Saturday 9 November 2013

E-mail - dark social media? I think not...

Yesterday evening I took part in a discussion with Alan Carr about the use of email in teaching, and for day-to-day communication.

I won't repeat my views and opinions on email here, but you can read them over at Scitable:

  1. My hypothesis: e-mail is evil and deserves to die!
  2. Problems with email….. I appear to have touched a nerve...
  3. What is wrong with e-mail? Can it be fixed?
  4. What is wrong with e-mail? Can it be fixed? - The Programmers
  5. What is wrong with e-mail? Can it be fixed? - The Receiver and the dreaded FYI
  6. What is wrong with e-mail? Can it be fixed? - The Receiver and meta-data
  7. What is wrong with e-mail? Can it be fixed? - The Sender
  8. What is wrong with e-mail? Can it be fixed? - My battle to get e-mail working again - some tips and suggestions

Needless to say, I am not a fan of email... (as you may be able to guess from some of the above post titles).

Anyway, Alan is a fan, and kindly invited me along to his session at SpotOn London 2013 to talk about why I think email is bad, and as I am currently overseas I made a short video making my case (hopefully) why email is such a problem just in case we couldn't get the Skype connection to work on the day.

Friday 25 October 2013

Observing and genotyping C. elegans

Had a fun day yesterday doing the "C. elegans" practical, which is part of the first-year labs. In the practical, we got to look at live C. elegans, and also set up some PCR reactions to genotype some wildtype and mutant C. elegans. All fun stuff.

Below is a movie we shot of the worms on the day of the practical, as well as some stills from the microscopes.






Sunday 13 October 2013

Fun and games with Paramecium

Last week we had our annual first-year 'paramecium practical'. The aims of the session were to familiarise the students with the microscopes and to also introduce unicellular organisms.

In the UK we order the paramecium for the practical from a local supplier. However, in Malaysia, despite 4 months of searching, I was unable to find a supplier. This left me with three options:

  1. Don't do the practical
  2. Find an alternative supplier
  3. Culture my own…

I tried to find an alternative supplier (paramecium are used to feed baby fish), but none of the local pet stores stocked them - although I did get a rather nice bag of water fleas (Daphnia).

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A bag of Water Flea - Daphnia


A Water Flea - Daphnia

Finally, I decided to culture them.

After a quick read around the Internet, I found a recipe for culture media and some advice on where to find paramecium.

The general advice for 'hunting' paramecium is to take water from close to the top or the edge of a pond. In the end, I took a sample of water from the surface, plus some material from the bottom of the pond. This was allowed to settle overnight (see photo below).

The culture media consisted of dog biscuits, and 4 or 5 cm2 of lettuce leaf, in water.

IMG 5128

Dog Biscuits

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Lettuce Leaf

IMG 5127


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Pond Water - a mixture of material from the bottom of the pond, and water from the surface and edge

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Two culture bottles and a bottle of bond water

I set up three bottles, two culture media, and a bottle of pond water. These were left overnight.

And the next morning… The pond water had cleared, and the bottles with dog biscuits and lettuce were cloudy (the cloudiness was caused by bacteria growing) - these will be a food source for the paramecium.

One of the 'culture media' bottles was seeded with 20 ml of water from the top of the pond bottle, and the other with 20 ml of water collected near the vegetation at the bottom of the pond bottle.

IMG 5138

Next morning - the three bottles…..

An examination of the pond water under a microscope revealed the presence of paramecium, but not that many.


There were also some other ciliates present…


Over the next 12 days, the cultures got progressively more cloudy and exceedingly smelly.

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12 days after adding the pond water

Of the two culture bottles, the one seeded with water from the top of the pond bottle produced the best (most and largest) paramecium, and the best place to harvest the paramecium was from the top 5 - 10 mm of the bottle, and in particular the layer of 'scum' that had formed on the top of the water. Paramecium taken from elsewhere in the bottle tended to be smaller.



The movie below was shot during the practical.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

It is all in the name…. Why am I (not) Dr Nick?

In Malaysia, I am called Dr Nick.... And I couldn't understand why... Today I found out.

In Malaysia, there are no family names, as in Morris, Smith, Jones etc. Your last name is your father's first name, so if my father's first name was Ian then I would be Nick Ian. Hence as I am Dr Nick Morris this suggests that my father's first name was Morris, and Dr Morris would be my father!

This can get odd for a woman as they would be Julie Ian, and so would be Ms Ian if the European convention was followed....

Thanks to The Simpsons Dr Nick has a certain 'feeling' about it.... and you can read more about Dr Nick of Simpson fame over at Wikipedia.

Thursday 28 February 2013

Paper published - Adiponectin corrects high fat diet-induced disturbances in muscle metabolomic profile and whole body glucose homeostasis

Great to finally see a paper that I was working on last year out in print….

Liu,Y., Turdi,S., Park,T., Morris,N.J., Deshaies,Y., Xu,A. & Sweeney,G. Adiponectin corrects high fat diet-induced disturbances in muscle metabolomic profile and whole body glucose homeostasis (2013) Diabetes 62 743-752

Pubmed Link:

There is also a very nice commentary (subscription required) at:

The others did all the hard work, I just applied my geeky computing skills to crunch and analyse all the lovely data that was produced. Happy days!