Raw Appeal

Nearly two million years ago, an early hominid cooked the first steak, marking a turning point in our evolutionary history. Not only is cooked meat more easily digested and nutritious, but it is also sterilized of harmful pathogens. Nevertheless, there’s just something appealing about a rare steak, or fresh sushi. And when you’re shopping in climate-controlled grocery stores, it’s easy to forget that there are flesh-dwelling pathogens in the meat aisle.  But sometimes, we are rudely reminded of their existence.

 

Recently, a 50-year old Calgarian man became the first Canadian known to be infected with anisakis, a parasitic nematode.  An hour after eating homemade sushi, using raw, wild salmon from a large grocery chain, he went to the ER with severe abdominal pain and vomiting.  An X-ray led doctors to send an endoscope to his stomach, whereupon they encountered numerous ulcers. At the center of each ulcer was a 1-2cm white, wriggling worm.

Anisakis being removed from the gut of a patient. Photo credit: Dr. Toshio Arai, MD PhD.

Anisakis being removed from the gut of a patient. Photo credit: Dr. Toshio Arai, MD PhD.

 

Once you’re finished being disgusted, maybe now you can be impressed. Within a single hour the worms were causing severe pain, presumably due to the formation of ulcers. While many other human parasites (like giardia, cryptosporidium, and the pork tapeworm for example) are eaten as cysts that must hatch before getting to work, anisakids are ready to go, already using their tooth to bore into the tissues of the gut.

 

To be clear, anisakid parasites want to end up in your stomach about as much as you want them to.  Humans are a dead-end host. Here it is unlikely they will reach adulthood, instead remaining as pubescent larvae. Never mating, never laying eggs, and never passing along their genes.

 

Anisakids would much rather infect a marine mammal like a seal, dolphin, or whale. In the gut of these animals they develop into adults, mate, and lay eggs that are defecated into the water. When the eggs hatch into larvae, they make their way up the food chain. They are eaten by crustaceans, which in turn are eaten by squid or fish.  Once the parasite migrates from the gut into the muscles, they develop into a stage that is infective to marine mammals-and potentially humans.

 

Prevention is, as always, the best medicine. While anisakids can live at refrigerator temperatures (4°C) for 2-3 weeks, they cannot survive when frozen at -20°C for 7 days, or -35°C for 15 hours. This is why reputable sushi bars will often freeze their fish before serving. If humans do become infected with anisakids, rather than prescribing anti-parasite drugs, doctors prefer to get rid of the parasite using an endoscope equipped with pincers at the end, much in the same way you use the claw crane to try and hook a stuffed toy at an arcade.

 

While North America has relatively few anisakid infections compared to the 2000 cases reported annually in Japan, experts predict infections will rise. Anisakids are well-travelled. They are found in all major oceans and seas, and their infective stage is found in many different commercially important species of fish—anchovies, salmon, and pollock, to highlight a few. Further, conservation efforts have led to rebounds in the populations of the marine mammals that serve as the final host for these parasites. Add in the increasing popularity of raw seafood delicacies like sushi, and it’s a perfect recipe for increased infection rates-even in the middle of the Canadian prairies.

 

Given the benefits of cooking, why are we drawn to rare and raw meat? From sushi to steak tartare, beef carpaccio to fermented herring, many countries boast raw meat delicacies, which are increasingly being exported beyond their borders.  So if you still love sushi, but don’t want to host a parasite, perhaps best to learn about what might be lurking in your meat, and take a closer look at that piece of fish you’re about to eat.

One year old human male

I research inflammatory bowel disease. A few days ago I started a new experiment, using human cells from a cell line called THP-1. Not being very familiar with these cells, I was interested in where they came from. The results of a Wikipedia search left me speechless. They are derived from the peripheral blood of a one year old human male with acute monocytic leukemia. One year old.

My son had his first birthday less than two weeks ago. On that day he had his first taste of cake (red velvet with buttercream frosting). The cells I am using in my experiment came from a little boy whose first birthday was likely his last. These cells are identical to those that used to course through the circulatory system of a little boy the same age as my mine. Through the arms he used to hold his favourite toys, crawl up the stairs, and hug his mum.

Cell lines are a population of genetically identical cells that are all descended from a single individual cell. Normally, cells don’t live forever. However if they have mutations that prevent their natural cell death from occurring they will madly proliferate, and given the right conditions, live forever. For a cell line to exist, these mutations are necessary. But in a living organism, these cells are cancer.

