032 - Medical Mycology And Molecular Biology With Julie Wolf

A Journey Into Julie’s World Of Science Communication, Citizen Science, And Molecular Biology

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In this episode we talk to Julie Wolf who is the communications specialist at the American Society for Microbiology. She has her PHD in medical mycology, and teaches at a community bio-lab in New York.

As part of her work with ASM she hosts the podcast ‘Meet the Microbiologist’, and I thought it would be fun to talk to someone who talks to microbiologists for a living. 

Join us for this intelligent and thoughtful interview as we hear how Julie got into studying medical mycology and her work with the American Society for Microbiology. We also talk about science communication, genetic modifications, citizen science and molecular biology.


Follow Julie on Twitter:


And Listen to her podcast:

Meet the Microbiologist

And check these too!

ASM Blogs


Biotech Without Borders


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And may the beneficial microbes be with you ;-)




Show Notes 


Julie Wolf

- focus on medical mycology

- story of how she came to choose studying single-celled fungi instead of pathological bacteria


Medical Mycology

- very few fungi that can cause disease in humans

- our ability to be warm-blooded protects us from most fungi growth

- our natural microbiota contains common fungi like candida, which can only grow too numerous under specific stressors to our microbiome such as antibiotics

- those with compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to disease-causing fungi

- idea that there is a small microbiota population that form the foundation of the microbiome, most of these are bacteria, some are fungi


Julie’s Current Work

- Julie is a science communicator

- digests scientific technical reports into smaller summaries

- making the “take-home message” clear

- she hosts a podcast “Meet the Microbiologist”, and a youtube series “Microbial Minutes”


Shaping Her Mindset

- her interest in science came late in life

- tried a few things before taking a microbiology class, realised how cool and intelligent these simple organisms are

- became fascinated with bacteria

- tried her hand at research in a lab as an undergraduate

- learned the importance of a mentor, had a graduate student who was very important in fostering her curiosity

- inspired her to want to be a good mentor herself


Effective Communication

- in Julie’s observation, science folk can struggle with how much detail to include when presenting to others outside their field

- sometimes take-home message gets lost in jargon

- lead with the most interesting facts, and cut to the chase


Citizen Science

- “GenSpace”: a community biolab in New York, a place for people to visit and experience hands-on all kinds of science

- many people interested in bioremediation and mushrooms

- strong community now pursuing mycoremediation

- discussion of how to get into molecular biology for citizen science

- more examples of citizen science happening currently

- research is just starting to understand and explore the myriad possibilities with citizen science and biolabs 

- Julie provides some examples of this


Genetic Modification

- FDA only counts adding genes as genetic modification, Julie thinks deleting genes should also be counted

- everything we eat has DNA in it, so don’t be afraid of eating something with a different genetic sequence, it’s all broken down through the process of digestion

- the politics of GMO is a separate issue than the science of it

- we now have the knowledge to understand what is being changed in the genetic information when we put microbiota through certain processes

- this is safer than just irradiating fungi and then taste it like we used to do!

- discussion of golden rice example

- discussion of dengue-resistant mosquito example

- openness to these genetic modifications can depend on what the stakes are for the people most likely to be affected

- the idea of “the natural order of things” and fear of messing with it, can fail to take into account how things were before our own time

- ex: common diseases people used to die from until we developed techniques to prevent it, used to be “the natural order of things”


Current Projects

- educating researchers on how best to communicate their results in a headline-driven, time-poor world

- the more interesting you make your headline, the more likely people will be to read what you have written

- Julie is most excited and happy to be involved in podcasting and interviewing


Final Thoughts

- A Probiotic Life, by Julie: taking care of her own health and the environment to the best of her abilities

- using as little waste as possible, balanced diet, getting sleep

- technology and science are advancing rapidly

- don’t let this pace can put people off: if you’re interested, just jump in

- podcast recommendation: Vincent Racaniello does several, all on science