On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram I'm taking walking people through some of the biochemistry work I do, as well as fundamental biochemistry concepts using and I'll be re-posting some of the posts here. (You can find links to all of my past posts here: http://bit.ly/2OllAB0). Feel free to ask questions and call me out if I slip into jargon!


Biochemistry of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine

What are the facts about Novavax? I heard that the results from a large trial of Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine are […]

C1V1=C2V2. What’s this got to do with you?

I’m in the 5th year of my PhD program and this is still the most useful equation I have ever […]

Marion Sewer

Marion Sewer (1972-2016) was a pharmacologist and Professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy […]

Serial dilutions of your solutions!

Last night I reached a new geek masterclass level: I literally dreamt I was teaching someone about serial dilutions. Probably […]

Forward vs reverse genetics, phenotype & genotype

I’m always forgetting forward vs. reverse genetics, so I thought I’d share a memory tip stemming from phonetics! I hate […]

Kinases & protein phosphorylation

Would you like a phosphate cherry on top or on the side of your protein? Kinases are like “presentation chefs” that […]

Peeps demonstrating the ideal gas laws

Happy Easter peeps! Did you know Peeps are ideal for demonstrating ideal gas laws?  note: this is adapted from a […]

Some thoughts on reading while PhD-ing & PhD-ing in general

One of the things I didn’t learn until I think my 3rd year of undergrad was that, at least for […]

Women in Science – Year-round!

Women’s History Month may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep learning about female scientists! To make it […]

Coomassie Brilliant Blue – SDS-PAGE staining

Could that be a massive protein I see? We can separate proteins by size by sending them traveling through an […]

Troubleshooting recombinant protein expression

I hope this protein expressed well and solubly! Thankfully, that’s more likely since I used a fusion partner! Fusion partners […]

“Expression” and ways to measure it

Do you ever hear scientists talking about genes being “expressed” and wonder what the heck they’re talking about? You’re not […]

Hildegard Lamfrom helped show where proteins come from!

Hildegard Lamfrom helped show where proteins come from! The other day I told you about Katalin Karikó, who figured out […]

COVID-19 vaccine biochemistry, with a focus on mRNA vaccines

Today I got my first shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine! I feel a bit uncomfortable sharing this, because I […]

Katalin Karikó – “solver” and “saver” of synthetic mRNA (like that in some vaccines)

You don’t want a PAMP-er to put a damper on hopes for an mRNA vaccine – enter scientist Katalin Karikó […]


One of those, “well that’s strange…” experimental results morning. Which meant it was one of those “need to design another […]

Martha Chase and the Chase-Hershey experiment

One of the first experiments you learn about in molecular biology class is the Chase-Hershey experiment (aka Warning Blender experiment) […]

Colony PCR & colony sequencing

Cloning success! How do I know? Because my DNA sequencing data tells me so! I recently got back the sequencing […]

Rosalind Franklin and Photo 51

Rosalind Franklin – here’s a woman who definitely deserves to be celebrated during Women’s History Month (and year round!) You’ve […]

Protein expression and purification – Twitter thread with figures and links to more

Today’s post is weird, but I’m actually going to direct you to a Twitter thread I made yesterday walking people […]

HIV/AIDS research led by women

A lot of progress towards combatting HIV/AIDS has been made possible by female scientists, but they’ve often been overshadowed. Yesterday […]

Size exclusion chromatography (gel filtration)

No discussion of protein purifying would be complete if you excluded Size Exclusion Chromatography (SEC). Especially since, of all the […]

Ion Exchange Chromatography (IEX) and isoelectric point (pI)

Keep your ION the prize – pure protein! Lost? Use the isoelectric point (pI) to guide you and your protein […]

Viral vector vaccines (such as J&J’s and Oxford/AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines)

The FDA granted emergency use authorization (an EUA) for Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. There are *lots* of articles out […]

Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells

I can’t let Black History Month go by without telling the story of Henrietta Lacks. You might “know” her better […]

Time- and thumb-saving lab tips

My thumbs got weary just seeing the experiments I planned out for today – lots of serial dilution-ing – thank […]

The art and science of reading science articles

The main way in which scientists communicate their findings with people around the world is through journal articles, but they’re […]

How do you read DNA? DNA sequencing methods

Happy 20th anniversary of the first draft human genome sequence being published! It took a lot of time, innovation, and […]

Push electrons, not people – the bumbling biochemist’s philosophy

“Push electrons, not people.” I’m preparing for some really important interviews I have next week, where I have to talk […]

Flash freeze dance – cryoprotectants, vitrification, crystallization, etc.

