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An Interview with Britt Koskella

Describe your work in a Twitter post (140 characters):Britt

“Understanding the impact of bacteriophage mediated selection on bacterial communities.”

How did you get to where you are now?

“I began my undergraduate career studying psychology where I was very interested in the idea of how human psychology is shaped by biology. Much of what we do behaviourally is adaptive, however it is extremely difficult to investigate this experimentally; you can only look at things correlatively as opposed to causatively, thus I switched to Biology and have never looked back! For my PhD I worked on trematodes infecting snails in New Zealand with the aim of answering questions relating to how parasites adapt to their host population and whether parasite mediated negative frequency dependant selection can maintain host diversity. It is here that I really became addicted to experimental evolution, and following a 5 year experiment I decided to write a post-doctoral fellowship application focussing on bacteria and phage systems which have a faster evolutionary rate.”

What is your proudest work-related moment to date?

“Publishing my very long 5 year PhD experiment in Evolution with minor revisions which was followed by being awarded the R. A. Fisher Prize by the Society for the Study of Evolution!”

What’s the worst job you have ever had?

“A wedding caterer which was pretty stressful dealing with demanding mothers of the bride!”

If you had left academia in a parallel universe, what job would you be doing instead?

“Without a doubt I’d still be a snowboard instructor – a job that was really hard for me to leave prior to entering academia!”

Apart from Cardiff (or Wales), where is the best place you have ever travelled for work?

“This is an easy one! Tbilisi, Georgia as this is where the ELIAVA institute of Bacteriophages, Microbiology and Virology is located. Since the 1920’s they’ve been collecting phages for medical use and they have a pharmacy where you can buy phage cocktail drinks and beauty products. Besides the ELIAVA phage institute, Tbilisi is a really amazing city!”

What’s your favourite parasite?

“It would have to be a behavioural manipulator, for example, Leucochloridium paradoxum.”

If you had to be infected with a parasite what would you pick?

“A tapeworm – It’s the least disgusting of them all, plus there is a weight loss component involved!”

What’s your favourite type of cheese?

“Probably Manchego – I don’t eat it very often, but it’s really good!!”

If your office/lab caught on fire, what would be the thing that you saved?

“This is really hard question mainly because it’s my worst nightmare. I would have to save my tree/bacteria stocks, which have taken me four years to compile!”

To find out more about Britt’s research, click here.