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Saturday
Jun032017

Major upgrade to FACS Core

Our FACS Core is making major investments to equipment this year. We already have a new ImageStream, for image cytrometry, and a new Melody, for easy access sorting. Our latest arrival is the BD FACS Symphony, the pinnacle of flow cytometry, capable of 30-parameter single cell analysis!

Wednesday
May102017

Ways to succeed in science

Hidde Ploegh, Harvard/MIT, finished his lecture today with a message to the PhD students:
If you can buy it out of a catalog, you can assume that all the obvious experiments have been done. You will not make a major discovery or make an impact in the field until you develop new tools. You need to be willing to take a risk and invest in designing and building new strategies to look at old questions.
Very good advice, of course, coming from someone who has been incredibly successful in just this manner. There are many great immunologists who have made their mark in this way; Pippa Marrack and Gary Nolan spring to mind.
I would say that it is not the only way to be incredibly successful though. I tend to think of three basic types of high level success in science:
  • The builder. In the vein of Ploegh, Marrack or Nolan, they constantly build new technology or techniques to push back the boundaries of the possible
  • The bridger. There are many "builders" out there, working in different areas. And the tools created for one purpose always have great potential in other areas. The bridger is someone who keeps an open mind and an eye on many fields, looking for the opportunity to pull in a new approach or idea from another field into their own arena. Researchers like Diane Mathis, Sasha Rudensky and Jean-Laurant Casanova have been very successful in rewriting their field without inventing new technology. 
  • The thinker. Perhaps the rarest is the person who thinks of a simple elegant experiment that could actually have been done decades ago, but just wasn't. Not every advance relies on the brute force of new tech, some just need another way of looking at the problem. I see Gita Stockinger, Polly Matzinger, Ruslan Medzhitov and Chris Goodnow as successful in this approach. 
Of course, many of the best use aspects of each approach, and I am sure there are other models too.
Tuesday
May092017

MutaMouse Core Facility

Visit our website and found out what we can do for you!

Saturday
Apr292017

The Myth of Ethidium Bromide

Ethidium bromide is one of the most toxic chemicals found in a standard molecular biology lab, and should be used with extreme caution. Right? Actually, no. This interesting article pops the myth of ethidium bromide, which is actually safer than some of the "safe alternatives" on the market.

Saturday
Apr222017

10 years ERC at the VIB

 

Tuesday
Apr112017

2017 BIS annual meeting, November 24

The 2017 BIS annual meeting will be themed around "immune regulation". This year we will have four parallel sessions in the morning, each with a distinct immunological focus: fundamental immunology, clinical immunology, tumour immunology and neuroimmunology.

The afternoon will feature a joint session, with a plenary talk (Professor Gita Stockinger, Crick Institute, UK) and four keynote talks, one of each of the morning topics:

Anne Puel (France) on clinical Immunology 
Denise Fitzgerald (UK) on neuroimmunology
Gabriele Bergers (Belgium) on tumour Immunology
Anne Dejean (France) on fundamental Immunology

Registrations and abstract submissions are now open:

 

Friday
Apr072017

Journal club: Did giant viruses shrink, or did small viruses grow?

The smallest viruses can be just a few nanometres wide and contain two genes. Viroids can get even smaller. Recently, however, giant viruses have been found, 1000-fold larger and with more genetic content than some bacteria.

This raises a fascinating question as to the origin of viruses. The first model is that viruses were spawned out from some proto-bacteria-like cells. A bit of bacterial DNA, like a plasmid, that was able to survive cell-free and move from cell to cell. In this view, viruses don't really belong on the tree of life, and giant viruses are just abnormally large viruses that have captured more and more DNA from hosts.

Giant viruses raise a second model. What if the tree of life had an original fourth strand (bacteria, eukaryotes, Archaea and proto-viruses). The first three strands are still with us today, while the proto-viruses have devolved from a free-living cell to a dependent virus. Under this alternative view, giant viruses are ancient relics closest to the original proto-viruses, with the smaller viruses having gone further down the evolutionary pathway of becoming highly efficient replicators.

A paper published in Science this week argues for the first model, with evidence that some key machinery in giant viruses is directly stolen from other lineages of the tree of life. But the argument is not closed, and as more and more giant viruses are found, I look forward to seeing which direction the evidence moves.

Sunday
Mar192017

A biology PhD (in America)

Friday
Mar032017

Congratulations to Prof Schlenner!

Our very own Susan Schlenner was just announced as a winner of the BOF-ZAP competition for a prestigious research professorship at the University of Leuven!

Thursday
Mar022017

International science

This is a time when the international nature of science is under threat - from Brexit, Trump and war, the movement of scientists is being restricted, and with it the scientific advantages of 'brain circulation'.

Just how international an endeavour is science? At the moment, our lab has 21 researchers: 12 are international (from 12 different countries) and 9 are Belgian. 

Over the past 8 years, our lab has trained 113 young scientists. 52 have been Belgian, 61 have been international (31 from the EU, 30 from outside the EU, from 32 nationalities). Belgium has benefited from this international talent, our researchers benefited from being trained here, and the country of origin benefits from the additional training they receive. Immigration is a win-win!

While I am discussing demographics, it is worth noting that 65% of my trainees have been women, so if any departments are struggling to hire female Professors just ask - there are lots of amazing women coming out of my lab.