STEAM powered curation: thanks and farewell, Helena Ledmyr

Our curator for the past week was Dr Helena Ledmyr (she doesn’t get called by her title very often because Sweden so we thought we should throw that in) of the INCF and Molecular Frontiers, two different non-profit science organisations – the former concerned with developing and coordinating infrastructure and resources for neuroinformatics (‘big data’ for neuroscience), the latter with promoting understanding and valuing of molecular sciences to the public.

Helena started her career with a PhD in the genetics of cardiovascular disease, and it was there she began her curation, with a discussion of heart disease, the increased prevalence of heart attacks associated with intense sporting events (pity about that Sochi hockey result then), and Takotsubo syndrome, a peculiar heart condition brought on by stress which mimicks acute coronary disease but doesn’t result in occlusion of coronary arteries, so can be reversible. The genetics of Takotsubo syndrome are beginning to be unpacked by a group working at the University of Otago in Christchurch, with a cohort of patients recruited after the February 2011 earthquake.

Helena also explained neuroinformatics and the role of the INCF, which can be done in three minutes with the aid of this instructional video:

Across the rest of her week Helena went on to dig into the convergence of science and art (and how STEM should be STEAM), the perils of #chemphobia, how the P in PhD should stand for project management (yes I know she didn’t actually say that because it doesn’t actually make sense), alternative academic careers – if academic careers aren’t now the alternative to most careers undertaken by PhD grads! – citizen science and the work of Molecular Frontiers, and how to use the Oxford comma in order to avoid crocheting yourself.

Meanwhile during the week, the ScienceOnline Together conference was happening in Raleigh, North Carolina (and on the magical inter-google on #scio14). This saw a record broken for the most number of RealScientists curator alumni in the one photograph, dressed appropriately for the conditions:

Thanks Helena for a brilliant week on the account. Keep following her @Helena_LB, and for Molecular Frontiers at @molfrontiers. Don’t forget the Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize for the best scientific question submitted from an under-18-year-old: You can follow the INCF via @INCForg. For those in the field, the INCF’s flagship conference NeuroInformatics2014 is on in August in the Netherlands; abstract submission is now open.

Next week: geophysicist Professor Abby Kavner, aka @mineralphys.

Better living through neuroinformatics: Helena Ledmyr joins RealScientists

Our curator this coming week is Helena Ledmyr, Development Officer at the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility, based at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The aim of neuroinformatics is to integrate information across many different disciplines of neuroscience – cellular, molecular, genetic and so on – to help better understand the brain and treat disease. We’ll let Helena tell us a little about herself:

helenaI’m a molecular biologist with a PhD in genetics. Or actually, cardiovascular medicine, but it always felt like I learned more genetics than medicine as a PhD student. My project focused on polymorphisms in a gene that is involved with lipid metabolism, and their effect on cardiovascular medicine. After doing a post-doc on gene therapy (also applied on cardiovascular disease), I started working with science administration and communication at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. I enjoyed working at the academy; some of the highlights include the teacher’s prize, the energy committee and being part of the start-up of the Young Academy. The RSAS is also where I got involved with the Molecular Frontiers Foundation, which aims to make the molecular sciences more appealing to the public, especially kids. I’m still volunteering for MFF, which is a lot of fun.

After 3 years at the academy I was recruited to the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF), where I work with development and outreach. INCF coordinates informatics infrastructure for neuroscience data integration, and manages scientific programs to develop standards for data sharing, analysis, modeling and simulation.


How did you end up in science?

My grandpa. And dinosaurs.

My grandpa because he taught me about everyday science – plant physiology (you have to help me pollinate the plum tree so we get plums this year, the bees are taking detours around it!), herpetology (don’t worry, that snake is not poisonous), physics (the center of gravity is too high, you have to stack the wood differently), and nutrition (you don’t have to chew ice cream! this is taking too long!). He also saved his popular science magazines for my visits, so there would always be a whole stack of them for me to read.

Dinosaurs because the Stockholm University catalog actually mentioned Jurassic Park in the description of the molecular biology program. So I had to do it.

What influenced you to pursue genetics?

Not the smell in the Drosophila incubator, that’s for sure. But I enjoyed working with DNA as an undergrad, and testing & perfecting genetic methods as a grad student was one of my favorite things to do. I did a lot of sub-cloning (is it still called that?) and the whole cut & paste concept that’s possible with DNA always fascinated me.

How did you get involved in outreach?

At the RSAS, working with scientific symposia and scientific prizes. I enjoy outreach because I get to talk about things I’m passionate about, and it’s also an outlet for my creative side (doing layout of posters, brochures etc.).


As many as I can! I make jewelry, I crochet, I bake, I run, I read a lot of books, I watch a lot of scifi, I go to concerts…

Helena usually tweets at @Helena_LB, and for Molecular Frontiers at @molfrontiers. But for this week, she’s tweeting for us. Welcome, Helena!

More on neuroinformatics and what the INCF are about

More on Molecular Frontiers