Moving Forward: Update on Work in the Lab

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The blog has fell silent for a number of months, mainly because my work and other endeavors has consumed all of my time. The work in the lab has taken on new dimensions, with our staff significantly expanded at the beginning of the semester. This has translated into a lot more time spent training and managing, rather than directly generating data. But I also spend a significant amount of time pushing some of my own projects forward.

On the professional development front I have been working on expanding my skill sets in statistics and programming, which mostly involves taking some courses (university, online, and books) and just putting in a lot of time getting my hands dirty with R. My work in the lab has started to shift to this area and I’ve spent many hours getting comfortable with a whole new set of tools.

One nice part with Dr. S is that even though I lack a PhD., I’m not treated any differently than those that have more degrees. So as one of the people in the lab with the most hands-on experience with a number of important protocols and experiments, it is often necessary to make recommendations and help with troubleshooting, as well as offer advice based on past experience. It’s been a nice challenge in shifting to a job that includes a lot of project management instead of primarily generating data.

Also, when I get a chance I keep up on a number of blogs in the science area, which mostly includes a lot of young PI’s, postdocs, and graduate students. It’s always interesting to hear how your experiences in science in compare with people at other universities and companies.

Happy New Year!

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I was just reminded that I have been neglecting my duties as a blogger when I read this post from Alex Palazzo at The Daily Transcript. ¬†Ironically, Alex does a great job reflecting why I have been neglecting those duties, concluding, “This is why I’m in science.”

My results had arrived! Before anyone was up, I looked over the list and realized what I had stumbled into. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s obviously the answer. Obvious. I should have gone fishing earlier. Now all that is missing is the last piece of the puzzle. That last factor that must link all the bits together.

This is why I haven’t been blogging. This is why it’s 10:01PM and I’m in the lab. This is why I’ve been totally obsessed with my work.

In short, I have also been chasing some loose ends that have had me completely mesmorized. And transitioning from undergraduate/part-time research work to full-time research work has had its share of challenges, but I feel like I am getting my feet under me and making significant contributions to not only the overall arc of the research but also to the productivity of the other lab members. This makes me very happy.

And with that, happy new year to all of the (loyal) readers!

Epigenetics News Returns

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In February 2008, I made the decision to shut down this blog in order to spend more time focusing on completing my degree and pushing my research project forward. Last month I completed my B.S. in Genetics and Cell Biology at Washington State University after an extremely stressful four years in which I tried to balance responsibilities as a full-time student, undergraduate researcher, husband, father, and blogger, among many other pursuits. This year, something had to give as my class schedule was extremely demanding and lab courses required a much larger share of my time. In addition, I had decided not to attend graduate school right away and was turning my attention to finding a research technician position in the area. That search is still ongoing, and I have applied for and interviewed with a number of research labs at WSU.

It’s amazing how quickly you learn about other research programs under way when you begin to interview for positions. Many of the PIs hiring are working on newly funded grants that have not yet been publicly disclosed, and being able to get a glimpse of the work being done in a wide range of research areas has been a great educational opportunity. I have been working on a particular project for the last 3+ years (still ongoing), and it’s easy to become so immersed in your research that you forget about what others are doing around you. The job search has been a refreshing change of pace and I am looking forward to the next stage in my research career, whatever that may be.

With that said, epigenetics research has continued to capture my attention over the past four months. This area of research has produced dramatic advances in our understanding of stem cells, cloning, cancer, development, nutrition, toxicology, and many other areas. With one educational milestone completed, it has opened up a space to continue to highlight important advances in epigenetics research at Epigenetics News. With some additional time available — and my newly acquired knowledge of important concepts and techniques critical to interpreting current research — I hope to make this project more of what I originally envisioned and present a more coherent view of the epigenetics research landscape.

Thank you to all of you who offered your encouragement and support for this project, and especially to those that stuck around as RSS or newsletter subscribers while the site displayed abstracts. Welcome back!

Shutting Down Epigenetics News

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It has become apparent that I have been stretched too thin and am unable to make any significant time contribution to work on this blog.  I want to thank all of the readers for following and supporting the site along the way, and I hope that this will inspire someone with the time and energy to start their own blog about epigenetics.  I may do another blog in the future, but it will not be right now as I am focused on finishing my undergraduate degree and moving on to graduate school.