Journalist Rebecca Skloot deserves monumental credit for investigating the human story behind immortalized cell lines. Her Pulitzer prize winning book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” delves into the life of a woman whose cancerous cervical cells were used to establish the ‘HeLa’ cell line—the line used for most cancer research done today—without her knowledge or consent. The book humanized the woman whose cells have become immortalized in science, but also highlighted the ethical and legal complexities of using biological tissues in research.

It was in 1980 that the THP-1 cell line, established in a Japanese lab, was reported to the scientific community in a published paper. Based on some details in the paper, the cells were probably extracted from the little boy around 1977. Did his parents know his cells were cultivated into a cell line? Who owns the discarded biological tissues from patients and research participants? What level of control should donors have over their samples? Should we limit the rights of tissue donors in favour of the benefits of tissue-based research?

These are challenging moral and philosophical questions that legal experts are currently debating. I cannot comment on what ethical and legal frameworks were in place when the boy’s cells were extracted, and the THP-1 cell line established. I can tell you that in Canada, upon the parents’ request, the existence of THP-1 cell line would be disclosed. Additionally, the parents could withdraw their consent for the cells being used in research. Whether there is an obligation for researchers to disclose this information without the donor’s request is being debated. The profits from a commercial cell line would likely not be shared with the donor.

I can also tell you that in Canada, research involving human biological tissues involves intense scrutiny via the research ethics board, and similar protocols are in place in other countries. While it varies from country to country, human tissue-based research operates under the core principles of respect for human dignity, informed consent, patient privacy & confidentiality, minimizing harm, and maximizing benefit.

I can also tell you that THP-1 cells have contributed immeasurably towards our knowledge of the immune system, cancers, bacteria and viruses, and have played a key role in the development of drugs and vaccines. I can tell you that as a mother, I am conflicted about the thought of using the cells that killed my son for medical research. I can tell you as a scientist, I care both about the ethics of, and recognize the necessity for, tissue based research.

But I still wonder about that little boy with acute monocytic leukemia. According to WebMD, the survival rate for this kind of cancer is 24%. Did he survive? How was he feeling on that day his blood was drawn? Was he scared? Did his mum hold his hand? Did his parents know what happened to their son’s cells, that they inhabit research laboratories across the globe? Do they have any idea that the mother of a one-year old son is thinking about theirs?

Game of Nests

Based on the success of House of Cards and other political dramas, it’s no secret: humans love their politics. But is it for the birds as well? In a new study published in Current Biology, researchers at the University of Vienna have found that ravens play politics too.


Ravens are social creatures, travelling in flocks with dynamic social structures.  Within a flock there are kinship bonds, but there are also male-female bonds with varying degrees of strength. Pair bonds between established breeding pairs are the most powerful, while the bond between breeding ravens without established territory is weaker. Loosely bonded pairs are ‘dating’ so to speak- still in the process of establishing a bond, while some ravens fly solo, remaining unbonded. 


In the raven world, the strength of a bond is related to dominance in the flock: the stronger the bond, the stronger the alliance, and the greater the rank within raven hierarchy. Not only do ravens remember these alliances for years, but remarkably, they follow the dominance ranks between other individuals.


So what does a raven bond look like?  Bonds are both created and maintained through what researchers call affiliative behaviours.  Sitting side by side, feather preening, touching beaks, or playing with objects together all help form and maintain bonds. Over time as the bond deepens, these interactions become more intense, more reciprocal, and an alliance develops.


Forming strong alliances is one surefire way to raise your stature in the raven hierarchy. But are there other strategic ways to ensure power? This was the question posed by researchers at the University of Vienna, in Austria. When researchers studied the behaviours of a population of wild ravens, they found that about 20% of the time a raven will try to interrupt the alliance-building behaviours of other ravens. And about half of the time, that raven is successful.
As you can imagine, interrupting a pair of happily grooming/playing ravens does not always go well. A raven risks starting a fight-with the potential to be outnumbered-when it puts its beak where its not wanted. That’s why ravens are very strategic when it comes to the type of alliances they target.


Researchers found that interrupting ravens largely ignored ravens without alliances, likely because they aren’t considered much of a threat. And ravens were not likely to discourage the bonding behaviours of ravens with strong alliances because, the authors conclude, it’s not worth the cost to try and break up a well-established alliance.  But those ravens that are just ‘dating’ –without an established bond– are an ideal target. Preventing a potential future alliance may be the best way for a raven to ensure its current dominance. Overall, ravens with the strongest alliances were most likely to intervene in alliance-building behaviours.


