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8 Essential Books Every Young Biologist Should Read

It is incredibly important for aspiring young scientists to keep up to date with the scientific literature. We all know that some journal articles are a slog, and critiquing other’s research is often an onerous task. Sometimes it’s good to have a break. What follows is a list of popular science books I have found…

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Stop Pushing, Start Enjoying and Get Better Results at the Bench (and in Your Life)

Most of the time, research (and life!) can feel like a struggle. Constant deadlines, incessant demands, pressure to get results, grants, job, publications – and dealing with irritating colleagues and bosses. You know what I mean. The struggle saps your energy, and removes the color from your life. It reduces your capacity to focus on your…

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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…

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How Irish Scientists Changed the World by Seán Duke

I have to be honest, I am Irish and I am a Scientist, so I guess I am a bit biased in reviewing this book. Biases notwithstanding, this is a fascinating book. How Irish Scientists Changed the World appeals to a broad audience, whether the reader is a scientist or someone who has never studied…

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Beneath the Lab Coat – Why do Scientists get Inked?

In 2007, award winning science writer Carl Zimmer asked a seemingly marginal question on his blog – how common is it for scientists to tattoo themselves with images of their science? Over the next few weeks, hundreds of scientists sent in pictures of their science inspired tattoos. In fact, so many images were submitted that…

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Book Review: “The Best American Science Writing 2012,” edited by Jesse Cohen and Michio Kaku

From cutting-edge medicine to disastrous climate change to quantum mechanics, the 2012 installment of The Best American Science Writing (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0062117912) offers some of the best science journalism and essays from the previous year.  The range of topics and quality of writing make this book a satisfying and accessible read for anyone interested in current science.…

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How to win a Nobel Prize for Biology

In 1895, Alfred Nobel wrote in his Last Will and Testament that he wished the bulk of his sizable estate to “constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.” Nobel made his…

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Book Review: “Like a Virgin”, by Aarathi Prasad

While modern humans have a broad selection of contraception options, reproducing is still limited to the “egg + sperm = baby” theme whether in the bedroom or in a test-tube.  The Amazon review of Aarathi Prasad’s book, which my husband keeps calling “A lucky virgin”, promises the book “delivers an astonishing exploration of the mysteries…

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One Part Science, Two Parts Murder: A Book Review of “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York” by Deborah Blum

The canonical motto in Toxicology is ‘the dose makes the poison.’ That is, enough of anything can kill you. But, as Deborah Blum notes in the end of her book, “poison by water doesn’t unnerve us. The real scare comes from those elements and compounds whose toxicity is measured in drips and drops.” In The…

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Book Review: “Coalescent”, by Stephen Baxter

This is not just one book, but loosely interconnected, two and a bit – a historical novel, a biological thriller and a science fiction short story – under one cover. The historical novel is about a girl growing up in Britain in the 5th century A.D., while the Roman rule disintegrates. Now, I am not…

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Book Review: ‘The Selfish Gene’, by Richard Dawkins

A few popular science books rise above the genre and become pop-stars of the book world – bestsellers. Even fewer among them change public discourse and, finally, culture. The Selfish Gene (TSG) by Richard Dawkins is one of these rare books. Published in 1976, TSG is not only still in print, but according to the…

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Book Review: “The Social Conquest of Earth”, by E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson is a biologist who has authored many titles, ranging from accounts of his personal field research on ant colonies to general titles on evolutionary biology and biodiversity. I picked up the “The Social Conquest of Earth” because I had enjoyed several chapters from his book “The Diversity of Life”, a poetic and informative…

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Book Review: “The Demon in the Freezer”, by Richard Preston

Before reading “The Demon in the Freezer”, I was rather ignorant about bioterrorism. The only instance of it that sprung to mind was the anthrax attacks on the United States shortly after 9/11. After reading Richard Preston’s book, I wish I was still as ignorant as I once was! Allow me to explain. Preston’s book…

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Book Review: “The Double Helix”, by James Watson

Is it just me, or are there not many well-written scientific memoirs around? Even the words “scientific memoir” brings up an image of a long and boring book. There are a lot of good books written about scientists, but not by scientists. Maybe it’s because the scientists are trained to write logically, objectively and dispassionately:…

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Science: Why Do We Do it?

