Online Editorials Archive - 2013



A Hand-Made Fat Fighting Gene System

Red(December 30th, 2013) Christmas is over but the good food and the chocolate certainly added some extra pounds to our hips. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a device that can help us lose weight, from deep within ourselves? more

Dear Santa

Red(December 20th, 2013) Here’s a little poem from a poor PhD student’s perspective. The Lab Times team wishes all our readers Happy Holidays! more

Secrets of a Good Mentor

Red(December 17th, 2013) Motivation, confidence and enthusiasm, as well as intellectual honesty and personal attention: according to two of the scientists recognised recently by Nature, this is what makes an outstanding mentor. more

Boycotting Nature for Better Science

Red(December 12th, 2013) The recently published article by Nobelist Randy Schekman caused quite a stir in the science community. What’s behind his accusations? A commentary from Leonid Schneider. more

More than One Way

Red(December 10th, 2013) Regenerating complex tissues is an enviable ability. Salamanders have mastered this skill to perfection but a recent study shows that two closely related species use very different molecular strategies to regenerate their lost limbs. more

A Shelf for Bookshelves

Red(December 6th, 2013) Data sharing is a piece of cake in the cyber-world. Search engines display thousands of hits, leaving you baffled at the maze of articles and databases. The German initiative re3data.org puts an end to this confusion by standardising data repositories. more

5 Questions for... snake expert Sylvain Dubey

Red(December 3rd, 2013) Reptiles and amphibians are not everyone’s favourite animals. Ecologist Sylvain Dubey from the University of Lausanne is an exception. He’s one of the few scientists, who studies the genetic basis of colour variations in asp vipers. more


Getting Dirty for Science

Red(November 29th, 2013) A fresh, steaming pile of cowpat is a feast for certain invertebrates. What kind of beetles and worms are the master decomposers? To find out, Finnish and Swedish ecologists recruited little helpers. more

Careers in China

Red(November 26th, 2013) China is one of the fastest growing economies worldwide. Is science and research also in the fast lane? We checked with two Germans, Axel Mosig and Carolin Köne, who experience(d) Chinese work and lifestyle first hand. more

Europe's Attitude towards Science

Red(November 22nd, 2013) Next year, the European Commission will spend a record amount of money on “research and innovation” in Europe. But do Europeans even care about science and technology? To find out, the EC conducted an EU-wide opinion survey. more

The Advantage of Generosity

Red(November 19th, 2013) It's not only human males who benefit from lavishing presents on their special lady. It turns out female nursery web spiders enjoy being courted in a similar manner and reward males that bring a gift before mating. more

Misleading Impurities

Red(November 15th, 2013) Preparing and sequencing ancient DNA samples can be very tricky - great care must be taken. If it isn’t, published results can be called into question. Recently, claims about a Miocene plant turned out to be based on a very modern contamination. more

Pushing Buttons

Red(November 12th, 2013) Everyone knows about access restrictions to research papers. However, maybe we need to see it from a different perspective to grasp the enormity of the problem. Two students invented a new web-based tool, the Open Access Button, to track and map denials of access. more

Communication Problem

Red(November 8th, 2013) Customers are afraid of genetically modified plants - and scientists (not just molecular biologists!) are clueless when it comes to deal with this anxiety. This was the bleak reality at the 6th Green Biotechnology Congress in Zurich. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (15): Get. Set. Network.

Red(November 5th, 2013) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

Majestic Movements

Red(November 1st, 2013) Dispersal mechanisms in the plant kingdom are manifold but no other plant genus uses a technique quite like the horsetails. French researchers recently managed to capture the ultrafast, high jumps of the plant’s spores on film. more


Fred Astaire meets the Probability Theory - Dancing Statistics

Red(October 29th, 2013) There are many things that can be conveyed through the art of dance like emotions or the topic of PhD projects. Now, UK psychologists discovered that dance is also well-suited to explain a mathematical tool that many students struggle with – statistics. more

Nature Did it First

Red(October 25th, 2013) In the past, clever chemists have used all their skills to develop a drug that effectively treats pain. But Mother Nature had the same idea a long, long time ago. Recently, researchers discovered that a widely prescribed pain killer exists in its natural state in an African tree. more

The Earlier the Better?