What is remarkable is that throughout the 6 month study, the authors never once saw an immediate benefit, such as food, territory, or breeding partners, for the interrupting raven. This suggests that the ravens are in it for the long-term benefits, and truly are playing politics. Who knows? Maybe you've encountered the Frank and Claire Underwood of the raven world on your morning commute. 

The recipe for people

The idea first arose in the mid-eighties. Imagine what we could do if we knew what it looked like? We could understand where we came from. What makes us tick. What makes us sick. We could revolutionize the field of medicine. Forensic science. Biotechnology. Anthropology.  

Therein began the quest to sequence the human genome. 

DNA structure hastily drawn while my cells were incubating. Normally DNA is twisted, but I don't have those sketching skills. But you get the idea. Nucleotides bind together, like a zipper, creating a 'base pair' . Since A always binds to T, and C to G, scientists only need to sequence one side of the zipper, since they can infer the other side. 

DNA structure hastily drawn while my cells were incubating. Normally DNA is twisted, but I don't have those sketching skills. But you get the idea. Nucleotides bind together, like a zipper, creating a 'base pair' . Since A always binds to T, and C to G, scientists only need to sequence one side of the zipper, since they can infer the other side. 

Bear with me for a brief lesson on genetics. All the genes within an organism make up a genome. The human genome contains about 20,000 genes, which is neatly packed into 23 chromosomes, and resides within the nucleus of our cells. Genes are a specific region of DNA that contains the instructions to make a specific protein. There are only 4 subunits of DNA; these subunits, called nucleotides, are often denoted as A, C, G, and T (adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine). It's all about the sequence of these nucleotides. The sequence of a gene's DNA determines what protein that gene will make. On average, about 1000 of these nucleotides will produce a single protein, and one gene will produce about 3 proteins. (Variation, obviously).  

By figuring out the order of these nucleotides, scientists can understand what genes make what proteins, and ultimately the function of those genes and their proteins. If you were a reductionist, you might say that the human genome is a recipe for people. 

The Human Genome Project began in 1990, and the first representative human genome was successfully sequenced 13 years later in 2003. It was the world's largest collaborative scientific endeavour. 

Whose genome had the honour of being the first to be sequenced? No one knows. The white blood cells of two men and two women were randomly selected from a pool of 20 male and 20 female volunteers. Thus, the first human genome to be sequenced was actually a composite of four men and women. As it turned out, most of the genome (70%) came from a man from Buffalo, New York, known as 'RP11', 

As humans, we share 99.99% of our genomes with each other (unless you are an identical twin, like myself, which means that our genome is 100% identical). The remaining 0.01% of genomic difference accounts for the entire variation that exists within the human species. This means that the human genome project has successfully sequenced a representative human genome. It's available online, and it's free for everyone to access. 

http://www.genome.gov/sequencingcosts/  

http://www.genome.gov/sequencingcosts/  

In 2001, the cost  to sequence the human genome was about $100 million dollars.  Eight years ago, it was still a substantial $10 million. Currently, it costs a relatively mere $1000 to sequence a human genome. I always find this graph to be an optimistic reminder of how advances in technology can render a seemingly insurmountable task possible.

 

The MinION doubles as a harmonica! (no it doesn't). 

The MinION doubles as a harmonica! (no it doesn't). 

 

The time it takes to sequence the genome has also been drastically reduced. The first round of human genome sequencing took 13 years. New sequencing technology like the MinION (pictured right), can plug into a laptop, and spit out the sequence of a human-sized genome in about 24 hours. Analyzing the data, however, requires about 10 graduate students working day and night for a week. 

Both the cost and time to sequence the human genome has been greatly reduced. So what? Haven't we already sequenced the human genome? Or at least a representative human genome? Isn't the genome that represents 99.99% of everyone's genome enough?

The human genome includes many different versions of the same genes. These versions of genes (allelles) are represented by different nucleotide sequences in a given gene. Where 70% of the population might have an "A" in the 208th nucleotide of gene X, the remaining 30% of the population might have a "C". Such 'single nucleotide polymorphisms' (SNPs) could account for the fact that I have blue eyes, while my son has brown. Or it might account for the fact that while one patient with Crohn's disease responds well to the drug inflixamab, another does not.

