Homework before PhD interview

If you have cleared your application and invited for PhD interview then you should prepare now for the final exam based on your application. The interview is based on your performance, knowledge, skills which you can explain to the examiners over online or face to face interview. But it’s not easy and requires a lot of homework before you actually face the interview panels.

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Image: Face off with the examiner. Are you prepared? (Source: Pixabay)

I am currently undergoing my PhD at Academia Sinica, Taipei Taiwan with Taiwan International Graduate Program (TIGP) Scholarship with Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) as subject to study. But before I have received this Scholarship I required lot of preparations and also lot of failures in previous attempts to other scholarships. By now if you have already selected for interview for a doctoral program you are interested in then you have already overcome the initial hurdle about how to write a statement of interest, a cover letter and also about how to fill in your credentials in the application form appropriately to get selected into interview. Here based on my experience I will share you some of the important homework you need to do before you face the interview panel.

  1. Who are you?

The very first opportunity that is mostly provided by the panelists or the interviewer is to introduce you. So before you start preparing you should enlist how you’re going to talk before the panelist. This is the best opportunity provided by the panelist where you can show your skills you already achieved with your work experience and it’s most relevant to talk about what the panelists would be interested to know about you. For example if you have applied for Microbiology as your subject then you must talk about the experience relevant to this field. If you have other experiences like working in the field of Cancer biology then you can add that note in the end like “Additionally I have also experience working in the field of Cancer Biology especially on cell lines”. This will provide the panelist an impression over your interest over the subject for example Microbiology and also you have other wide exposure which might be beneficial for your PhD position.

There might be possibilities that some of the panelists during interview might ask questions related to your work experience especially in your research career. The answers should not be related to the data but it’s important to provide the hypothesis and the outcome you have achieved. It’s also important to show your achievement in your research experience such us whether you have identified any novel mutation or you have characterized a novel protein function. The examiner might examine your publication if you have any previously so better to know all the basic protocol of the techniques, troubleshooting and aim of your techniques. If you do not know or could not able to answer some of the questions then it’s better to say you don’t know than to give a pause of thought or wrong answer.

  1. Keep it simple

Easy way to explain science is to way to explain in simple language. It depends on country to country or different type of institute you apply for PhD position. It is important to keep your English easy and simple since there might be possibility that you are asking questions to Professors who are not native English speakers and find it difficulty with your ascent or words way not simple. It’s good to speak slowly with small sentences. Sometimes it’s good to answer just Yes or No first then you give your explanation.

If you are interviewed over video conference like Skype or face to face before panelists then try to understand the reactions of the Professors whether they can understand your ascent.

Easy language of explaining techniques or your idea can lead to good discussion over the interview. If your English is not good then its also might not affect the panelist to judge you in terms of your knowledge. It is important that you try to listen carefully what you are asked and answer them without much long explanation. Easiest formula will be – keep short and simple.

  1. What about your commitment?

It is quite obvious that the examiners will want students who are committed towards the subject you applied. This is relevant based on different subjects and the reputation of the Institution where you have applied. So it is important to do much of your background study on their strengths, the pride of the institution and the professor’s background where he/she can fit you in their lab.

Are you the student which the professor or the examiner is looking to? If you can satisfy this question with answer which reflects your motives, possible background of research experience and based on your future direction then you might able to make them confident about your position or the student they are looking for.

This is important to know what you want to do after PhD. This allows examiner to understand your commitment which will automatically reflect through your direction towards future.

Finally try to prepare for most of the obvious questions which examiner can ask based on his/her research background.

  1. How to interact

Interviewers also try to look into your body language. After you enter into the examiner’s cabin or over video conference try to greet everyone by shaking hands or saying like hello, how are you? It helps you to stay easy with the environment and make you confident to defend most of the questions. Try to stay in formal attire with full shirts tugged properly and wear a tie if possible.

Interview is little kind of a discussion. This is not only a one way question but remember interview is a discussion. Try to look into the eyes of the examiner and never look down. If you are thinking of some question then you might look up to think but never look down.

Try to put a little bit of smile while you talk. Be little friendly but never show off overconfidence. It is important to keep a learning attitude while you talk. You can even ask questions to them if you really don’t know the answer sometimes. The research techniques which are most interested to learn from the PhD professor you must try to mention them with a reasonable explanation to why you are interested.

  1. Before you wind up

After all the questions and discussion with the examiner they will ask you definitely at the end whether you have any questions. Never say no.

