RealScientists would like to say a hearty thanks and fare-thee-well to Dr Megan Wilson of the University of Otago, NZ (aka @DrMegsW) who put in sterling service as our curator for this past week. Megan was our first ever developmental biologist curator, though it should be noted her research also has a strong evolutionary bent – illustrated by the broad array of different model organisms she has used and continues to use in her research, from flies and bees to mice and fish, to answer questions about the genetic pathways that underpin developmental processes, and how these have changed through evolution. Her week took her from her lab in the Anatomy Department in Dunedin’s University of Otago to the top of the South Island to the Cawthron Institute in sunny Nelson, for a meeting on sea squirts – which the Cawthron investigate as an invasive pest, while Megan researchers for what they might be able to tell us about the ancestor of all chordate animals.
Megan outlined the challenges of doing research at the bottom of the world, a full day’s flight from the research powerhouses of the US and Europe, while balancing research with university teaching, outreach and of course home and family life – challenges shared by all early-career researchers in academia. She also gave us some fascinating insights into how developmental biology (in both teaching and research) has moved through the ages from the descriptive, observational nature of early embryology to today’s molecular techniques such as in situ hybridization, quantitative PCR and RNA interference, whereby in her words ‘we break things to understand how they work’. And, of course, bombarded us with images of lovely south island scenery, making everyone furiously jealous.
If you’ve enjoyed Megan’s tweets, you can keep following her on her personal account @DrMegsW, as well as checking out the Australia/NZ Society for Cell and Developmental Biology on Twitter and Facebook. If you missed any of Megan’s week on the account, catch up on Storify: Part 1 | Part 2