How Molecular Ecologists Work: Richard Hamelin on Moving Art and making scientific use of sliced bread

Welcome to “How Molecular Ecologists Work”, the interview series that asks scientists how they get stuff done.

This week’s interview is from Dr. Richard Hamelin. Richard and his lab investigate all things tree pathogen, from how to detect them to how to encourage resistance.

Location: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC and Université Laval, Quebec city, QC.

Current Position: Professor

Current mobile device(s): iPhone 6

Current computer(s): MacBook Air

What kind of research do you?

I study tree pathogens to learn how they attack trees, what special adaptation makes them pathogens and I use genomics to try to untangle their epidemiology.

Can you use one word to describe the way you work?

Passionately

What specific strategies do you recommend for running (or establishing) a lab?

Establishing a lab: jump on opportunities, make it happen

Running a lab: empower team members to think, explore, get off the beaten trail, get their own ideas

What apps/software/language/tools can’t you work without (Python, Dropbox, Geneious, etc.)?

I can work with any of them, but languages require practice and time!! Both of which I have run out of!

Where do you work with data (personal computer, lab computers, cluster, etc.)?

Personal computer and server; ideally remotely in a cool coffee shop.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

Wait, there are other gadgets??

What is your best time-saving shortcut/lifehack?

Using a slice of bread out in the field to replace a tube rack (picture attached)

What part of your job do you spend the most time on in a week? What part do you wish you had more time for?

Meetings and traveling; I wish I had more time to sit around with team members looking at a fresh set of data, trying to make sense of it. Or out in the field looking for hidden pathogens killing trees!

How do you stay organized (to-do lists, digital reminders, etc.)?

It’s all in my brain!!! (unless it fails me and I miss an important meeting…)

What do you listen to while you’re working (music, kids yelling, the hum of a supercomputer)?

Silence. Noise-cancelling headphones. On Saturday morning ‘Moving Art’ on Netflix, great to have in the background while reviewing a paper!

What do you do to recharge outside of science?

Nature! Hiking, biking, museum, traveling.

What are you currently reading?

The Innovators, Walter Isaacson

What is your sleep routine like?

6.5 h sleep is all I need!

Fill in the blank: I’d like to see _________ answer these questions.

Tatiana Giraud

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

From my PhD supervisor: when I was finishing my PhD I told him I wanted to move away from forest pathology because there were not enough jobs. He told me: ‘How many jobs do you need??’

Thanks Richard! Next week: Dr. Catherine Peichel from the University of Bern!

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About Rob Denton

I’m a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UConn. I’m most interested in understanding the evolutionary/ecological consequences of strange reproduction in salamanders (unisexual Ambystoma). Topics I’m likely to write about: population and landscape genetics, mitonuclear interactions, polyploidy, and reptiles/amphibians.

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