Feb 10, 2011

Sharklet Technologies, Inc.

Because we have been in the news lately (woot woot), I want to carpe diem on the media attention and elaborate on my current position before I begin reflecting on graduate school and the transition to industry....


I am working for a small start up company called Sharklet Technologies, Inc. located here in Denver, CO, and we are engineering a novel "bacteria-repelling" surface topography that mimics shark skin:

The founder of the company, Dr. Tony Brennan, made the realization that shark skin does not accumulate barnacles or algae and he wondered if it was the structure that prevents microbial attachment. He began engineering a mimic of the pattern into many types of materials and low and behold it worked! The presence of the micro-pattern alone inhibits bacterial attachment and survival up to 99% in some instances. An example of S. aureus attachment to smooth surfaces (left) and Sharklet surfaces (right) over 21 days is shown below (figure from Chung 2007, Biointerphases 2(2): 89-94).

The really exciting aspect to the technology is that it does not contain any antimicrobials and thus shouldn't contribute to the rising problem of antimicrobial resistance!! It just passively prevents bacteria from attaching to surfaces without actively killing them.

Research into this technology began in order to provide the Navy with new surface coatings for ships that they could use in place of the toxic and environmentally unfriendly paint they currently use. Since then, we have moved into the field of medical devices and the healthcare industry as a whole in the hopes to prevent hospital acquired infections. We are currently working to understand how the pattern resists attachment and also which areas (or devices) we should apply the Sharklet micro-pattern to. We are selling surface laminate kits that can be applied to hospital doors, bed rails, nurse call buttons, etc. AND we got an amazing score (but are still waiting on the $$...friggin congress and their inability to pass a final budget...grrr...) on a Phase II SBIR grant to develop a Sharklet Foley catheter with the aim of reducing urinary tract infections (which is a HUGE problem in hospitals...they kill patients and prolong hospital stays thereby decreasing patient care and increasing hospital costs).

If you are interested...visit our website and take a gander at the publications on our technology.

In the meantime, watch us on this clip from the PBS - NOVA show "Making stuff Smarter" that aired on Wednesday, February 9th 2011:

Feb 5, 2011

Time fly's when your.......

...having fun? I suppose thats one way to look at it....

Over the last year I worked harder than ever to graduate and land a dream job. I had a goal in mind and I couldn't stop till it was over. Now that I have re-entered normal society, I thought I would log on and describe how my last year of grad school played out.

Around January 2010 I decided it was time. I got my committee together in February and warned them of my antsy-ness and gave them a list of final experiments. They nodded. whew. I worked feverishly to check off each experiment. But the data did not come easily, of course. I had to do tons of troubleshooting, which yielded a few tears and shudders that I might be stuck in grad school forever...

Meanwhile. I went looking for a job. I had been keeping my eyes and ears open to numerous possibilities for a while now and it was time to make some choices. I knew that I wanted to leave academics at some point...but when? Should I do an academic post-doc...I mean after all academics are fun...or do I cut to the chase and look for an industry position....am I even qualified for a real job?? Again, more tears arrived since there were so many unknowns. I didn't know if I was even going to graduate...and the awkward feelings that I had at this time really surprised me...I should feel like I have it all together by now, right? and things are going well for the most part, right? so what's the deal? why does this step feel so daunting? Maybe its just because change is always scary...and self doubt is the worst. It seems that every step of graduate school tests your self-confidence, and leaving is just another step. boo...

But, eventually, things worked out (as they always seem to do in grad school...and in life for that matter...after all, you are doing the best ya can, right?), and I had no reason to be so stressed. I found a job. I met my future employers at a tiny career fair of all places...which just goes to show how important it is to seek out every opportunity you can. AND I got enough data that I felt comfortable to ask the big Q: Am I ready to graduate? I met with my committee again in August and they gave me permission to write. whew...especially because my new job really needed me to start ASAP and they would take me in November at the latest. A slight panic ensued. Could I get it all done in time? I had been dreaming of the moment that my committee would say "You may write" and I thought that I would celebrate for at least a week after said statement. However. I had too much to do at that point to be excited. bummer...

