I am a research scientist with a background in medical and environmental microbiology, and have made a career out of combining my twin passions of bioluminescence (the production of light by living organisms — think glow worms and fireflies) and microorganisms. That is, I make bacteria glow in the dark.  After many years working in the UK, I was recently awarded a Hercus Fellowship from the Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand and relocated to the University of Auckland. My research is currently focused on investigating three particularly nasty bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus (the hospital superbug MRSA), Streptococcus pyogenes (the flesh-eating bug) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB, the cause of ‘consumption’ suffered by many romantic poets). Being a microbiologist, posts on this blog are likely to focus on microorganisms and health/vaccination stories in the news.

While I am quite used to writing research grants and journal publications, these tend to involve copious amounts of verbal diarrhoea so I welcome comments and suggestions that will help make my ‘infectious thoughts’ more palatable for general public consumption. It goes without saying that the views expressed in this blog are my own and in no way represent the views of the University of Auckland or the HRC. Oh, and just for the record, I am not in the pay of big pharma.

The motivation for ‘infectious thoughts’

Recently I read Trick or Treatment, by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, reviewing the evidence for the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine. Despite no evidence for the success of these treatments, they are widely used. In the final chapter, the authors list their top 10 reasons why this might be. Surprisingly, scientists are on their list. Singh and Ernst argue that alternative health practitioners are highly vocal and many of their claims go unchallenged. They believe scientists have a responsibility to make their voices heard too. Unarguably science and the scientific method are under attack by highly organised and well funded propaganda groups. Be it climate change, evolution or vaccination, it is clear that if scientists want to influence the discussion we have to take part in it; nothing will be achieved shouting from the sidelines. I found Singh and Ernst’s call to arms inspirational and it has been the motivation I needed to become more involved in science communication, hence starting this blog. I am also a presenter of The Completely Unnecessary Skeptical Podcast (CUSP), a monthly discussion of skeptical issues in the news.

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