Necessary vs Sufficient: What’s the difference?

Laboratory researchers work to uncover the causes of events, whether the events in question are planetary motions, the movement of proteins within a cell, or the development of an animal tissue over time. In biology research papers, you will often see genes or proteins described as necessary or sufficient for a particular event to occur.… Continue reading Necessary vs Sufficient: What’s the difference?

Correlation vs Causation in Biology

Scientists are always warning the public — and each other — not to confuse correlation with causation. When a study is published linking our favorite food to cancer, heart attacks, or other health problems, we’re cautioned to take these findings with a grain of salt because identifying causes in a complex sea of correlations is… Continue reading Correlation vs Causation in Biology

Genome engineering with CRISPR/Cas

The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their work to pioneer genome engineering with CRISPR/Cas. This acronym derives from Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and their CRISPR-associated genes (Cas). CRISPR loci, which are found in many species of bacteria and most archae, have been collectively described… Continue reading Genome engineering with CRISPR/Cas

What does a priori mean?

In your time reading biology papers, you’ve likely encountered some Latin terms like in vitro, in vivo, de novo, in situ, et cetera. Because the Latin language had such a large influence on the early natural sciences, these terms are still in common use and have mostly retained their original definitions. However, you may have… Continue reading What does a priori mean?

How to use P-values in biology

After completing an experiment, we’ll usually perform statistical tests to determine whether our results are “significant.” P-values are commonly used to report statistical significance in scientific papers, but biologists have been criticized in recent years for misunderstanding and misusing this statistic. A recent paper in PLOS Biology surveyed the scientific literature and found widespread evidence… Continue reading How to use P-values in biology

The Drosophila melanogaster life cycle

Drosophila melanogaster (D. melanogaster, or the vinegar fly) is an excellent model organism for many reasons: it has a fully sequenced, well characterized genome; it is capable of learning and other complex behaviors; but perhaps most of all, it has a rapid life cycle. At a temperature of 25°C (that’s ~77 degrees Fahrenheit for those… Continue reading The Drosophila melanogaster life cycle