Here’s the latest lesson from the ant world: kidnapped babysitters may not be the most reliable. Evolutionary myrmecologist Susanne Foitzik studies a species of ants that, instead of using its own workers to raise its young, kidnaps larvae from another species and puts them to work as babysitters. But, she’s found, the free labor has a price.
At Friday’s “Cool Jobs” panel at the World Science Festival, a microbiologist, parasitologist, bioengineer, and biologist demonstrated that science is in fact not only important but also pretty darn cool.
The four panelists presented themselves and their work in very different ways. Microbiologist Hazel Barton showed pictures of herself completely covered in mud while studying microbes in caves. Bioengineer and “Da Vinci Detective” Maurizio Seracini played a trailer for a documentary on his discovery of a long-lost famous mural by the mysterious painter. Biologist Tyrone Hayes provided vivid examples of the impacts of pesticides on frogs. Dickson Despommier showed architectural drawings of vertical farms—a topic we’ve touched on before.
But even more inspiring—especially for somebody who already knows that science is cool, which we do—was how the guests explained their career progressions.
Barton stressed that she had taken a meandering path to become a microbiologist, originally focusing on biology because she hated physics, chemistry, and math.
Seracini had studied biomedical engineering as an undergraduate and then attended three years of medical school and one year of architecture school before employing new imaging technology to the field of art history.
We may not be aware of it, but the cells in our bodies are communicating all the time, gabbing away as part of a complex community that sends signals and messages nonstop. But while scientists have been studying cell signaling for years, one question remained: Would we ever be able to learn the cells’ language?
Now, it appears, we have an answer. Dr. Cameron Alexander and PhD student George Pasparakis at the U.K.’s University of Nottingham have successfully facilitated a conversation between natural bacterial cells and artificial polymer vesicles, using strategically-placed groups of sugars on the vesicle surface to mimic the surfaces of an actual cell.