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Nick Oswald

After obtaining his PhD from the Dundee University School of Life Sciences, Nick Oswald moved into to industry, first working in a small team that designed Sophion Bioscience’s prototype Q-Patch system and then developing industrial bioprocesses with Ingenza Ltd.

His time at the bench gave him the feeling that a) he would like to move into writing and publishing and b) he had something to offer in helping researchers to share their professional know-how to make science more efficient, more successful, and more enjoyable to be a part of.

So while still working in the lab in 2007 he started BitesizeBio.com and began writing about what he knew himself. His first article was titled “5 DNA Ligation Tips” and was quickly followed by further articles about laboratory techniques soft skills and life skills gleaned from his experience in the lab. As researchers found his articles on Google, some came forward to contribute their expertise in articles and so began the growth of Bitesize Bio into the huge and vibrant knowledge-sharing community it is today.

Bitesize Bio became Nick’s full-time job in 2010 but prior to that, while growing Bitesize Bio, he cut his teeth in publishing and marketing with stints of work with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press and the journal, Neuroendocrinology.

These days Nick is focused on the further growth and improvement of Bitesize Bio as a knowledge-sharing hub, other projects within his company Science Squared Ltd, and assisting biotech companies to market their products and services with genuinely useful educational material via Bitesize Bio and the Life Science Marketing Society.

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Articles by Nick Oswald

Image of a pencil sharpener to depict sharpening western blot image by handling non-specific binding

Non-specific Binding? Tips to Sharpen up Your Western Blot

By Dr Nick Oswald | March 15, 2016

In the previous installment of this series on western blotting, we addressed potential sources of error when your final product is completely bare. But alternatively, what do you do when too much background is the problem? You may have beautiful bands of interest—but if there is a bunch of non-specific binding, your quantification and data…

Fast-track your Ampicillin Plasmid Transformations

Fast-track your Ampicillin Plasmid Transformations

By Dr Nick Oswald | May 19, 2015

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 –…

Am I Damaging My <i>E. coli</i> by Spinning at High Speeds?

Am I Damaging My E. coli by Spinning at High Speeds?

By Dr Nick Oswald | March 18, 2015

Dear Aunt Yersinia, A very annoying postdoc in our group keeps telling me off for spinning E.coli at 13K in a tabletop centrifuge. The postdoc claims that high speed damages cytoskeleton and this will reduce my transformation frequency. But I don’t believe her as the cells are cushioned by water during centrifugation. Can you tell…

Codon Usage Analysis

Codon Usage Analysis

By Dr Nick Oswald | March 5, 2015

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…

How to Measure FRET

How to Measure FRET

By Dr Nick Oswald | March 4, 2015

In my previous article on FRET, I gave you some background on FRET – its mechanism and its applications. Here, I will expand, including what to measure when doing FRET. There are a number of approaches to FRET quantification: Sensitized Emission – This two-channel imaging technique uses an algorithm that corrects for excitation and emission…

You May Not Know Theodor Förster but You Know His Work: FRET

You May Not Know Theodor Förster but You Know His Work: FRET

By Dr Nick Oswald | February 3, 2015

If you think FRET stands for Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, you are wrong…in good company but wrong. FRET actually stands for Förster Resonance Energy Transfer. Find out why and more about FRET in this article. In 2011, it was the centenary of the birth of eminent German physical chemist Theodor Förster. Förster was a very…

10 Do's and Don'ts for PhD Students

10 Do’s and Don’ts for PhD Students

By Dr Nick Oswald | December 29, 2014

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…

20 Ways to Increase your Productivity

20 Ways to Increase your Productivity

By Dr Nick Oswald | December 17, 2014

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…

DNA Ligation: How it Works

DNA Ligation: How it Works

By Dr Nick Oswald | December 5, 2014

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?…

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

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

By Dr Nick Oswald | December 1, 2014

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…

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

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

By Dr Nick Oswald | November 24, 2014

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…

Is There Overlap? Find Out with a Proximity Ligation Assay

Is There Overlap? Find Out with a Proximity Ligation Assay

By Dr Nick Oswald | November 4, 2014

Colocalization blues (and reds and greens) Trying to find if and where two epitopes co-localize (or, to be more precise, where they are found in close proximity) may seem easy at first: 1) Bind your two epitopes with primary antibodies from two different species, 2) bind these primary antibodies with two secondary fluorescent antibodies, one…

