Neat Science Thursday – Veggies are awesome!

Thursday is the perfect time to reflect on how science adds awesome to my day.

As a big fan of microbes and fermented foods, I’m thrilled that our gut microbes are finally getting the attention and coverage that they deserve. Don’t get me wrong, scientists have been studying these guys for a long time, but it’s nice to see the recent media and scientific love for gut microflora.

gut microbes
Research on gut microflora has bloomed nicely

Because awesome gut microbes can help modulate our immune system (which in turn helps modulate our gut microbes), there have been a number of interesting studies on gut microbes in the context of obesity and hypersensitivity diseases. Add ongoing research on probiotics and prebiotics into the mix, and we have a fascinating picture of how eating well can improve our health.

Rant warning!–Of course, there are people who will say that we don’t need science to tell us this, and that all science does is pervert all things natural. To this I would like to correct: We do need science to tell us what we know, because at some point we also knew that the world was flat; that the sun revolved around the earth; and that bathing was bad for you because the cold of the water would seep into your bones and kill you. Do we complain that we didn’t need science to correct what we knew about these things? No! Be happy if science vindicates your claims and stop hating on science. –End Rant warning!

Back to veggies. Veggies are awesome; not only are they full of fiber, like beans, but they can be made more tasty through the power of microbes. Furthermore, tasty fermented veggies like Kimchi can have beneficial health effects as probiotics whether you eat or wear it.

If you don’t like your veggies fermented, just enjoy them however you do like ’em, because they are packed with nutrients, full of fiber, and well…just plain delicious. If you want to consume them as prebiotics to reward your gut microflora, go ahead! Your awesome gut microbes will thank you for it by modulating your immune system, enhance nutritional absorption, make you feel less hungry, modulate lipid metabolism (think cholesterol), and making your guts a more hostile place to live for pathogenic bacteria.

If you just don’t like veggies, because you don’t think they’re tasty. Just try using different recipes, and eat them often. Maybe you will grow to like them due to the mere exposure effect. Also, if you want your kids to like veggies, start them early since early exposure helps them acquire the taste needed to appreciate these yummy green goodies.

Sauerkraut anyone?

I am ready for work, but is work ready for me?

Yes! Yes, of course! There is always plenty to do and so much to learn in an awesome lab.

data mining
This is not what I mean by data mining

The lab that I joined does a lot of data mining and has a lot of ongoing projects many of which could use participation from the general public and the biomedical research community at large. If you study genes, you can contribute just by using the awesome gene portal and giving feedback. If you have a favorite gene, you can contribute by editing gene wiki entries. If you can READ, you can contribute.

Other than that, that the Su lab is also applying the tools from integrative biology to investigate various diseases, and even investigating personalized medicine. To top it all off, this is just a sample of the projects in development by this awesome lab, so of course there is plenty to do…just not necessarily a place to set up shop. Although the lab is expanding into another area (I will have a work station soon), I joined just in time to take up residence in the conference room. My new colleagues are so nice, offering to let me use their work spaces when they are not using them. Apologies for refusing your kind gesture, workmates, but being in the conference room is like having an awesome office. There was concern that the conference room would be too crowded once the Fellow-new-person-but-smarter genius arrived, but the conference room is spacious enough, and more people = more fun anyway.

So what exactly does my job entail?

The short answer from the magic eight ball is, “Hazy, try again.”

The more accurate answer is, “As with any awesome job, there is a degree of flexibility in the responsibilities that will be encompassed by my position. Although some of the initial responsibilities are known to me thanks to the recruitment post there is plenty of room to grow, and even more neat projects to join.”

How marvelous is that?
Disclaimer: This post was actually drafted 2 weeks ago, but did not meet the standards required to be posted until recently. Ginger has since settle well into her role and was not harmed in the process.