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Nick Oswald

I started Bitesize Bio on a Macbook on my kitchen table in 2007 while in my 7th year of working as a molecular biologist in biotech. My aim was to share the know-how that I had acquired from the school of hard-knocks in the lab, so that others could learn from my mistakes and small victories. Nowadays my mission is to facilitate the gathering of hardcore know-how from whole spectrum of bioscientists and share it here on Bitesize Bio to create a super-mentor that any bioscientist can turn to for much-needed guidance.

Articles by Nick Oswald:

Fast-track your Ampicillin Plasmid Transformations

Most of us use pretty standard transformation protocols for E.coli. Yours probably goes something like this: – Thaw the competent cells on ice – Add DNA – Electroporate (or incubate then heat shock for chemically competent cells) – Add rich medium (LB or SOC) – Incubate at 37°C (or appropriate temperature) for 30-60 minutes –…

19 May 2015 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

Codon Usage Analysis

Problems with expressing your gene? One of the potential stumbling blocks in heterologous gene expression is incompatible codon usage. Every amino acid can be encoded by more than one codon, and for every amino acid each organism has a favorite codon that it tends to use more often than the others. The availability of tRNA…

05 Mar 2015 Protein Expression & Analysis

DIY Electrocompetent E. coli

If you buy competent E.coli regularly, you’ll know that they are pretty expensive. So the cost of screwing up a cloning or transformation experiment is pretty high in terms of money, as well as your time and sanity! But you don’t need this extra worry because despite what their high commercial cost would suggest, making…

02 Feb 2015 Protein Expression & Analysis

10 Do’s and Don’ts for PhD Students

My PhD is rapidly becoming a distant memory. Before nostalgia completely obscures my recollections of this chapter of my career, I thought I’d jot down some pointers for prospective and current PhD students. These are mainly based on things I wish I had done during my PhD, or mistakes I have seen others make. I…

29 Dec 2014 PhD Survival

20 Ways to Increase your Productivity

No matter how efficient you are, it’s always possible to improve your productivity and improving your productivity means that you get more of the rewards you are trying to obtain: results, publications… or dare I say it, money. Here are 20 ways to improve your productivity. Some are focussed toward improving the productivity of bench…

17 Dec 2014 Organization & Productivity

DNA Ligation: How it Works

It takes a real effort to keep your basic knowledge of molecular and cell biology fresh, in addition to everything else you have to do. Wouldn’t it be great to if there was a place where you could find easy-to-read articles that allow you to brush-up on those basics in just a couple of minutes?…

05 Dec 2014 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

Sleigh or Wormhole: Has Santa’s Delivery Method Evolved?

We all know the traditional Christmas Eve scene of Santa flying in his sleigh through the crisp night air, pulled by his troop of reindeers. Over the years, debate has raged in the scientific community as to just how he could be pulling off this feat. We still don’t know how he does it. But…

01 Dec 2014 Fun Stuff

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…

24 Nov 2014 Inspiring & Thought Provoking&Personal Development

The Basics: How Alkaline Lysis Works

Alkaline lysis was first described by Birnboim and Doly in 1979 (Nucleic Acids Res. 7, 1513-1523) and has, with a few modifications, been the preferred method for plasmid DNA extraction from bacteria ever since. The easiest way to describe how alkaline lysis works is to go through the procedure and explain each step, so here…

08 Oct 2014 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

How to: Get Better Plasmid midiprep Yields

I get many people complaining to me about poor DNA yields from commercial plasmid plasmid prep kits. In this article I will explain the main pitfalls in plasmid isolation and how to avoid them.

12 May 2014 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

Breaking Up is (Not That) Hard to Do: Sonication for Cell Lysis

To answer some of the more interesting research questions, you often need to get a good look at what’s going on inside the cell. Whether you’re running a Western blot or measuring enzyme activity, many assays require access to the materials (e.g. proteins, DNA, subcellular fragments) contained within the cell walls. There are several ways…

19 Aug 2013 Protein Expression & Analysis

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…

15 May 2013 Inspiring & Thought Provoking

Damage control: One thing you must always to do ensure your data is reliable

Whenever you make up a solution or use a purchased reagent in the lab, you trust the work of a whole army of people and equipment. If any one of those links in the chain has a technical problem or makes a mistake, then your reagent might turn out to be faulty. And that can…

15 Apr 2013 Organization & Productivity

Goodbye from Bitesize Bio

It is with some regret, but much optimism for the future that we announce that BitesizeBio.com will cease to produce further articles and videos for biologists at the end of this month. We have been in business producing fantastic content to help scientists at the bench since 2007 and have grown our audience tantalisingly close to…

01 Apr 2013 Fun Stuff

RNases: Their baddie super-powers explained (and how you can defeat them)

RNases are like the baddie super-heroes amongst laboratory enzymes. They are omnipotent, destructive and seemingly indestructible. This is because they were created by evil overlords, for the sole purpose making life difficult for the brave scientists who battle every day to produce high quality, intact RNA preps. Ok, I’m joking about the overlords part.  But…

12 Mar 2013 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

10 Ways to use your “Dr” title for good and evil

So you worked hard in the lab for all all of those years. You endured failed experiments, committees, over-bearing supervisors, thesis writing and thesis defending. And for what? Well, who knows? But no matter where your PhD takes you in life, you can always rely on one thing:  you can call yourself “Dr” whenever you…

20 Feb 2013 Fun Stuff

How To Deal With People Stealing Your Reagents

I have been fortunate enough that in my career to date I have rarely experienced the problem of other people stealing my reagents. However, one PI told me of her experiences working in a US laboratory where things had got so bad people brought their reagents home at the weekends! Working in a research laboratory…

17 Dec 2012 Dealing with Fellow Scientists

Competition!! Join us for the Bitesize Bio Blowout

I’ve always liked December, mainly because Christmas and my birthday fall in that month. But this December we are also celebrating moving into the Rolls-Royce of office spaces, at Nine, The BioQuarter in Edinburgh (photo above). This puts us right in the heart of the bioscience community in Edinburgh and turns the Scottish Centre for Regenerative…

26 Nov 2012 Fun Stuff

How to Write Your Thesis Right

After years of hard work in the lab, having to sit down and write everything up can be a daunting and difficult task. Here are a few tips that I picked up during my thesis write-up that might help to make the process that little bit easier. Back up This is probably the advice most…

01 Nov 2012 Writing, Publishing & Presenting

Don’t Miss Bioconference Live…

It’s that time of year again…time for BioConference Live! The 6th Annual Life Sciences BioConference Live virtual event kicks off September 12-13, then will be available on-demand for three months following. This free online-only event will bring scientists from all around the world together exclusively online, to learn about the latest advances in life sciences and topics…

10 Sep 2012 Of Interest