Editorial Article: ‘Communication in science is critical to fuel collaboration between scientists’

Lab manager and microbiologist Colleen Brand shares what inspired her interest in therapeutic microbiology and her hopes for the future of science communication

25 Mar 2022

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Colleen Brand, Lab Manager of the Therapeutic Microbiology Lab at Baylor College of Medicine

Colleen Brand, Laboratory Manager of the Therapeutic Microbiology Lab at Baylor College of Medicine

Lab product reviews can change the world by helping other scientists find the best equipment to accelerate their vital work. Here at SelectScience®, we are dedicated to promoting peer-to-peer communication that will make the difference - but we couldn't do it without our esteemed reviewers. In this regular feature, we put the spotlight on some of our most dedicated and impactful reviewers and find out what inspires them to keep sharing their knowledge with the global scientific community.

We are delighted to introduce this week’s Reviewer in the Spotlight, Colleen Brand, Lab Manager of the Therapeutic Microbiology Lab at Baylor College of Medicine. In this article, she discusses what inspired her to get into science and the study of the human microbiome. Brand also highlights the importance of effective digital communication in science with the pandemic significantly decreasing in-person conferences. 

Tell us a bit about your role and your current research

I oversee all aspects of the Therapeutic Microbiology Lab at Baylor College of Medicine, this includes mouse colony management, equipment upkeep, purchasing lab supplies, and aiding with various projects going on in the lab. My current research interest is in understanding how we can use the gut microbiome to prevent and treat diseases and improve health and diet. 

What are the big-picture goals of your work?

We are interested in the role of microbes in human health with a focus on how to translate our findings into meaningful ways to diagnose, prevent, and treat human diseases.  We use bacterial genetics, genomics, microbial ecology, and human organoid technology to investigate how individual microbes and microbial communities’ structures and functions impact host physiology. The work I am most involved with is using simplified microbial communities to protect and treat Clostridioides difficile infection. 

Colleen Brand working in an anaerobic fume hood

Brand hopes that by studying and understanding the human microbiome we can gain a better understanding of how our bodies digest food and fight disease

What inspired you to get into the world of science?

It started with my mom; she is the best physician I have ever known. At a young age, she helped my sister, who is currently in medical school, and I foster an interest in science, medicine, and nature. I was very interested in women’s health in high school and read a comprehensive scientific paper on how the microbiome changes through pregnancy. The idea that human health is affected by the microbiome fascinated me.

In my undergraduate degree, I had an amazing microbiology and genetics teacher, but it was Dr. Kristi Whitehead who taught my medical microbiology course at Clemson University that fueled my desire to study the human gut microbiome in graduate school. The study of the human microbiome is still a relatively new field with novel work being published every month, so it makes me excited to see what I can learn next in my line of work.

What do you think needs to be done to improve science communication?

Communication in science is critical to fuel collaboration between scientists and to translate findings to the public. Since the pandemic, the significant decrease and even disappearance of in-person conferences, symposiums, and meetings has hindered our communication. Now that the pandemic is waning a bit, bringing these back will improve communication within the field. At the same time, having these taken away from us, has led us to find better means to communicate and share information with the same impact digitally. I hope this has led members of scientific fields to more deeply appreciate and strive to optimize in-person events to exchange information and share our work on a larger scale. 

I love that SelectScience has such a large database of items with real, helpful reviews

How do SelectScience reviews help you with your work?

If I am going to buy or use a product at home, I always look at reviews first and it is the same for laboratory products, but it can be surprisingly hard to find reviews for lab products. I love that SelectScience has such a large database of items with real, helpful reviews.  Since the pandemic, I have to change items and suppliers, often based on what is in stock. SelectScience helps me get honest information and reviews on all these new products and companies I buy from or want to try out. 

What is your favorite piece of lab equipment?

My favorite piece of lab equipment to work with are our Coy anaerobic chambers. Not only is Coy the leader on the market for anaerobic and microoxic chambers that are super easy to use, but they are pivotal to our work with gut microbial cultivations. I have had many years’ of experience assembling, disassembling, and maintaining these chambers, and have spent my fair share of hours in the chambers doing growth assays or spread plating to learn more about unique microbial species. 

Colleen Brand Review

What would you like to achieve in your work?

I am very interested in seeing how we can develop new and improved ways to cultivate unique and previously unculturable microbes from the human gut. The hope is that by identifying and studying these microbes, we can gain a better understanding of how our bodies digest food and fight disease.

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