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Category Archive: genetics

Jul 26 2013

Sometimes, life gets hard

First off – yes, I’m alive. Even though my blogging frequency has been pretty pathetic recently, I still get a steady trickle of emails from concerned readers who miss me. It’s an odd feeling knowing total strangers want to make sure I’m okay and miss my writing, but I do sincerely appreciate it (even if …

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Feb 04 2013

Pokébiology 101: “Evolution” and the enigma of Eevee

BulbasaurEvolution

(Click here for the introductory post to Pokébiology 101) You know I had to start my Pokébiology 101 series with the most famously scientifically inaccurate part of Pokémon: evolution. In the Pokémon world, “evolution” means something different from what you might have learned in your biology classes. …Well, what you should have learned in your biology …

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Jan 27 2013

Welcome to Pokébiology 101

pokeball

Hello there! Welcome to the world of Pokémon! My name is Jen! People call me the Pokémon Grad Student! …Okay, I don’t think anyone has actually called me the Pokémon Grad Student. But I’m a PhD candidate studying evolution and genomics who has been playing Pokémon since its release in 1998. My friend showed me …

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Jan 24 2013

Republican lawmaker wants to criminalize aborting your rape baby because it’s “tampering with evidence”

I’d say it’s a new low for Republicans, but really, it’s their usual low: A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial. House Bill 206, introduced …

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Aug 08 2012

Nazis, genetically modified babies, Mothman, and Jesus

I didn’t think those topics could be combined, but I’ve been proven wrong. No, it’s not the next hit superhero movie. One of the “perks” of being an atheist blogger is that I get signed up to all sorts of wacky mailing lists for creationists, woo peddlers, and conspiracy theorists. I suspect they think this …

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Jun 17 2012

The tale of Taq

One donor requested that I talk a little bit about polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. PCR is now a super common laboratory technique for people doing any sort of molecular biology. It’s a way of amplifying a specific section of DNA so it’s present in millions of copies. This is really important if you want …

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Jun 16 2012

How important will genomics be for future healthcare?

Short answer: Not very. Biologists are stuck in an unfortunate situation. Most major funding sources in the US come through the government, and it’s essential to stress the impact your research will have on humans. Basic research for the sake of understanding the unknown just isn’t enough to secure funding nowadays. Everything has to be …

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Jun 16 2012

My research part 4: How did microRNA convergently evolve?

miRNAbiogenesis

How could microRNA have evolved to have such similar structure and function in plants and animals after evolving independently? You must be thinking, “What are the odds?!” If evolution boiled down to nothing but random chance, the odds seem staggering indeed. No, I’m not about to say God guided evolution. What happens is there are certain traits …

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Jun 16 2012

My research part 3: MicroRNA in plants

Since my research focuses on primates, I don’t exactly work with plant microRNAs. But they’re still fascinating enough that I wanted to touch on them. Plant and animal microRNAs are very similar – they’re approximately 22 nucleotides in length, they’re processed from larger hairpin structures, and they function by downregulating messenger RNA. But they have …

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Jun 16 2012

My research part 2: MicroRNA evolution

Like I said previously, microRNA is typically highly conserved (have the same sequence) across animals because it’s involved in such important biological processes. But some microRNA isn’t conserved, which makes it particularly interesting. Is it not conserved because it just doesn’t have an important function? Is it not conserved because the divergent microRNA confers a …

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