Author Archives: KCBauer

About KCBauer

Hello! My name is KCBauer and I am a PhD student at the University of British Columbia. I am a researcher, writer, musician, and explorer. Originally from Washington DC, I graduated with a BA in Music and BS in Biology in 2014. This blog focuses on the gut microbiota, the trillions of microorganisms that reside along the digestive tract. My grad research at UBC examines the role of the gut microbiota on human health, brain development, and anthropology. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy ambling through Vancity, listening to music, reading science journals, and hiking. If you have questions, ideas for blog topics, suggestions for place to visit in BC, or corrections send me an email at KCBauer@msl.ubc.ca.

ON THE VIRTUE OF NARROW STAIRS

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When you leave the selfie-stick purchased for SE Asia in Canada…

(Or…A Day in Angkor)

Hello from SE Asia!

My spring in Singapore has been a valuable learning experience. For the past 1.5 months, I’ve had the opportunity to attend microbiome conferences, gain new lab techniques, and work with an incredible research team at the Nanyang Technological University. Stay tuned for more Singapore updates in a future Skope post!

Of course, a perk about living in a new country is celebrating an added holiday—as you’ll recall from Holidaze! Unlike North America, Singapore observes Labour Day on May 1—the International Worker’s Day. I decided to explore Singapore’s northern neighbors during the Labour day weekend. The highlight of my whirlwind adventure was Angkor. Angkor, the ancient centre of the Khmer dynasty, lies a few miles north of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The site contains beautiful Khmer temples, notably the magnificent Angkor Wat (built by King Suryavarman II and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Angkor Thom (the stone-headed temple of King Jayavarman VII), Baphuon (featuring a 70-meter reclining Buddha), and Ta Phrom (Tomb Raider temple)! Originally built for Hindu worship, many of these sites were later transformed into Buddhist temples. The stone carvings reveal scenes from daily life and a blend of Hindu and Buddhist iconography.

A knowledgeable guide (thanks Mr. Sophea!) from the Happy Angkor Tour showed me around the park.  Our first stop was at a quiet mountain temple. I climbed 5 stories of VERY NARROW stairs to see the reclining Buddha. While erosion certainly contributed to stair loss, my guide explained that steep, narrow staircases are an important feature of Khmer temples. Narrow stairs remind visitors that the path to heaven is never easy. Wide stairs invite a certain complacency—an opportunity to tarry near the earth during your ascent to the gods.

For me, the virtue of narrow stairs is to accept the challenge of the ascent. Graduate school has provided me with ample challenges—learning new lab techniques (troubleshooting said techniques), altering research directions, learning new analysis methods, writing papers, preparing for comprehensive exams, improving time management, building resilience, project planning (and re-planning). The amount of false starts and failures involved in this process occasionally feels daunting. But perhaps if getting a PhD was easy, I’d spend too long lingering and less time growing as a scientist. Vacation was awesome—but I’m ready to climb.

What’s your challenge? Accept the ascent—the reward at the top might amaze you.

Blessings,

KCB

This picture does not do the staircase justice. If ascending was a challenge—descending was (momentarily!) slightly terrifying. Many ledges were only wide enough to accommodate one sneaker!

PS—Tips for Visiting Ankor

If you have the opportunity to visit and learn about the complex history of Cambodia—you should definitely stop at Siem Reap/Angkor. While visiting the park…

  • Don’t withdraw or exchange Cambodia riel—it is almostimpossible to exchange the money when you leave the country. Unfortunately, high inflation rates have eroded the riel’s value. Many places accept, even prefer, US dollars.
  • If you are on a tight schedule, I would recommend booking a tour company (check out: http://happyangkortour.com). Due to the park’s size, walking is not an option! Bike rentals and tuk-tuks are an inexpensive option—just do some homework/route planning beforehand! There are many hidden gems around the park. Whatever your mode, wear comfortable shoes, you’ll do a lot of walking and climbing at each temple site.
  • These are still active worship sites—be respectful in dress and behavior.

 

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CONGRATULATIONS

(Or…when your boss becomes inducted in CMHF)

Congratulations to Dr. B. Brett Finlay, a 2018 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) laureate. The CMHF organization celebrates past and present medical professionals and/or biomedical researchers. This year CMHF inducted six members: Dr. Philip Berger, Dr. B. Brett Finlay, Dr. Vladimir Hachinski, Dr. Balfour Mount, Dr. Cheryl Rockman-Greenberg, and Dr. Emily Stowe. To learn more about their amazing work see the CMHF website link below.

Check out the video of Finlay research–you might even spot a 1st year KCBSkope!

 

When applying for grad school I think it is important to find a researcher/lab that not only supports your research growth, but also fosters career and personal development. This spring I’m excited for the opportunity to work at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore as part of an international collaboration.

