Saturday, November 22, 2014

Moore Foundation: Request for Expressions of Interest: Increasing the Potential of Marine Microeukaryotes as Experimental Model Systems through the Development of Genetic Tools



Got this from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and they said I could post it here.

Request for Expressions of Interest: Increasing the Potential of Marine Microeukaryotes as Experimental Model Systems through the Development of Genetic Tools

Marine Microbiology Initiative Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation November 21, 2014

The Marine Microbiology Initiative (MMI) at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation aims to enable scientists to uncover the principles that govern the interactions among microbes and that influence nutrient flow in the marine environment. MMI is targeting closing gaps in and supporting the advancement of experimental model systems in microbial oceanography to enable new ways to uncover fundamental biological mechanisms.

We are soliciting expressions of interest (EOIs) for early-stage research projects to develop methods to genetically manipulate marine microeukaryotes as a first step in breaking current bottlenecks in the advancement of experimental model systems. MMI has two primary foci for this expression of interest:
  1. Development of genetic tools for diatoms. Diatoms are key players in the world’s oceans, generating ~20% of the world’s organic carbon, and a strong community of researchers is in place suggesting broad use of successfully developed methods. We are specifically interested in projects to develop reverse and/or forward genetics.
  2. Screening laboratory-scale culture collections for transformable marine microeukaryotes.
MMI will also consider projects to develop genetic tools and methods with other microeukaryotes that show promise for expanding the way the field can test hypotheses. If your idea does not fit category 1 or 2 above, please contact us prior to submitting your EOI.

MMI encourages EOIs from “inter-organismal” teams of researchers – i.e., complementary groups that have experience in a well-established model system and with a microeukaryote that is not currently genetically tractable – whose collaborative effort will bring innovative approaches to the field.

MMI invites you to send an expression of interest via email that briefly outlines a research project (one paragraph or less), using the following template:

  1. The lead researcher’s name, institution, and expertise.
  2. Indication of focus on genetic tools for diatoms (category 1 above) or laboratory culture screening for transformability (category 2 above).
  3. For category 1, the name of the organism(s); or, for category 2, the taxonomic group(s) to be screened. 
  4. A methodological or technical challenge that is hindering the development of a genetically manipulable marine microeukaryotic system that is ripe for solving and how you would address this challenge (3-5 sentences).
  5. The research team that would tackle this challenge, and why each team member’s expertise is relevant (one sentence per team member; please include institutional affiliations).

The opportunities that best align with MMI’s strategies and goals will be invited to submit proposals. MMI has allocated $7–10M to support this effort and anticipates making multiple, 2–3 year awards beginning in mid- 2015.

Please submit your EOI by Tuesday January 6, 2015 to Samantha Forde at samantha.forde@moore.org.
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Post-doc w/ me, Jessica Green, Jay Stachowicz, and Jenna Lang on seagrass microbiomes

Postdoctoral Position in Microbial Ecology and Evolution
Jessica Green at the University of Oregon Green (http://pages.uoregon.edu/green/) is currently seeking a postdoctoral researcher to explore fundamental questions in microbial ecology and evolution. Applicants should have a PhD in a biological, computational, mathematical, or statistical field with extensive training using theory and/or modeling to understand the ecology and evolution of complex biological communities, and strong writing skills. Experience developing and applying quantitative phylogenetic ecological methods is highly desirable, but not explicitly required for candidates who have otherwise demonstrated strong quantitative skills.
The successful candidate will play a key role in the Seagrass Microbiome Project (http://seagrassmicrobiome.org) in collaboration among Jonathan Eisen https://phylogenomics.wordpress.com), Jay Stachowicz http://www-eve.ucdavis.edu/stachowicz/stachowicz.shtml, and Jenna Lang (http://jennomics.com/) at the University of California, Davis. The Seagrass Microbiome Project aims to integrate the long interest in seagrass ecology and ecosystem science with more recent work on microbiomes to produce a deeper, more mechanistic understanding of the ecology and evolution of seagrasses and the ecosystems on which they depend. Our studies of the community of microorganisms that live in and on seagrasses – the seagrass “microbiome” – will contribute to a broader understanding of host-microbe systems biology, and will benefit from ongoing University of Oregon research programs including the Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals Center for Systems Biology (http://meta.uoregon.edu/) and the Biology and Built Environment Center (http://biobe.uoregon.edu/).
The position is available for 1 year with the possibility for renewal depending on performance. The start date is flexible. Please email questions regarding the position to Jessica Green (jlgreen).
To apply
A complete application will consist of the following materials:
(1) a brief cover letter explaining your background and career interests
(2) CV (including publications)
(3) names and contact information for three references
Submit materials to ie2jobs. Subject: Posting 14431
To ensure consideration, please submit applications by November 1, 2014, but the position will remain open until filled.
Women and minorities encouraged to apply. We invite applications from qualified candidates who share our commitment to diversity.
The University of Oregon is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution committed to cultural diversity and compliance with the ADA. The University encourages all qualified individuals to apply, and does not discriminate on the basis of any protected status, including veteran and disability status.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Repeated, extremely biased ratio of M:F at meetings from SFB 680 "Evolutionary Innovations" group #YAMMM