Even if you do not have any queries at the end try to keep some obvious questions in mind like for example if you have read about a research paper of the Professor you have applied then try to question on their hypothesis. You can also ask about the PhD life like what the students aim for in the first year; whether they need to publish any manuscript by 2years, etc.

Questioning the examiner defines how much you are interested on the programme and also how you can show off you are adjustable to PhD environment.

According to my experience I was asked almost every time in the end whether I have any questions or queries. I even talked with many of my known professors later who even suggested me to ask questions.

 

I hope that’s all. All the very best! If you want to add any suggestions or additional comments which I have missed out then definitely put into the comment section below and I will try to answer them. Thank you!

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Life in dirt can be savior of human health

There are about 8.7 million species on Earth and among those millions only one we exist called Homo sapiens [1]. Now being a Homo sapiens are we existing alone? If we consider the total number of cells we have in our body, there are more number of bacteria on and inside dwelling a wonderful life. Based on several researches it is well proven that our immune system, behaviour and health rely on these bacteria.

In a list of pioneering studies carried out by scientists around the world beginning to look at the relationship between the bacteria and host such as human. Introducing foreign microbes like from soil into our body providing results that provided an outlook of the ancient relationship between bacteria and human.

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Back in 2004, a research published in the journal Annals of Oncology by O’Brien [2] where she injected non-virulent Mycobacterium vaccae in lung cancer patients and she reported that it can able to fight against drug resistant pulmonary tuberculosis and also can able to immune system. It was quite unfortunate that as the author thought bacteria could help the patients to beat cancer but it failed. The fortune favoured elsewhere as it significantly improved patient quality of life.

The soil bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae is known to be the inducer of natural antidepressant. It can able to stimulate serotonin production that help to develop relaxation. If there is a lack of serotonin then it has shown to link with depression, bipolar disorders and anxiety [3]. The effect of this bacterium as antidepressant was reported on 2007 in the journal Neuroscience [4]. This bacterium is non-pathogenic and is abundant in soil. This reflects the natural plentiful source of natural remedy.

Question now is how often we are exposed to dirt? In the modern dwelling society is less exposed to dirt or soil. Even parents do not often expose kids to play on soil with no boots. Researchers have found multiple evidences about how childhood exposure can improve immune system. A research published in 2001 at Lancet was on survey about Bavarian farm children who spent time in animal stable and drank farm milk. They were shown to develop lower rates of asthma as well as allergies than those who are not exposed to farm lives [5].

Obviously now we are not all can raise in farms but gardening can help us to reach the natural remedy available through soil. As Mycobacterium vaccae is an easy stuff available in soil in abundance so it is well that you can get easily exposed while gardening. So well you can now grow your food and make your hands dirty. So a dirty hand can improve your health.

References

  1. Sweetlove, L. (2011). Number of species on Earth tagged at 8.7 million. Nature.
  2. O’Brien, M. (2004). SRL172 (killed Mycobacterium vaccae) in addition to standard chemotherapy improves quality of life without affecting survival, in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer: phase III results. Annals of Oncology, 15(6), pp.906-914.
  3. Happy, A. (2018). Soil Microbes And Human Health – Learn About The Natural Antidepressant In Soil. [online] Gardening Know How. Available at: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm [Accessed 21 Feb. 2018].
  4. Lowry, C., Hollis, J., de Vries, A., Pan, B., Brunet, L., Hunt, J., Paton, J., van Kampen, E., Knight, D., Evans, A., Rook, G. and Lightman, S. (2007). Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: Potential role in regulation of emotional behavior. Neuroscience, 146(2), pp.756-772.
  5. Riedler, J., Braun-Fahrländer, C., Eder, W., Schreuer, M., Waser, M., Maisch, S., Carr, D., Schierl, R., Nowak, D. and von Mutius, E. (2001). Exposure to farming in early life and development of asthma and allergy: a cross-sectional survey. The Lancet, 358(9288), pp.1129-1133.
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Biomysteries Episode 3 – The Telomere Effect

telomeres age

Image Courtesy: FreeGrab

Being a human being the question does arise about our mortality, diseases and aging. Human beings are made up of zillions of cells and inside each cells there is nucleus. The nucleus is an essential part to protect our genetic information. Telomeres are one such part of the chromosome present at the tip of 23 pairs that preserve our genetic information.

These telomeres get shorten each time our cell divides. Thus as we grow older the telomeres get more shorten thus leading to cell death. Telomere shortening is an important reason for aging. It is the fuse of our cells which we are dependent on.

