Profile

Cover photo
Verified name
Buddhini Samarasinghe
Attended University of Bath (Undergraduate)
Lived in Hawaii
53,799 followers|7,772,933 views
AboutPostsPhotos
People
Have them in circles
53,799 people
Gordana Biernat's profile photo
nadimer shopno's profile photo
Fritz Pritchett's profile photo
Paramjeet Singh's profile photo
Bob Brooks's profile photo
Adrian Firmansyah's profile photo
antonio alfaro's profile photo
jack Green's profile photo
Света Кошкина's profile photo
Education
  • University of Bath (Undergraduate)
    Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2002 - 2006
  • University of Glasgow (PhD)
    Veterinary Parasitology, 2006 - 2010
Contact Information
Work
Email
Story
Tagline
Molecular Biologist & Science Communicator
Introduction
I am a molecular biologist and a passionate science communicator. I love engaging the public with current research in the life sciences. Where possible, I use original, open access research papers and I describe the science minus the jargon! 

I am the author of a series of articles in Scientific American, titled "The Hallmarks of Cancer". These jargon-free articles explain the molecular mechanisms that underlie cancer development. 

I am also involved in science outreach through broadcasts on YouTube and I am an active contributor to the many Science Communities here on Google+. I also have side interests in photography, technology, travel, baking, good conversation and food! 

  • I am a strong advocate of science. Therefore I will on occasion write about 'controversial' topics like global warming, vaccination, evolution, pseudoscience and science policy. Beyond a certain point, I will not debate topics that the vast majority of scientists agree on. 
  • I respond to questions on science. Engagement is a vital component of science outreach, and if the topics I write about interest you, I encourage you to join the ensuing discussion!
  • I encourage conversations on my posts. To that effect I maintain the right to ask anyone who joins in to keep the discussion on topic, and not attack others already engaging on the post. 

The majority of my posts tend to be about science. These are a few example posts, so you have a fair idea what to expect to see from me;

Evolution of Snake Venom 
Interfering with RNA
Curiosities of fly genes 
"Inferring The Wind From the Movement of the Trees"
Zombie roaches 
How to Build a Snake
The history of WI-38 cells 
Radioactive bacteria for cancer treatment
Cancer Stem Cells
  • I am involved in curating a circle of women who work in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. 
  • I am a co-curator for Science Sunday. If you want to get involved, tag your science posts with #ScienceSunday on Sundays or #ScienceEveryday for other days. 
  • Oh, and apparently I am an INTJ
Work
Occupation
Science Communicator
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Previously
Hawaii - Glasgow - Bath - Colombo - Memphis

Stream

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Personalised Medicine for Cancer Treatment

I'm really excited about this weekend because I am in gorgeously sunny California for Science Foo Camp! What is Science Foo Camp you ask? Here's a quick primer - http://www.digital-science.com/events/scifoo-camp-2015/. I've never been to the Googleplex before so I'm really looking forward to it, along with meeting all the amazing people who will be at this event. I'm also looking forward to catching up with G+ friends in California as well while I'm here.

I'll be doing a 'lightning talk' on personalised medicine for cancer research. Here is a quick video explaining the basics. I really think this is the future of cancer treatment, because we know that cancer is not a single disease, and we need to think of cancer in terms of the specific mutations they carry, rather than tumour location like 'breast' or 'lung'. The individual patient is the best model for his or her disease, and the future looks bright now that healthcare and translational research are starting to catch up. 

#ScienceEveryday   #SciFoo15  
43
6
Julien Baboud's profile photoChris Collins-Wooley's profile photoADR PHD's profile photoEli CORTÁZAR VILLATORO's profile photo
6 comments
 
Nice, do share the presentation, and its outcomes all the best!
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
"The Laboratory is not a Single's Bar"

Today I was asked at very short notice if I would like to be a guest on +BBC World Have Your Say for a discussion about Women in Science following the disastrous comments made by Sir Tim Hunt (http://goo.gl/cNJ8Ea).

Being on live radio is something I've never done before, despite hosting the multitude of Google+ HOAs so I was understandably nervous! But I think it went really well, and managed to show why his comments were so problematic. The other guests on the show were also fantastic, and it's really worth listening to this discussion if you can. 