Well, this is disappointing, to say the least - there is a conference coming up in July 2015 on "Forecasting Evolution":  SFB 680 | Molecular Basis of Evolutionary Innovations at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon.

Here is the listed lineup of invited speakers:
  1. Andersson (Uppsala University), (NOTE I AM ASSUMING THIS IS DAN ANDERSSON)
  2. Trevor Bedford (Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), 
  3. Jesse Bloom (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), 
  4. Arup Chakraborty (MIT)
  5. Michael Desai (Harvard University), 
  6. Michael Doebeli (University of British Columbia), 
  7. Marco Gerlinger (Institute of Cancer Research, London, 
  8. Michael Hochberg (CRNS, Montpellier), 
  9. Christopher Illingworth (Cambridge University), 
  10. Roy Kishoni (Harvard University), 
  11. Richard Lenski (Michigan State University), 
  12. Stanislas Leibler (Rockefeller University), 
  13. Marta Luksza (IAS Princeton), 
  14. Luke Mahler (University of California, Davis), 
  15. Leonid Mirny (MIT), 
  16. Richard Neher (MPI Tuebingen), 
  17. Julian Parkhill (Sanger Institute), 
  18. Colin Russell (University of Cambridge), 
  19. Sohrab Shah (University of British Columbia), 
  20. Boris Shraiman (UCSB), 
  21. Olivier Tenaillon (Inserm Paris).
For a whopping 20:1 ratio of men to women or 4.8% women. And this in a field that is just overflowing with excellent female researchers.

So I dug around a little bit.  Here is another meeting from the same group at the University of Cologne - a group known as SFB 680. SFB 680: Molecular Ecology and Evolution: Cologne Spring Meeting 2012.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Really cool: 3D printed microbes for the visually impaired

Image from Nanowerk story.
This is one of the most interesting things I have seen relating to microbiology recently:  3D printed giant germs help visually impaired see the world of microorganisms reported by Nanowork News on October 31.  This work has done by researchers from the BBSRC (the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in the UK) who hosted an event called "Giant Germs" for the blind and visually impaired.  In discussing various microbes (alas, the story implies that all they discussed were pathogens), they had accompanying tactile sessions to feel the structures of the microbes.  Just a really brilliant, important idea.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Job Announcement: Moore Foundation Program Associate

This seems like a potentially interesting job.  I note - I love the Moore Foundation - and just about everything they are doing in science.  Below is the email I recieved from the Project Lead Jon Kaye:

We have opened a search for a Program Associate. Details at the link below and attached. Please share with Bachelor’s and Master’s level individuals who may be interested. http://www.moore.org/about/careers?gnk=job&gni=8a8725d0494f97e601495deb88ba30cb We will also be opening a search for a PhD-level Program Officer position soonstay tuned for details.

Full text of the announcement is below:

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Crosspost from #microBEnet: More scary than Halloween: this month in germophobia microbophobia

Crossposting this from the microBEnet blog where I originally posted it 10/31/14:

It seems that any time a holiday comes around in the US, the press starts to ramp up the writing of stories about evil microbes that are lurking all around us. And Halloween appears to be no exception. I am now planning on referring to this attitude as "microbophobia" rather than "germophobia" because to some "germ" implies pathogen and many of these stories fan the flames of fear about any kind of microbe not just pathogens. I note - the term microbophobia comes from some searches I did recently of Google books.

I was thinking of writing up yet another post trying to counter this excessive microbophobia but decided instead to just provide a collection of links to stories over the last month that have a distinctive microbophobia flavor.  Mind you - there are real reasons to be afraid of some of the microbes circulating around these days.  But the links below seem to me to be serious overkill.
These are but a few of the many examples of microbophobia being pushed by the press. Again, there are certainly things to worry about in terms of pathogens in our immediate environment.  Flu season is coming.  Enterovirus might be on the upswing.  Antibiotic resistance is a massive and troubling problem.  And so on.  But please let us not go completely over the top because the more we promote the idea that we should be killing all microbes, the more trouble we are likely to cause, rather than prevent.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The flawed and offensive logic of "Academic Science Isn’t Sexist" in the @nytimes

OK.  It is Halloween night and I am tired and need to get my kids to sleep.  But someone on Twitter just pointed me to an opinion piece just out in the New York Times: Academic Science Isn’t Sexist - NYTimes.com and after reading it I felt I had to write a quick post.

