This week, three science stories I’ve written were released. The first is on how E. coli has ‘MacGyvered’ a unique mode of membrane transport by combining a selective pore with an active transporter. The resulting protein complex can transport potassium ions against a 10^4 concentration gradient! This discovery was made at the University of Groningen, using their state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscope, and the results were published in Nature Communications.
The second report is on a project from the Universities of Groningen and Lausanne, a study that reveals a new mechanism by which bacterial cells (Streptococcus pneumoniae) can become competent, a state in which they are primed to pick up foreign DNA from the environment – a great way to get resistance genes. The study was published in Cell Reports.
The third report is a press release on checkpoint inhibitors (the topic of this years’ Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine, written for the UMCG (University Hospital Groningen). PET scans with labeled inhibitors appear to be a good way to see which patients may benefit from this revolutionary cancer treatment. This study appeared in Nature Medicine.
The first two reports were written by me as ‘science writer’ at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Groningen, the third as a freelance science writer. I enjoyed writing three all of them. Talking to scientists about their latest discoveries is fun, and translating their academic studies into a story is a job I love!
Here is how the new potassium transport complex moves:
Of course, as an academic, you know how to write scientific papers. But a grant proposal is a different genre, you don’t just present your results and ideas to your peers, you are trying to sell your plans to a review committee that might include scientists who are not fully familiar with your topic.
Just a quick update on some special activities in the coming weeks… From 27-31 August, I will attend a Lorentz Center workshop in Leiden, entitled ‘Distinguishing Science and Metaphysics in Evolution and Religion‘. Organizers are Gijsbert van den Brink, professor of Science and Religion at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Duur Aanen, associate professor at Wageningen University. An interesting list of participants and I’m proud to have been invited to this workshop,
A few days later, on 3 September, I will be teaching my workshop on grant writing ‘The Art of Scientific Storytelling’ at ETF Leuven (Belgium), as part of their annual Doctoral Colloquium, a week of interaction and academic activities for the Ph.D. students and the doctoral faculty.
Well, not personally, of course. But in the last ERC Consolidator round, a project proposal which I have edited got funded. As all my work is strictly confidential, I can’t tell you which proposal it was – only that it wasn’t from a Dutch University. Continue reading →
Next week, I’ll be presenting my workshop ‘The Art of Scientific Storytelling’ during the Grants Week Groningen (organized by the University of Groningen and the University Medical Center Groningen). If you still haven’t registered there’s some bad news here: both workshops are fully booked, at 30 participants each.
But you might try and ask the organizers for a third workshop later this year!
If you are interested in this workshop, which teaches scientists to look at their grant proposal as a story that is being told, do contact me!
A new feature in the career section of the journal Nature delves into an issue close to my (professional) heart: getting help when writing grant proposals. This longread describes many different options and quotes scientists who have sought help in the writing process. The article makes it clear that getting help is quite normal these days.
This was my favorite line: Other grant professionals stick to editing — but that’s more than just dotting i’s and crossing t’s. Grant editors consider content, clarity, logic and flow. That’s the kind of service I provide! Editing, not on the i’s and t’s, but on content, clarity, logic and flow.
Richard Feynman tries to answer a very simple question about magnets – and in about seven minutes shows the question is everything but simple. Of course, if we all took this approach, science communication would be virtually impossible. We can only do it by assuming our audience shares some basic knowledge with us. This video is a reminder that our assumptions could be wrong, sometimes!
Here’s a nice Nature blog with some tips for scientists who want to write a popular article on their own research. Well worth reading. But if you feel it’s too complicated (and writing about your own work is much more difficult than writing on someone else’s work), you can always hire me, of couse.