If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants a pile of driftwood.

Hello readers!  Suffice it to say I’ve been missing in action for several months.  For much of the time I’ve been traveling.  Some of you may know that I just got back from China where I gave a speech at the International Congress of Antibodies. That will be the subject of my next post when the video of my speech is ready. In the meantime, I finally have time to give you an update of what I was up to before I left for Beijing…just to keep things in chronological order.

Several months ago I travelled to Vancouver Island to stay with Paul’s brother and his wife. It was wonderful to be surrounded by nature again! We took hikes through 200 year old forests and climbed gnarled driftwood on the beach. It was the first time I’ve sat around a bonfire since getting sick. I even got to take a horseback riding lesson and stayed on the horse!

Then, I went to visit my twin sister Sara in Dubrovnik, Croatia where she and her fiancee Tony live.  Not only did I walk the city walls and streets with vigor (old town Dubrovnik is surrounded by an ancient fortress), but I got to see some serious water polo action between my sister’s fiancee’s club team, JUG Dubrovnik, and the top Serbian club team in the world.

Ah… fresh forest air

The two teams are intense rivals and JUG won their biggest game of the year when I was there.  The whole city went nuts and I got to participate in the celebration… and with the team no less. Sara and I also celebrated our birthday together in Dubrovnik – it was the first time we have been together for our birthday in about 8 years.

After that excitement I returned to New York where I worked on writing two papers for the scientific journalAutoimmunity Reviews.  One of them describes how the interaction between human and bacterial genomes drives the autoimmune disease process:

Autoimmune Disease in the Era of the Metagenome

For the second paper I worked (with Paul, see below) to explain, as simply as possible, how the Marshall model of vitamin D metabolism contrasts with the current model of “vitamin” D’s properties currently put forth by much of the mainstream medical community.  Among other topics, we point out how the Marshall model is supported by molecular data but certainly makes more sense in the face of research showing that the diseases apparently “helped” by vitamin D supplementation are actually becoming increasingly widespread:

Vitamin D: The Alternative Hypothesis

On my horse before we galloped off into the horizon

Also, I wrote press releases for both articles. These have sparked the interest of at least a few journalists and their publications including Science Daily.

I have also been doing my best to keep up with comments posted on this site. As you may have noticed, my trusted colleague, Paul Albert of Weill Cornell Medical College, has been answering some of the questions himself. I enjoy everyone’s comments but since I’m getting increasingly busy I’m sorry if my turnaround time is a bit slow sometimes. Or if I somehow miss your post or email it’s definitely not intentional!

Walking with Tony to our apartment on an island near Dubrovnik with Marco Polo’s childhood home in front of us

In the fall, I will start graduate school at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where I’ll be pursuing a degree in microbiology.  The school appeals to me on many levels.  During the interview process the school’s researchers seemed genuinely interested in my work with the MP.  They asked questions, watched my videos, and truly appreciated the personal statement that I had labored over in an attempt to best communicate my passion for exploring the microbial world.  Several researchers are studying biofilm bacteria, which is a topic of great personal interest.

In particular, one researcher, who graduated from Princeton rather recently, is working on bacterial communication in biofilms.  He’s also very interested in the role of bacteria in chronic disease.  He called me a perfect prospective graduate student, so I hope that I can live up to his impression of me. Obviously grad school will take up much of my time, but I need the expertise that comes with a PhD and I’m excited to better learn how to use some of the latest molecular techniques.  However, I plan to try my hardest to continue to work with ARF on the side.

Happy birthday Sara and Amy!

 

In less than a week I’ll be heading to Chicago for Sara’s bachelorette party – a three day bacchanalia with her friends from around the world.  Then I’ll take some time to look for an apartment in Chicago and visit my family in the area. As soon as I get back my parents are visiting me in New York.   Another reason I had to take some time off from Bacteriality is because I worked with Paul to design and write the content for Sara and Tony’s wedding website.

During my free time I’ll be working on another paper for Autoimmunity Reviews – this one will discuss immunopathology. I also plan to help Paul edit what I think is a groundbreaking project on his behalf – the MP Knowledge Base. Paul has been faithfully gathering both old and new content on essentially every topic related to the MP and is organizing it in easy-to-read articles on a very searchable website. His perserverence amazes me. While the site will take a few more months to complete, I’m going to review the major articles and try to ensure the content is in tip-top shape.

Dancing to live Croatian music after JUG’s victory