This post is delayed by about 10 months because we couldn’t have a nice farewell for Rittik during the pandemic. But he was back in the lab for a bit and we were able to do things properly this time around. We are very happy to report that Rittik has joined as a member of the faculty at Visva Bharati University in West Bengal. Rittik plans to continue addressing questions about microbial and insect ecology, behaviour, and evolution, and we look forward to exciting new work from his lab in the coming years.
Arun’s paper reporting the detailed costs and benefits of evolved immune priming is now published! In an exciting earlier study, we had found that flour beetles exposed to the pathogen Bacillus thuringiensis adapted rapidly via the evolution of either immune priming or pathogen resistance. The new work – led by Arun (now at Edinburgh University) and Imroze Khan (now at Ashoka University) – aimed to test whether these distinct evolved immune responses were costly for a suite of fitness-related traits, and whether these costs could explain how the responses evolved. While we find that immune priming does impose some fitness costs, increased basal resistance appears to be surprisingly cost-free. As a bonus, we found that the enhanced level of immune priming was also transferred across generations. The project involved a ton of painstaking work and careful analysis, and we are all quite proud of the paper. Give it a read!
We are very proud of Vrinda, who successfully defended her PhD thesis following a fantastic seminar. Vrinda worked with long-term selection lines of beetles adapting to new resources to understand the factors that explain population dynamics during adaptation.
Saurabh successfully defended his PhD thesis, for which he analysed patterns and causes of GC content evolution and codon usage across thousands of bacteria. He gave a superb (virtual) talk, and we all celebrated his successes with a custom cake on the lawn. Congratulations, Dr Mahajan!
Towards the end of this year, long-term lab members left for new adventures; coincidentally both going to Germany! Mrudula is starting as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cologne, and Parth is jumping into a PhD program at the University of Dusseldorf. We’ll miss them both, and are glad that we at least managed to get together for a distanced goodbye outdoors.
Rittik was chosen as a runner-up for the first set of Ben Barres Spotlight awards, and will receive research funds. Rittik will use the funds to determine the molecular basis of assortative mating in laboratory-evolved populations of flour beetles.
We are off to various conferences this year. Come listen to our talks, visit our posters, and talk science!
Aparna is already at Evolution 2019, to talk about the role of microbiomes during host adaptation in the Hamilton Award Symposium. We are rather proud that Aparna was selected to present as a finalist! She will also present a poster, and speak at the Story Collider event, Outside the Distribution. Do go talk to her!
In early July I will be at the Gordon Research Conference for Microbial Population Biology at Andover, NH, USA, presenting a poster on our beetle microbiome work. I’m super excited about this meeting, which is a great collection of microbially inclined folks.
Around the same time, Laasya will present a poster on her mistranslation work, at the EMBO|EMBL symposium on New approaches and concepts in microbiology in Heidelberg, Germany.
At the end of July, Parth and I will head to SMBE 2019 in Manchester, UK, presenting posters on the evolution and importance of translation and mistranslation, respectively. I am also organizing a symposium on the Causes of Parallel Molecular Evolution with Alex Couce. Come visit our posters, and listen to the amazing speakers in our symposium!
In August, Vrinda will be in Turku, Finland, speaking at ESEB 2019 about the population dynamics of laboratory-evolved beetles in new habitats. She has really fun data, so do check out her talk!
And finally, in the last week of August Laasya will present a poster and a talk at the FEMS summer school for postdocs: Bacterial robustness and mechanisms of death, in Split, Croatia.