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 based at NUMed in Malaysia I made a short video making my case (hopefully) why email is such a problem just incase we couldn't get the Skype connection to work on the day.

Friday, 25 October 2013

BMN1004 Observing and genotyping C. elegans

Had a fun day yesterday doing the "C. elegans" practical, which is part of the first year labs on the Biomedical Sciences degree at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed). In the practical we got to look at live C. elegans, and also set up a some PCR reactions to genotype some wildtype and mutant C. elegans. All fun stuff.

The live observations section of the practical couldn't have taken place without the expert help of Dr Ronen Zaidel Bar and his team over at National University of Singapore who were kind enough to help us out with a couple of plates of C. elegans for the live observations. Thanks!!

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 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.

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Dog Biscuits

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Lettuce Leaf

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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 nd

I set up three bottles, two culture media, and 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.

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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 these 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.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

How do I get my marks and feedback on Blackboard

Blackboard also gives you access to your mark and feedback at the end of an assessment and it is important that you look at these as you will be able to see what you got right, what you got wrong, and also review additional information that may help you improve for your next assessment. This short video shows how you can get your marks and feedback on Blackboard.

How do I know if I have submitted successfully on Blackboard?

It is important to check whether or not you have successfully submitted your work on Blackboard as a failure to submit can result in lost marks. This short video explains how you can check.

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 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).

Friday, 1 March 2013

Newcastle University - Institute of Cell and Molecular Biosciences, (ICaMB) and social media

As part of the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) degree we are offering at Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) students will get to spend their final year of the degree in the UK at the School of Biomedical Sciences. The reason the final year (whereas the first two years are at our NUMed campus) is based in the UK is because it is a research intensive year consisting of lectures from a number of world leading researchers based in 7 research institutes across campus. Plus, the students have to complete a final year research project, and for that they may be based in one of the research institutes.

One of the institutes that will be teaching students in their final year at Newcastle University, UK, and in which students may be based for their projects, is the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biosciences (ICaMB) and they have just set up a series of social media sites that give access to information on what is going on in the Institute. You can catch up on their latest news at:

Or their own blog: ICaMB – Inside Cells and Molecules Blog

You can read about some of their thinking behind why they are doing this in Social Media from an Institutional Perspective – Why are we on there?.

So, if you are thinking of coming coming to NUMed to study BMS you can get a sneak peak at what is going on in research at Newcastle UK by having a look at the above social media...


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!