Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weeknote #31 (w/e 19/12/10)

I delayed this week's note until the details of a couple of publications were confirmed.

The first has resulted from Naomi's work on our NanonInfoBio project, and concerns the "problem" of interdisciplinarity. A lot of interesting and important contemporary research occurs where the boundaries between academic disciplines become blurred (synthetic biology being a good example), and we decided to investigate how it might be encouraged. The resulting paper (written largely by Naomi, with a relatively minor contribution from me) has been submitted to a journal, and is now available as a preprint. The title and abstract are as follows:

Removing Barriers to Interdisciplinary Research
Naomi Jacobs and Martyn Amos

A significant amount of high-impact contemporary scientific research occurs where biology, computer science, engineering and chemistry converge. Although programmes have been put in place to support such work, the complex dynamics of interdisciplinarity are still poorly understood. In this paper we interrogate the nature of interdisciplinary research and how we might measure its "success", identify potential barriers to its implementation, and suggest possible mechanisms for removing these impediments.

I'm also delighted to announce the second instalment of the Synthesis Lectures on Synthetic Biology that I edit for Morgan and Claypool. Within this publishing model, libraries pay a one-off subscription charge, and are then given perpetual access to a growing list of lectures (in this context, "lecture" means a short book, in the region of 100 pages), although they may also be bought individually, either in electronic form, or as paperbacks.

The first lecture was published by Natalie Kuldell and Neal Lerner of MIT in 2009, and has already been downloaded nearly 300 times.

The second lecture has just been published, and is titled Bacterial Sensors: Synthetic Design and Application Principles. It's written by Jan Roelof van der Meer from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, and is an in-depth treatment of the engineering of living cells for the purpose of biosensing.

The first two lectures have got the series off to a flying start, which I hope I can maintain as the third runner in the relay (my own lecture is due next year). I'm also happy to consider proposals for lectures, so if you work in synthetic biology and would like to consider writing a short book, do please drop me a line.

That's it for the blog for 2010, so I'll just wish you a happy and peaceful holiday, and a productive new year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weeknote #30 (w/e 12/12/10)

This week's big news is that we've completed the final formalities on a new European grant. COBRA stands for Coordination of Biological and Chemical IT Research Activities, and it's a three-year coordination action funded by the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

The project is one of several funded under the Future and Emerging Technologies Proactive initiative, and the constituent projects are NEUNEU, MATCH-IT, BACTOCOM and ECCell.

The main objectives of the project are to create a sustainable European research community in the emerging area of "biological and chemical-based IT", and to write a definitive roadmap document on how this field might develop, its main challenges and opportunities, and how its potential impact on society at large.

MMU will coordinate the overall project activity, and our first meeting will be held in Manchester next January.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Weeknote #29 (w/e 5/12/10)

I'm delighted to have confirmed the details of my talk at the Spring Meeting of the Society for General Microbiology (SGM), in Harrogate next April. The SGM is the largest microbiological society in Europe, and was founded in 1945. Its first President was Sir Alexander Fleming, and he's been followed by an impressive list of luminaries. The current President is Hilary Lappin-Scott, with whom I worked briefly at Exeter, and our own Jo Verran is the Education and Public Affairs Officer. I'll be talking about "Massively-parallel microbial search: a new platform for synthetic biology" (BACTOCOM, basically...)