So why do we have telomeres? Do we need them? Why does it get shorten? Does any tissues we have that telomeres does not get shorten?

The questions are answered here in this Episode.

Listen online or download the audio here [opens in new window]

 

Please find here the associated links related to this podcast:

  1. Are telomeres the key to Aging and Cancer. Genetics Science Learning Center. (Link)
  2. Shammas M. Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2011;14(1):28-34. (Link)
Posted in Biomysteries Podcast, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

3 things you need for Science Communication

Science communication is much more important while you are involved with experimental science. There are science communicators who are even not associated with core science that we researchers publish in research journals. It is much difficult to express science in simplified way than the scientific terms used in research papers.

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Image courtesy: Mediomix

The platform of science communication has been developing through blog posts, audio podcast, video lessons, etc. The choice of the platform depends on the confidence, understanding and concise expression.

If you are new in science communication or wonder to start a blog then here are three important things you should follow:

[Video Link shared through twitter] Opens in New Window.

Please comment your thoughts about science communication and will reply most of them.

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Biomysteries Episode 2: Breaking Down the Outer wall of Gram Negative Bacteria

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Several groups of gram negative bacteria becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. The antibiotics that can able to target gram-positive bacteria cannot able to target gram negative bacteria. The thick outer wall of gram negative bacteria is impermeable to antibiotics. A recent research that published in the journal Nature provided an effective solution that can act as a Trojan Horse to enter inside the gram negative bacteria and can also able to terminate.

Click Here to Listen Online or Download (open in new tab)

Links related to this episode:

  1. Richter, MF et al. Predictive compound accumulation rules yield a borad spectrum antibiotic. Nature 2017; doi:10.1038/nature22308 (Link)
  2. What is Antibiotic? (Link)
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Biomysteries Episode 1 – What is science communication?

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Image: Nicolas Pettican Perez

Science communication is an integral part after experimentation. There are huge amount of research that is published every day and updated regularly. As a science communicator it is important to look into the importance, the hypothesis and profitable outcome.

So why we need to communicate science to general audience? Find it out in audio podcast of Biomysteries Episode 1

Listen online or download file here. (opens in new tab google drive share)

If you have questions and recommendations then please comment. I will try to reply most of your comments.

Posted in Biomysteries Podcast, Research Bias, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A big picture of Ebola Transmission during 2013-2016 outbreak can stop future outbreaks

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Days since last case of Ebola at Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia (Courtesy: CDC)

A globalized effort by international team of scientists, clinicians, non-governmental organizations, drug companies and many more to eradicate Ebola that shook with vast West African epidemic was brought down in 2016. A review article co-authored with Dr. Aftab Ahmad and Mr. Sagar Aryal, we tried to depict about the Ebola Outbreak situation including the controversies and solutions. What was the situation of Ebola at the end of 2016? At Biomysteries you can follow the post “Where is Ebola now? 2016 update” to find the concluding situation of Ebola.

A recent research that published in the journal Nature on 12th April 2016, international group of scientists analyzed the entire database of Ebola virus genomes for 2013 to 2016 West African Epidemic. The analysis revealed about the epidemic unfolded in small overlapping outbreaks and spread by infected travelers incite new outbreak elsewhere, this is how the transmission chain continued. But in each case it represented a missed opportunity to break that chain of transmission to make the epidemic end sooner.

In West African Ebola outbreak caused massive transmission affecting nearly 28,000 people and killing 11,000 of them. The database revealed 1,610 Ebola virus genomes have more than 5 percent of known cases – this is the largest sample analyzed for human epidemic. Pushing back the previous analysis that was focused on only single country, this research was based on three primary countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia that were more affected by Ebola.

Another hold or importance of the paper was the united collaboration from 86 scientists from 60 different institutions from 18 different countries authored this paper. Authors’ intention was to provide a complete framework for predicting future outbreak for Ebola Virus or other similar viral spread.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4Ut4krp8GQ&w=612&h=344%5D

Please find the video above here showing three countries (Guinea in green, Sierra Leone in Blue and Liberia in red) that were mostly affected in Ebola 2013-2016 epidemic. The differential shading defines weekly incidence rates of Ebola Virus disease. In association to that the evolutionary tree on right shows the relationships between sampled Ebola lineages.

