October 2013

How to become a good lab manager

Contributor Elizabeth Sandquist rounded up excellent advice from the pros about how to juggle competing demands and become a great lab manager. Her sources say it's all about planning, organizing, leading and controlling.


How to write a killer cover letter for a postdoctoral application

Many graduate students applying for their first postdoctoral positions underestimate the importance of the cover letter. While it may be true that your awesomeness is beautifully outlined on your curriculum vitae, your cover letter often will dictate whether the busy principal investigator puts your application at the top of the heaping pile or into triage. First impressions are everything for some people, so leave nothing to chance. If you provide only your CV, you aren’t being very personable, and you lose a precious opportunity to highlight some things that make you stand out. On the other hand, a cover letter is also an opportunity to shoot yourself in the foot, so here are a few do’s and don’ts.


Breaking through the tunnel vision

In the past, many laboratories focused on only one (or perhaps a small handful) of the thousands of known sphingolipids and declared that their sphingolipids of interest were the all-powerful modulators of whichever stress responses they were studying that day. However, just when we think we have triangulated the identity or role of a lipid species involved in a particular cell-stress response, the lipid itself teaches us a valuable lesson about just how slippery it really is. Even small manipulations of a single sphingolipid entity can alter metabolites dramatically or flux through the entire metabolic pathway, making it difficult (if not impossible) to attribute the phenotype to the originally targeted sphingolipid.


mRNA: in the right place at the right time

In a minireview in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, Carolina Eliscovich, Adina Buxbaum, Zachary Katz and Robert Singer at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University explain the importance of localizing elements of mRNA sequences and how advanced biochemical and cell-imaging techniques are being used to better understand mRNA movement.


Thematic review series: redox-active protein modifications and signaling

The Journal of Biological Chemistry’s recent series of thematic minireviews, organized by Associate Editor Ruma Banerjee at the University of Michigan Medical School, is a return to basics: a reminder that the cell accomplishes tasks of great complexity by keeping things simple.


Metabolism-generated signaling in innate immunity and inflammation

ASBMB's senior science policy fellow, Chris Pickett, writes of a recent JBC minireview investigating how the innate immune-response system, the first-responder mechanism against invading pathogens, is coupled to metabolic signaling. This research has implications for understanding the progression of type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and other metabolic disorders.


New antibody-based test for detecting tuberculosis infection

In an article in the October issue of the Journal of Lipid Research, researchers in Singapore report the development of a new antibody-based method for detecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis infection. Mycolic acid, whose long fatty acids are the main component of M. tuberculosis’ bacterial cell wall, is found in infected patients’ sputum and appears to be the perfect target for such an assay.


On mitochondrial DNA, mating and mussels

In humans and most other animals, offspring get all their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers. But in mussels and other related bivalves, fathers also give their offspring their mitochondrial DNA. In a recent paper in the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, researchers propose a new model to explain this mechanism of mitochondrial DNA inheritance, which is called doubly uniparental inheritance, or DUI. The model also puts forward a possible explanation for sex determination in mussels, the mechanisms of which are not known.


Pulling back the curtain on biotech careers

For students with interests in science and technology but with limited knowledge of related professions, figuring out what steps to take toward those careers can be intimidating and deflating. This is especially true for students who could become the first in their families to go to college and for students who want to attend college but can’t afford the rising cost of four-year degrees. To simplify the search for information about biotech careers, the San Francisco-based organization Bio-Link established the online resource Biotech-Careers.org. The site provides a breakdown of which academic credentials typically are required for certain positions, how much those positions usually pay, what day-to-day life is like for workers with those jobs, how to network and find internships, and how to land permanent positions.


HOPES seed-grants program to enhance STEM K-12 education: impact and what’s next

Regina Stevens-Truss provides an update on the HOPES seed-grants program. So far, it has resulted in 27 partnerships in 22 cities across the U.S. and has affected the education of more than 3,600 fourth- through 12th-graders.

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