Red(October 22nd, 2013) A newly published study looked at the publication behaviour of biologists from four different continents. The result: If you want to launch into a scientific fairy tale career, you have to start publishing as soon as possible. Is this the ultimate recipe for success? more

A Visit to CERN

Red(October 18th, 2013) In late September, some of the Lab Times team went to Geneva to learn more about the particle accelerator. Little did they know that they were in for more than one surprise. more

Neuroscience on Film

Red(October 15th, 2013) For the third time, the Society for Neuroscience hosted the Brain Awareness Video Contest. Among six winners hailing from the US, two Spanish students wowed the jury with their submission and scored an amazing second place. more

Real Nobel Prize for Virtual Chemistry

Red(October 10th, 2013) The Nobel Prize in Chemistry rewards three lab-shy theoreticians: Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt, and Arieh Warshel. more

Vesicles Heading for Stockholm

Red(October 8th, 2013) Thomas Südhof, Randy Schekman and James Rothman will receive the 2013 Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology, honouring their work on vesicle trafficking. more

Seeing is Believing?

Red(October 4th, 2013) It's Fascinating Neurology week here at Lab Times. On Tuesday, we saw that perception is messed up under certain pathological conditions but even a healthy brain can easily be tricked – with simple optical illusions. more

Seeing Upside Down

Red(October 1st, 2013) Most people are not aware of the delicate interplay between all of our senses. But there are a few rare cases where perception of the world around us is literally turned on its head. What could be the neurological basis for this condition? more


Viva La Revolution

Red(September 27th, 2013) If you want to kickstart a revolution, you must be well-prepared and organised. The student initiative, Global Biotech Revolution (GBR), is about to get things rolling in the biotech world. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (14): In Pursuit of those Dreams

Red(September 24th, 2013) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

The Complex Language of Love

Red(September 20th, 2013) There are not many areas in which flies surpass humans. Of course, they are better at flying but who thought that they use a much more complicated communication system, too? Swiss scientists mathematically analysed the behaviour of courting flies and got surprising results. more

Open Up, Please!

Red(September 17th, 2013) Snakes and crocodiles don’t need to go to the dentist. When their teeth are worn off, they just make new ones. How do they do that, wondered scientists from King’s College London. more

Better Luck Next Time

Red(September 13th, 2013) Levitating frogs or yawning tortoises – yes, it’s time for the Ig Nobel Awards again. Yesterday evening, the 2013 prizes were handed over to scientists from five continents. Who are the lucky(?) winners? more

5 Questions for Dan MacLean

Red(September 10th, 2013) Some weeks ago, the Sainsbury Laboratory, UK, surprised the world: They announced the development of a Facebook game that could help save the endangered ash tree. What’s the current score? We asked the game’s mastermind. more

Dangerous Waters

Red(September 6th, 2013) Frightening stories about “brain-eating amoeba” recently hit the news worldwide when a teenage girl was infected with the bug and hospitalised in the US. We wanted to know more about this vicious critter and talked to two European experts. more

The Cream of the Crop

Red(September 3rd, 2013) Among all the university rankings currently in circulation, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) or, for short, the Shanghai ranking is the most respected. Recently, they published their latest numbers. more


Confessions of a Postdoc (13): Drawing Parallels - Science and Sports

Red(August 30th, 2013) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

Treasures of the Ocean

Red(August 27th, 2013) Marine biologists, chemists and engineers have banded together for a new EU-funded project to explore the ocean depths. The PharmaSea researchers are hunting for new drug candidates and they are not wasting any time! more

5 Questions for Megan Head

Red(August 23rd, 2013) She's a biologist from Exeter University with broad research interests based on animal evolution, particularly the evolution of reproduction. Starring in her publications are a panoply of different animal models, including lizards, sticklebacks and burying beetles. more

Learning and Teaching in a Global Classroom

Red(August 20th, 2013) The costs of higher education have made it inaccessible to millions of potential students. But now, a new initiative called ‘Coursera’ allows students to get a taste of university life without struggling to pay expensive tuition fees! more

White vs. Yellow

Red(August 16th, 2013) Everybody knows that peaches are fingerlickingly delicious. But what nobody knew was the genetic secret behind their different flesh colours, white and yellow. Italian researchers now found that it is a lot more complicated than it seems. more

Surprise Eggs from the Past

Red(August 13th, 2013) How did dinosaurs reproduce and how did they care for their offspring? The answers are trapped inside fossilised remains, buried in million-year-old rock. But a new, one-of-a-kind find from Portugal gives some hints. more

Let's Talk about Sex

Red(August 9th, 2013) Millions of years of trying to avoid their predators has not only given moths ultrasound hearing but also a new way to get intimate with their partners. Meet the good, the bat and the cheater. more

Watching Clocks as they Tick

Red(August 6th, 2013) Ueli Schibler and his group from Geneva have developed a device called a Biolumicorder that can observe, in real time, the workings of our inner biological clock. more

Where you Least Expect Them

Red(August 2nd, 2013) The word Archaea has long been synonymous with microorganisms dwelling in extremely hostile environments like boiling hot geysers. But scientists from the University of Regensburg, Germany, detected them just a touch away from us, on our skin. more


Confessions of a Postdoc (12): More Money, Please!