Better predicting what kind of medicine to prescribe to a patient is just one of many benefits of identifying these variations in the human genome. I've heard it touted many times in the seminars I attend as a graduate student: the future of medicine will be personalized to your genome.

I will leave you with a fun fact: we share about 50% of our DNA with bananas. Think about that the next time you make a batch of banana bread. It's practically people!

 

 

 

Happy tapeworms

Who is this little critter, and why is he so happy?

Taken by shakily holding my camera phone up to the viewing lens, at a total of 100x magnification.

Taken by shakily holding my camera phone up to the viewing lens, at a total of 100x magnification.

This is Hymenolepis diminuta, the rat tapeworm. It doesn't look much like a tapeworm just yet, because it's in an intermediate stage of development, called a cysticercoid. This larval stage of tapeworm lives in beetles. 

We raise flour beetles in our lab to serve as a host for these larval stages of tapeworm. The beetles find the eggs pretty tasty. Once they've been eaten, the eggs hatch in the beetle gut, and the parasites use hooks to migrate into the beetle's body cavity. There, they undergo some changes (including the development of a protective cyst), and become a mature larval tapeworm. Our current lab record is 35 of these cysticercoids in a single beetle. 

In a non-lab setting, some of these infected beetles would be eaten by a rat. In fact, the parasite modifies the behaviour of the beetle to help increase the odds of that happening. While the infected beetles don't look any different than the uninfected ones, they act very differently. The infected beetles move more slowly, are less fearful of the light, don't respond to sex pheremones. These changes in behaviour are only present when the larval stage of parasite is fully developed (it takes about 2-3 weeks), suggesting that these behavioural changes are mediated by the parasite. 

In our lab, we squish up the infected beetles in a petri dish with water, and hunt down the little cysticercoids that pop out. We carefully count them out, and place 5-10 of them in a little tube, filled with salt water. The larval parasites, along with the salt water, are fed to mice or rats (depending on the experiments being done). The parasites are swallowed, and when the pH levels are nice and high, they hatch out of their cysts. This ensures they hatch in the small intestine -which has a high pH thanks to the digestive enzyme trypsin-where they want to be, rather than the stomach, which would mean certain death. They stretch, find a nice intestinal villi to snuggle up to, and bathe in a seemingly never ending supply delicious nutrients. 

Maybe it can sense that's where it's headed. Maybe that's why it looks so happy. 

A woman in science.

I am a woman in science. Most of the times, the ‘woman’ part is a non-issue. But sometimes, it is.

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”  The musings of not just any scientist, but Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea last week. Most definitely not the conference where one should be making headline-grabbing controversial statements. 

When the proverbial shit hit the fan, Mr. Hunt explained that he was speaking from personal experience, and he had meant the comments to be funny. He apologized for what he said, but when prompted to explain about women crying in the lab, he dug himself deeper:

“It’s terribly important that you can criticize people’s ideas without criticizing them and if they burst into tears, it means that you tend to hold back from getting at the absolute truth. Science is about nothing but getting at the truth and anything that gets in the way of that diminishes, in my experience, the science.”  

Sure. In science, criticism is important. The truth is important. And while I believe Mr. Hunt deserves better than the rush-to-judgement he's received,  these comments reveal a not-so-hidden truth about women and STEM (the traditionally male-dominated disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math).

Julie Beck wrote an excellent piece in The Atlantic that illustrates why Mr. Hunt’s attempt at humour was met with stone-cold silence. Social media erupted with legitimate fury: twitter’s #distractinglysexy conversation was equal parts hilarious and inspiring.

Science glamour shot: you can't see the XXXL biohazard suit but trust me, it's hot. #distractinglysexy

Science glamour shot: you can't see the XXXL biohazard suit but trust me, it's hot. #distractinglysexy

But because this is a blog post, let me tell you about my trouble as a woman in science. For the most part, it’s no trouble at all. For the most part, I am surrounded by extremely supportive mentors. The majority of my colleagues in my current lab are women-and this trend is on point with many other labs in our research group. However, when I look one step above my current position as a PhD candidate to the post-docs, most are male. And if I look one step further, out of the twenty-two principle investigators in the Gastrointestinal Research Group, two are female. 