Stay tuned for more microbial exploring in Singapore!

Congrats Dr. Finlay!

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Humans and the Microbiome Program, Singapore

For more, see: http://www.cdnmedhall.org

 

Kylynda at UBC

(Or…just some more about my grad school experience)

Recently, the UBC Graduate School website published a “Meet Our Students” interview of my research and academic journey at UBC. See the link below to check out the full article and learn more about my research and the research of other grad students at UBC.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR NEW GRADUATE STUDENTS?

Pursue an abundant life. Explore opportunities to improve personal wellness and serve your community. Secondly, remember that everyone experiences failures. Failures often equip us with more knowledge, resilience, and new opportunities than momentary successes. So be kind to yourself. You will be ok.

https://www.grad.ubc.ca/campus-community/meet-our-students/bauer-kylynda

As Jan 2018 comes to a close (time flies!!), I’m wishing you all an abundant life. Let’s try to be kinder to ourselves this year.

–Happy Exploring

IMG_4548.jpg Just my lab bench ♥

 

 

 

A Winter Tale

(Or, First Time Skiing in 2018!)

Today I briefly fled from the fog and rain of the lower mainland and headed north for an afternoon of skiing. The skies were bright and blue above the clouds, offering a spectacular view of a mist-veiled Vancouver.

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I am a weekend skier. I enjoy green and blue runs–fun, with a  bit of a workout. I’ll occasionally go down an “easy” black run for some added adrenaline, but I definitely prefer long runs, medium-sized challenges, and a nice view. Before leaving, I wanted to go on a trail with a sparking slope and a fun second-half. The problem was near the top–a section covered in moguls (a series of bumps that require the skier to make sharp turns). Not my favorite.

As I scanned the slope for a suitable route, I noticed a young flier take a tumble. Her guardian stopped nearby to make sure the girl was ok. The child got up quickly, but then froze as she surveyed the steepness and moguls ahead. I feel for you kid, I thought.

“I’m scared to go further!” she called out. The guardian responded, “Well, we can’t walk back!” They skied on.

The short interaction illustrated an experience many graduates students face in research. I’m worried/scared/stressed/unsure about the next steps. How did I end up here!? While I don’t have all the answers, here are a few takeaways I’ve learned skiing/studying in Vancouver…

  1. It’s ok to be unsure. But don’t stay stuck there! The unknown forces us to be innovative, collaborative, and more intentional. Ask advice from those around you (or ask Google)–there are lots of people on the slope.
  2. Before starting a project or ski run make sure that your next steps are feasible. You shouldn’t attempt a double black diamond when you are learning how to ski. The same is true for research. Make sure your project is doable. Ask for advice when planning an experiment.* Check whether others in your lab have attempted a technique/idea. Don’t spend your entire attention and energy on something with a very high chance of failure + little return.
  3. Graduate school provides a great opportunity to tackle major challenges and you’ll definitely experience fails and falls. Failing forward** can lead to unexpected feats, constantly backtracking results in expected frustration!
  4. A major goal of graduate studies is personal development, so don’t be afraid to push yourself (go for those challenging runs!) The upcoming path may be steep and a bit scary, but you might discover some awesome views, unexplored paths, and untapped grit. You may even have a lot of fun along the way!

Happy Exploring in 2018 

*Thanks for all the advice Finlay Lab

**Hey Peter Paul–thanks for the reminder to FailFWd (https://www.failfwd.com)

 

HOLIDAZE UPDATE

(Or…So can I have Monday off?)

Hello Skope Explorers,

Almost two years ago I started working on posts for the Skope! Below is one of the earliest blog posts on Victoria/Labor Day weekend. I hope you enjoy this “Monday Memory”: see below for the update.

Happy Memorial Day–and thank you to the men and women that serve and have served the American (and Canadian) military!  

May Holidays:

Calendar

During May, I spent most weekends trawling through Craigslist, Amsrental, and Kijiji to search for housing arrangements in Vancouver. I found a lovely suite and e-mailed the owner for more information. The landlord mentioned that showings would be unavailable during the Victoria Day weekend, but invited me to stop by the next weekend. Then, I received a second e-mail asking whether I—a grad student from the US—celebrated Memorial Day and would prefer to visit during a weekday. As I was living in the US, showings were a no-go, but the landlord’s thoughtful response piqued my interest in differences between Canadian and US holidays.

