Why go to journal club?

Journal club at the CIDD has had a sporadic history. In theory, we like the idea. In practice, we disagree on which papers to read, we sometimes don’t read the papers and we struggle with numbers. This year we’ve decided to join forces with biology grad students who started a symbiosis journal club last fall to fill the journal club niche that has been open in the CIDD community.

The symbiosis journal club meets once per month, usually on the first Tuesday. Symbioses include parasite-host relationships but also extend to mutualisms. CIDD grads might not spend much time thinking about mutualism, but these relationships often impact diasease outcomes, as has been shown nicely in mutualistic human gut microbes preventing colonization of pathogenic bacteria and salamanders receiving protection from chitrid fungus by associating with a mutualist skin bacteria. Learning more about mutualism might be useful for us disease folk.

Why else should we go to journal club? Here are 5 reasons to attend symbiosis journal club next month.

  1. It’s fun. We drink beer and talk about science.
  2. Learn something new. This month I learned that dinoflagellates can acquire new genes through horizontal gene transfer. They’re eukaryotes. I didn’t know eukaryotes did this! They can basically collect DNA from things they eat and take it into their nucleus. Crazy crazy.
  3. Practice for candidacy. If you’re a first or second year, journal club is a great venue to practice reviewing papers from our field before taking your candidacy exam.
  4. Get outside your comfort zone. Whenever I see a paper that was written by a geneticist, I get a little bit scared. Journal club is an opportunity to read papers that are written in a different “language”. Grad students from different lab groups and research interests have the chance to teach each other concepts that would be difficult to get through alone.
  5. Meet friends and collaborators. We are our own future colleagues. Talking about science in a more casual setting than work, and with scientists we don’t usually work with is a great chance for making interdisciplinary connections and broadening social horizons.

February’s journal club is on Tuesday, February 7 at 6 p.m. at Local Whiskey downtown. The paper to be discussed is on a symbiosis between a fruit fly and cactus. Read the paper here and see the write-up in Discover magazine to get an idea of how the media communicated the science.

About johannaohm

Johanna Ohm is a graduate student in Biology at Penn State University.
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