Author: fanismis

I was born in Canada, grew up in Greece, where I studied Biology. My Ph.D. was at the Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Goettingen, in conjuction with the University of Guelph; I worked on reactive oxygen species within cells of the little Drosophila fly. I then moved to its handling of iron at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda Maryland; added copper, zinc, manganese and molybdenum during my first independent position at Queen Mary University of London; Presently my metal biology lab at the CINVESTAV del IPN in Mexico City is extending to the study of phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, sodium & potasium thanks to the generosity of the Conacyt that enabled us with an inductive coupled plasma optic emmission spectrometer :)

Hong Kong University Student Union article on Matthew Evans

I provide translation of an article published by Jason Tsui in Undergrad, HKUSU. The views represented are not mine, however the overall sentiment of this article agrees with my personal view of what a bad idea it was for the University of Hong Kong to offer a position of responsibility to someone with a track-record in dismantling successful academic departments. The article mentions that 30 colleagues were fired by the application of Evan’s restructuring criteria. This is an error in fact. In reality, 11 members of staff were declared at risk of redundancy. Possibly there was confusion with parallel recruitment adverts for 30 staff during the sacking of their peers or with voluntary departures to better-managed institutions, which eventually have risen the number of departures to almost 40 (without including departures of new staff that joined the School after 2012). The author also appears to have misunderstood that Prof John Allen’s claim for unfair dismissal was successful. Matthew Evans’ vindictive behaviour against John Allen ammounted to breach of contract. My petition for John Allen’s reinstatement stands.

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El águila y la serpiente

The eagle and the snake are a symbol on Mexico’s flag, whose origins are unclear. They are also the title of a revolutionary novel, written by Martín Luis Guzmán, published in 1928. The Mexican Academy of the Spanish Language asked Susana Quintanilla to compile a critical edition of El áquila y la serpiente. Today, she presented a moving account of the effort involved. During her talk, she showed what looked like a published book, although I couldn’t find evidence of its existence online.  I can only recommend, instead, her article in Letras Libres (in Spanish).

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These are lies, Dicky, not misrepresentations

This is how Dicky Clymo, emeritus professor at Queen Mary University of London, came into my life. First, he taught me about iron pans in peatlands. Second, he taught me that calling someone who is conveying a false statement a liar has implications (difficult to know and/or prove) over a) the person’s knowledge of the truth, and b) the person’s intention to confuse, manipulate or cheat her audience. A polite gentleman, he advised me to use instead the phrase that X manager was misrepresenting Y or Z fact or opinion. (more…)

Are we failing to scientifically educate the next generations?

Merope Tsimilli-Michael, after giving a talk at a conference in honor of George Papageorgiou, where John Allen also participated, asked his opinion on her presentation. In turn, John introduced me to Merope a few months later,  while in Mexico (through Skype). I read with interest what she and Pierre Haldimann had to say.

For more than twenty years we have witnessed worrying changes in science… The first symptom was that a number of publications contained serious flaws… the frequency of low quality publications has steadily increased.

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Δειλινό δίλημμα

Ήταν πολύ όμορφη. Πράσινα μάτια, πλούσια κατσαρά μαλλιά, καλλίγραμμη. Κάπως ασυνήθιστο για τέτοια παρουσία, λιγομίλητη και μαζεμένη. Μίλαγε περισσότερο ο άντρας της, κι εκείνος ωραίος, με μάτια που καρφώνανε, αλλά και σε κοιτάζανε σε βάθος, έτσι που σε κέρδιζαν πολύ γρήγορα. Μίλαγε, φαίνεται, και για τους δυο. Ειδικά όταν πήγαινε η κουβέντα στην αγάπη του για τις μοτοσικλέτες – του άρεσε να διηγείται πώς όταν την πρωτογνώρισε εκείνη δίσταζε να ανέβει, αλλά σύντομα οι βόλτες τους καβάλα ήταν η καλύτερή της! Όταν γεννήθηκε η κόρη της, αποφάσισε να τις κόψει. Το μητρικό ένστικτο μαζί με όσα μαθαίνανε από τον κύκλο του συζύγου (η μηχανή έχει κινδύνους κι είχε χάσει φίλο γκαρδιακό). Αλλά εκείνον τον άφηνε, ευτυχώς έλεγε και χαμογελούσε. Οι στροφές στα δάση έξω από την πόλη υπάρχουν για να τις κατεβαίνουμε η παρέα, έλεγε. Τα μάτια του και το χαμόγελο. Αυτά ερωτεύτηκε το δίχως άλλο, καθρέφτες μιας ψυχής έξω καρδιά.

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Origin of the genetic code

Wolfgang Nitschke and Michael J. Russell have proposed a race to beat the acetyl coenzyme A-pathway to the origin of life. I see no alternative stance to the one they hold assuming a continuity of biology from its begginings to the present day. Their considerations of how a primordial metabolism could arise on the Hadean planet are the best treatment of the subject known to me. No mystery how to “hydrogenate carbon” – Michael’s reduction of life’s primary activity on the planet – and arrive from carbon dioxide and hydrogen (with the help of metals of course!) to acetate or formamide. (more…)