The opinion piece is by Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci and discusses work by them (and coauthors).  In particular they discuss findings in a massive report "Women in Academic Science: A Changing Landscape" by Stephen J. Ceci, Donna K. Ginther, Shulamit Kahn, and Wendy M. Williams in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.  I note - kudos to the authors for making this available freely and under what may be an open license and also apparently for making much of their data available behind their analyses.

The opinion piece and the associated article have a ton of things to discuss and ponder and analyze for anyone interested in the general issue of women in academic science.  I am not in any position at this time to comment on any of the specific claims made by the authors on this topic.  But certainly I have a ton of reading to do and am looking forward to it.

However, I do want to write about one thing - really just one single thing -  that really bothers me about their New York Times article.  I do not know if this was intentional on their part, but regardless I think there is a major flaw in their piece.

First, to set the stage -- their article starts off with the following sentences:
Academic science has a gender problem: specifically, the almost daily reports about hostile workplaces, low pay, delayed promotion and even physical aggression against women.  Particularly in math-intensive fields like the physical sciences, computer science and engineering, women make up only 25 to 30 percent of junior faculty, and 7 to 15 percent of senior faculty, leading many to claim that the inhospitable work environment is to blame.
This then sets the stage for the authors to discuss their analyses which leads them to conclude that in recent times, there are not biases against women in hiring, publishing, tenure, and other areas.  Again, I am not in any position to examine or dispute their claims about these analyses - to either support them or refute them.

But the piece makes what to me appears to be a dangerous and unsupported connection.  They lump together what one could call "career progression" topics (such as pay, promotion, publishing, citation, etc) with workplace topics (hostility and physical aggression against women).  And yet, they only present or discuss data on the career progression issues.  Yet once they claim to find that career progression for women in math heavy fields seems to be going well recently, they imply that the other workplace issues must not be a problem.  This is seen in statements like "While no career is without setbacks and challenges" and "As we found, when the evidence of mistreatment goes beyond the anecdotal" and "leading many to claim that the inhospitable work environment is to blame."

Whether one agrees with any or all of their analyses (which again, I am not addressing here) I see no justification for their inclusion of any mention of hostile workplaces and physical agression against women.  So - does this mean that a woman who does well in her career cannot experience physical aggression of any kind?  Also - I note - I am unclear I guess in some of their terminology usage - is their use of the term "physical aggression" here meant to discount reports of sexual violence?   This reminds me of the "Why I stayed" stories of domestic violence.  Just because a women's career is doing OK does not mean that she did not experience workplace hostility or physical or sexual violence.  I hope - I truly hope - that the authors did not intend to imply this.  But whether they did or not, their logic appears to be both flawed and offensive.

UPDATE 1. November 1, 8:30 AM

Building a Storify about this.

UPDATE 2: Nov 3, 2014. Some other posts also criticizing the NY Times piece
UPDATE 3: Nov. 4, 2014.  More posts about the NY Times piece

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rediscovering some critical terms of use in microbial discussions: #microbiomania and #microbophobia

Earlier this week I was trying to come up with a short term to use when referring to the "Overselling of the Microbiome" and related hype. And I came up with one I really really like: microbiomania. The term just captures the essence of hype about microbiomes to me I guess.

So - of course - the first thing to do was to see if anyone else used this term.  And the number one thing I looked at was domain names.  Nope.  Microbiomania.Com and Microbiomania.Org are now mine.  And then I started to search the interwebs. And surprsingly there was not much (in English at least).  But some links showed up to books in Google Books with passages from > 100 years ago.  And this is when the digging got to be fun.  Here are some of the things I found.

1. A section from "The Medical Era"


When copying this section of the search results I discovered Google Books has an embed tool for Google Books though not sure how well it works: here is a try




Anyway - the text of this section of the book reads:

The Paris correspondent of the Chicago Tribune in a recent letter says We hear very little now of microbist or anti microbist theories Dr Koch's so called discovery is regarded with skepticism though not refuted The truth is his assertions are generally held to be not proven Dr Peters the favorite pupil of the great surgeon Dr Trousseau denounces what he calls microbiomania as a social danger and declares that the micro bians doctrine is vain sterile and objectionable in every way as both needlessly alarming and wrongly reassuring 
So I guess there were some folks who did not like the Koch and his silly theories about germs.

