice, you may one day need to amplify a vector in E. coli. And microbiology is definitely impossible without good aseptic technique. The main principle of good microbiological practice is a zero tolerance approach: it’s good to be a little…

Got Phage? Here’s how to get rid of it.

Got Phage? Here’s how to get rid of it.

Summertime… The birds are singing, the trees are growing. Your tissue culture has sprouted yeast contamination, your yeast culture is happily growing bacteria. Your bacterial culture was growing calmly and predictably, dividing every twenty minutes, but suddenly its optical density has dropped, and it’s full of some sort of filaments and clumps. Or you did…

The Easiest Yeast Transformation Protocol on Earth

The Easiest Yeast Transformation Protocol on Earth

There are several yeast transformation protocols around, and most of them require a lot of steps: overnight starter culture, dilution and growth to logarithmic phase, several washes, and so on… These protocols work very well since they have been optimised for maximum transformation efficiency, which is needed for applications like library construction. But they are…