Merry Christmas to Ye All!

Wishing everyone who’s reading this (instead of last-minute shopping, cookie baking, Christmas tree decorating etc) a very, very Happy Christmas! For all of those, who still need a bit of last-minute help, here some useful instructions on How To Wrap a Cat for Christmas (you never know when such knowledge may come in handy 😉 )

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On “duons” and cargo cult science

ResearchBlogging.orgYesterday a paper (Exonic Transcription Factor Binding Directs Codon Choice and Affects Protein Evolution) from John Stam’s lab at University of Washington was published in Science. They claim that „We found that ~15% of human codons are dual-use codons (“duons”) that simultaneously specify both amino acids and TF recognition sites. Duons are highly conserved and have shaped protein evolution, and TF-imposed constraint appears to be a major driver of codon usage bias.” For the non-scientists reader, this means they claim that a some portion of the human genome, which has a function (to code for proteins), also has a second, unrelated function (to be bound by a special class of proteins, called transcription factors (TFs), which control which regions of the genome are activated). They call these regions with double function „duons”, and also claim that the second function imposes constraints on how the first function is achieved and can evolve. When I read the paper, my gut reaction was this:duons_email

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The long road home

This morning I was catching up with some old podcasts from Science, and came across a report by John Bohannon, about scientists in Turkey. The report discusses how the country is trying to “attract expat Turkish scientists back home“, and Bohannon also makes the statement that “[t]he expat Turks that I have spoken to […] have plenty of criticisms of the current political environment in Turkey, but they really clearly love their homeland.“ (from the 26 July 2013 Science podcast).

This statement touched a nerve, because that’s kind of how I feel about returning to my home country, Hungary. Honestly, I’d love to go back: I love the people and the lifestyle. I think the country is full of potential (creative people with great ideas), which could give rise to amazing research if someone would tap into this goldmine. But when I think about returning I also instantly see all the problems of the academic system, which had motivated me to leave in the first place. Continue reading