Making Sense of Climate Change

Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to attend a virtual talk presented by leading climate scientist and communicator Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. She began by asking the audience to send in one word that describes how they feel when thinking about climate change. The responses popped up live in a word cloud on Hayhoe’s shared screen:




Those words also describe how I felt when I realized the conclusion to my series of blogs on the 2021 Nobel Prizes would address the topic of climate change.

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Linking Evolution to Pregnancy Outcomes: A Study in Gene Expression

Many of the traits characteristic to human pregnancy are unique. In contrast to other mammals, human pregnancy and labor last longer, and humans are more prone to complications, including infertility, preeclampsia and preterm birth. Research recently published in eLife Sciences by Vincent Lynch, PhD, and colleagues explores the history of gene expression in the human uterus, how it differs from other mammals and how changes in expression may be implicated in our susceptibility to disease.

This study is part of the emerging field of evolutionary medicine, where researchers apply modern evolutionary theory to help us understand the mechanisms behind human health and disease. By studying the history of gene expression, researchers and physicians can illuminate the pathways through which evolution has guided the development of modern tissues and organ systems, and how these systems may differ in one species versus the next.

DNA helix. We review a recent publication that explores the history of gene expression in the human uterus
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Finding the Latest Science News While On the Go

Today’s guest blog was written in collaboration with Melissa Martin, a former global marketing intern with Promega. She is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she is double majoring in zoology and life sciences communication, with a certificate in environmental studies.

Have you ever found yourself wondering what the newest advancements were on genetically engineering plants or using artificial intelligence in biotechnology but didn’t know where to start looking? You most likely know the basic science behind the headlines, but a general web search may lead to dramatized articles that focus more on getting attention than being accurate. Or you might find a scholarly article that will offer in-depth, peer-reviewed information but may require more time to read than you are willing to give.

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Resume vs. CV — What Is the Difference?

Today’s guest blog is written by Sophie Mancha, a former global marketing intern with Promega. She is in her 4th year as a PhD candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying pancreatic cancer.

Whether you are applying for a scholarship or trying to land a position in a research lab, there are plenty of decisions to make. Arguably, the most critical consideration is what documents to include to showcase that you are the right person for the job. Specifically, should you be preparing a curriculum vitae (CV) or a resume? What exactly is the difference?

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Feeling Festive with Ion Channels

The tight embrace of welcoming hugs, the cozy warmth of a crackling fireplace, the brisk chill of afternoon walks in snowy woods—these are some of the feelings that, for me, make the winter holidays one of the best times of the year. This season, I’m also choosing to be thankful for the biology that makes these sensations possible.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine went to two scientists who discovered the receptors that allow us to sense touch and temperature. Joining other sensory mechanisms recognized by the Nobel committee, these discoveries add to our knowledge of how we interact with the world around us.

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Writing Successful Grants: Putting It Into Words

This blog is part four of a four-part series on grant writing inspired by resources published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others. 

After a long and arduous journey, you have finally arrived at the last stage of your quest to create the world’s most inspiring grant proposal: writing it all down.  

One of the most challenging parts of putting together a grant proposal is simply writing it. You must write to build the reviewers’ confidence in you and demonstrate your contributions to your field, effectively illustrating your qualities as a researcher and your capacity to achieve your goals.

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There’s a Microbiome In My Tank!

Imagine a scenario—you’re studying the developmental biology of a species of squid. The squid don’t reproduce in captivity, so females carrying fertilized eggs are collected from the wild and rehomed in your lab’s aquariums. You’ve monitored all the normal aquarium conditions—pH, temperature, salinity—ensuring the animal’s new home mimics its natural environment.

But then, for no reason apparent to you, the clutch of eggs doesn’t develop and doesn’t hatch, derailing your research program until next year when you can collect more adult squid from the wild. What went wrong?

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An Ambitious Endeavor: The Human Proteoform Project

On November 15, 2021, Science Advances announced the launch of The Human Proteoform Project. The ambitious project, led by the Consortium for Top-Down Proteomics, aims to address a critical next step in disease research. This means developing new technologies to outline a complete set of protein forms based on the ~20,000 genes in the human genome.

