In search of the Moon Tree

With spring finally here I decided that today should be a day of discovery. More specifically, I set out in search of something that I had first read about on the pages of Atlas Obscura – a tree, grown from seeds that had traveled to space with astronaut Stuart Roosa on the Apollo 14 Moon mission in 1971.  Continue reading


Nerdy, happy things: names in science

A friend once described the TV show The Big Bang Theory as “it’s so nerdy you feel kind of dirty for understanding the jokes”. I know where he’s coming from, but sometimes it’s these little nerdy things and insider jokes that show the real soul of scientist (sometimes weird and twisted, sometimes funny, sometimes touching and sentimental…). Particularly good examples are scientific names of substances, methods or species. And so, just to start my 2016 blogging year on a happy note, I’d like to showcase some of my favourites  🙂 Continue reading

A simple formality…

I need various reagents for my research project, for which my home institution needs to sign a “Material Transfer Agreement” (MTA). No big deal, a simple administrative formality. Or so I thought. But this is France. And French administration is… well, French administration. I could try to put in words what the experience was actually like, but the excellent French cartoonists, René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo have already done it so perfectly in their 1976 (!) movie The Twelve Tasks of Asterix:

Auckland Island pigs: From shipwrecks to diabetes

This is my first post of 2014, and it’s a story about chance and luck in biomedical research. Also, it’s a story about pigs. Not little piggies that went to market or little piggies that made roast beef, but piggies that once saved the life of shipwrecked sailors and today could help the lives of people with type I diabetes. Continue reading

My nerdy Christmas wish for 2013

Dear Santa,

Every year a creative lab somewhere in the world makes a great nerdy spoof video of some current hit, bringing a smile to the faces of stressed, overworked PhD students and postdocs (and also others, including lazy bums like me, who procrastinate by surfing the web and checking out youtube videos ;)). Continue reading

The Uncommon Microscopist

I am an ardent admirer of Alan Bennett’s work. One of my favourite books of all time, The Uncommon Reader, was penned by him. It’s a fictional story about the Queen of England, and what happens when she starts reading books. While the moral of the story is about how literature can broaden your horizon, it also contains an extremely comic description of the grave consequences the Queen’s reading has on her entire entourage and ultimately her country.

the-uncommon-reader-by-alan-bennettWell, yesterday, I stumbled upon a little post by the Schuh lab in Cambridge. The page documents the Queen’s visit to the lab, when she came to Cambridge for the opening ceremony of the new MRC LMB building in May 2013. The page has the title “the queen learns about research in the Schuh lab”, and contains a picture with the caption: „The Queen even looked down the microscoscope to study a group of mouse oocytes“. I do wonder. If reading a book can have a profound impact on the Queen, her followers and her country – what might happen when she learns about research, not to mention when she studies a group of mouse oocytes…?