A Whole New Lab (Dealings of a New Professor #1)

I just turned in my first external grant and I am HYPE (C’mon Cystic Fibrosis Foundation). So… I can’t sleep. I wanted to write on what it’s been like a new PI, but that will have to wait because when I sat down, I had kid’s music stuck in my head. When that happens, I have to write new lyrics to get it out of my head. So without further ado, here is that Disney classic from Aladdin, A Whole New Lab.


I can show you the lab

Equipment borrowed and brand new

Tell me, students, now won’t you give this young PI a try


I still work at the bench

Hope to not micromanage

I’m just into the data that I hope you might provide


A whole new lab

A new fantastic project for you

New toys are coming in

Not hard to spend (yet)

I want to do some science


A whole new lab

A dazzling place for you to do

Projects to change the field

Bad bugs will yield

Let me share this whole new lab with you


A whole new lab

Rotate with me

At U of A

Room 221



More on what it’s like to be a PI later. Also, there was a new podcast from the new crew. Check it out at cure4kids.org/ums/sites/teachers/plugins/page.php?id=19





A New Era For Science Sound Bites, Stay Curious!

stay curious

How do I, say goodbye, to what we had, the good times that made us learn, outweigh the awkward.

As you all may know, I am transitioning away from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, thus, the time has come for me personally to take a step back in the podcast. I will not be far as I will still poke my head in once in a while to interview someone cool that I meet or be around the Facebook page like I’m still one of the cool kids. This does not mean the podcast is coming to an end; on the contrary the podcast is GROWING!!

For the students, the teachers, and the science appreciators out there, I am pleased to announce we have four (not one or two or three but four) new hosts. Welcome St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Postdoctoral Fellows Dinesh Fernando, Nicole Milkovic, Peter Mercredi, and Raju Rayavarapu (you get a host, you get a host). It doesn’t stop there, look under your seats because Science Sound Bites has also garnered the help of some of the communicators and educators St. Jude has to offer in Elizabeth Whittington, Carole Weaver Clements, Erin Starnes, and Kate Ayres. Finally, we have some advisors in Karyn Lawrence and the very person who gave me the idea in the first place, Zach Faber (the first interview I did #ComeALongWay). I will also remain on as an advisor to approve content. The goal, as it has always been, is to give you, the listener, a more diverse group of topics and even higher frequency.

It has truly been an honor to start this adventure and to provide a resource to the hard working science teachers, parents, and after-school providers. In fact, this has become a published resource in the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education seen here. I hope you and your students have learned and enjoyed this as much as I have. The communication skills I learned by sharing science with you all has made me a better communicator and undoubtedly improved my job prospects. I’ve met scientific icons in Francis Collins and Jim Downing, hung out with my friends, and made some new ones. Thank you all for coming along for the ride so far. I’m excited to share the next part of this journey with you. I’d feel sad, but I know I am leaving the interviews in very capable hands!

So my first podcast as the “not host” is done my Nicole Milkovic, but as a send off she interviewed…drum roll…me (sad trombone haha). You finally get to hear what I have worked on, and will work on in my new lab. Enjoy Episode #21 called “Stay Curious.”


There will be more to come with the other hosts as well as some introductions. Until then, come by the Facebook page and give us a Like (Facebook.com/sciencesoundbites).

Stay tuned!


New Podcast – Going Supersonic in Making Therapeutics


In this episode called “Going Supersonic in Making Therapeutics” I talked to a talented scientist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital named Dr. Wendy Pierce. She started her postdoctoral fellowship at St. Jude in looking at how proteins (including some in the Sonic Hedgehog pathway) function in developmental pathways and then transitioned to a project manager role for making therapeutics for brain tumors. We talk about both the science and a cool career path that aspiring scientists can take (science is full of those).

The list of terms are: Scientific Careers, Protein, Disorder, Cell Development, Crystallography, Medulloblastoma, Developmental Disorder, Drosophila, Chemical Biology, Bench to Bedside.

As always, the podcast can be found here

Also, congratulations on your beautiful new baby Wendy. We got the interview in right under the buzzer!

Cheers and wow, can’t believe it is March already!


New Science Sound Bites Podcast – MacGyvering Treatments for Infectious Diseases


Hey Podcast Listeners,

That is a MacGyver reference from the Simpson’s, but honestly if only it was that easy to get out of some sticky situations. This point is especially relevant when it comes to situations involving human health. There are unfortunately many people, such as those in resource limited settings, who don’t have the luxury of great diagnostic tools to help determine disease type or progression so the question arises, what can be done to help those people? How do you prioritize disease A over disease B or worse, how do you choose to even look for disease A vs disease B? 

