Blog Post Series with the Students from Scitable by Nature Education

Hi Terry readers! My name is Khalil Cassimally and I’m the blog manager for Student Voices. Student Voices is a blog by Nature Education, the educational division of Nature Publishing Group. Our motto is to get students interested in reading and talking about science and technology issues, and we firmly believe that, by allowing enthusiastic students to blog about the science that interests them, we will get more people interested in the wonderful scientific world. We blog because we are science geeks at heart and because we just love talking about the culture of science, science discovery, misunderstandings of science, and the way science affects us all – just a lot like the Terry bloggers.

You’ll be seeing posts from our Scitable bloggers over the next year, and we’re going to kick it off with a series about our workspaces- where experiments, mistakes and daily pondering occurs.

What the mess means by Radwa Sharaf

Finally, I reached the point where I have run out of excuses to clean up my study desk at the end of another round of exams. Beneath the piles of paper, I eventually find my newly-bought lens cleaning paper for the microscope with the side note:

“Two for the price of one. Can also be used as cigarette rolling paper.”

It had been lying there next to the filter paper, an exquisite assortment of plastic droppers and scattered test tubes. Many wonder why such stuff even exists on my desk, but I can’t help it. Imagining myself going through the process of studying for my practical exams makes the “mess” appear logical! Having everything on my desk saves me a lot of valuable time. This is especially true when you have to somehow pull out a cotton plug whilst holding a glass pippete and two test tubes in front of a flame. Indeed, everything I need is on my table and what may appear as a real mess to everyone else is perfectly orderly from my point of view.

Those hideous practical sessions are the greatest turn-down to a microbiology major. So do why do  I keep at it? Whenever I look at my desk,  the piles, the mixture of lap supplies and lecture notes, I am reminded that, through such a  field of study, maybe one day I will help discover something more meaningful. Perhaps it would be something like the epidemiological basis of some debilitating infectious disease- how it’s related to behavior, genetics, preponderance of intermediate hosts, et cetera. This is part of my active mental fantasy life.

Here in Egypt, the infectious (and prevantable) diseases bilharziasis (aka schistosomiasis) and hepatitis C are extremely widespread. The former is caused by a worm and the latter by a virus, but, we know very little else about them. Schistosomiasis is endemic, which explains the large number of articles published by fellow scientists in Egypt covering new research related to the highest rate of hepatitis C infection worldwide in Egypt. The prevalence is estimated to be at 11-14% (1) of our approximate 80 million citizen population. How to truly tap into the necessary radical curative and preventative measures remains unanswered, left for the various curious minds of budding scientists to explore and discover someday. And my desk is the starting point of it all.

(1) HepEgypt Website:

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