This is part of a larger trend: that women disproportionately drop out of scientific careers. Nature magazine has a comprehensive write-up about the lack of women in science, and a lack of identifiable role models is, in frustratingly cyclic fashion, a primary reason. 

So getting back to my experiences as a woman in science, I'll limit my blatherings to a single example.

When I first was exploring various PhD positions, I met with a potential male supervisor who told me (and while I am paraphrasing, I'm not paraphrasing that much), that if I wanted to embark in a PhD program I shouldn’t get pregnant. I didn’t even know if I wanted children at the time, but here I was, being told to consider what I wanted the state of my uterus to be throughout the next 4+ years of a PhD program. I doubt that the men interested in entering his lab were told they should refrain from impregnating anyone.

Although this was relatively recent, I choose to believe that such schools of thought are fading. Case in point: contrast the above scenario to my current supervisor, who actually encouraged me to consider having a child during my PhD, as maternity benefits are better for graduate students than post-docs.

Well I took his advice to heart, and as I write this I am on my last few months of maternity leave.  And I am equal parts optimistic and terrified about my future as a scientist. Optimistic because it’s my nature. Because with hard work, ambition, and a supportive partner, there’s no reason not to be. Because I believe I somehow owe it to myself and other women in science to at least give it a try. Terrified because it’s also my nature. Because I have witnessed so few examples of women in science with successful careers and a family. Because my lab tech has outright told my colleagues that since I had my son, I have become more stupid (not paraphrasing), and losing my science-edge to motherhood has always been one of my fears. 

I truly believe that very few people (Mr. Hunt excluded) think that STEM wouldn’t benefit from more women. What discipline wouldn’t benefit from increased diversity within its ranks? But as I said before, I'm an optimist.

Leadership Exchange conference 2015

Every year the University of Calgary puts on an intensive one-day Leadership Exchange conference that seeks to motivate and inspire young minds. It focuses on leadership: what it looks like, how it’s achieved, and what it takes to be a leader. This year, the Leadership Exchange conference focused its message on how individuals can be a catalyst for change. When I was approached to sit on the Leaders in Sciences panel I was  honoured, but quite surprised to be considered a leader in my field. As a graduate student, I am constantly aware of how much more I need to learn, so it’s difficult to imagine myself as a leader. However, as scientists, we are in a constant state of learning, so I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

I sat on the panel with two other very accomplished women, and we fielded questions from a large audience of eager undergraduates. Students were interested in how we came to be in our chosen fields, what kinds of obstacles we’d encountered, and what life as a scientist was like. Finally, we were asked to share lessons on leadership. For me, two things came to mind. 

First, you need to both embrace and create opportunity.  Careers are forged over time, by knocking on (or kicking in!) the doors you find along the way; they aren’t just something you apply for. Networking is a big part of this. I am still in contact with a professor I worked for in 2003, and recently contacted him for an article I’m writing about hummingbird foraging behaviours for my website. Another part of embracing opportunity is thinking outside your field. I’ve always loved CBC radio, so when an opportunity presented itself to apply as a research intern for the Calgary Eyeopener, I jumped at it, poured everything I had into the application, and a new door opened. While I have no idea where these opportunities might lead in the future, I know the regret of not trying to open doors is greater than the effort it takes to try and open them. 

The second lesson I imparted was the importance to recognize failure.  Science is blood, sweat, and tears. If you include the few times a mouse has bitten me and drawn blood, this can be taken literally. Consequently, it can be challenging to recognize when you need to keep persevering, and when you’ve hit a dead end and its time to move on. The first research avenue of my PhD was a dead end. Instead of recognizing this sooner, I attributed these failures to my own ineptitude as a scientist-for twelve long months. It was a hard lesson, but I’ve learned the importance of trusting in your own abilities and instincts.

Overall, the conference forced me to take some time and think about where I started as a scientist, where I am now, and how I’ve navigated the trials in between. What makes a good leader, and how can one be a catalyst for change? My final conclusion is that is comes down to passion, and the passion of scientists to satiate their curiosities.  Passion is contagious; it can motivate and inspire. Passion gets you through the first nine failed experiments, and makes that tenth successful experiment worth the first failures. I think that passion might just be the ultimate leader. 

My summer as a CBC research intern

In the summer of 2014, I was awarded a position as a research intern with CBC radio through a program sponsored by Alberta Innovates Health solutions-the same folks that fund my PhD.  I was stationed with The Calgary Eyeopener, CBC Calgary's flagship program, and Calgary's most popular radio program. 

