Jay writes:


While listening to TWIV 512, I was inspired to do a search on plant bioinformatics, and came upon the best URL. Ever.

Lawrence-Dill Plant Informatics and Computation Lab @Iowa State


Also, really cool research.


Thanks for all your hard work.

John writes:

I really enjoyed your (second) conversation with Anne Simon on TWiV 512.

Regarding public perception of transgenic crops, it is worth noting that Bayer acquired Monsanto this year. Low commodity prices have been driving consolidation in the industry (see also ChemChina-Syngenta and DuPont-Dow). It should be interesting to see if the disappearance of the name “Monsanto” affects perception at all.

In a historical echo, the European Union Court of Justice recently ruled that CRISPR-gene-edited plants will need to go through the same stringent approval process as transgenic plants. (See for example this news piece by Ewen Callaway.) This decisions runs counter to the regulatory environment that is emerging in the US, where the USDA has indicated that a number of gene-edited crops will not be regulated as transgenic.

Plum pox virus and two geminiviruses are on the list of “top” plant viruses that Dickson picked back on TWiV 274. Also included on the list is potato virus Y, the namesake for the genus Potyvirus and family Potyviridae.

Bob writes:

I recently listened to TWiV 512 when Anne Simon joined the panel for a very interesting discussion of a couple of devastating plant viruses.

Unless I did not understand her later in the podcast, I believe she was arguing the benefits of GMO crops so as to allow the targeted use of certain pesticides.

I wonder what her reaction is to a recent study published in PNAS:

“Glyphosate perturbs the gut microbiota of honey bees,”



Neeraj writes:

Dear Twivvers,

   It was great listening to and welcoming a dedicated plant virologist to the podcast. I had a lot of  fun listening to the numerous anecdotes that Dr. Simon had about plant virus biology and current funding situation for scientists in that field. With Limited funding (and kudos to NSF), I can only imagine how hard it must be to stay focused and motivated to pursue something that is so important from both scientific and especially economic standpoint, given how debilitating plant viruses can be towards eroding crop production. And following up on the discussion about Monsanto and GMO, I recently came across this article on the side effects of using Glyphosate on the honey bee population.


Given that overall honey bee populations have taken an absolute beating in the last few years and the huge impact it has had on the pollination efficiency, this article throws some light onto the “why” that might have been the case.

And finally, not to sound too pedantic but just factual, I wanted to correct something Dr Despommier mentioned towards the end of the episode 512. He claimed that Albert Einstein received a Nobel Prize for the diffusion theory but I would most humbly like to state that even though he could have, it wasn’t the discovery for which he received the nobel prize (In fact, this was his thesis work, which on first submission, was outrightly rejected). He actually received the prize for his work on photoelectric effect [https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1921/summary/]. So to set things in order, I just wanted to update on it.

Overall, I am far more well informed about the diverse world of virology due to the tireless efforts and tutelage of the TWiV team and for that, I would like to sincerely thank each one of you. We as scientists have a moral obligation to be objective about the data and subjective about the science!

Thanks for Twivving,



Neeraj Kapoor, Ph.D.

Scientist II at SutroVax, Inc.

Anonymous writes:

Hello Dr Racaniello and the rest of the TWiVers

I had some feelings towards the comments about teaching. I’ve come from a very odd background, double BS in Physics and Math from an institute without a graduate program and then a MS in Biology and soon to be MS in Biomedical Sciences from a medical school with instructors driven by R01s…. Which the second MS is a long story, and adjunct professor in biology and a high school biology teacher.

I like the idea of a separate tenure track for teaching, depending on the institute and level being taught. Yes, graduate courses and to some degree, senior undergraduate coursework benefits immensely from having educators that are experts in the field and up to date with the latest changes. These courses are also generally supposed to be driven towards students that are soon to be moving into these fields, either work-wise or research for their respective degrees. In undergraduate programs though, the bulk of the teaching load on the departments doesn’t even go towards students in the field being taught — think: science credit requirements for BS degrees — or are laying the foundation for future scientists in the field that includes critical thought processing and an understanding of the underlaying work that has built up our respective fields. While odd tidbits are sometimes only that, tidbits, it helps enrich the understanding of the field. These are things that don’t benefit greatly from the latest research being published on epigenetic modifications using dCAS9 fusion proteins, for example.

