Dr. John Logsdon is an Associate Professor of Biology and former Director of the Pentacrest Museums at the University of Iowa. John earned his PhD from Indiana University and completed postdoctoral research at Dalhousie University. He served on the faculty at Emory University before accepting a position at the University of Iowa where he remains today. John is here with us today to tell us all about his journey through life and science.
People Behind the Science Podcast Show Notes
Life Outside of Science
Outside of the lab, John likes to spend his time reading and being active by running, cycling, and recently he has become obsessed with hot yoga.
The Scientific Side
John studies the genes and molecular biology that underpin sexual reproduction, particularly focusing on meiosis, the cell division process that gives rise to sperm and egg in our species.
A Dose of Motivation
You just have to decide what you want to do, and do it every day.
What Got You Hooked on Science?
He went to a very small high school in Iowa (his graduating class was only 56 students!). John was interested in science and math but didn’t have a clear idea of what that meant in terms of a career. He was lucky to take biology his junior year with a new and very enthusiastic teacher. This teacher sparked John’s interest, and he continued taking biology courses in college where evolutionary biology won him over.
The Low Points: Failures and Challenges
In graduate school, John worked on a genetics project and became frustrated because he couldn’t find the gene he was looking for. Concerned about contamination, he even went to the great lengths of remaking all the reagents and moving all his stuff to a completely different lab to solve the problem. When that didn’t work, he tried changing his approach to answer the question with biochemical methods (which also didn’t work). This process took on the order of years with not much to show for it.
A Shining Success!
When John was the Director of the Pentecrest Museum at the University of Iowa, he really enjoyed the experience. It was particularly exciting for him that despite his divided attention, his lab continued to flourish and be productive even when he wasn’t able to dedicate as much time to the research. Four of his graduate students finished in a period of 12 months and were all able to go on to great positions.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
Most Treasured Travel
During graduate school, John had a fantastic opportunity to travel to Costa Rica when his advisor was invited to speak at a conference but didn’t want to go. John went in his place and enjoyed rubbing elbows with some of his science heroes in the conference hall and on extraordinary excursions through the rain forest!
Quirky Traditions and Funny Memories
John’s lab currently has a great tradition of bringing in birthday cake to celebrate each lab member’s birthday. The tradition evolved into an arms race of cakes where each cake tried to out-do the previous one. Some impressive and hilarious cakes ensued!
Advice For Us All
If you decide to go into science, you are going to be a student for the rest of your life because you will be constantly learning new things.
John’s lab works on a variety of related topics in molecular evolution. In particular they are investigating the origin and evolution of meiotic genes for sexual reproduction in diverse eukaryotes. They also conduct research in trees to understand the molecular phylogeny of eukaryotes. Another area of research centers around the discovery and analysis of genomic sequences from key protists. Other projects involve understanding the origin and evolution of spliceosomal introns. A final focus of the lab is lateral gene transfer and understanding the frequency, role, distribution, and phylogenetic impact of this process in prokaryotes.