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Life Stands on the shoulders of Giants (Viruses)

Back to ancient life, what exactly defines life, and where does life end and non-life begin. One of my favorite subjects, and one of which I am the least knowledgeable. Doesn’t stop me writing about it though. Viruses are… well… not really life. Or so says common wisdom. They have some elements of life: a […]

Crowdsourcing Genomics II: Unveiling HINdeR and Phrux

About this time last year, I posted about a new course I was going to teach, Phage Genomics. Briefly: Phage isolation, electron microscopy, DNA sequencing in the first semester, annotation and comparative genomics in the second. And I get to teach the bioinformatics bit: annotation and comparative genomics. Woo-hoo! The great thing about this course, […]

Crowdsourcing genomics

  Miami University has  joined the National Genomics Research Initiative (NGRI) offered by HHMI Science Education Alliance (SEA) in their Phage Genomics course. The students go directly into the lab, participating in an authentic research experience. In a full-year academic course they: isolate and characterize bacterial viruses from their local soil prepare the viral DNA […]

Book Review: Small and Packs a Punch

A Planet of Viruses Carl Zimmer The University of Chicago Press 109 pages Interesting things happen when physicists decide to go into biological research. They ask questions that biologists generally won’t. For example, viruses have small genomes, but they also have very small storage space in their capsids. Bacteriophages inject their genetic material into the […]

Life serves viruses

Sometimes I get the feeling that all life on Earth basically serves as a vehicle for viral replication and propagation. Viruses thrive in all three domains, they embed themselves in all creature’s genomes, they may lie dormant in the genome for eons or decimate whole populations in a few years, and they are the most […]

A cure for Ebola?

There are few infectious diseases as violent and as lethal as the Ebola Haemorragic Fever.  This terrible disease was first described in 1976 at a mission hospital at the Ebola river in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).  The disease is 80% fatal, the victims die painfully from a literal meltdown of their organs. […]

Photosynthesis, phages and structures: there’s treasure everywhere!

Here’s a really cool work, published this September in Nature.. Why did I choose this work?  Well, it’s a major discovery, and it’s all done using bioinformatics, and fairly simple bioinformatics at that. The power of metagenomics and bioinfromatics: in a mass of data you just have to know what you are looking for, and […]

Size matters. Life is Live.

1976: Prologue In July 27, 1976, the American Legion, a US military veterans association, held a large meeting at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel a hotel in Philadelphia PA, celebrating the USA’s bicentennial year. Within 2 days, guests  started falling ill with an atypical pneumonia. By the end of the week, 221 people were ill and […]