I had exactly 2 months to write my dissertation. I got a plan together and stuck to it with the help of countless shots of espresso and a "few" bottles of wine. This part seemed less scary for me...I knew what I needed to do. I got the whole thing written and felt pretty proud when I printed it off and gave it to my committee members in the middle of October. I even took a moment for myself in the park near my future place of employment before I walked in and met with everyone at my new job (yes, I turned in my thesis in the morning and met with them in the afternoon. Who's crazy? This girl.) None the less, I was beginning to get excited....

Two weeks later, I defended (I'll go into more detail about that here soon). One week after that I started full time at my new job at a small start-up company called Sharklet Technologies Inc. where I am 1 of 8 employees, 1 of 2 microbiologists, and 1 of 2 PhDs. Like I said its a dream job for me (I'll also go into more detail about the company here soon too).

So here I am, at the ripe age of 27, a contributing member of society. I really enjoyed graduate school and wouldn't trade the experience for anything. But damn, am I happy to be finished.

Jan 15, 2010

brought me outta hibernation...

I got super excited yesterday when I heard about this
It's jaw dropping, eye opening, nerdylicous to the max!!

Hope everyone is well and their science is blossoming!

Aug 23, 2009

Cold Spring Harbor...

...is anyone going to the 'Microbial Pathogenesis and Host Response' Cold Spring Harbor conference from Sept 8th-12th?? My excitedly nerdy self will be there!!

Odd Phase.

I am going through a weird scientific phase. My fuse is short, my days are long, and I have an unnecessary itch to move onto my next step. I love my project and my job...I have no idea why I want to move on so badly. It must be some part of entering your 5th year that makes you realize how long you have been in school, and that graduation still seems so far away. I don't know if it's a fear of inadequacy if your degree takes too long...or if its just that its time for you to move on, you've learned a lot and feel ready for your PhD?? I feel like I am mostly waiting on the bench work to pick up...tho that is probably a naive statement (I know that I have so much more to learn...)

Sigh. It will happen someday....hopefully late next year........

Jul 30, 2009

Introducing Rhea May...


The ceremony...

Time to Party
Time TO PArTaY!!

...so as I mentioned before with working a ton and planning a wedding I was left with ZErO free time to....ummm....blog. But with that said...I'm now back to enjoy extraneous science with my fellow bloggers!!

Apr 7, 2009

Oooo the guilt....

....as I put on my coat and think of all the things I still need to do.

I'm pretty good about always doing my bench-work.  Instead, the guilt comes from my consistent neglect of reading articles.  There is so much to know and learn...and I have a hard time modivating myself to get it all crammed in my small head (I have a really small head btw...I went looking for a helmet for skiing and found myself in the juniors section...and whats worse....I bought a juniors small.  yikes.)  I have a committee meeting coming up...I better get my butt in gear!!

But for now....I think I'll just go home....shame on me!!

Mar 9, 2009

800 colonies to pick today...

...800 colonies to pick.  I pick one up, and place it down....799 colonies to pick today!
E-gads am I a transposon screening fool or what?!?!

So I have good reasons for my pause in blogging...between wedding planning, working A TON (please see above), and skiing every weekend I just seem to loose all my time (hahahaha, Oooo poor me...right?)

Honestly, I think my main reason for the lack of blog posts is due to my current successes in the lab.  It certainly makes me think about my future...when will I graduate, where will I go, what will I do for the rest of my life.  And I'll tell you what...I'm a bit scared about the whole ordeal...and I'm not even that close to being done.  Since I started graduate school, people have asked me what I want to do with my degree and my obvious answer was "research."  But now I realize I have no clue about what kind.  I thought I wanted to go into industry and so my plan was to do one academic post-doc and then do some sort of industry internship.  Unfortunately, I am growing up fast and I might want to move right on into the field I plan on working in...in other words...why do two post-docs?

So what do I want to do with my life???  I figure the first step I can take is to find the kinds jobs that are available in the cities I would like to settle down in...is that a good step, or a bad step?  I am 100% afraid of pigeon holing myself into one single profession and then not being able to find a job...but then I wonder, is that even a real possibility??  

Oooo my brain hurts.  Thinking of my future is so overwhelming...it's kind of like how this kid views kicking a ball.

...hahahahaha.  Bummer deal.