Thank you again!

Trevor Covert


Getting Ready for Just Science 2008

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I am preparing to get involved in Just Science 2008, the second year of this week-long event promoting the discussion of peer-reviewed research on science blogs. The event has been organized both years by Razib at Gene Expression, who (like myself) seems to grow tired of the “alternative topics” dominating the themes of many of the science blogs out there.

The rules are pretty simple: for just five days, each participating blog can only post about science. You have to post at least one post per day for the week of February 4-8. Last year, we didn’t quite make that mark but this year I am getting started early and am determined to meet that goal.

I’d encourage any other science bloggers out there to sign up. It’s a great way to motivate yourself to write about some research that will interest your readers, and you’re likely to find new blogs through the aggregated feed offered during the week of Just Science.

On the other hand, if you can’t stand to only write about science for five days, don’t bother. The readers of the aggregate feed are only interested in hearing about science.

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Winner of Nova’s Ghost in Your Genes DVD

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The randomly chosen winner of the newsletter contest is Dr. Natalia Cucu, an assistant professor of genetics at the University of Bucharest. She will be receiving a copy of Nova’s Ghost in Your Genes DVD, just as soon as it’s available on January 14, 2008.

The irony of the timing of this contest is that the newsletter, as some may have noticed, is currently not functioning. It turns out that Zookoda, the service I have used since the beginning to send “broadcasts” of the newsletter to all of our subscribers, has temporarily disabled this feature due to spammers abusing the feature and bogging down their servers. I had hoped that Zookoda would be able to remedy this situation quickly and get it back up and running, but I’m now in the process of exploring other options in order to get the newsletter going as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can still use the same subscription form (in the right sidebar), which will deliver your e-mail address to the list which I can export to whatever avenue I end up choosing for the next installment.

My apologies to all of the subscribers for the downtime.

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Welcome, Graduate Admissions Committees

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The holidays are just about wrapped up, and I can only assume that over the next few weeks the site will be visited by some curious graduate admissions committee members. That is, if I ever get high enough on their spreadsheets to make the cut for further consideration.

I ended up applying to two universities for graduate school, and decided to mention on the applications (against the advice of some) that I was a blogger.  I figured that it supported my claim that I was very interested in the field of epigenetics research, and I was willing to go “above and beyond” what was expected of me in terms of work as an undergraduate.  I also hope that the committees will understand that my professional experience began well before I started my undergraduate coursework here at WSU.

The holidays were great for my wife, stepson and I.  We were invited by my parent-in-laws for a Christmas vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and so we left the sub-freezing temperatures of Eastern Washington to sample the 75 degree Fahrenheit variety of the holiday.  Needless to say, the trip back wasn’t as exciting as the one there.

I am still getting back up to speed on everything, and making all of the usual preparations for the start of spring semester. I hope to do more regular updates on the site concerning what everyone here is interested in, epigenetics.  Until then, hopefully everyone had a great holiday and is ready for a new wave of epigenetics research in 2008.

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Win a DVD of NOVA’s Ghost in Your Genes

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This fall, PBS NOVA aired a special episode, “The Ghost in Your Genes“, featuring epigenetics. (This should not be confused with the “Ghost in Your Genes” by BBC Horizons aired in 2005.) The episode featured a number of epigenetics researchers and their work, including:

Now, you can have a chance to add NOVA’s Ghost in Your Genes to your DVD collection. Just sign up for the free Epigenetics News newsletter by the end of December to get an entry into this giveaway. At the end of December, one random newsletter subscriber will be chosen to receive a copy of the Ghost in Your Genes DVD. To subscribe to the newsletter, enter your e-mail address into the form at the top of the right sidebar, hit submit, then confirm your address by clicking on the link in the confirmation e-mail.

If you’re already a subscriber, then all you have to do is remain as a subscriber until the end of December.

The newsletter, sent out each Sunday, contains a summary of the posts over the past week. It’s a convenient way to keep up with the blog via e-mail.

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The DNA Network: Rapidly Expanding

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The DNA Network was launched about a month ago with 12 blogs joining together to offer a network feed and other communication between bloggers. Since then, 5 other blogs have joined the network:

I have discovered some great new voices through the network. Maybe you’ll find something worth reading in the network, too.