These are tough questions and for some insight into the matter, I turned to Dr. Sheena Mukkada, an Infectious Diseases Fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and episode 16 entitled “MacGyvering Treatments for Infectious Diseases.” Take a listen and learn about some of the steps being made internationally to protect human health. We also talk about different health degrees people can obtain and the uses they have in society.


List of Terms: Master’s in Public Health (MPH), Research Design, Infectious Diseases, Resource Limited Settings, Cancer, White Blood Cells, Immunocompromised, Diagnostic Tools, Blood Cultures, Bacterial Diversity, Antibiotic Resistance, Virus Pneumonia, Aerobic

Happy Holidays to all and remember to like the podcast on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sciencesoundbites


New Science Sound Bites – Cut the Cord and Keep It

Life can give you many things. Life can give you reasons to smile (even on a Monday morning). Life can give you lemons (and of course when this happens to a scientist, we turn it into an experiment by seeing if we can guess the pH of the juice by using size, color, etc. but I digress). For episode 15 of Science Sound Bites, I interviewed Dr. Suzanne Tomchuck on how life can give you more life! 

scissors_PNG25Here (https://www.cure4kids.org/ums/sites/teachers/plugins/page.php?id=19), you can learn about how the umbilical cord has many valuable cells that can be used to save someone’s life (a very similar manner to how bone marrow transplants work!). Take a listen to get details about some of the wonderful science behind this process. Also, for more information, check out https://bethematch.org/support-the-cause/donate-cord-blood/.

Also, if you have any topics you want to hear about for future podcast, let me know. No promises, but the scientific community is large and willing to share what they do. The goal is not necessarily to make career scientists, although if some are inspired, I am ecstatic. The goal is to make lifelong science appreciators because they truly have the potential to help find more cures in the future, just though their support. 

Here is the list of terms covered in the episode:

Bone Marrow Transplant

Research and Clinical Research

Cord Blood Transplant

Blood Disorders



Umbilical Cord Blood

Matching HLA (Human leukocyte antigen) Types


Immune System





Fighting Infection

T Cells

Innate Immune Response

Natural Killer Cells

Specific Immune Response

Stem Cells



New Science Sound Bites Podcast – Preventing a Total Eclipse of the Heart

podcast logo-page-001 (1)

Hey Podcast Listeners

Talk about a real lifesaver!! In this podcast, I interview Dr. Monique Anderson, a cardiologist from D-U-K-E University GO BLUE DEVILS!!! Whaaaat…try spending 4 years in the band and not be a fan. Dr. Anderson was one of the wonderful people I met at the Future Leaders Research Conference sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. (And yes, I actually did run into Francis Collins!). Anyway I hope you enjoy episode #14 called Preventing a Total Eclipse of the Heart. We will see how many of your students get that reference.

Terms we go over are:
Biology of the Heart
Cardiac arrest
Heart attack
Blood flow
Coronary artery
Public responsibility
Heart rhythm
Heart voltage
Intercalated cells
Health disparities

Cheers everyone,

P.S. Because I just couldn’t help myself and brag on her, check out this amazing story about her. http://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/health-care/article10135511.html

One year Science Sound Bites Podcast Anniversary = Bonus Episode!!

Today marks one year since the first episode of Science Sound Bites was recorded with Dr. Zachary Faber, the person who planted the seed for this podcast in the first place. The mission was to bring first-hand accounts of research into classrooms to help supplement middle school and high school STEM curriculum. The podcast has grown a lot since then. More than just students and teachers are listening to the podcast (thanks Mom, lol). What started as a joke in the beginning, led to interviewing the Head Honcho of the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, I have talked to postdoctoral fellows, MDs, Professors, and the Director of my home institution of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital about topics including cancer, math in biology, infections, obesity, and hearing loss.

podcast logo-page-001 (1)In total, there have been 13 episodes, including the one being released today entitled “Don’t Eat Me Bro!” In this episode, Dr. Ngumbi and I talk about beneficial microbes and how they can prevent the need for pesticide use. I don’t think I have talked to a person who loves science as much as she does

Please find the new episode at cure4kids.org/teachers under the resources tab, or for the direct link go to https://www.cure4kids.org/ums/sites/teachers/plugins/page.php?id=19. Also, Like the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sciencesoundbites and share this email and the webpages with family, friends, and teachers that might enjoy hearing about some cool science.

Coming up for our October episode, I talk to someone at my alma mater, Duke University (GO BLUE DEVILS!!!) as we discuss “Preventing a Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (Your kids might not get that but I hope you do!).

Special thanks to all those who have shared their research, Zach for the idea, St. Jude staff for the support, especially Kate who runs the cure4kids website and post the episodes online, and you for listening.