Help: My Gal Promoter Doesn’t Work

Help: My Gal Promoter Doesn’t Work

By Dr Nick Oswald | August 18, 2014

Dear Aunt Yersinia, I work with a yeast vector where my gene is under a Gal promoter. My boss told me to grow yeast in medium with sucrose, and then add galactose to induce the promoter. I did it, but my protein is not induced; the Western blot is empty. I sequenced a part of…

To Pour or to Spread, This is the Question

To Pour or to Spread, This is the Question

By Dr Nick Oswald | July 9, 2014

Dear Aunt Yersinia, What are advantages and disadvantages of pour and spread plates? Antonio   It is refreshing to see such wisdom – knowing that there are at least two methods of pouring plates – in a young man. While all molecular biologists know or have at least seen a ”spread plate” aka Petri dish…

Analysing Microscopy Images? What You Should Know About Dynamic Range: Part 2

Analysing Microscopy Images? What You Should Know About Dynamic Range: Part 2

By Dr Nick Oswald | June 3, 2014

In the first part of this article (you can read it here), we looked at clipping and saturation in terms of microscope images, followed by a definition of Dynamic Range and an introduction to Bit Depth. Intrascene Dynamic Range The dynamic range which can be detected at the same time in the same field of…

Microbiology 101 by Aunt Yersinia

Microbiology 101 by Aunt Yersinia

By Dr Nick Oswald | May 21, 2014

We are pleased to announce that the famous maid of microbiology, dear old Aunt Yersinia, has agreed to start writing a microbiology and molecular biology advice column for Bitesize Bio. She will be free to answer your most pressing questions sent to:  auntyersinia@bitesizebio.com By way of introduction, Aunt Yersinia is bestowing 8 spores of knowledge garnered…

Analysing Microscopy Images? What You Should Know About Dynamic Range: Part 1

Analysing Microscopy Images? What You Should Know About Dynamic Range: Part 1

By Dr Nick Oswald | May 13, 2014

Ever tried to turn the volume all the way up on a small radio or small stereo system? (Hopefully you have not tried it with earphones in!) Notice how, after some point, the sound didn’t get any louder- it just got more distorted? That’s because you’ve hit the ceiling of your machine’s dynamic range.  It’s…

How to: Get Better Plasmid midiprep Yields

How to: Get Better Plasmid midiprep Yields

By Dr Nick Oswald | May 12, 2014

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.

Two Photon Confocal Microscopy: What it is and How to Use it to Your Advantage

Two Photon Confocal Microscopy: What it is and How to Use it to Your Advantage

By Dr Nick Oswald | April 1, 2014

“A two photon microscope has higher sensitivity than a normal confocal microscope, because it uses two photos instead of one!”  Yes, I can bear witness that this phrase has actually been uttered, and it was not by an undergraduate student. No exception to the rule The condensation of various levels of misunderstandings in this statement…

So, You Think An Electron Microscope Is There To Make Things Look Bigger?

So, You Think An Electron Microscope Is There To Make Things Look Bigger?

By Dr Nick Oswald | September 10, 2013

“Well, of course”- I can hear someone saying. “It can make things look as much as 200, 000 times bigger”. Problem is, the first sentence is wrong, and the second one is meaningless! On quick and thoughtless answers to simple questions I had just been admitted as an MSc student at UCL, and was attending…

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

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

By Dr Nick Oswald | August 19, 2013

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…

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

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

By Dr Nick Oswald | May 15, 2013

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…

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

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

By Dr Nick Oswald | April 15, 2013

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…

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

By Dr Nick Oswald | March 12, 2013

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…

How To Deal With People Stealing Your Reagents

How To Deal With People Stealing Your Reagents

By Dr Nick Oswald | December 17, 2012

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…

Competition!! Join us for the Bitesize Bio Blowout

Competition!! Join us for the Bitesize Bio Blowout

By Dr Nick Oswald | November 26, 2012

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…

How to Write Your Thesis Right

How to Write Your Thesis Right

By Dr Nick Oswald | November 1, 2012

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…

Don’t Miss Bioconference Live…

By Dr Nick Oswald | September 10, 2012

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…

Run More Organized Experiments using LabGuru’s Free Electronic Lab Notebook and iPad App

Run More Organized Experiments using LabGuru’s Free Electronic Lab Notebook and iPad App

By Dr Nick Oswald | April 9, 2012

Back in 2010, Bitesize Bio’s senior editor, Jode Plank wondered whether the release of the iPad would eventually see us ditch the paper lab notebook in favor of more searchable, organized and legible electronic lab books. Electronic lab books have been around for a while, but the disconnect between the desktop computer – and to…

