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Y leaving so soon? Farewell and thanks, Dr Melissa Wilson Sayres – Real Scientists

Y leaving so soon? Farewell and thanks, Dr Melissa Wilson Sayres

Another tremendous week of @RealScientists has come and gone under the stewardship of evolutionary geneticist Dr Melissa Wilson Sayres of UC Berkeley. As discussed in her welcome post, Melissa’s main research focus is to understand the evolution of sex chromosomes (X and Y in mammals), and is also interested in using the unique properties of these chromosomes (e.g. that they spend different amounts of time in the male and female germlines, and are subject to different selective pressures) to address how genetic mutations accumulate. To address the first area of interest, she is cataloging and interpreting variation among Y chromosomes from populations around the world. She has also been comparing diversity of sex and non-sex chromosomes across hundreds of individuals to determine how population demography, selection, and sex-specific mutation processes combine to contribute to the accumulation of mutations in the human genome.

Melissa talked about her research (of course), but also job applications, collaborations, courtroom science (the ideas of uncertainty and reasonable doubt), science funding, why or why not to do a PhD, how to become a bioinformaticist (you don’t have to learn how to code, but it helps), the role and importance of academic outreach… you name it, Melissa dived into it. And if that wasn’t enough, during her week of tweeting for RealScientists, Melissa jetted cross-country to the Conference of World Affairs (#CWA2014) in which she was involved in several panels. particularly on sex and gender. This inspired some deep and meaningful dialogue about the complex meanings of these concepts, and how concepts of sex and gender are ascribed those meanings in a genetic, cellular, physiological, psychological, legal and societal sense.

Though it’s possible the only thing which inspired more comment than those discussions were Melissa’s sciency leggings…

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 6.07.02 pmMelissa’s legged it (sorry) for a hard-earned refreshing beverage, but you can rewind through her fantastic week of curation via our Storify account. We thoroughly recommend keeping up with Melissa by following her on Twitter at @mwilsonsayres.


Next week: We prove that science isn’t scary; our next curator Steve Maguire has video evidence. He joins us shortly.


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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