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Saturday, 2 April 2016

So who am I then?

I've been doing this blog for a little while now, but haven't really gone into much detail about myself. So who am I? Why do I like friendly bacteria so much? And why am I doing this blog at all?

I'm a twenty three year old PhD student with a microbiology background, in the first year of my PhD. I'm working with a type of friendly bacteria called endophytes, which live in plants and can help them grow and resist disease in exchange for a safe, stable place to live. It's fascinating! It's a bit like the bacteria in your intestines, they don't hurt the plant at all and can even provide good things like hormones and nutrients! I've got a long way to go before I finish but I'm loving it so far so I'm sure it'll fly by.

So why do I like friendly bacteria? Since a young age I've been amazed by the power bacteria have. These tiny creatures so small you can't see them can have huge effects on people, and even the whole world. Just look at the old plagues! The black death killed a huge proportion of the population of the world, but the bacteria behind it (Yersinia pestis) is still much smaller than even one cell of a human. Obviously more than one cell of it was involved, but just as a billion harmless droplets of water can cause flooding and devastation, the huge number of bacteria cause illness and death on a huge scale.
This power the bacteria hold captured my imagination. What if we could use that potential for the benefit of mankind? To continue the water analogy, hydroelectric dams use the power of the water for good, and I wanted to do the same with bacteria. This was before probiotics were popular, and I didn't really know about common uses of microbes like brewing or antibiotic production, but I kept that interest alive as I went on in life, and ended up studying microbiology at degree level. I've done some work in an industrial lab looking at bio ethanol production for fuel, and now I'm here working on my plants!
I realise "using microorganisms to improve higher organisms" sounds very Resident Evil (and I must admit that did help keep my interest in it going) but it's very safe and there's no danger of zombies! Although if it did happen nobody would be worried because I'm in the middle of nowhere and there'd be nobody to bite!

That's who I am, and why I'm doing what I do, but why did I start this blog? I'm really keen to get more science widely known, especially about the 'good bugs' in the world. I feel like a lot of people aren't really told much about bacteria, and microbes in general, so tend to throw up barriers whenever they come up rather than finding out about them. All science affects everybody, so I think having an understanding of how things work would benefit absolutely everyone no matter what they do or where they live worldwide. I already tell my family and friends about awesome, interesting things I find out but I want to spread that around and tell the world!
Whether you're a scientist yourself, or a child in school, or work in retail, an office, in construction, wherever, I want to make awesome scientific developments available, accessible and understandable to everybody!

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