Job satisfaction: helping flatworms to chill out
Categories: Tree of Life8 May 20182.4 min read

On Job Satisfaction

People often seem to gripe about their job but I, however, am happy to put myself firmly in the ‘extremely satisfied’ category. Besides from working on one of the coolest projects at a world-renowned science-y place I think the main reason might be the sheer diversity of what I do.

Here are some of the things that I’ve been up to over the past few weeks.

Communing with nature

I had a wander out to the Genome Campus wetlands to find the Himalayan Balsam). The plant’s Latin name Impatiens glandulifera comes from the way it spreads its seeds – when disturbed the seed pods explode, flinging the seeds out to a distance of up to 7 meters!

So why was I wandering about a nature reserve? Well, we had run out of the sample we collected last year for genome sequencing. The new sample will be used to test DNA recovery methods before the nice people at Reading University send samples of Himalayan Balsam that are resistant to the rust fungus used to control its spread.

Exporting Golden Eagle heart

I’ve drafted a CITES (it’s the treaty that governs endangered species samples) application for exporting some Golden Eagle heart for analysis in the US.

Being a Bat-man

Discussed the ins and outs [pardon the pun] of dissecting a bat.

Working the numbers

Made a list of all recorded species in the UK, then assigned them into families and worked out the average genome size and total amount of sequence that represents. In case you were wondering, it amounts to 85,000,000,000,000 letters [bases] of DNA- or the equivalent of over 20 million copies of war and peace.

Helping worms to chill out

Received some slimy worms in the post, put them in a fridge.

Bought (with my own money) some clay granules to try and make the worms a little more comfortable- they act as a contaminant free soil that keep them nice and moist.

Pre-fridge, this is what a reasonably happy flatworm looks like

Pre-fridge, this is what a reasonably happy flatworm looks like

Calling on the kindness of my wife

Booked on a conference in Vienna (nice), found out I need to fly the day I’m coming back from a christening from Manchester and return to LHR (not so nice). This is not the main problem however- it means my wife needs to drive for 3 hours with two adorable over-sized bacterial/viral culture vessels (I call them Alex and Ben). Much apologies were given.

Becoming an accomplished host

Arranged catering for a meeting (also re-arranged the chairs/tables)

Had numerous tele-conferences with participants in Germany, USA, China, Hungary etc.

About the author

Dan Mead is the 25th Anniversary Sequencing Project Coordinator, for the 25 Genomes Project for the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge.

More on the 25 Genomes Project