Short clip: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02tczpd

Full programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02st6q9
95
14
Gustavo “El Gus” Olivares's profile photoChris Collins-Wooley's profile photoADR PHD's profile photoMarco Pedulli's profile photo
58 comments
 
Wow, way to prove that he's unsuited to be anyone's boss.... Doubling down and then incapable of understanding how his biases hurt people. Not exactly mentor material, not even for men since he'd just teach them to perpetuate discrimination.
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 

Hiking in Puck's Glen

A few weeks ago we had an unexpectedly sunny spell here in Scotland. To those of you who are uninitiated to the wonders of Scottish weather, this was an exceedingly rare event, so we decided to make the most of it and explore a hiking trail that I've been meaning to check out for ages. Situated about 1.5 hrs drive from Glasgow, along the shores of Loch Lomond, the trail is known as "Puck's Glen" and is absolutely charming. 

The pine forests are timeless and still, the silence punctuated by the sound of the wind in the trees above or the soft gurgling of the freshwater spring nearby with icy cold water. The trail is set along a series of waterfalls and pools, spanned by beautiful wooden bridges and mossy banks. The dappled sunlight filters through the greenery above, giving the place and ethereal quality. I almost expected to stumble across a gathering of wood nymphs or fairies sitting on the soft moss. 

The solitude was desperately needed after the manic hustle and bustle of London, and I could feel myself recharging. Scotland is an amazing place and there is still so much left to explore here. 
132
Gretchen S.'s profile photoAida Hazlan's profile photoCindy Brown's profile photoliyanake puspakumara's profile photo
36 comments
 
.
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Musings of an Academic Refugee

Three months ago, I started working at Cancer Research UK as a Science Communications Manager. The position was a temporary one; a part time, maternity cover for just one year, but I was told during my interview that there would be a possibility of making it a permanent position depending on "how things worked out". 

At first, my contract was just for working from Monday to Wednesday. But within 3 weeks of starting, I was made full time (so Monday to Friday) and then in less than 3 months I was made permanent. For the first time in my life, I have a job and an income without an obvious expiry date. This is remarkable; in science, especially for grad students and postdocs, short term contracts with low pay, with no real guarantees of a permanent position is a way of life that we tolerate well into our late 30s/early 40s. 

I have always loved science, and ever since I was a teenager, I always wanted to be a scientist. I loved the way science could answer questions. Curiosity about the world around us is one of the things that defines our species, and science was always a way for me to engage with what those answers were. So it was a little difficult to reconcile the fact that I would be leaving a career in research behind, with this new job. But then...actually getting paid for and being able to make a living out of science communication is something that I never thought could happen either. There is immense satisfaction in being appreciated for something that I am good at, and the sense of validation that comes with it feels priceless. I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am right now. 

I've had a tough couple of years, and it's an ongoing process to recognise that the circumstances involved were beyond my control, and the people involved were not my responsibility. It's very easy for troubleshooting to turn into victim-blaming, i.e. berating myself for not seeing the red flags that I somehow should have seen. My self-confidence was buoyed up only because of my friends who believed in me when I wasn't able to. 

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk to a group of final year PhD students about 'Science Communication as an Alternative Science Career' (or, as I titled it, “Musings of an Academic Refugee” :P). I've attended plenty of talks like this during my student days but never thought I'd be invited to give one. One key piece of advice that seems obvious is that outside of academia, no one really cares how many papers you have authored; for a career in science communication, what matters is evidence and examples of good scicomm. "Just Google my name" is a pretty satisfying reply to give when asked to provide these examples at a job interview :P. 

For the first time in a long time, thinking about my career does not fill me with dread like it used to, when I considered the grim reality of how few postdocs make it into permanent positions in academia. I jokingly refer to myself as an 'academic refugee', but there is a grain of truth to that description too. It is possible to love science, and continue working in science, outside of academia. It is possible to make a living out of something that brings you joy.

There is a life outside academia. 
197
14
Edward Morbius's profile photoRobert Collyar's profile photoHUMAIRA KAUKAB's profile photo~Keep Calm Evolution is True~'s profile photo
91 comments
 
Greetings Dr Samarasinghe. I've been following and reading your articles on the Hallmarks of Cancer on ScientificAmerican. They have been a great source for me to understand cancer biology. However, I couldn't find your article on the 10th feature. It would be great to have all the articles written by you and use them as extra notes. The link below is the 9th hallmark on cancer. 

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2014/10/08/the-hallmarks-of-cancer-9-reprogramming-energy-metabolism/#respond
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Malignant Melanoma: Drug Resistance is Futile

As we approach the end of 2014, I want to write about targeted cancer therapy, using malignant melanoma as an example. In this article, I explain how a new drug (vemurafenib) works, and why resistance sometimes develops, and the latest research into how we can overcome this problem. 

