Rollin rollin rollin – Thanks and Farewell, Vanessa Vaughan

Every week at Real Scientists HQ we watch in awe as our curator amazes and engages our fabulous community. This week, we were bowled over yet again – this time by PhD student Vanessa Vaughan’s spectacular turn as curator. Vanessa’s research intersects cancer, chemotherapy, and nutrition: she studies cachexia, a condition that arises in 50% of cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy – muscle wasting, loss of appetite, fatigue are just some of the symptoms. It’s a field that affects so many people.  In a hugely entertaining and engaging week, Vanessa talked us through her research, talked about beer, held forth in several debates on nutrition and cancer, beer, chemophobia, taught us about dosage and poisons and beer.  Mid-week there was dash to Melbourne town for a grant submission and some cake, and insight into the joys [what few there are] and traumas of the PhD experience. Awesome stuff on the importance of mentoring for everyone, whatever your walk of life.  You can review Vanessa’s week of tweets in Storify here.

Vanessa was also possibly the first scientist we have to live-tweet a Real Time PCR.  PCR is an indispensable tool in the repertoire of molecular biology, allowing scientists to amplify small amounts of DNA.  You only need a tiny amount, and the process allows you to generate heaps of DNA from a few molecules.  It’s what makes it so useful in crime scene investigations when there’s only a tiny amount of sample available.  Real Time PCR uses this method to examine what genes are being expressed at a given time, so you can get an awesome snapshot into what’s happening inside a cell in a relatively easy and accurate way – and do so live!    Here’s a sample of the process that Vanessa tweeted – with pictures!

Live, Real Time PCR With Vanessa Vaughan

Live, Real Time PCR With Vanessa Vaughan


There were some animated debates on the importance of diet in cancer prevention, whether organic foods were healthier and safer and if “superfoods” really were, well, super.  It was great to see such a response from the community and we look forward to more of this as the account continues.

We leave you with Vanessa’s words that summarise the discussion around nutrition:  “the Dose makes the poison.”  Thank you Vanessa, for such an amazing week and all the best with your PhD.

Next up, we welcome intern Marga Gual Soler, who took her Molecular Cell Biology PhD to the UN in New York! Hey. Can I get in on that gig…

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