ABOUT Stephanie Swift

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Stephanie Swift is a British postdoctoral scientist at McMaster University, Canada, where she works to understand how viruses interact with the immune system. She writes about lots of different aspects of science, and is very pleased to live in a wonderfully intricate world full of glorious things to write about.

 

Stephanie Swift: All Posts

 
 

Where should I send this darned manuscript, anyway?

Posted 12 December 2014 by Stephanie Swift

As an academic scientist, this question usually hits you right after you've written your results section, but haven't had a chance to square up to the pit of seething hell that is the discussion. It's a blissful point where you can stop and carve out a moment to joyfully delay the inevitable. There are a few ways to choose which journal will have the honour of taking on your magnificent manuscript. Nail, meet hammer The bluntest approach is to go... Read more

Trials funded by rich patients could help find cures for us all

Posted 7 November 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Disease can affect any person, rich or poor. While your bank balance can’t really protect you from getting sick, it could potentially buy you – and many other patients – access to a better treatment for your disease. A new “plutocratic proposal” put forward by Alexander Masters enlists wealthy patients to both fund and participate in clinical trials alongside other patients who could benefit from an otherwise untested new treatment. Developing a new treatment can be a long and expensive... Read more

Tracking the Daily Microbiome

Posted 1 September 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Humans are essentially 90% bacteria. These bacteria pepper our skin and hang out in our digestive tracts, helping to break down complex carbohydrates and keeping bad bugs in check. We know how the human microbiome (our collection of bacteria) gets seeded during the birth process, and we know how bacterial populations change in the aftermath of a biological apocalyse, such as their human host taking a course of antibiotics. Yet we know very little about how the microbiome changes on... Read more

Plastic bags responsible for outrageous lack of cute pink piglets

Posted 28 July 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Credit: Margaret Ackland, Plastic Bag, Oil on Linen Most of us now subscribe to the idea that plastic bags are bad for the environment. Hence, droves of people turn up at their local supermarket with a sturdy jute bag in tow. Now, there’s evidence that the items that get placed into plastic bags also have a terrible time, especially if they’re biological in origin. Take the case of pig farmers in Spain. In Spring 2010, 41 farms across Spain reported... Read more

The science behind FIFA’s footballs

Posted 16 June 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Lovers and haters of the World Cup alike can’t fail to be amazed by the skills of some professional footballers. Like David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo. But while some footballers have been blessed by biology, it’s not just the combined genetic talent of a player or a team that leads to a stunning win or a sorry loss. According to scientists at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, the aerodynamic performance of a football can introduce a skill set all... Read more

Watching it Burn: Soil Microbes vs. Wildfires

Posted 5 May 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Wildfires can devastate ecosystems across the world. In 2012, over 67,000 wildfires raced across more than 9 million acres of land in the US alone. Fuelled by wind and parched vegetation, wildfires burn through everything in their path: plants don’t stand a chance, and even mobile animals struggle to outpace the flames. But what impact do wildfires have on the beasties that live deep down in the soil? For example, soil-dwelling microbes, like bacteria? These incredibly important organisms help ecosystems... Read more

Swimming with Viruses

Posted 21 April 2014 by Stephanie Swift

You can find viruses everywhere: in the soil, in the clouds and in animals. According to scientists from the University of Oldenburg in Germany, there are also a ridiculous number of viruses buried at sea, in the sediments of the oceans. These sedimentary viruses don’t lie dormant on the seabed, but actively replicate down in the fathoms, even in the gyres of the ocean where most forms of life can’t be sustained since organic carbon is a scarce commodity. By... Read more

More evidence that red wine and aspirin protect against cancer

Posted 14 February 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Cancer is a disease of genes. DNA mutations mess with the genetic content of a cell, enabling it to escape the normal controls that restrict their growth. Now, a team of scientists led by Delphine Lissa and Guido Kroemer at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris have begun exploring ways to slow or stop the formation of cells containing multiple copies of chromosomes, which they think are an essential intermediate in cancer formation. Normal healthy cells... Read more

Bright Night Lights: Tracking Light Pollution from Space

Posted 3 February 2014 by Stephanie Swift

The creep and sprawl of artificial urban lighting is probably the most pervasive technological innovation of the 20th century. Keeping track of how artificial light is changing Europe’s nightscape is important, since more light is typically associated with greater economic development and urban expansion, but moderating light consumption helps to stabilise the ecosystem and energy security. Scientists have recently used satellite night images going back as far as 1992 (publicly available from the Defense Meterological Satellite Program databank) to analyse... Read more

Where in the body do our emotions lie?

Posted 17 January 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Emotions are strange things, bursting over us as we react to life’s joys and challenges. While they might be thought of as ethereal entities with no fixed form or function, emotions actually produce very tangible physical reactions throughout the body. These emotionally-driven physical reactions are important for surviving in the real world. For example, fear generates a helpful physical response that prepares your body to fight or flee. But we don’t really know if an emotion can fuel a reaction... Read more