Red(July 30th, 2013) Since 2010, Anjana Nityanandam has shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

Digital Goodies

Red(July 26th, 2013) Did you know that your articles can garner more than just citations? With Tweets, Likes and Shares it’s very easy to make your research visible, not only to peers but also to funders and the public. Altmetrics can do that for you. more

Tailoring your Fitness Training to your Genetics

Red(July 23rd, 2013) Previously, if you wanted to get in shape you needed an experienced personal trainer. Now, thanks to British scientists, you don’t have to listen to a drill instructor’s commands anymore but instead only to your own genes. That is personal training. more

The Hierarchy of Science

Red(July 19th, 2013) You may know him from our “One Fine Day in the Lab” cartoons, but Leonid Schneider is concerned about the world of science in text form, too. Here’s a little essay on the broken rungs of a modern scientist’s career ladder. more

Light-Harvesting DNA

Red(July 15th, 2013) Photosynthesis is a complex puzzle perfected by nature over millions of years. Replicating it to produce clean solar power is a tall and hard task for scientists world over. But researchers from Sweden have put a major piece of the puzzle in place using DNA scaffolds. more

Some Like it Hot!

Red(July 10th, 2013) How much heat can you bear? In the case of a Pompeii worm, it’s a lot - but not as much as previous studies have led us to believe. French researchers recently developed a new system to investigate the real thermal limit of the deep-sea annelid. more

Careers in Singapore II

Red(July 4th, 2013) Two Germans, who made their way to South East Asia, talk about their experience. One is a principal investigator at the A*STAR institute, the other Managing Director of the German Institute of Science and Technology – TUM Asia. more


Combining Science and Art

Red(June 28th, 2013) A naturalist by passion, structural biologist Igor Siwanowicz has made a name for himself in the science scene as a photographer with an obsession for beautiful but sometimes very alien-looking insects. more

In Favour of Animal Research

Red(June 28th, 2013) The measures animal activists use are usually drastic and high-publicity events. But they are based on misinformation and half-truths. In recent times, scientists have begun their counter-movement. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (11): Let’s Talk about Work

Red(June 25th, 2013) Anjana Nityanandam shares her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc. Here are her latest insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

Genomics Meets Verne’s Giant Squid

Red(June 21st, 2013) Scientists around the world, led by a Danish research group, look deep into the mitochondrial DNA of the mythic "sea monster". more

Saving Time and Money

Red(June 18th, 2013) CiteAb – a new and independent antibody search engine will help you choose just the right antibody for your project and that’s because things are done a bit differently compared to other antibody search tools. Recently, the one-millionth entry was added. more

A Clear View of the Human Proteome

Red(June 14th, 2013) The human body makes thousands of different proteins. What does science already know about them? A joint effort by the Technische Universität München and a software company facilitates access to and the sharing of proteomics data. more

Software for the Human Body

Red(June 11th, 2013) When the whole body is a computer, why not install software in it and add new programmes that can alter biological processes in the human system, in order to cure illnesses. Such a day might not be very far away. more

The Healing Power of Sleep

Red(June 7th, 2013) A lack of sleep leaves us feeling groggy, slow and possibly even irritable. But why? What is the function of sleep? Two researchers from the UK have suggested a new hypothesis. more

The Scienticks (15): The Cupids

Red(June 4th, 2013) What's the special role of the Scienticks' colleague Frieda Meier and their supervisor David Sondermann in this story? Read about it in the fifteenth episode of our science thriller The Scienticks by Nanür. more


The Art of Decay

Red(May 31st, 2013) Decay, collapse and distortion are what palaeontologists have to struggle with when dealing with soft-bodied fossils, which should give hints about the origin of vertebrates. Luckily, a team of UK scientists have just published the first Atlas of Vertebrate Decay. more

5 Questions to... Kari Steffen

Red(May 29th, 2013) Inspired by Indiana Jones and his passion for ancient objects, Kari Steffen from the University of Helsinki spices up his day job as a microbiologist with a bit of archaeology. His research objects are mummies and ship wrecks. more

Size Does Matter

Red(May 24th, 2013) Many different animals have made their way into research labs – the most popular ones are small-sized rodents. But there’s a new trend towards using larger lab animals like sheep and mini pigs to model complex human diseases. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (10): The Challenge of Pedagogy

Red(May 21st, 2013) Until December 2010, Anjana Nityanandam shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc with us. Now she’s back with fresh insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

A Win-Win Situation

Red(May 17th, 2013) Manipulating behaviour for one’s own benefit is a tactic followed by many living species. One recent example involves a virus, a plant and a fly. Interestingly, the infectious three-some is to the advantage of two of the participants. more

Why Don’t Men Understand Women?