Journal Source:

Dudas G, Carvalho L, Bedford T, Tatem A, Baele G, Faria N et al. Virus genomes reveal factors that spread and sustained the Ebola epidemic. Nature. 2017; doi:10.1038/nature22040

Further Reading:

Sarkar S. Where is Ebola now? 2016 update. Biomysteries https://biomysteries.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/where-is-ebola-now-2016-update/

Sarkar S, Aryal S, Ahmed A. The Ebola Outbreak – Controversies and Solutions 2014-15. International Journal of Microbiology and Allied Sciences. 2015; 1(4):10-17 (Link)

Posted in Bioinformatics Tools, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Uncategorized, Virology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

MiTalk Episode 4: Basics of Hepatitis C Virology

episode-4-hcvHepatitis is caused by the inflammation of the liver. The condition may also progress to cirrhosis or fibrosis and/or even liver cancer. Hepatitis is caused by an infection of virus, but apart from this causative agent toxic substances like alcohol or certain drugs and autoimmune diseases can also cause this disease.

There are five different classes of hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E. In this episode of Microbiology Talk (MiTalk) we discussed about Hepatitis virus C, especially covering the following topics:

  1. Classification of Hepatitis virus and Structure of Hepatitis C Virus
  • Classification or Types (A, B, C, D and E)
  • Structure and Genome of Virus
  1. Genotypes and Epidemiology statistics
  • Genotypes
  • Epidemiology
  • World, USA, South-East Asia, India, Nepal
  1. Pathogenesis and Life cycle
  • Mechanism of transmission
  • Cellular entry and replication mechanism
  • Viral evasion and restriction factors
  1. Laboratory diagnosis, prevention and treatment of Hepatitis C

So plug in your headphone and listen to Episode 4 of MiTalk. (Visit Here/Download Here)

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Mesentery – The New Organ can now change the history of Human Anatomy

Although the scientific research is advancing in recent times there are many things which still remained unexplored. In biomysteries lets me introduce you to a new organ that remained unexplored. Researchers from Ireland identified a part of our digestive tract, that was long considered to be a mere tissue is actually a full grown organ that connects abdomen to intestine. This new organ has shook the medical fields researchers to look into new understanding about bowel disease and other gut diseases.

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Digital representation of peritoneum, mesentery, fascia, and intestine (Image: The Lancet, Prof. Calvin Coffey)

The new organ is named Mesentery which was long been known but never considered to be an organ. It has a complex and fragmented appearance. The anatomic description of mesocolon dates back in 1885 when Sir Frederick Treves studied human mesentery on 100cadavers. But until recently from a study carried out from University of Limeric has concluded Mesentery as a full grown organ.

Professor J. Calvin Coffey who is the professor of Surgery explained how 100years of anatomical understanding was incorrect. Some of the recent text books now need to be updated as the number of organs in our body has officially changed into 79. Although re-classification would not affect directly but will provide a clear picture of many unknown facts of bowel diseases.

Journal Source:

Coffey JC, O’Leary DP. The Mesentery: structure, function and role in disease. The Lancet (2016) 1(3):238-247. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2468-1253(16)30026-7%20

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Older than “Oldest Water Found” in Canada – Unfolds mystery about Life on Earth

“Where there is life there is hope” – it has been an important quote we use to deliver anything significant about “hope”. Similarly a biological mystery was brought near at Canada where scientists had came for the oldest water, has given much more insights about even older deposits.

Back in 2013, a research team which was led by scientists from University of Toronto found water that was about a billion years of old from depth of 2.4 Km at Timmins mine. But the research findings from much beyond 2.4 Kms have insights of water which is about 2billion years older.

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Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar (Image: Sherwood Lollar Research Group)

In an interview with BBC News Dr. Barbara Sherwood Lollar who led this investigation said, “When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock. But in fact it’s very much bubbling right up out at you. These things are flowing at rates of litres per minute – the volume of the water is much larger than anyone anticipated.”

 

This new investigation was carried out at a depth of about 3Km.

The research holds its importance to unfold the unique insight about the history of Earth and the origin of life. The chemical traces left behind by microbes that once lived in historic era can also unveil many mysteries.

“By looking at the sulphate in the water, we were able to see a fingerprint that’s indicative of the presence of life,” said Prof Lollar.

Apart from this amazing discovery, such important findings of watery sites on Earth can provide clues about life which might present elsewhere within the Solar System.

Read More:

World’s oldest water gets even older. BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38311781

Two-billion-year-old water found in Canada. The Weather Network. https://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/two-billion-year-old-water-found-in-canada/77056/

 

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