2. The Eclectic Medical Journal Volume 48


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CEO of Soylent goes even further off the deep end - going after his microbiome

Well, this is pretty deranged: Soylent CEO Is Lifehacking Water By Pissing In the Sink.  Forget all the wackiness of Soylent and the idea of limiting water intake.  And just look at the part of this on the micro biome
Feces are almost entirely deceased gut bacteria and water. I massacred my gut bacteria the day before by consuming a DIY Soylent version with no fiber and taking 500mg of Rifaximin, an antibiotic with poor bioavailability, meaning it stays in your gut and kills bacteria. Soylent's microbiome consultant advised that this is a terrible idea so I do not recommend it. However, it worked. Throughout the challenge I did not defecate.
So - he took Rifaximin to kill his gut microbiome because he thought that would help him not defecate.  And then because he did not defecate he concluded that the Rifaximin played some role in such anti-defecation?  OMFG.  This is both bad science and some, well, crazy a*s-sh*t.  I - I - I - I just do not know what else to say.

Hat tip to Andrea Kuszewski.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Some suggestions for having diverse speakers at meetings

Been having a lot of discussions online in response to my post (Apparently, the National Academy of Sciences thinks only one sex is qualified to talk about alternatives to sex #YAMMM) tracking the awful gender ratio for speakers and session chairs at meetings run by the National Academy of Sciences in their Sackler series.  Some people were asking what one can do to improve gender diversity at meetings so I thought I would post this which I was meaning to do anyway ...

-------------------------------------------------------

I wrote this in an email to a meeting organizer after I had turned down their invitation due to the imbalance in gender of the speakers (more about this another time --- this is not the same case as the one I wrote about here: Turning down an endowed lectureship because their gender ratio is too skewed towards males #WomenInSTEM). 

Anyway, my colleague wrote a long and very helpful email to me after I withdrew from the meeting when I saw the speaker list.  In the email she detailed things that her organization was trying to do to increase diversity of speakers at meetings.  She ended it with this:
Thus, I take your comment to heart and wanted you to know that I care about this issues as well.  I would love to hear how you balance these inequities at your meetings and learn as much as I can.  Thank you for taking the time to bring this up I know how busy you are and appreciate your candor. Truly looking forward to more scientific exchanges and perhaps some education around gender issues.
And I wrote back, quickly, without digging into the literature or all the posts in the world about this some quick suggestions which I think others might find useful. So here is my response - again - was not meant to cover all the things one can do - just examples:

Thanks so much for the response and I am really glad to see all you are trying to do in this area. 
In terms of how we try to balance inequities at meetings I organize I would note a few simple things
  1. Do not try to invite only the famous people or the people doing the "top" work.  This usually biases one towards more established researchers (as in, older) and this alas also usually is accompanied by distortion of diversity.
  2. DO try to invite people across the breadth of career stages.  Meetings to me should not be only about getting the PIs whose labs are doing the best work to talk.  It should also be about giving opportunities to junior researchers - PhD students, post docs and junior faculty who are doing exciting work - perhaps more focused or smaller scale - but nevertheless exciting.  If one opens up a invited speaker list to people at diverse career stages one generally greatly increases the gender and ethnic diversity. 
  3. DO try to invite people from diverse institutions - research universities, research institutes, companies, non profits, NGOs, the press, non research universities, and more.
  4. DO try to be flexible about times and dates for talks - I have found that women more than men have other commitments (e.g. kids) for which they cannot change dates of activities. 
  5. DO try to provide child care assistance (as you are doing).
  6. DO try to make sure women are on the organizing committee See http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/the-easiest-possible-way-to-increase-female-speakers-at-conferences/282858/
  7. DO make sure to provide travel funds.
  8. DO try to include some talks on related areas that may not be the main theme of the conference.  For example history of science and ELSI related topics increase the pool of women and speakers with diverse backgrounds which can be invited.
  9. DO ask the women who turn down invitations if they care to say why.
  10. DO commit to spending a decent amount of time searching for qualified female speakers.  Sometimes there are people who fit ALL the goals of a meeting and they are just missed because women on average have lower public profiles than men doing the same type of work.
Just some ideas off the top of my head.
Jonathan
see also 
http://www.stemwomen.net/jonathan-eisen/ 
and 
http://phylogenomics.blogspot.com/p/posts-on-women-in-science.html