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RotM: Interview with Dr. Marta Llimargas Casanova

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As we approach International Women's Day, we spoke to our first woman Researcher of the Month (RotM) at Coffee Table Science, Dr. Marta Llimargas Casanova. Dr. Marta is the Principal Researcher at the Institut de Biologia Molecular de Barcelona where her team studies formation of tissues and organs during development. Her recent publication in PLoS Genetics sheds more light on chitin deposition. 
Here's Dr. Marta speaking more about her publication, women in science and working as a scientist. 

CTS: How has your recent publication added to existing knowledge about the chitin deposition? 
Chemical structure of chitin
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)MLC: Chitin is a natural polysaccharide made of UDP-N-acetylglucosamine monomers (a derivative of glucose). It is the second most abundant polymer in nature after cellulose, and from a functional point of view it has activities comparable to those of the protein keratin. Chitin is present in the cell wall of fungi and it is the major component…

Mind controlling parasites

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Nature is filled with some of the most fascinating and bizarre things. From mind controlling parasites to zombie-d animals and insects, one close look at nature and it feels like something out of sci-fi.


Image courtesy http://www.missfidget.com/?p=6650
Cordyceps
The Cordyceps fungus is probably nature’s way of keeping a check on the populations of insects. There are thousands of different types of Cordeceps fungi, with each being very specific to a particular insect species. The Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, for example, infects ants in particular. When into the ant’s system, it alters the behaviour of the ant to ensure it spreads its spores in the environment. Ants that are infected, referred to as zombie ants, wonder alone and perch themselves on branches, or leaves ensuring the viability of the fungus. Experts have witnessed that the ants generally chose a spot that is high in humidity, and have temperatures between 20-30 degrees making sure that the fungus survives. One can generall…