Immediately I was enveloped into the daily routine involved in producing and directing the show; discussing the quality of the previously aired show, assessing what stories needed to be followed, and pitching story ideas for the next day’s program. There was no probation period. Two things struck me: how relaxed the atmosphere was, and how impeccably stylish the women of Calgary CBC radio are. 

Within the week I was trained on the Dalet Media Program, learned how to operate the portable Marantz recorder, and was familiarized with the protocols for conducting pre-interviews, confirming guests, and writing scripts. From conducting ‘streeters’ to get local Calgarian’s opinions on controversial topics in the news, to preparing ‘packs’ (mini documentaries) on a variety of topics, and recording the ‘downtimes’ that promote musical acts coming through Calgary, I had the opportunity to try my hand at a variety of different elements that make up the radio programming at CBC.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the most rewarding part of my internship experience. Listener feedback via twitter and voicemail from stories I’d pitched was always validating. My first successful story pitch, in which a bee ecologist voiced his concerns over how urban honeybee keeping could have unforeseen costs on native pollinators, prompted an industrious 13 year-old listener to send our host, David Gray, one of the beautiful houses he designs and builds for native mason bees.

Mason bees are native to North America, are excellent pollinators, and best of all, don’t sting!

Mason bees are native to North America, are excellent pollinators, and best of all, don’t sting!

It was also gratifying to witness how beloved the Calgary Eyeopener is within the community, a testament to the relationship that can exist between media and the audience. The CBC’s Annual Stampede Breakfast brought in hundreds of revelers, who were not shy about voicing their support for their beloved CBC radio. 

The dude does not abide cuts to the CBC. 

The dude does not abide cuts to the CBC. 

On Neighbour day, devoted to recognizing the community spirit that Calgary demonstrated when the floods ravaged through dozens of communities in 2013, many Calgarians stopped by to take in some doughnuts and coffee, and chat with the staff like old friends.

Happy Neighbour Day!

Happy Neighbour Day!

The infectious enthusiasm of many guests was similarly a highlight. It was difficult to not be inspired by Chris Koch’s quest to get a drivers license at age 35, despite his lacking arms and legs since birth.  The members of the Masonic Lodge that hosted an open house on Calgary’s inaugural ‘Mason’s Day’ were exceptionally welcoming to my questions. And the mussel-sniffing conservation dogs (pictured below) working to keep invasive zebra and quagga mussels out of Alberta’s lakes and rivers stole my heart.

Wickett wears booties so she doesn’t scratch the boats as she hunts for invasive mussels.

Wickett wears booties so she doesn’t scratch the boats as she hunts for invasive mussels.

I was assigned to the summertime “Big Ideas” series, which showcased some incredible, often unusual innovations developed to address a variety of problems. This led to a hunt for the perfect idea and guest to match. The weekly series brought to light some fascinating projects, from the intriguing collaboration between the ketchup connoisseurs at Heinz and Ford automobiles, to the technology that converts your old bike into an efficient electric hybrid. We heard from the engineers piloting flying wind turbine projects, learned how cell phones can save the Amazon rainforest, and discovered the latest trend in dating: sniffing out pheromones on unwashed t-shirts. These guests were consistently engaging, enthusiastic, and always grateful to share their stories with me.

The AIHS Media Fellowship provides an incomparable opportunity to develop the skills necessary for effective media communication first-hand. The Calgary Eyeopener team was welcoming, patient, skilled and very accessible team to work with. As friendly off-air as they sound on-air. The hands-on approach and length of the internship gave me the opportunity to identify the skills I needed, and the time I needed to develop them. Radio is a unique medium, and I came to understand that the narrative for radio has a pace and style unique from other forms of media, with a strong focus on voices and soundscapes

At the CBC studio in Edmonton, AB.

At the CBC studio in Edmonton, AB.

The societal benefits of a scientifically literate and well-informed public are immeasurable. Understanding the scientific process, herd immunity, and disease risk factors, for example, are just some of the ways in which effective communication can impact the health of communities and individuals.  The need for effective science communicators is well evident, given the misinformation that is so easily spread via the internet. Ultimately I hope to embed science communication and writing within my career as a medical science researcher. I will always be grateful to AIHS and the Calgary Eyeopener team for the once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in this internship!

Some farewell cupcakes!

Some farewell cupcakes!