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Sam Westreich, PhD

How you can brew up the next deadly worldwide disease in your neighborhood

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Is this young woman actually an aspiring mad supervillain who wants to use the next COVID-19 to conquer the world? Read on to get a hint of her plan! Photo by Senor Sosa on Unsplash

Don’t worry, it’s not that hard. You can probably do it just with your saved PTO.

Making a deadly virus that will lead to a global pandemic is surprisingly easy. You don’t need to start from scratch. There are a lot of great resources out there to help you.

You…


Should you take Emergen-C for your brain chemistry?

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Look at her! She’s so happy! Is she supplementing her body’s natural brain chemistry with OUTSIDE CHEMICALS? (She likely is, but probably not in the same way that you add a multivitamin to your diet.) Photo by Andy Falconer on Unsplash

It seemed like an easy way for me to get my needed doses, especially water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C, which our bodies can’t store and need to replenish regularly. Additionally, I feared that a lack of vitamins was interfering with my brain’s ability to function. Was I bad at studying because I didn’t have enough vitamins?

(In the end, I decided that it would simply be easier to occasionally buy a vegetable or some fruit.)

These…


Tons of cheese, processed ingredients, extra sugar — but it works because of this trick

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Oh yeah, that’s it. Get the money shot, with it stretching. Mmm, yes, please, more. Work that cheese, baby, make me drool. Photo by Nicolás Perondi on Unsplash

Not all GIF recipes — which is to say, a short auto-playing video that shows the creation of some food dish, often with at least a limited attempt at instructing on how to make it — are bad. Some of them are authentic. Some are healthy. Some are creative and appealing. Some even manage to be all three.

But…


Covered in feces? Here’s what the microbes say

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Is this woman putting a clean, safe toothbrush in her mouth? Or is she essentially brushing her MOUTH with her BUTT? Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

I’m sure you’ve heard it in some form; when you flush a toilet, all of the… human waste, shall we say… doesn’t just get sucked down the drain to never be seen again. The energetic flush also sends micro-droplets of water into the air — and those droplets also carry tiny little bits of feces.

This phenomenon has been studied and examined, and it’s known as a “toilet plume”. Depending on the model of toilet…


“Do I burrow, or do I spread?”

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This stock photo came up when I searched “professor.” If he really is a professor, he should get out of academia ASAP — and into modeling, heyo! Photo by Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

One of the biggest questions, however, doesn’t affect graduate school, but instead matters after you finish. It boils down to a simple three words:

“Academia or industry?”

After you’ve earned a professional degree, usually a PhD, these are widely seen as the two most common career tracks open to you. You…


Here’s why I’m not worried — even if I catch the disease.

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“Doc, this will keep me from getting sick, right?” “Well, it will keep you from dying, and that’s what’s important.” Photo by CDC on Unsplash

These long lists of side effects often inspire comedians and would-be imitators. “Why would I take this drug for headaches, when it may also give me heart attacks, cancer, bad gas, indigestion, diarrhea, and memory problems?”

Side effects can be…


Is this the reason why breast-feeding wins out over formula?

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We’ve long known that breast-feeding is recommended over formula feeding when possible, and leads to more robust babies. Could bacteria be at least partially responsible for this advantage? Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Very few things are totally sterile.

  • Your mouth? Definitely not sterile, even immediately after you gargled with Listerine.
  • The dry, dusty floor of a classroom or office room? Teeming with bacteria.
  • Many of us know that the human intestinal tract is filled with bacteria, but some of them even survive in our acid-filled stomach.
  • Urine? Nope, that myth is incorrect, and it’s not sterile.

But what about something like breast milk? Barring any contamination from…


Not so birdbrained after all, are they?

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That is the face of a bird that will distract you, poop on your shoulder, and then fly off with your entire Chipotle burrito while you’re cursing and distracted. Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash

I had the time, and I had the skills — but I didn’t have the mental energy. I decided to push it off until later. In other words, I procrastinated.

Procrastination is a common factor in most of our lives, even though we want to fight against it. We often describe it as habitually and repeatedly putting off something that needs to be done.

There are plenty of articles about the dangers of…


It’s covered in bacteria — and as this study shows, they tell a story

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I like to imagine that this lady just read this article, and she’s now wondering whether her broom is able to sweep away bacteria. (Spoiler: it is not.) Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I don’t even need to see it to tell you. As a microbiome scientist, if there’s one thing that I learned over the course of earning my Ph.D, it’s that bacteria are everywhere — in our homes, on our pets, on our skin, in our mouths, and at pretty much every stage in our digestive system.

Normally, I write about the microbiome that’s associated most closely with us — our gut microbiome. …


“You have 24 hours in a day, and you should spend them working.”

The Superbowl 2021 ad from SquareSpace that made me wince a bit, even more than the Chiefs’ offensive line.

I walked away from the game feeling a bit let down on both counts. …

Sam Westreich, PhD

PhD in genetics, bioinformatician, scientist at a Silicon Valley startup. Microbiome is the secret of biology that we’ve overlooked.

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