Image of someone filling vials with pipettes to represent successful postdoctoral interview preparation

10 Ways to Work RNase Free

By Dr Nick Oswald | April 1, 2012

Working with RNA? What fun! Those little, nearly indestructible RNases are everywhere – on your skin and mucous membranes, in the water and (some of the) enzymes you use, on lab surfaces, even in airborne microbes! Here are 10 ways to keep the RNases at bay, and keep your precious samples safe:

5 Reasons To Use LaTeX (The Typesetting Engine, Not The Gloves)

By Dr Nick Oswald | March 23, 2012

In today’s technology-driven world, we leave so many things to our electronic gadgets. Surprisingly, many life scientists try manically to control the appearance of their documents by hand with programs like MS Word. LaTeX takes this task off your hands by providing highly efficient algorithms to properly format your texts. The results are almost always…

Make Every Day As Effective As Deadline Day

Make Every Day As Effective As Deadline Day

By Dr Nick Oswald | August 3, 2011

I’m sure you’ve heard of Parkinson’s Law, or at least the modern-day generalisation of it. It states that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”  When I first heard this, back in the mists of time, I thought Mr Parkinson was damn right, had a chuckle at a very accurate…

Tell Good Stories About Yourself To Get The Job

Tell Good Stories About Yourself To Get The Job

By Dr Nick Oswald | July 25, 2011

In our recent webinar on 10 Tips to Maximize Your Job Hunt Success, career development author and guru, Peter Fiske give an excellent tip on acing interviews that I’d like to highlight. Peter’s assertion is that one of the most important things you can do to prepare for a job interview is to construct and…

Three Approaches to Site-directed Mutagenesis

Three Approaches to Site-directed Mutagenesis

By Dr Nick Oswald | July 20, 2011

Site-directed mutagenesis studies can be extremely useful for elucidating the function of a gene or protein, or for creating variants of an enzyme with new and improved functions. There are now many approaches available for generating site-directed mutants, whatever your purpose. In this post I’ll summarize three techniques that will enable you to produce a…

Top 10: Worst Lab Smells

Top 10: Worst Lab Smells

By Dr Nick Oswald | July 8, 2011

Time for a bit of fun. Here are my top 10 worst lab smells, in reverse order. Please share your worst smells in the discussion! 10. I’ll start off gently with Latex Gloves. Not truly a offensive smell, just a little off-putting 9. Ever stewed a turnip for far too long? No. If you did,…

Make Your Manuscripts More Readable in 5 minutes per Day

By Dr Nick Oswald | June 30, 2011

We scientists are all so focused on getting our work published that many of us seem to forget something very important; that publication is just the beginning. After publication is when our manuscripts really have to do their essential work of communicating our science to our peers. If no-one reads the manuscript, we might as…

Easily Organise Meetings with a Free Tool: Doodle

Easily Organise Meetings with a Free Tool: Doodle

By Dr Nick Oswald | June 28, 2011

Organising lab meetings, journal clubs and even lab get-togethers can be a bit of a hassle, with emails flying about and spreadsheets coming out of your ears. Luckily, thanks to some nifty, free online tools you can remove the pain of being the resident meeting organiser forever. The best of these at I’ve seen is…

Use Less Vector, Killer Cut for Success in Plasmid Cloning

By Dr Nick Oswald | June 27, 2011

Here’s an all-too-often repeated scene in the lab: First thing in the morning, you approach the 37°C incubator with trepidation, open it and through one half-open eye you take a look at the LB plate that you spread your ligation-reaction-transformed E.coli aliquot onto. Looks good – thousands of colonies. Emboldened, you take your “no ligation…

A picture of dodgems at a fairground surrounded by blurred fast light to represent speed reading

How To Read Manuscripts (and Anything Else) Twice As Fast

By Dr Nick Oswald | June 13, 2011

Learning how to speed read can save you a bunch of time; we’ve outlined some simple steps that will dramatically improve your reading speed.

Should You Use Magnetic Beads for Immunoprecipitation?

Should You Use Magnetic Beads for Immunoprecipitation?

By Dr Nick Oswald | June 8, 2011

Sepharose beads are porous, which gives them a high surface area for interaction with proteins and allows them to hold a lot of liquid. This is perfect for the application that they were originally designed for: purifying milligrams of protein in columns. When immunoprecipitation (IP) – a small-scale technique for pulling specific proteins out of solution using…

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