Friday coffee break

rem:everybody hurts

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

Over at The Molecular Ecologist, Jeremy offered up some advice for grad students from a postdoc’s perspective, and invites contributions to a blog carnival of “Knowing What I Know Now.”

I can’t claim to have any blinding new insights — my own career is very much still under construction. But I’ve been interacting with a number of freshly-arrived graduate students this semester, and I’ve found myself thinking, after conversations with them, about what I might have done differently back when I was looking ahead to five (oops, six) years of grad school — and about what I did that worked out pretty well.

From Sarah: An English hospital stops an outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus using intensive DNA sequencing.

Doctors were concerned after MRSA was detected in 12 babies during routine screening.

However, current tests could not tell if it was one single outbreak being spread around the unit or if they were separate cases being brought into the hospital. About one in 100 people carry MRSA on their skin without any health problems.

To find out, researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Sanger Institute embarked on more sophisticated version of a paternity test.

They compared the entire genetic code of MRSA bugs from each baby to build a family tree. It showed they were all closely related and part of the same outbreak.

From Jon: A new polymer has the properties that could make it ideal as “skin” for prosthetic limbs — it’s flexible, electrically conductive, touch-sensitive, and self-healing.

Writing in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers detail how they increased the conductivity of a self-healing polymer by incorporating nickel atoms, allowing electrons to “jump” between the metal atoms. The polymer is sensitive to applied forces like pressure and torsion (twisting) because such forces alter the distance between the nickel atoms, affecting the difficulty the electrons have jumping from one to the other and changing the electrical resistance of the polymer.

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