Red(May 15th, 2013) It is a popular myth that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. But while physical differences between men and women are obvious, cognitive and affective disparities are more difficult to measure. more

Interview Suresh Rattan – Part I and II

Red(May 10th, 2013) For biogerontologist, Suresh Rattan, from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, extending health-span and longevity is a matter of understanding what determines health and how to maintain it in the first place (see LT 3-2013). Read the entire interview here. more

Careers in Singapore

Red(May 7th, 2013) Working, where others go for their holidays. This is just one reason to pack all your bags and try your luck in South East Asia. Ralf Jauch also wanted to satisfy his pioneering spirit. more

Diesel, with Love from E. coli

Red(May 3rd, 2013) As THE guinea pig of molecular biology, E. coli has already been exploited in countless ways. Now scientists at the University of Exeter trained their favourite prokaryote to produce nothing less than gasoline. more


Behind Bars

Red(April 30th, 2013) Up until now, research misconduct has been treated more or less like a trivial offence. Funding may be cut for a short period of time or convicted scientists may need to resign from their posts. But recently, the first scientist was jailed for falsifying results. more

The Scienticks (14): Undercover

Red(April 26th, 2013) Only the cleaning lady knows what’s going on, she’s entrusted with an important mission. With a little delay, enjoy reading the fourteenth episode of our science thriller The Scienticks by Nanür. more

5 Questions to... Roland Eberwein

Red(April 23rd, 2013) Cyber crime does not stop before science. For almost half a year, fake websites imposing for real academic journals, rip-off scientists. It’s hard to stop them. We talked to one of the ‘victims’, Wulfenia editor-in-chief Roland Eberwein. more

When Muscles Wake Up…

Red(April 19th, 2013) Latest since Peter Agre was awarded the Nobel Prize ten years ago, Aquaporins have been in the spotlight. During the last three decades, several important discoveries involving water channels have been made, the latest one coming from Italy. more

Once Upon a Time... In Your Head

Red(April 16th, 2013) Science and art has been combined in many ways, mostly through beautiful microscopic pictures. But how about something much cooler, a graphic novel, perhaps? Over some drinks, a neuroscientist teamed up with a comic artist and the result is Neurocomic. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (9) - Diversity in the Workplace

Red(April 11th, 2013) Until December 2010, Anjana Nityanandam shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc with us. Now she’s back with fresh insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

The Metabolic Secrets of Eternal Life

Red(April 8th, 2013) How long do you want to live? This world is so beautiful that eternal life is an irrepressible desire. Let us unravel the secret of longevity together with Swiss and Italian scientists. more

Your Neurons Can Survive You

Red(April 3rd, 2013) Every body and every cell is limited by a certain life span. But what sets the boundaries of life? Italian researchers transplanted cells from a short-lived mouse into a longer living rat and watched boundaries being shattered. more


Of Bunnies and Men

Red(March 29th, 2013) An analysis of our ancestors’ hunting and eating habits has brought to light an interesting explanation of how humans managed to outlive the Neanderthals. And you would never guess that rabbits played a key role in making this happen. more

Interview with Kevin Moses, Part 2

Red(March 25th, 2013) The Director of Science Funding at the Wellcome Trust had a few more words to say. Here’s the second part of the interview conducted by Jeremy Garwood. It complements the first that appeared in Lab Times issue 2-2013. more

Careers in Turkey

Red(March 22nd, 2013) Turkey might be a favourite for many globetrotters but for researchers it’s not a dream destination, even though the country participates in EU funding programmes. Lab Times talked to a repatriate about his return. more

Killing Them Softly

Editorial (March 19th, 2013) Even though it’s no scientist’s favourite thing to do, killing lab animals like mice and rats is also part of the job. But what’s the best, ‘the most humane’ way of doing it? A recent report compares methods for rodent euthanasia. more

Reversed Preferences

Editorial (March 15th, 2013) What are the main factors influencing handedness? Is it posture, sex, age or task complexity? The answer to this question is still out there somewhere but Russian researchers showed that some mammals buck the general trend. more