Looking for a Guest Blogger

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So summer rolls around, and I expected to have more time for blogging, but it just hasn’t happened yet. I am working in the lab full-time and it has been very busy, as always. There are lots of things to take care of at home that were put off during the academic semesters in lieu of studying and keeping up my lab responsibilities. So it has been a pretty hectic summer thus far and the blog has not seen much activity as a result.

However, I hope to change that over the next few weeks.

I have a week-long family vacation planned for the first week of July (June 30-July 7), and I figured that it may be as good a time as any to try offering a “guest blogger” here at Epigenetics News. So, if you have some idea of epigenetics and want to have a week-long opportunity to write about to an audience that’s very interested in the topic, get in touch with me at admin [at] epigeneticsnews [dot] com. Ideally, this person would be someone who does epigenetics research or has done blogging on the topic before, but don’t let that stop you from applying.

Just type up a quick e-mail and we’ll get the process started.

The DNA Network: Group of Genetics Bloggers

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Hsien Lei of Eye on DNA and Rick Vidal of My Biotech Life have spearheaded an effort to start a FeedBurner network: The DNA Network. This provides a handy aggregate feed and summary page for fans of genetics to get a quick summary of some of the best genetics writing from around the blogosphere. It has alsp provided an opportunity for some of us genetics bloggers to open an avenue of communication that hasn’t been there in the past.

They invited me to the network, and I couldn’t see any reason not to have Epigenetics News be a part of it, so I said “yes.” The DNA Network currently consists of the following blogs:

Hopefully the aggregate feed will be something useful for consuming a wider range of genetics topics.

Short Commercial Break and Some Random Post

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I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the sponsors that have helped support the ongoing activities of Epigenetics News: Medical Software Associates,, Red Apple Living, Surgeon’s Advisor, HealthTalk,, Asbestos Mesothelioma Lawyers and Drugs.MD.

In addition, some readers may have noticed a link added to the top of the right sidebar: Click here for a random post. It will direct you to a random post from the Epigenetics News archives, allowing new readers to get a quick taste of some of what this site tends to cover. I hope that it’s both useful and fun for old and new readers alike.

Launch of Eye on DNA and Call for Submissions

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One of the first established genetics/health bloggers to give some link love to Epigenetics News after its launch in March 2006 was Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei, formerly of the b5 media blog Genetics and Health. Just recently, she announced that she is breaking out on her own with a new blog devoted entirely to genetics, Eye on DNA. The site is just getting going, but Hsien-Hsien has always impressed me with her overall knowledge of genetics issues and her ability to convey some complex and controversial topics to a general audience. I have no doubt that Eye on DNA will be an excellent source of unique information and perspectives from a veteran genetics blogger.

Tangled Bank and Mendel’s Garden

On another note, as some people may have now realized, Epigenetics News will be host to two blog carnivals next week, Mendel’s Garden (May 8) and Tangled Bank (May 10). The alignment of these two science link festivals at this blog was a complete coincidence on the part of the separate scheduling parties, but since they fall on the week after finals, I’ll have so much time on my hands that hosting two carnivals in one week will be like shooting a pipette tip from the corner of the lab, banking off a stack of histology slide boxes and into the tall trash receptacle next to the door. (Translation: Easy.)

So, if you’d like to submit a bit of genetics goodness or any science-related blog writing over the past 2-4 weeks, go ahead and submit to admin AT epigeneticsnews DOT com. I’ll be sure to include everything that has some connection to either genetics or science in general.

Until then, anyone have any last-minute pieces of advice on memorizing cell signaling pathways?

Submissions for Mendel’s Garden in May

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The genetic blog carnival Mendel’s Garden will be hosted here at Epigenetics News on Monday, May 7. Submissions of anything related to genetics, epigenetics, evo devo, regulation of gene expression, genetic counseling, ethical issues, or closely related topics will be accepted. Send your submissions to admin AT epigeneticsnews DOT com.

The New Look

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I went and did it: Epigenetics News now has a brand new look. I am still working out the kinks, but this design should load much faster and is much more “simple” than the previous rendition. I hope that the readability is still very good (or better) and that the appearance doesn’t detract from the content.

If you’re reading from the RSS feed, you may want to click through to find out what the new site looks like and leave your two cents. Link