Field of Science

Titles in Evolution overload

There are simply too many interesting papers published in evolutionary biology to keep up with. Not even just reading the abstracts is feasible. Here's a sample of what I find the most interesting from the last couple of weeks:

  • Analyses of pig genomes provide insight into porcine demography and evolution
  • Non-random gene flow: an underappreciated force in evolution and ecology
  • Strengths and weaknesses of experimental evolution
  • Gene duplication as a mechanism of genomic adaptation to a changing environment
  • Revisiting an Old Riddle: What Determines Genetic Diversity Levels within Species?
  • Selection of Penicillin-sensitive Mutants of Escherichia coli following Ultraviolet Irradiation
  • Understanding specialism when the jack of all trades can be the master of all
  • How does adaptation sweep through the genome? Insights from long-term selection experiments
  • Evolutionary layering and the limits to cellular perfection
  • The effects of competition on the strength and softness of selection
  • Crossing the threshold: gene flow, dominance and the critical level of standing genetic variation required for adaptation to novel environments
  • From nature to the laboratory: the impact of founder effects on adaptation
  • Spatially explicit models of divergence and genome hitchhiking
  • Why Transcription Factor Binding Sites Are Ten Nucleotides Long
  • Epistasis as the primary factor in molecular evolution
  • The spatial architecture of protein function and adaptation
  • The effects of stochastic and episodic movement of the optimum on the evolution of the G-matrix and the response of the trait mean to selection

Titles in creationism:

  • Mammalian Ark Kinds
Check it out here: Answers Research Journal. They estimate that there are 137 extant kinds, which means that they must admit to substantial diversification and evolution since the Flood...?

Knowing what I know now...

I'm an evolutionary and computational biologist doing my second postdoc at Michigan State University. I have learned all sorts of thing in this short career, and Jeremy Yoder has asked for advice for a new blog canival.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have...

Focused more on my writing skills very early on. At least as early as my graduate degrees at KGI and UCSB, but perhaps I should really have gotten more into writing during my undergrad in Copenhagen. No one ever told me that being a scientists really amounts to being a writer. I have done nearly nothing but reading and writing for at least six months now, save for giving some talks at meetings and writing 32 lines of code. Write even if you have no data and no conclusions. Write your thoughts down on what you read, what you do in lab, and then it will be easier to write the thesis and papers when it really counts.

Read more. As a scientist, reading is treading water. If you stop, you drown. It's a never ending game, and it is the only way to keep abreast with what is going on. Going to talks is fine, but simply not enough. You must read constantly, or you will be left behind. Often it just means reading abstracts, sometimes also looking over figures (and reading captions) - not that I count, but I count reading abstract and figures as having read a paper. Sign up for eToCs from the major journals in your field. I recommend: Nature, Science, PNAS, Proc. R. Soc. B, Genetics, Evolution, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, The American Naturalist, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Frontiers in Evolutionary and Population Genetics,  PLoS Biology, PLoS Comp Bio. After my first year in grad school, I read the advice from a senior scientist that one should spend the entire first year of grad school mostly reading. I did read a lot, but wish I had read more.

Stopped taking myself so seriously. Actually, I haven't done that in years, but I do think this is invaluable advice. It's just science, after all. If I am wrong about the prevalence of epistasis in adaptation, nobody is going to care. No bridge will collapse and no one is going to die of a misdiagnosis. Keep that in mind, and enjoy yourself. Unless you're an engineer or an M.D, in which case you should stop reading this blog and get back to fukcing work already, or I'll sue your ass off!