Bob Blasdel is an American doctoral student in the Laboratory of Gene Technology at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Leuven, Belgium. He is a board member of the PhageBiotics Foundation and is currently studying the transcriptome of bacteriophage infected Pseudomonas aeruginosa cells through RNA-Seq analysis. Indeed, while the advent of sequencing technology has led to an explosion in the number of available phage genomes, only detailed transcriptome studies can reveal regulatory elements and operon structures essential to understanding their function. Bob is interested in T4 physiology, molecular genetics, why cows and other ruminants tend to align on a north/south axis, viral ecology and evolution, ambitiously experimental beer and wine projects, how nucleoid occlusion could possibly work, the mysterious intersections between biofilm ecology and defense against parasitoid DNAs in Pseudomonas, the intricacies of nucleotide substitution and modification of in phage takeover of cellular metabolism, and the therapeutic applications of bacteriophages.
Steve Abedon is an Associate Professor of Microbiology at The Ohio State University, where he has served on the faculty, primarily as an instructor of undergraduates, since 1995. His principal research interest is in the evolutionary ecology of bacteriophages, a.k.a., phages, which are Earth’s most prevalent category of viruses, while viruses are Earth’s most abundant category of ‘organisms’. This interest he pursues from both basic science and applied perspectives, organismal evolutionary adaptation and the use of phages as ‘antibiotics’ – phage therapy – respectively. He sees the core of his scientific training as being in biochemistry, having received his BS in that subject, but overlain with a strong tendency to explore issues of organism-level phenotype and ultimate causation.
In the ~20 years since receiving his Ph.D. – in Microbiology with a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (University of Arizona, 1990) – he has published over 70 articles, chapters, and other ‘citable units’. The latter includes involvement in the editing of four volumes, one as contributing editor (“with editorial assistance by…”, The Bacteriophages2/e, 2006, Oxford University Press), one as sole editor (Bacteriophage Ecology, 2008, Cambridge University Press), one as co-editor (Hyman and Abedon, Bacteriophages in Health and Disease, 2012, CABI Press, and one as editor of a special topics issue of the journal Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology (The ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of Phage Therapy, 2010, Bentham Scientific). He has also written one book (Bacteriophages and Biofilms, 2011, Nova Scientific) and has drafted two textbooks (Microbes and Evolution and Biology as Poetry: Introductory Biology). In addition, he founded, in 1996, the Bacteriophage Ecology Group (phage.org), an ensemble of all things phage ecological. In his spare time he cooks (Schezuan Chinese-inspired), tends to his family (two children and loving wife), takes care of his ‘farm’ (when there isn’t any snow about), and otherwise skis as much as possible.
Originally from Schoten, Belgium, Evelien Adriaenssens studied Bioscience Engineering at the University of Leuven, Belgium. During her MSc she majored in Plant Production with a minor in Cell and Gene Biotechnology and graduated in 2008. That year She started her PhD on the use of bacteriophages against a rot-causing bacteria of potato. This was a collaboration between the Laboratory of Gene Technology of the University of Leuven and the unit Plant – Crop protection of the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research Flanders. After receiving her PhD degree in September 2012, she worked as a postdoc for three months on the classification and taxonomy of bacteriophages.
In March 2013, she joined the Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics at the University of Pretoria under Prof Don Cowan. Her main focus is on metaviromics of extreme habitats such as the Namibian desert and Antarctic desert communities. She will also be involved in the metagenomics project concerning these habitats.
Jessica Sacher is a PhD student in Dr. Christine Szymanski’s Microbial Glycobiology lab at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where she has been since 2010 or 2012, depending on when you want to start counting. She was mostly raised in Alberta and so has, most unexcitingly, not ventured too far away from home, but you’d be right if you guessed that Edmonton must just be THAT lovely. As part of the “Phage Group” of the Szymanski lab, Jessica studies the interactions between bacteriophages and bacterial sugars during the phage infection process, where her experiments involve trying to clone genes into Campylobacter and staring into electron microscopes, mostly. When she is not sciencing, she enjoys friendly discussions on linguistic issues such as whether phage should be pluralized with an ‘s’ or not, and will happily talk about horses for hours on end. She thoroughly enjoys science communication (the idea of it, especially, but also the practice of it, when she has time), is slightly addicted to enthusiastically saying yes to extracurricular activities, and fervently hopes to find some time to do some research in the coming years in the spaces between these things.
Shawna McCallin is doing her doctoral studies in Philippe Moreillon’s lab at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Raised in Amish country of Lancaster,Pennsylvania, she originally moved to Switzerland as an au pair to work on her French, but fell in love with the mountains and just never left. After her masters in medical biology in phage lysins, she went to work under the supervision of Harald Brüssow on the metagenomics of Russian phage cocktails & the Bangladesh trial of using phages for the treatment of E. coli diarrhea. She is continuing part of this work with characterizing novel groups of phages in different Russian cocktails and will be doing the microbial evaluation of clinical samples from the upcoming PhagoBurn trial (http://www.phagoburn.eu/).
Stuart McEwen is a PhD student working in Heather Allison’s group in Liverpool, United Kingdom. The key focus of his PhD project revolves around understanding the adsorption process of ϕ24B and the implications on the potential bacterial host range. So far this has involved creating a specific library of isogenic mutants between mentoring undergraduate students and he is now looking forward to progressing onto actually discovering how this has led to (and will lead to more) host range jumps of Shiga toxin encoding phages.
Coming from a BSc in biochemistry with an interest in protein-protein interactions, the world of phages seems a rather intimidating one to try to jump into at first. He hopes that being able to contribute to and interact with the readers of this blog will provide a more immersive experience for him, even if it feels like being thrown in at the deep end!
Outside of the lab, Stuart enjoys cycling, logic problems and making Firefly references whenever he can. He even reserves much-needed enthusiasm for use as an outreach volunteer in schools and the local museum.