Five months ago, I pranced into the office of a renowned research institution wide-eyed and full of hope. I was about to begin my MSc project, and nothing could bring me down. I no longer considered myself a scientist in the making, but a fully formed academic. It was with great pride that I labelled…

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Book Review: Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott

Finishing Flatland, a novella published by British mathematician and teacher Edwin Abbott a good 20 years before Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and the growth of quantum mechanics, leaves the reader wondering what Abbott could possibly have known about these later figures and events. But the book’s very existence underscores just how fundamental those 20th…

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How to Save Our Science—a Case Study

Mentioning the abbreviation “GMO” yields one of two reactions: fascination with the biotechnology of creating food and other organisms that thrive despite pests or bad weather, or horror at the idea of creating an unknown, dangerous monster in the laboratory. Rothamsted Research, in Harpenden, England, was yet another biotechnology lab faced with the latter reaction…

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Book Review: “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, by Thomas Kuhn

I found Thomas Kuhn’s book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” quite a challenge to get through. Normally, if a book doesn’t keep my attention, or I find it difficult to read after the first few pages, I give up. However, I was determined to persevere with this book, especially given that the Times Literary supplement…

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Book Review: Time, by Eva Hoffman

If there is one certainty in life, it is that time has always been there, and will always remain. But although it is a basic fact of our existence, most people don’t tend to reflect much on the characteristics and implications of time. Neither do I, as I realised when I read Eva Hoffman’s book…

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“What You Should Know About Science” — A Book Review of ‘The Golem’

I first read “The Golem: What You Should Know about Science” as an undergraduate student for an introduction to the sociology of scientific knowledge. I feel it’s an important book for anyone who wants to understand how science works. Ten years later, I still find myself revisiting it. Read on to find out why… In…

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How Much Information is Stored in the Human Genome?

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who had some background in computer science. The conversation shifted towards my research and the following question came up: What is the amount of digital information stored in a human genome? I started searching in the deep dark corners of my brain,…

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What Memories Are Made Of

It’s not even noon and you’ve already misplaced your car keys, snuck a peak at the molarity conversion figures you wrote on a sticky note on your lab bench, and reminded yourself to button your lab coat before working under the hood. All of these activities are the work of memory, and each of them…

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Book Review: Marking the Mind

Marking the Mind is a history of scientific ideas about memory – such as the introduction of recall tasks in the 1880s, the discovery of synaptic plasticity, and debates about false memories in the 1980s and 90s. It’s the sort of book I wish existed when I first got interested in biology of memory over…

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Human Genome Project – 10 years since the first draft

  On the 15th February 2001 a draft version of the complete human genome was completed. [1] This draft version was far from perfect but was still a major milestone in the biological world.  So, what has come from this?  What have we learned so far and what is yet to come?   Background The…

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The Treatment

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers, has posted a piece on his website that he wrote for The New Yorker called “The Treatment”. In this article he follows the trials and tribulations of Synta Pharmaceuticals as they take one of their potential cancer drugs, elesclomol, from discovery through phase three clinical trials. Along the way…

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Scientists. Do You Believe in God?

Perhaps at no other time of year like the winter solstice is the mixture of religious beliefs and daily life more intertwined.  Most people, regardless of race and country of origin, come from a faith that believes in God or a Higher Power. As scientists, it is a widely held belief that we do not…

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The Amazing Race: Pathogen Detection and Quantification

Each winter, the flu season peaks in January as new strains of virus emerge and spread among school age children, elderly and immunocompromised members of the population. Diagnosis of flu, and other infectious diseases, puts serious strain on public health labs.  But the intense pressure to handle more samples faster is driving development of new innovative…

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Why do YOU do Science?

Most people that do scientific research for a living seem to have mixed feelings about their job. Many that I know are routinely day dreaming of quitting. This contrasts with the well-established, romantic image of the dedicated scientist who loves his/her work above anything else. So what is the real story? Do scientists really like,…

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Book Review: The Emperor Of Scent

Getting hooked on a non-fiction book isn’t something that happens often with me. Non-fiction plods and trudges. However, ‘The Emperor Of Scent‘ by Chandler Burr is breathtakingly unique. It gallops. It has all the elements of a quintessential page turner. And it’s about science too. It got me so electrified that I repeatedly found myself…

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Book Review: On Growth and Form

Unlike most naturalists and biologists before and since, who were only satisfied if they could understand a particular form by the configuration of its immediate precedents, D’Arcy Thompson was quite satisfied with a mathematical description or a physical analogy. He truly viewed the variety of biological forms that he looked at with the eyes of…

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Reasons to be a Scientist Part II

Scientists often complain about the job, and here on Bitesize Bio we are no different. For an example, take a look at my rant about why not to be a scientist – written about a year ago after a particularly frustrating couple of weeks in the lab. Very recently, I decided to leave bench science,…

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Selfish Genes and Gene-Centered Evolution

But despite Dawkins’ notoriety, maybe there are some readers here who haven’t read The Selfish Gene – I didn’t until two years ago, actually. So, what specifically is The Selfish Gene about?

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Science as Progress, and More on the Philosophy of Science

Following up on my recent post about The Nature of Scientific Observation, I left two-thirds of Chalmers’ book What is This Thing Called Science untouched, including discussions on Bayes’ theorem and the New Experimentalism.

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