Flash freeze dance time! I love protein purification, but I always have this weight of worry that – no matter […]


Sonicate good times, come on! One benefit of being an early bird is there’s no competition for the ultrasonicator when […]

Sickle cell anemia – the first “molecular disease” – Pauling & Ingram experiments

This is one of my favorite stories of discovery, a classic story of how scientists (Pauling, Sanger, Ingram, and colleagues) […]

Valuable Valine

Happy Valine-tines day! The amino acid valine (Val, V) is a protein letter to fall in love with! And with […]

Freezing point depression

Ever wonder why we salt driveways to keep them from getting icy? Or why we use antifreeze to protect our […]

Ionic strength and salt effects on binding and solubility

The biochemistry equivalent of the whole “the dose makes the poison” phenomenon, whereby anything (even water) can kill you if […]

Biomolecular binding – affinity, avidity, and more

Kd, Ka, affinity? What’s this terminology? Are you avid about measuring binding affinity? Curious about the difference between affinity and […]

Binding affinity – “slot/dot blot” filter binding assay for measuring protein/nucleic acid interactions

Affinity affects all, for molecules big & small! Binding affinity shouldn’t be ignored – but learning about it shouldn’t make […]

RNAi and microRNA

RNA interference provides a way to down-regulate no-longer-wanted mRNA! It’s what I study, so I’m a bit biased, no lie. […]

Johanna Rommens

Meet Johanna Rommens, a Canadian geneticist who helped discover the gene, CFTR, which, when mutated, is responsible for causing the […]

Enzymes and catalysis

I spent my day playing with enzymes – and then I presented a journal club about an enzyme. And I […]

Nonsense-Mediated Decay

Me – strange? Nonsense! (Geek – sense!) Nonsense Mediated Decay provides a way to get rid of early stop-signed mRNA! […]

Ribosome associated Quality Control

If your ribosome stalls, who you gonna call? Ribosome Associated Quality Control (RQC)! When it comes to making functional proteins, […]

RNA splicing: alternative splicing, exon shuffling, etc.

Genes are stretches of DNA that serve as genetic “recipes” instructing your cells how to make things like proteins, which […]

Batsheva Kerem

Meet Batsheva Kerem, an Israeli geneticist who helped discover the gene, CFTR, which, when mutated, is responsible for causing the […]

RNase A & DEPC

RNase A – pretty pretty pretty pleaaaaase stay away!!!!!! RNase. RNase. RNase. This is the name for “RNA cutters” and […]

Grad school interview advice

Today, I was helping someone prepare for grad school interviews, so I thought I’d share some of the advice I […]

Lab structure – who’s who and some of what they do

Lab structure: who’s who and what do we do?! I had some cool experiments planned out for today, then looked […]

Equipped to experiment: lab equipment

I’m a major morning person, but this morning I couldn’t go to the lab until 9 because the building had […]

HBCUs and their STEM successes

From Kamala Harris to Stacy Abrams to Raphael Warnock, HBCU alums have been in the news lately. And I hope […]

Cystic fibrosis science: history, present, & future

You might not stop to think about it much, especially with all the talk of coronavirus transmission, but it’s pretty […]

Urea PAGE and comparison to SDS-PAGE

Today, I brought out the big gels! And, although they might look like they’re just scaled-up versions of the SDS-PAGE […]

Balancing chemical equations

You put some molecules in, you get some molecules out, you count the atoms within to be sure they balance […]

Measuring protein concentration – the many ways…

Today I finished a couple of protein purifications that I started yesterday, and I wanted to figure out what my […]

Protein cleaning – recombinant protein expression and chromatography purification workflow

You’ve gotta make a mess to get proteins clean! I do a ton of these “cleanings” (protein purifications) because as […]

Welcome to Wikipedia editing

Wikipedia is free to edit, so we each can play a part, so today, as I work on 2 articles […]

Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) & structural biology

Dying to know “What’s the deal with cryo?” Cryo-Electron Microscopy (CryoEM) has transformed the structural biology field in recent years, […]

western blot workflow

SDS-PAGE lets us separate proteins by size, but doesn’t tell us what the proteins we separated are. If you add […]

Agarose gel electrophoresis

AGAROSE GEL ELECTROPHORESIS provides a way to separate differently-sized pieces of DNA! With the start of the new year, many […]

Candles, combustion, and waxes

I’m finally getting around to de-decorating and, putting away Hanukkah candles, I realized that because Hanukkah fell during #20DaysOfAminoAcids, I […]

Fermentation & leavening

I was watching one of those “2020 in Review” TV specials and it was talking about how a lot of […]

Me, Dr. Alexandra Newton, and the IUBMB

Happy New Year! New Year, same me – but who is me? I’m Bri! At least to people who know […]

Party popper chemistry

Don’t be a party pooper! Learn the science behind PARTY POPPERS!  Because knowledge is a gift that stays after the […]

Metabolism & energy-making: emphasis on glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation

You might not stop to think about it often but, even when you’re sleeping and not scurrying around the lab […]

ATP as “energy money”

Energy – need more energy! Need the ATP ATM ASAP! Ive been using up a lot of my energy lately […]

Creatine, ATP regulation

Our muscles don’t wait until a crisis to stock up on essentials – they “hoard” some energy – but not […]

Coal and other carbon allotropes – and Rosalind Franklin’s cool coal chemistry contributions

On Christmas morning, millions around the world looked in their stockings & hoped not to see coal. – yet they’d probably love […]

Nucleic acids

2020 has been quite a year… but the DNA lights still got put out for display at my mom’s house! […]

Amino acids – all* of ’em!