For starters, the US observes 11 federal holidays. Canada: 9-12 holidays*. Interesting…** Obvious dissimilarities include different dates for Independence Day/Canada Day and Thanksgiving. But there is also a financial difference. The US is the only developed country without (legally required) paid holidays. In contrast, European Union countries are required to give workers four weeks of paid holiday, reported USA Today. Hmmpf…Both Canadian and US citizens celebrate a long weekend in May: Memorial Day and Victoria Day weekend, respectively. Memorial Day honors armed forces members who died in service. Memorial Day was first observed in the late 1800s. Originally called Decoration Day, citizens decorated tombstones with flowers to honor fallen Civil War soldiers. Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971 during the Nixon Administration. Today, US citizens continue to place flowers and flags around the tombs of fallen heroes. Members of the armed forces are honored in special church services, town parades, and memorials at Arlington Cemetery and Capitol Hill. And like Victoria Day, this weekend also marks the unofficial start of summer. Victoria Day was first celebrated on the 24th of May 1835—the birthday of Queen Victoria. Later the date marked the birthday celebration of all current and future British Monarchs. And, in 1953, the Canadian government declared Monday, May 24 as a federal holiday (if May 24 didn’t fall on Monday, future holidays would take place the Monday preceding the 25th of May). I guess I will find ways to celebrate both holidays next year, even if I can’t take both Mondays off!

Update: Yes, I found housing and I am definitely celebrating two May holidays this year 🙂

Sources + Additional Information

http://www.statutoryholidays.com/index.php

http://www1.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp

http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/victoria-day-only-in-canada/

*Apparently, there are 5 statutory Canadian holidays with additional paid holidays celebrated nationwide (or in the majority of the provinces). Canadians—help me out!

**If you’re curious, Argentina is the country with the most holidays: 19! In addition, there are many state holidays, as well. I spent six months studying in Entre Rios, Argentina and I really enjoyed experiencing the holiday-heavy culture.

HAPPY EARTH DAY

Or…Beauty and the Biome 

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
–John Muir, American Naturalist (1838-1914)

Wishing you all a beautiful Earth Day!

While rain showers halted a beach outing, I was able to enjoy beautiful photos/videos of marine life this evening. I even enjoyed a fun painting spree (thanks KB/JB for the watercolor set).

I am looking forward to spending more time in nature.  Wishing you (and your microbiome) many wild adventures!

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Behold my anatomically incorrect jellyfish!

…coloring is also creative–but sometimes you need to add brightness to a gray afternoon

PS….

1600px-Spiegeleikwal_voor_de_westkust_van_Sardinië (Fredski2013)  Cotylorhiza tuberculata, a Mediterranean jellyfish, contains several microbes within its gastric cavity. One of these microbes is an anaerobic, Spiroplasma-like bacterium. In plants, Spiroplasma are usually linked with pathology (e.g. Spiroplasma citri causing citrus stubborn disease) although the C. tuberculata bug, likely doesn’t harm the jellyfish.

For more, see: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28419691http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdf/10.1094/PHYTO-06-13-0176-R 

#UNLESS, shoutout to the scientists and those who marched for science today!

SPRING UPDATES!

(Or…I passed my comprehensive exam and ran a marathon!)

Happy March 2017!

This past Sunday I ran my first marathon with my sister. The marathon idea started as a pseudo-challenge/whimsy. Last summer I survived a half marathon in Vancouver. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to run 26 miles to celebrate my 26th birthday in March? I thought*. As summer turned to fall I continued running, but definitely not to prepare for a marathon. Suddenly, Christmas was approaching and I needed to decide whether I would (or could) actually train for a marathon. I called my sister half-hoping she might talk me out of racing. Instead, she signed up to run the marathon before me! Marathon March was set.

Prepping for the marathon also allowed me to take a break from studying for my graduate comprehensive exam (see REST: https://theskope.com/2017/02/27/rest/). But sometimes I incorporated studying into the longer runs–I prerecorded study notes on my cell phone and listened to myself review research on gut microbes, malnutrition, and microglia during jogs. Several days after passing the comprehensive exam, I completed the marathon course. Still a bit brain and body sore…. 🙂

Did you know that the gut microbiota may be impacted by exercise? Researchers in Cork Ireland examined the gut microbiota of active, male rugby players and compared their gut microbes with the gut microbiota of subjects sharing a similar build. The male athletes exhibited a more diverse microbiota, a putative biomarker of health. The “athletic” microbiota also contained more Akkermansia  microbes. (These are pretty fascinating bugs: A muciniphila bacteria have been inversely correlated with obesity and may exhibit anti-inflammatory properties!)

Staying active in grad school is tough–and I am lucky to be surrounded by colleagues that study, swim, ski curl, run, and research! I wonder what sport challenge I can try next.

Thanks K2 for pushing me to race.

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Wishing you all a lovely spring.

Sincerely,

-K, PhD Candidate

*#Jenspiration

For Further Reading:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Kerins2/publication/263899981_Exercise_and_associated_dietary_extremes_impact_on_gut_microbial_diversity/links/563d332308ae34e98c4ad8fa.pdf 

http://www.pnas.org/content/110/22/9066.full