Here be dinosaurs

Here be dinosaurs

Questions about dinosaurs? Ask our very own bone-hunting, dirt digging paleobiologist, Hoai-Nam, who just returned from an exciting field trip for her research! Over the past few weeks, Hoai-Nam and her research group taught a field course that brought students to western Canada, to the world-famous Dinosaur Provincial Park. There, they studied the local geology, learned how to collect fossils and map quarries, and searched for the bones of ancient beasties.

The group’s biggest find was a hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur) femur that was 1.15 meters long! It was encased in iron stone, so it took them three full days of chiseling away and pickaxing the rock; but it was well worth it. The femur (and a bunch of other finds) will be added into the collections of the Redpath Museum in Montréal. Wicked cool, Hoai-Nam!

Using Africa to study Mars

Using Africa to study Mars

No, you’re not dreaming - we really do have a Martian geologist. While the majority of her work is done remotely via the Curiosity Rover (NASA’s rover currently on Mars), it is still incredibly important to maintain skills as a field geologist and to understand geologic processes that happen on EVERY planet - which took our resident Mars expert, Maddy, to Africa.

This summer, Maddy spent several weeks just outside of Noordoewer, Namibia, across the border near Vioolsdrif, South Africa, and within the Richtersveld World Heritage Site in South Africa. All of these places host rocks detailing an ancient ocean setting from over 500 million years ago in what was called the Cambrian Period, and helped Maddy to better understand her own Martian research. Keep it up, Maddy!

Huge conference, tiny virus

Huge conference, tiny virus

Tiffany, a PhD student in the Roach lab, attended her first phage conference this week in the beautiful Olympia, Washington! Phages are the world’s tiniest organisms: and as viruses that infect bacteria, they have recently gotten the scientific world’s eye as a promising treatment for bacterial infections. Tiffany had a blast presenting her research, chugging a TON of coffee (as one does at conferences), and attending workshops of the latest and greatest in the phage world, including her own mentor, Dr. Dwayne Roach.

There was even dance parties. Lots and lots of dance parties. Sounds like a blast, Tiff!

Halfway to Doctor

Halfway to Doctor

Congratulations to our authors Rachel and Blaide for passing their doctoral qualifying exams! In life science PhD programs, the second year usually culminates with some form of written and oral exam to test your understanding of course material and mastery of your specific project. For the written exam, both Rachel and Blaide were required to write National Institute of Health-style grants that focused on their current project. For the oral exam, Rachel and Blaide gave presentations on their project to a committee comprised of senior scientists, each assigned the task of making sure the student understood the fundamental science behind their project as well as the tiny little details. 

It’s often said that this is one of the most stressful parts of graduate school, so kudos to Rachel and Blaide for clearing this hurdle and good luck with your research!

A RARE gem

A RARE gem

Recently, PassioInventa’s co-founder and resident StairMaster enthusiast Blaide was awarded an AWESOME scholarship from BioMarin Pharmaceutics, a pharmaceutical company that specializes in creating therapies for people with rare genetic disorders. The RARE Scholar Award is in its second year and awards $5,000 to carefully selected undergraduate and graduate students excelling in their studies and extracurriculars, all the while managing a rare genetic disorder. The Columbus Dispatch (Blaide’s hometown newspaper) wrote a great article on his award that features an interview with Blaide about his genetic disorder, and can be found here. Way to go, guy!

At an Elasmobranch conference, the shark jokes quickly wear fin

At an Elasmobranch conference, the shark jokes quickly wear fin

Sharks… in the mountains??

This week, our writer Elana had the opportunity to represent her lab - the Shark Research and Conservation program at the University of Miami - at the Conference of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Snowbird, Utah, held by the American Elasmobranch Society. This magical meeting of shark and reptile enthusiasts brought together a suite of researchers all focusing on cartilaginous fish: aka sharks, skates, and rays. Needless to say, Elana was in heaven!

At the conference, Elana proudly presented part of her masters’ research, and the talk was a huge success; she even got a collaborator out of it. It’s always nice to feel “in your element,” especially in the sciences, where you are normally surrounded by things you don’t know. Congratulations, and glad you had fun!!

New job who dis - the coral edition

New job who dis - the coral edition

Our very own Michelle has returned to endless summer in Miami for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection! As the new Awareness and Appreciation Project Coordinator for the Coral Reef Conservation Program, Michelle is now managing all education and outreach-related projects. She also supports the team out in the field in conducting reef surveys to assess the reefs suffering from stony coral tissue loss disease! Michelle's role includes collaborating on communications surrounding the disease and other communications for the Florida Coastal Office in the southeast. Keep on killing it Michelle!! (while also saving the corals)

On the road to candidacy

On the road to candidacy

Big congrats to Jenna, our resident microbiologist, who passed her Written qualifying exams this week! In finishing these, she is officially halfway to making the transition from a PhD student to a PhD candidate. In the grad school world, this is huge. It means you have spent enough years in the program (usually 2-3) and amassed enough knowledge to pass some really tough exams (written and oral) and propose a plan for the project you’ll complete during the rest of your PhD.

Having milestones to accomplish is critical to maintaining optimism and a healthy level of obsession for your work in graduate school. We’re proud of you, Jenna!

