Showing posts from February, 2016

Failing better

Failing better Rather than talk about my research directly, I’d like to use this blog post to talk about something much more personal and important: the F-word. I would put forward that to be a PhD student almost inevitably forces a confrontation with an unmistakable, devastating, and utterly confounding acquaintance with Failure.  For everyone it will take a different form, and have its own timing, like the boogie man under a child’s bed. For me Failure loomed large over summer of 2014.  At the point when I became confident that I was ready to start generating publishable graphs – that was when I noticed things starting to get dark. One week’s work culminated in a failed experiment, then another. There were the stupid mistakes. There were the skills that I thought were good enough, and weren’t. And then there were the experiments that had to be written off to trial and error, as I adapted a common experimental approach to my particular samples.  Again and again I thought I had figured …

Diatom of the month - February 2016: Cyclotella meneghiniana

by Luca Marazzi*

‘Who’ is it and where does it live? This centric diatom’s cells are drum-shaped, the valve diameter and the density of marginal striae are highly variable. Cyclotella meneghinianais a rather cosmopolitan species; in tropical freshwaters,it is associated with various water depths and salinity1, and, in temperate regions, it is a typical planktonic taxon in the late summer-autumn2. In North America, this species can cope with a wide range of conditions, for example from freshwater to saline waters in the Great Plains lakes3. a)

Cyclotella meneghiniana, with a) chloroplasts and b) silica frustule after ‘chemical digestion’. Source:

Why are we studying it? Studying the distribution of this and other diatoms in thousands-of-years old sediment and ice cores, paleoecologists - nature’s ‘archaeologists’ - can infer past salinity, pollution, eutrophication and climatic changes4. Moreover, analyzing water, soil and vegetation…