Greetings and salutations, Scientopians. It's very exciting to join you for the next couple weeks on the Guest Blogge. I've oft dreamt of one day calling myself a gentleman*, and in that spirit allow me to formally introduce myself.
My name is Joe Hanson, and I'm a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. You may know me on Twitter as @jtotheizzoe. Or you may not. If you're wondering where that handle came from, allow me to drop the bass.
I'm completely Bubbles-on-a-bender addicted to communicating the beauty and wonder of science. I publish a blog called It's Okay To Be Smart over on Tumblr. Earlier this year I was named as one of the 30 Must-Read Tumblrs by Time Magazine. I know what you might be thinking: "Is that like a trophy for best LOLcat blog on a network of LOLcat blogs?" The answer is no. I'm going to devote some of my time here to discussing the ever-expanding forums available for science communication, Tumblr included, because it's important that anyone who wants to can find a place where they are comfortable talking about science their way. As it stands, Tumblr is dropping 15 billion page-views a month to over 100 million people, putting it in the Big Leagues alongside Twitter and Facebook when it comes to moving information.
But at the end of the day it's still a micro-blogging platform. And I do like to write wordy posts, and I've even done it well once or twice. So glad that Scientopia gave me the opportunity to share with you all.
Research-wise, I qualify as some unique hybrid of a molecular biologist and biochemist. My current brand of biology is the study of mobile genetic elements. If you think of the multitude of ways that the human genome differs from say, E. coli, one of the most striking is that our genes are interrupted by innumerable introns, a precise stoccato of fragmented information producing new orders of genetic complexity within an organism like ourselves. If we trace introns back through time, following the footsteps of their invasion of higher genomes, we discover that they likely began as a selfish RNA element, just trying to survive by splicing hither, thither and yon. These early and complex ribozymes have always reminded me of what we could term life's simplest retrovirus, and there's some evidence that that could be true.
We RNA people get very excited about this kind of stuff. I study a little piece of the intron puzzle, trying to figure out how, like House of Pain, one of the little buggers jumps around.
Ok, I can see you tapping your foot and waiting for me to stop saying hello. On with the show! If you're feeling polite, you can say hi too 🙂