Life in numbers: thanks and farewell, Dr Lindsay Waldrop

Humans like to categorise things, and scientists like to categorise things more than most humans – there are entire scientific disciplines based on the putting of living things into categories on the basis of observable differences. We like our disciplines themselves to be categorised too, placed into little discrete self-contained boxes whereupon ne’er the twain shall meet:

That said, interdisciplinary research is where it’s at right now. And right at the intersection of physics and biology you will find our curator for the last seven days, Dr Lindsay Waldrop of UNC Chapel Hill. Lindsay is a mathematician and physicist who works on complex problems in biology – at the moment, on modelling fluid flow in the vertebrate heart using the chordate sea squirt as an analogue (or as they would spell it in those parts, analog). This, to our completely unbiased worldview, is the coolest thing out of Chapel Hill since Michael Jordan was playing college ball for the Tar Heels.

In between fighting with photocopiers, cleaning fish tanks and marking midterm exam papers, Lindsay spent her week talking comparative biomechanics, crab sniffing, math phobia and how to overcome it, tunicate and crustacean biology, the beauty of basic research. the pros and cons of working with non-Newtonian fluids (in particular the etiquette of ordering caseloads of Pantene Pro-V from your local Walmart) and how evolution is less intelligent design, more Macgyver with a roll of gaffa tape and a bunch of cable ties. Thanks very much to Lindsay for her brilliant work on the account this week – keep following her at @invertenerd, and if you missed anything this week make sure to catch up via Storify.

Next week: Trent Yarwood, who went up a hill as a final-year medical doctor and came down a mountain as a public health specialist with a particular focus on antibiotics.


James is a recovering scientist and escaped postdoc who works in research management at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He's now retired from active @RealScientists duty, after serving from the project's beginnings in 2013 through to mid 2015. When not managing research, surviving #PlanetParenthood or pretending not to be an expat Australian in the Deep South of NZ, he tweets @theotherdrsmith.

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