So, to me, you need to disconnect the idea of a good researcher and a good educator. They are not mutually exclusive, but unfortunately don’t seem to correlate well in the current environment of how we are training new PhDs. This I believe can be tied to the how most labs turn PhDs into just a form of slave labor, you have a cheap source that you generally are guaranteed to be around for 4-5 years and these students can, if need be, find their own funding, so they don’t drain a budget as much as a dedicated technician. This is obviously not everyone, but funding mechanisms do push having student training as a major component. I have found excellent educators in the medical school here, albeit they are few and they tend to also do well with R01 grants, as someone mentioned on TWiV 509. I have also found quite poor educators in my undergraduate institute, to the point I’m unsure if they even know how they still have jobs either.

Many of my undergraduate courses typically were me and 3 other students. That is a level of scrutiny that is hard to come by in a larger institution. Granted we still have some educators like my Optics professor wrote the book on the blackboard and my Advanced Calculus professor used transparency notes he made 20 years ago, but also had some professors like Statistical and Thermodynamics came into the course the first day and looked at the singular blackboard and immediately walked us out to find a room with more blackboards, which was both a blessing in how we progressed through the class and terrifying the amount of material we were quickly moving through. My Virology professor, who turned into my MS adviser, would take us over to a neighboring school listen to lectures.

So there does need to be some balance, both good professors I stated did do some research with the little bit of money here and there, but we had fun with the class because they cared — not because they were actively researching and publishing papers. What made them excellent educators also helped them do research, but the research itself didn’t help form what made them excellent educators. The opinion piece describes Einstein but the classic counter example to this is Feynman. No one could call the king of the bongos anything short of a world class physicist AND a world class educator.  

I love the podcast though, I missed virology as the move from my soon-to-be ex-program has necessitated moving away from virology and listening to you guys each week is my guilty pleasure. My wife even enjoys listening along as a non-scientist although she jokes she shares my MS as many a night I was in the lab dissecting mosquitoes with her help.


Adam writes:

I suspect this had popped up on TWiX at some point, but in light of the recent discussion of sequence database mining on TWiV 509 it seems like a good time to bump the Research Parasite Awards.

Adam Taranto

Postdoctoral Researcher | Stergiopoulos Lab

Department of Plant Pathology | University of California Davis

Anonymous 2 writes:

Dear Vincent and Co-TWIVers,

First, thank you for putting up this great podcast! As a regular TWiP listener, I really like the new section by Dickson on his ‘scientific heroes’, talking about the life and achievements of the people after whom all these cute parasites are named. Wouldn’t something similar be a good idea for TWiV too? I would love to hear the stories of influential but little known luminaries such as Federico Picorna, Friedrich Hanta, Evgenia Polyoma, and – most importantly – Richard T. Norwalk (from Ohio). I am looking forward to many more great installments,

Best Regards, Anonymous 2

Anthony writes:

90 iron lungs that keep on breathing


# # #

As luck would have it, the ad copy focuses on a 1953 Polio outbreak.  You’ve mentioned your 1953 year of birth coinciding with the elucidation of the structure of DNA.  Perhaps of equal numerological significance is that the Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology for that year was on viruses:


Ruan writes:

Dear Twiv

I’m a clinical virology resident at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and also spent some time in the phage therapy group at Imperial College London. It’s a beautiful 23 degrees Celsius in Cape Town with clear skies and a great view of table mountain as I type this email sitting at the waterfront.

I would just like to thank you for one of your recent picks: biorender.io. It has changed my life.

Also re: twiv 495, I may be in clinical virology and my academia experience was in phage based cancer immunotherapy but I’ve done a plaque assay so I think I get to go on the world list of virologists.


Anthony writes:



Podcasters, rather than the conventional media or education establishment, are in a position to shape the tone and content of public discourse.

Anthony writes:

Is the podcast bubble bursting?



Podcasting can also be difficult to monetize: Audio is difficult to summarize or browse through (although some podcasts do offer transcripts), which arguably makes it out of sync with the short attention span culture of social media—although that’s also what many people like about it. In any case, sharing short clips the way one does with video doesn’t really go viral in the same way, and that makes it difficult to market podcasts the way other media assets get marketed. Also, podcasting doesn’t really have an established way of measuring success that advertisers can get comfortable with, apart from just tracking raw downloads.

Steve writes:

Lots of biology videos. Lots.