I’m not a big jewelry wearer – a lab coat cape’s as accessory-ish as I normally go… But I LOVE […]

Pyrrolysine – the 22nd amino acid

PyrRolysine – NOT pyro-lysine – it’s lysine with a pyrrole group, not lysine on fire! Though its discovery as the […]

Selenocysteine, selenoproteins, translation trickery

Wait a Sec! I thought U said this was #20DaysOfAminoAcids?! I know this is supposed to be #20DaysOfAminoAcids, because there […]

Serine, serine proteases

Sometimes serine is serene – other times it’s sabotaging other proteins by providing the blade to “protein scissors” called serine […]

Glutamate, ionic “bonds,” salts

MSG? Fine by me! It’s just a salt of glutamate, so why does everyone gotta hate? From giving food its […]

Glutamine, Huntington’s disease, genetic diseases & mutation types

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a devastating and ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disease that causes progressive motor, cognitive, and psychological deterioration. It […]

Asparagine and asparaginase treatment

You never know where a scientific exploration will take you – I learned so much about so many different things […]

Aspartate, the malate-aspartate shuttle

I’ve always been more interested in the super close and super small than the super far and super big. So, […]

Arginine, basic vs. acidic amino acids

Arguing about arginine? And what “basicity” means? Today I want to introduce you to the last of the “basic” amino […]

Histidine, immobilized metal affinity chromatography

Today I His-tagged my His-smas tree… HISTIDINE (His, H) may be an amino *acid* but it can also be a […]

Methionine, methyl transfers

Before he could be “SAM I am” he was METHIONINE. Have you Met yet? You can find him in green […]

Lysine, Schiff bases

Move over Kelloggs, this “K” is way more special than your cereal! Why? For one, the amino acid (protein letter) […]

Cysteine – disulfide bonds, reducing agents, perms

The Sistine Chapel wasn’t built in a day, but thanks to the amino acid cysteine (Cys, C) your hair can be […]

Proline – hydrogen bonding, bond angles, collagen

What’s a side chain that’s curvy gotta do with scurvy? Proline isn’t *pro*-lines & it’s definitely *anti* α-helix!  But it’s […]

Tryptophan, serotonin, melatonin, spectroscopy, etc.

What’s Tweety bird’s fave amino acid?  tWiptophan! Tryptophan (Trp) is abbreviated W & you can remember this by saying it […]

Isoleucine, Maple Syrup Urine Disease

Who doesn’t love the smell of maple syrup? Doctors who smell it coming from diapers! Don’t know what i’m talking […]

Leucine, ketogenic amino acids

No losers here – just LEUCINE! Lighten up! But stay lucid!  today I’m elucidating the amino acid Leucine (Leu, L) […]

Valine, branched-chain amino acid breakdown

I know it’s not tis *that* season, but would you be my Valine-tine? Today in #20DaysOfAminoAcids, another protein letter to […]

Glycine and early protein chemistry research

Today I’m kicking off the 2020 bumbling biochemist’s version of an advent calendar – #20DaysOfAminoAcids – with the “opening up” […]

Light, chromophores, and changing leaf colors

Don’t Fall into the trap of thinking science is pretty boring – leave it to the bumbling biochemist to make […]

Donna Nelson and Indigenous Peoples in STEM

Dr. Donna Nelson is someone we should all be grateful for. And, in recognition of Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll join […]

The myth of turkey-triggered tiredness

If you’re tired after Thanksgiving, don’t blame the turkey! Time to pardon the turkey from the “turkey makes you tired” […]

Why RNA needs TLC

RNA, despite being really powerful, is really delicate and has to be treated with extreme TLC. And, yes, kept really […]

Alkaline lysis (mini preps)

Work in a lab & there are some “boring” experiments you have to do A LOT in order to do […]

mRNA vaccine biochemistry

mRNA vaccine biochemistry – What are they molecule-wise? How are they made? How do they work? and – in answer […]

Nucleophilicity & basicity

Think like a molecule! But what kind? This past week I’ve been learning lots of *nu* skills and phile-ing them […]

Nucleophilic substitution

It’s a drizzly day and whenever I take out my umbrella I think about SN1 and SN2 reactions! In these […]


What does hemoglobin fingerprinting have to do with crime scene fingerprint fingerprinting? Say “hy” to ninhydrin! From fingerprinting to fossil […]

pH: acids, bases, and the source of all those H’s

Who took a proton from the proton jar? The bumbling biochemist is on the case and her prime suspect is […]

Protein structure & Insulin – solving its structure and using it to treat diabetes

Solving the structure of insulin (figuring out the 3D arrangement of its atoms) was the crowning achievement for the pioneering […]

X-ray crystallography helps us pretty protein “see”

We’ve been “looking” a lot at proteins, the main workhorses of our cells, which do everything from provide structural support […]

Checking your cloning: colony PCR, analytical restriction digest, sequencing & more

A practical guide for checking your clones to make sure your inserted DNA got safely into its new home!. We […]

Adrenaline! (aka epinephrine) and other chemical callers (hormones & neurotransmitters)

Boo! AHHHHHHHdrenaline! Instead of trick or treat, let’s talk fight or flight and the chemistry behind the spook of a […]