Most melanomas have a mutation in a key gene known as B-RAF. Mutant B-RAF is a signal that tells the cancer cell to keep dividing - it is an accelerator that is jammed, so the cancer cell replicates endlessly. Knowing this mechanism allows us to target mutant B-RAF, which is the epitome of targeted therapy. Yet all is not quite as it seems, and most cancers develop resistance to B-RAF inhibitor drugs; how can we prevent the development of drug resistance, and how can we combat it when it happens? 

"Cancer is not one single disease. Even a hundred different instances of melanoma, though pathologically classified as the same disease, will have a hundred different variations; is B-RAF mutated? What about the other proteins in the ERK pathway? What about other pathways? Do the metastases have the same mutations as the primary tumour, and if not, how different are they? There is a dizzying array of possibilities, and in turn cancers have a dizzying array of variations within them. This is known as the biological heterogeneity of cancer, and it demands therapeutic heterogeneity in the way we approach it. The same treatment cannot be indiscriminately applied to all cancers. Targeted therapies that can home in on the unique vulnerabilities of a cancer with precision are the way of the future. Indeed, vemurafenib was a breakthrough in every sense of the word; it allowed a once untreatable disease to become treatable."

Read the full article here: http://www.jargonwall.com/cancer/malignant-melanoma-drug-resistance-futile/

#ScienceEveryday
98
17
Bettina Ascaino's profile photoIan Petersen's profile photoKee Hinckley's profile photoEli CORTÁZAR VILLATORO's profile photo
15 comments
 
+Buddhini Samarasinghe one quick question, why cancer occurs in some one at some particular age? does it has any relationship between antibodies? i have seen people getting cancer at old age as well, how can you explain that? few article says it is completely because of DNA if that is the case does DNA gets mutated due to some reason? and can cancer become a hereditary ? can it get passed to generation because of a mutated gene ?
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Molecular Biology 101: DNA Replication

As I mentioned previously, I want to write a 'back to basics' series of posts on some fundamental molecular biology processes. 

I start this series with explaining how DNA replication works. Before a cell divides, it must replicate its DNA by producing an identical copy of DNA through the process of DNA replication. This is one of the most fundamental biological processes, occurring in all living organisms. A series of reactions regulated by various enzymes makes sure that the DNA molecule is unwound from its double helix configuration so that one strand can act as a template for the synthesis of a new strand of DNA. 

Just as, in film photography, the negative of a photograph is the same image with its colours reversed, so too in DNA. In its sequence of nucleotide letters, each DNA strand is a “photo-negative” mirror of the other. The “A” on one strand always pairs with a “T” on the other, while “G” always pairs with “C”; a sequence like “GATTACA” on one strand is mirrored as “CTAATGT” on the other, each letter binding to its partner, zipping the strands together into a single 2-metre-long molecule. This pairing, a pairing that arises straightforwardly from the laws of Chemistry, is the key to the DNA molecule’s marvelous ability to copy itself. For each strand when unzipped from its partner grows back its missing complement, automatically creating two identical DNA molecules where once was but one

Read the full article, complete with  handy video links to help visualise some of these processes here:  http://www.jargonwall.com/molecular-biology/dna-replication/

And yes...the accompanying artwork is something I've always wanted to do with watercolour, because a DNA double helix is so inherently beautiful!

#ScienceSunday
139
38
Randy Iloenyosi's profile photoSravanthi Mattey's profile photoPaul Du Plessis's profile photoEli CORTÁZAR VILLATORO's profile photo
42 comments
 
+Chad Haney ooh I hadn't seen this. Very cool, thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Add a comment...
Have them in circles
53,799 people
Gordana Biernat's profile photo
nadimer shopno's profile photo
Fritz Pritchett's profile photo
Paramjeet Singh's profile photo
Bob Brooks's profile photo
Adrian Firmansyah's profile photo
antonio alfaro's profile photo
jack Green's profile photo
Света Кошкина's profile photo

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Authenticity on Social Media: A Missed Opportunity

We all try to portray the best of ourselves online. The nature of social media allows us to carefully curate the optimal facets of our personality to share with the rest of the world. We make sure to photograph ourselves at the best angles, publicly celebrate our successes, and even put a positive spin on the setbacks, because #winning and #inspiration and #keepfighting and #whatever.