The Visual Beauty of Mitosis

Editorial (March 12th, 2013) To prove that their devices belong to the best, GE Healthcare annually asks scientists to participate in their Cell Imaging Competition. One of the winners is Markus Posch from Dundee University. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (8) - The Ethics of Research

Editorial (March 8th, 2013) Until December 2010, Anjana Nityanandam shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc with us. Now she’s back with fresh insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

Methods and Protocols to Make Your Life Easier (3): Microfluidic Transfection

Editorial (March 5th, 2013) Not happy with current methods for intracellular delivery? No reason to cry, here’s the latest one using microfluidics! All it needs is a good squeeze... more

Travelling to the Galápagos without Leaving Europe

Editorial (March 1st, 2013) For those of you who dream of travelling to the Galápagos Islands but don’t have the money or time for it, the Zoological Museum at the University of Zurich is offering the next best thing. more


The Scienticks (13): A Secret Victory

Editorial (February 26th, 2013) Finally, time has come to test the mysterious drug on their humanised mice. Enjoy reading the thirteenth episode of our science thriller The Scienticks by Nanür. more

Starving Out Infection

Editorial (February 21st, 2013) Losing weight during illness isn’t always a bad omen. During gastrointestinal infection caused by a parasitic worm, this is exactly what’s supposed to happen. Manchester scientists discovered how it works. more

Changing Thymes

Editorial (February 18th, 2013) Before ending up on a dinner plate, thyme plants use ingenious ways to survive extreme cold and severe drought. By sniffing around in the field, scientists discover that wild thyme adapts remarkably quickly to climate change. more

A Biologist's Valentine's Letter

Editorial (February 14th, 2013) Still don’t know how to express your feelings to your loved one today? This letter might give you some ideas. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (7) – To Err is Human...

Editorial (February 13th, 2013) Until December 2010, Anjana Nityanandam shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc with us. Now she’s back with fresh insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

Careers in Australia

Editorial (February 7th, 2013) Despite being commonly referred to as Down Under, when it comes to science, Australia is one of the top countries. Besides studying and research, there are a few more advantages – endless beaches, adorable fauna and a really relaxed lifestyle. more

Sentencing the Innocent?

Editorial (February 4th, 2013) Throughout the last months, our friends from Retraction Watch reported on many article retractions. Most cases arise from scientific misconduct and should be sanctioned but recently a curious case of unjust punishment makes one think about the system. more


Challenging Tradition

Editorial (January 31st, 2013) Tired of waiting months for your latest paper to be approved? Then try F1000Research, a new open access publishing programme, offering almost immediate publication and a few more treats. more

Guided by the Stars

Editorial (January 28th, 2013) Finding your way home in pitch-black darkness can be quite a challenge. In contrast to humans, dung beetles have found an easy way to orient themselves in moonless nights - they use the stars as a compass. more

Cheating Males

Editorial (January 25th, 2013) Is testosterone crippling scientific research? A recent study finds that, when it comes to Good Scientific Practice, it's mostly male researchers who misbehave. This is especially true for those in the higher ranks. more

Breast Milk, Best Milk

Editorial (January 22nd, 2013) Bacteria are everywhere, even in the first drink we take after we're born. Spanish researchers recently catalogued the microbiome of breast milk and found some surprising fluctuation during lactation. more

Virtual Safari

Editorial (January 18th, 2013) In need of an army of enthusiastic ‘research assistants’, who happily help you out with your big project – for free? Citizen science can do that for you. Oxford-based citizen science portal Zooniverse recently launched Snapshot Serengeti and was overwhelmed by the response. more

Confessions of a Postdoc (6) - The Art of Unwinding

Editorial (January 15th, 2013) Until December 2010, Anjana Nityanandam shared her inner thoughts, experiences and feelings that come with being a postdoc with us. Now she’s back with fresh insights into the world of a research scientist that many are probably all too familiar with. more

On our Way to Win the War on Cancer

Editorial (January 11th, 2013) For almost half a century, scientists have desperately been trying to find a cure for cancer. Maybe, so far, they have looked the wrong way? Nobel laureate James Watson recently published his own hypothesis and a strategy to leave the battle ground victoriously. more

The Scienticks (12): The Final Time Point

Editorial (January 8th, 2013) The experiment has been completed and the swapped mice returned home. Enjoy reading the twelfth episode of our science thriller The Scienticks by Nanür. more

5 Questions to... Eric Parmentier

Editorial (January 4th, 2013) Communication is vital to many aspects of life. This is true not only for land animals and plants but also deep down in the oceans, among fish. Clownfish and piranhas are especially good study subjects. Last year, Eric Parmentier's group heard piranhas bark. more


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