Dec 15, 2008

I LOVE my lab.

My lab is full of people that love to hear how each others experiments are going...we love to laugh and joke...love to teach and help each other grow.  We give good hugs, smiles, and tissues/kimwipes when the going gets tough.  We call each other when there is free food in the break-room or when a baby is born.  We keep up with people that graduated/moved on years ago and make sure that everyone says hi.  In all, we are a big loving family of 8 not including our lab mom and PI dad (yup, they are even married...)    So why do we work together so well...what makes us different from the other labs on our floor???

First off, our PI views our non-lab-life as important.  He lets us do what we need to do and treats us as the adults that we are, thus, he allows us to be relaxed and focused when we are at work.  He also promotes playfulness...he'll come in with a bat and start playing ball in lab...or...he'll find our dialysis bags and start swinging them around attempting to make the lab mom mad...lololol.  And what's nice is that this environment propagates itself because those that are interested in joining the lab are usually people that want a fun place to work...natural selection at it's finest.

But that's not all.  Our boss is in high demand...he works on lots of committees and he gives many talks/reviews/etc a year...therefore, he is not usually available for project discussions.  Thats where the lab mates step in.  We go to each other when we need a little help here and again, making us incredibly strong as a group.  None of us are pinned against each other for papers and projects.  Instead, we are all proud of each other and our progress.

I don't know how I would survive graduate school, at least with high spirits, if I did not have my lab.  I suppose the point of this post is that I am beginning to realize how important lab environments are to me...more than I thought when I picked mine.  

Dec 3, 2008

My top 10 favorite bacteria.

Oooo...I just want to hug them and squeeze them and never let them go!! Thomas Joseph liked one of my comments recently and expanded it to a meme of sorts...i'll extend this invitation out to all of you too....

What are your top 10 favorite bacteria???  We're all nerds and we all have secret crushes on various bacteria spp's for various reasons...so don't be shy.

10. Clostridium botulinum - I am impressed with this bacteria because it has convinced us to shoot its horrible toxin right into our face.  It doesn't even need to be cleaver enough to evade the canning industry's strict sterilizing protocols anymore.  *bows down*...the stupidity of humans are no match... 

9. Leuconostoc oenos (now known as Oenococcus oeni) - It converts malic acid to lactic acid and thus reduces the acidity of wine!!  yum, yum, thanks dood!!

8. Bacillus anthracis - I love spore formers...ingenious.  And its crazy how these guys can cause such a none de-script disease (yay flu-like symptoms) at first and then can kill you in a variety of ways depending on their mood.

7. Staphylococcus aureus - I hate that this guy is developing so many resistances.  However, I respect them because they are putting the fire under investors asses to friggin fund the development of new antibacterials.

6. Listeria monocytogenes - It's pretty neat how these boogers move from cell to cell.  They also have a lot to teach us about bacterial signaling...yay for ppGpp and cyclic-di-GMP!!

5. Clostridium tetani - Whoa, have you seen the results from infection with this guy...that looks intense.  

4. Myxococcus xanthus - In your face creationists...these prokaryotes work together to form a multicellular fruiting body.  These guys are crazy cool and will forever make their way into my thoughts and best wishes.

3. Pseudomonas aeruginosa - These guys are so cute and innocuous (and my they smell lovely)...then...bam they have taken over your body just when you thought it couldn't get any worse.  They will also (hopefully) grant me my Ph.D by letting me genetically manipulate them and expose them to weird chemicals.  *hugs the plates on my bench*

2. Mycobacterium tuberculosis - R-e-s-p-e-c-t....sing it with me.....These guys infect most of the world, kill tons of people a year, AND has the general public thinking its an old disease (like small pox) and doesn't exist anymore.  HA.  They also know how to go dormant in our bodies which is pretty cool...but my favorite part is that they cover themselves in thick mycolic acids (lipids with 80-100 carbons...whoa, thats a thick friggin goo.)

1. Helicobacter pylori - This guy is absolutely my favorite pet.  He is uber cute with his multiple flagella's and helix shape.  It completely baffles me that he has found the highly acidic stomach comfortable and a place to hang his hat.  I can't wait to see what research will reveal about this bugger.