We also know from behavioural economics that "altruism can often exert a far stronger influence over our decision-making than calculation". This in turn is utilised by corporations that are increasingly becoming more 'social' as they realise that "if one wants to control other human beings, it is often far more effective to appeal to their sense of morality and social identity than to their self-interest". Marketing executives attempt to manipulate this as they try to get their customers to share positive brand messages with each other, without a public advertising campaign through traditional avenues of TV, print, and radio. This process is rather aptly described as 'friendvertising'. (Note: if you're interested in reading more about this, here is a fascinating article by William Davies - http://goo.gl/g6HSwl)

Employees of these organisations are often knowingly or unknowingly co-opted into this campaign, as they too can share positive brand messages and act as 'brand ambassadors' for their employers. Yet this is contradicted by the token disclaimer of 'views are my own' on the bios to make it clear that our views do not represent the views of the organisation we work for. 

Social media is something that lets us find and connect with like minded individuals who share common interests. Social media is also an opportunity to engage in debate, to learn, to have our minds changed, and our horizons expanded by talking to people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Sometimes this can lead to uniting for a common cause, such as communicating science or advocating for women in STEM, two issues that many of you know I am passionate about. Indeed, my established social media presence is such that the topics I write about have a self-selected audience who (I hope!) enjoy consuming the content that I produce. 

As large corporations embrace the 'power of social' along with their employees who act as unofficial brand ambassadors, I have noticed that sometimes, brand-ambassadoring is all that these employees do. Most of their contacts are also other employees, and most of their content is promoting or discussing products or events from their employer. This is despite the 'views are my own' disclaimer, which at this point is a bit like a vestigial tail, because it is truly difficult to imagine people who have no other interests outside of their employer's. 

Social media allows us a powerful opportunity to effect positive change in this world. I am wary of coming across as a preachy 'you're doing social media wrong!' type of person, but this is such a lost opportunity! Instead of embracing the diversity of viewpoints that are afforded to us by engaging with different people, and discussing a wide range of topics, we are instead ending up with a bland, homogenous persona that is devoid of any authenticity. It limits our development, denies us the richness of fascinating discussions, and saddest of all, keeps us from forging meaningful relationships with each other. After all, isn't that the whole point of social media in the first place? 

Image credit: Pete Gamlen from http://goo.gl/g6HSwl
80
10
Donald Lee's profile photoDIY-biogarage's profile photoErich Feldmeier's profile photoRohann Andrews's profile photo
35 comments
 
Heh.  I read that last user name as 'biogarbage'.
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Why is Chemotherapy Given in Cycles?

A friend recently asked why chemotherapy infusions are spaced out. Is it to allow the body a chance to recover between treatments, or is chemo actually more effective when given in cycles? How does it work?

The answer is a bit of both. Traditional chemotherapy involves drugs that are toxic for rapidly dividing cells. The theory is that because cancer cells are dividing very quickly, they will succumb to the toxic chemotherapy quicker than normal cells would. The fact that chemo affects rapidly dividing cells also explains their typical side effects; hair loss because hair follicle cells are constantly dividing, nausea and diarrhoea because the cells lining the digestive system are constantly dividing and so on. So if you take too much chemo too soon, then normal cells would be affected even more, which in turn could lead to even more nasty side effects. 

But it’s also important to remember that the cancer cells in a tumour are at various stages of the cell cycle. The cell cycle is a programme that every cell goes through during growth and division - cells first need to double their DNA and then divide into two. 

The way chemo works is by causing DNA damage, so that cancer cells kill themselves. This happens through a process known as ‘apoptosis’. So a chemotherapy infusion kills all the cells that are in the DNA synthesis phase of the cell cycle, but doesn’t affect cancer cells that are in the other stages. By spacing it out and giving an infusion a few weeks later, the doctors are able to target the cells they couldn’t get the first time around. Normal cells usually repair the damage from chemotherapy more effectively than cancer cells, so damage to cancer cells should progressively build up without causing permanent damage to normal cells

When I explained this to my friend, she mentioned how "it’s a lot like waiting for dandelions to get big enough so they can be ripped out effectively. It’s much harder when they are tiny. But you want to actually get to them before the flowers set seed". It’s a brilliant analogy, and explains really well why chemotherapy is given in cycles. 