Bacteria, lobster dinnahs and some really cool science

Bacteria, lobster dinnahs and some really cool science

Congratulations to two of our writers, Ricky and Jason, who presented their research at the Gordon Research Conference for Environmental Microbiology last week! Scientific conferences are an awesome way to not only share your own research (and get new ideas), but also to hear about the latest advances happening in science. This particular conference was held in Boston, so you can bet they served us plenty of Chowda and that the Sam Adams flowed freely.

Conferences are usually a really fun thing for us scientists to go to; they provide a break from the usual routine and give us a chance to show off our work. You always come back feeling a little more successful and accomplished than when you left, and that leaves us wanting more. Now, back to the lab bench. Those bacteria aren’t going to grow themselves.

Conferences that Change Lives

Conferences that Change Lives


Two of our founders, Blaide and Jason, were chosen to attend the ComSciCon national workshop last week in San Diego, to promote PassioInventa and learn a little bit about scientific communication along the way. In this 3-day workshop, 50 graduate students from all over the world were brought together to begin a conversation on how to blend our science with art forms to make it more palatable to non-scientific audiences. Famous photographers, cartoonists, magazine editors, comedians, and more led seminars and workshops to share how they’ve been successful in SciCom, and our network grew substantially - we even added a few new writers to the team! Big ideas coming soon.

Liv goes on a Hawaiian stay-cation

Liv goes on a Hawaiian stay-cation

Our very own author Liv Williamson will be heading to Hawai'i in the next couple weeks to be a visiting researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) for 1.5 months with Dr. Mary Hagedorn's lab, learning and helping improve methods for cryopreservation of coral gametes. This is important work not only for gene banking, helping us preserve crucial biodiversity on reefs despite massive losses in coral cover worldwide, but it is also a promising tool for selective breeding of corals. The goal is to eventually identify the strongest, most stress-resilient colonies from different locations and cross their gametes to produce offspring that are tolerant of heat stress but still retain the appropriate genetic information for other local adaptations. She is very excited to start this new chapter of her research, and she will keep you updated (and probably write an article) as she goes. Way to go Liv!

Sorting his way to the top - one cell at a time

Sorting his way to the top - one cell at a time

BIG congratulations to Alex, who won a big award this week - the Excellence in Cytometry award from the Southern California Flow Cytometry Association, or SoCal Flow (yes, it is just as cool as it sounds). Flow cytometry, one of the techniques Alex uses in his research, is something we scientists use to sort different types of cells based on their physical characteristics.

Alex was invited to give an oral presentation at the University of California, Irvine; the only student presenter to be included in the conference that day, and his talk was given right before a keynote speaker from CalTech. Talk about prestige. Keep it up man!

GRFP - Great Researcher Finds Purpose (ha-ha)

GRFP - Great Researcher Finds Purpose (ha-ha)

One of our writers, Zach, was awarded one of the biggest fellowships in the business today, the mother of all scholarships, the grandfather of all grants, the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This fellowship will fund Zach through 3 years of research and living in San Diego, and removes a lot of the stress that graduate students face when struggling to find funding. Congrats on the huge achievement, Zach!

So you like to talk about science?!

So you like to talk about science?!

LET’S TALK ABOUT SCIENCE!

A big day for two of the PhDudes, Jason and Blaide, as they were accepted into ComSciCon 2019, an annual workshop for graduate students focusing on communicating science to a greater public. Jason and Blaide were two of 50 applicants selected from a pool of 700 applicants, and will represent PassioInventa in San Diego, CA in July among a slew of other successful, passionate scientists. It will be a great opportunity to network, to improve our mission, and achieve our ultimate goal: to get better at communicating science to you. Congrats, guys, and keep up the good work.

Jogging her Emory

Jogging her Emory

Big congrats to one of our writers, Jordan Owyoung, for getting accepted into a PhD program at Emory University! She will be studying Genetics and Molecular Biology there in the fall, and hopes to work on research to develop more targeted drugs to aid in treating disease. Congrats on this milestone and on the beginning of a journey, Jordan!

The new PhD student on the block!

The new PhD student on the block!

One of our authors, Ricky Hamilton, was just accepted into a Joint PhD program between his alma mater, San Diego State University, and the University of California San Diego in Cell and Molecular Biology. He will be continuing research he has been working on for several years in Dr. Marina Kalyuzhnaya’s lab, studying methanotrophic bacteria and how we can engineer them to convert methane into useful products. Congrats, Ricky!

Second on the paper, first in our hearts

Second on the paper, first in our hearts

One of our passionate coral scientists, Liv, published her first paper this month in the journal Protist. The paper focuses on the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels on a harmful marine algae, and was part of her work completed during her undergraduate years at Columbia University. A scientist’s first publication is often the beginning of a long, stimulating career in the scientific world, and is no small feat. You deserve it, Liv!

Becoming a science Master

Becoming a science Master

Big congrats to Michelle, one of our writers here at piphd.com and more recently a graduated Master’s student from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Michelle graduated with a degree in Marine Policy and Conservation and, a week later, attended the Coral Reef Futures conference in the Florida Keys to network. See her article about it here. Can’t wait to see where you go next, Michelle!

Brother Nature

Brother Nature

This November, one of our writers Zach was part a team that published a paper in the most prestigious of research journals, Nature. This paper made large leaps in illuminating the compounds that corals release across day and night cycles, and gives us a better understanding of how they interact with the bacteria and tiny organisms around them. Keep it up, Zach!