Fiber, not just for your guts!

Soybeans are a great source of dietary fiber. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Soybeans are a great source of dietary fiber. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Allergies have been on the rise in the last few decades – not just the highly publicized increase in peanut and gluten allergies, but also allergic asthma caused by allergens in the air (like dust mites, mold, or pollen). Poorly controlled asthma and asthma emergencies result in many ER visits. What is causing this trend of increasing allergies?

The hygiene hypothesis – lack of exposure to potential allergens due to homes that are too clean leads to kids being hypersensitive is popular with many folks.

A new paper, however, tests an alternative  hypothesis about the increased rate of allergies. Could low fiber consumption in Western diets be to blame?

Continue reading “Fiber, not just for your guts!”

Mentor Roulette

Throughout my education and career I have been mentored. Sometimes I have chosen those mentors and other times they have been assigned to me. Choosing these people who guide you, stick up for you, and help you along in your job search is a vital part of your career. This is a task for which there are no instructions and you learn by trial and error what sort of mentor best suits your personality and goals. I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit about choosing a mentor in the last several years and I want to share what I have learned about myself and mentors in general. Continue reading “Mentor Roulette”

Share the Data

DARPA_Big_DataData-sharing is often much easier said than done. In the past, researchers created large and valuable databases which would often languish on the university’s server fading into oblivion after the particular post-doc or graduate student who created it had moved on. It has actually been shown that for the field of ecology, the likelihood of accessing data ever again decreases by 17% every year.

While that study is specific to a particular field, I can imagine some level of data loss in every field. Even if data was described in a publication, there is no easy way for an outside researcher to access it, or even know if that particular data would be useful in their new study. The times they are a-changing. Continue reading “Share the Data”

Fruit flies fight over chicks

Beer - Courtesy of Wikipedia. Fueling male-male aggression for hundreds of years.
Beer – Courtesy of Wikipedia. Fueling male-male aggression for thousands of years.

Remember your college days? On a typical college Saturday night, I would head to a local Champaign, IL watering hole and get to “observe” the mating rituals of college men. Chest puffing, feats of strength, and sometimes even fisticuffs were employed to gain the favor of a particular lady. Turns out this male-male aggression is a trait we share with the little fruit fly. Those little fruit flies have, in turn, shown us that male-male aggression can be a bit more complex than we might first expect. Continue reading “Fruit flies fight over chicks”

Project Tycho: Vaccines prevent diseases!

Tycho Brahe, Image from Wikipedia
Tycho Brahe, Image from Wikipedia

I just heard about a new “big data” project called Project Tycho. They chose the name Tycho in honor of Tycho Brahe who made tons of detailed observations of the stars and planets. After his death, his data was used by Kepler to formulate the laws of planetary motion. This project wants to connect the vast amounts of public health data to scientists and policy researchers to improve their understanding of contagious diseases and their spread. Their undertaking is incredible; they digitized weekly Nationally Notifiable Disease Surveillance System reports from 1888-2013. Now that all of the data is digitized they are working their way through standardizing it and making it amenable to analysis. This entire dataset is available for search online. Continue reading “Project Tycho: Vaccines prevent diseases!”