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/swallowtailgardenseeds/15644450971/

H/T to +Mary Anne Mohanraj for the wonderful analogy!
#ScienceEveryday  
93
17
Michelle Beissel's profile photoSheshnarayan  Sheshnarayan Sahu.'s profile photoSolange Kopn Auyn's profile photoAbid Ali's profile photo
17 comments
 
Thanks for sharing this Buddhini. Where can I find your previous articles?
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Nature's Ice Sculptures

It was a really cold frosty morning here in Cambridge and I luckily had my macro lens with me to capture it. I love how delicate the lighting and the colours are here.
130
3
Ariffa Gill's profile photoMatthew Bennett's profile photoAyn Rand's profile photoMike Mackley's profile photo
19 comments
 
Beautiful.
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Molecular Biology 101: Translation

This is Part 3 of my 'back to basics' series on molecular biology (Part 1 is here: http://goo.gl/5ltt87, and Part 2 is here: http://goo.gl/pxTm7e). In this article, I explain what protein translation is and how it works. In the previous article on Transcription, I explained how a DNA template is used to create a 'transcript' of a gene required by the cell. In this step, the transcript is 'translated' into a protein molecule. It is a beautifully elegant system in which the genetic code embedded in our DNA is translated into the proteins that are the workhorses of our cells. The vast majority of the functions within a cell is carried out by proteins. All the chemical reactions, the structural functions, the respiration, and indeed the very act of being alive, is down to proteins and their actions. This article explains how those proteins are made.

You can read the full article here: http://www.jargonwall.com/molecular-biology/translation/

"The chain of amino acids ordered in the sequence dictated by the genetic code, assembled within the ribosome, represents how every single protein in every single living organism is made. Given how important it is, there are quality control checkpoints at various steps of this process to ensure that the linear amino acid chain is folded correctly. This ensures that the freshly produced protein has the correct structure that allows it to carry out its function within the cell. Protein synthesis is a fundamental process in molecular biology, and indeed, of life itself."
98
16
walter calhoon's profile photoHikmet Geckil's profile photoJun Wang's profile photoEli CORTÁZAR VILLATORO's profile photo
15 comments
 
+Ayshvaryaa Choudhary excellent, I'm really happy to hear that! 
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Molecular Biology 101: Transcription

This is Part 2 of my 'back to basics' series on molecular biology (Part 1 is here: http://goo.gl/5ltt87). In this article, I explain what transcription is and how it works. Transcription is the first step in gene expression, which is how cells ensure that the right proteins are present in the right amount at the right time. Through gene expression, the myriad different cell types in our bodies can carry out their functions. The end goal of gene expression is typically (though not always) the production of proteins. 

"Transcription is the first and sometimes only step in gene expression. It is how the genetic material encoded within DNA is utilised by the cell to express genes. This is a fundamental process which provides the cell the ability to control its structure and function, and is the basis for the adaptability that allowed our cells to survive and evolve for billions of years."

Read the full article, complete with  a handy video link to help visualise some of these processes here: http://www.jargonwall.com/molecular-biology/transcription/

And yes, again the artwork is me experimenting with some water colour double helices!

#ScienceSunday  
117
23
Furo Jumbo's profile photoDaniel Canon's profile photoKee Hinckley's profile photoEli CORTÁZAR VILLATORO's profile photo
18 comments
 
+Buddhini Samarasinghe just a question on cancer, how does sleep affects cancer? for e.g alpha level etc? during sleep the enzyme activities will be there for involuntary activities, do you feel the activity of cancer cells differs some what with metabolic activities? 
Add a comment...

Buddhini Samarasinghe

Shared publicly  - 
 
Changes

I've been very quiet online lately because I recently got a new job that I am very excited about. A couple of weeks ago, I started working as a Science Communications Manager at Cancer Research UK. 

Writing about science, particularly cancer research, started out as a hobby for me. I dabbled in writing posts here on G+ since 2012-ish, and then in August 2013 started writing the Hallmarks of Cancer series on Scientific American. It's still a bit surreal to think that I can actually get paid to do something I've always loved to do, but I'm excited to be able to make a living from explaining how cancer works at the cellular level. 

Working at the world's largest independent cancer charity is also very cool, because I get to see from the inside how much progress we are making towards finding new treatments for cancer. Working in London is also new to me but so far I am enjoying the hustle and bustle of it all. It's still early days, but I am excited about my new position. I will of course continue writing about science and cancer here on G+ and my website Jargonwall (www.jargonwall.com), but standard disclaimer, my views/opinions are my own etc :)
253
2
John Abdul Eichie's profile photoFIFLS FitnessImageFashionLifeStyle's profile photorodel catajay's profile photoKolberg Art & Science Club's profile photo
95 comments
 
Congrats! Keep up the awesome work, we need you!

Add a comment...