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Writing Successful Grants: Consider Your Audience

This blog is part three of a four-part series on grant writing inspired by resources published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others.  

You have thoughtfully designed your research and carefully crafted a foolproof budget proposal. Now you come upon the dreaded review committee. But fear not! There are ways to enchant the mysterious reviewer, to reveal their wants and needs and win them to your cause.  

professionals at a workshop; writing successful grants requires understanding your audience

In this blog, we will discuss why considering your audience should be one of your foremost priorities in applying for a grant. You should identify your reviewers and capture their interest through a well-organized and compelling story. If you can effectively frame the intent of your research and successfully communicate how it will benefit your field of study, your chances of completing your quest – or securing funding – can improve ­drastically.

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Writing Successful Grants: Planning Your Budget

This blog is part two of a four-part series on grant writing inspired by resources published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others. 

Your quest for composing and submitting the perfect grant proposal is well underway. You have found your niche and designed your research accordingly. However, you must tread carefully—you will soon have to endure the next trial: planning your budget.

It is important in any grant application to effectively outline and clarify your budget needs. Any poorly considered aspects of your budget may not reflect well on the overall viability of your proposal, so make sure you provide your reviewers with an accurate description of what resources you will need to accomplish your research goals.

Find your Sweet Spot

A budget that is significantly over or under what would otherwise be reasonable to achieve your goals can undermine reviewers’ confidence in your proposal, as it may seem to them that you don’t fully understand the scope of your research. With your budget proposal, you need to find the range that is just right for you—not too big, and not too small. You will be asked to outline the things that you need to fulfill the aims that you put forth. You should request the money to purchase what you need and provide good justification for your expenses, especially big-ticket items like expensive equipment, as well as personnel.  

Be sure that you carefully review the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for applicable criteria that you will need to follow in building and planning your budget. There may be limits on the types of expenses you can request, spending caps and overall funding limits. Reviewers will not only determine whether your budget is reasonable, but whether it complies with governing cost principles and other requirements unique to the award for which you are applying.

To learn more, read the NIH article: “Writing a Winning Application―Nail your Budget.”

Wants vs. Needs

Take the time to identify those budget items that are necessary to your work and those that are not. As you build out your Specific Aims and design your experiments, your needs will become clear. Make sure that in the process of doing so you seek opportunities to offset cost. Gauge the support that you’ll get from your institution, including resources and funding capacity. You may be able to share equipment, resources and space with other investigators. You should also be prepared for some less obvious expenses like instrument warranty and maintenance costs. If you do need to ask for a high-budget item, be certain that it is a necessity, justify the purchase appropriately, and explain how not having it could impact your project.

Before you ask for money in your application, make sure that what you’re asking for is essential. You should also provide details on the resources that are already available to you. Reviewers will determine whether the costs defined are reasonable given the research aims and methods laid out in your proposal.

Read more about distinguishing your wants versus your needs in this NIH article: “Writing a Winning Application―Define Resources.”

Direct vs. Indirect Costs

It is important to understand the difference between direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are those expenses that come from your research: salaries, travel, equipment and supplies. You’ll also be requesting facilities and administrative (F&A) costs, or indirect costs. Examples of indirect costs include payroll, departmental administration and student services, among others. F&A costs are determined by applying your organization’s negotiated rate to your direct cost base.

The total costs requested in your budget will be allowable direct costs and allowable F&A costs. While you will only need to itemize your direct costs, it is important to understand how both are defined and calculated so you can build a realistic budget with all the key elements accounted for.  

For more about direct versus indirect costs, read this NIH article: “Know the Basics for Facilities and Administrative Costs.”

Your budget deserves careful consideration. The review committee will want to see a budget that strikes the right balance between sensibility and necessity. Take the time to parse out your wants versus your needs and account for all the moving pieces. Your review committee is more likely to approve an application that puts forth a thoughtfully prepared and well-studied budget proposal, which will bring you that much closer to the funding you need.

For resources including tips on the job search, interviews, conferences and professional development, visit the Professional Skills and Development section of our Student Resource Center.