Taproot S3E3: Answering Complex Questions with a Complex Community

In this episode, we talk with Dr. Needhi Bhalla to bust the myth that science is set up to be a meritocracy. We discuss one of her recent manuscripts, and how scientists can embrace complexity and diversity as we ask questions and mentor early career researchers.

Dr. Needhi Bhalla is currently an Associate Professor in the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She finished her Ph.D. with Dr. Andrew Murray at the University of California, San Francisco and completed a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley with Dr. Abby Dernberg before becoming an Assistant Professor at Santa Cruz.

Needhi is our first guest who is not a plant scientist. Her lab investigates chromosome structure and function in the nematode C. elegans. We talk about one of her recent pre-prints, “PCH-2TRIP13 regulates spindle checkpoint strength” and how her lab learned to tackle paradoxes and think outside of the box to make sense of unintuitive data.

In this episode, we also discuss how increasing diversity can provide the perspectives needed to understand scientific complexity. We list ways in which underrepresented groups can find support, and talk about how those in the majority can work to counteract bias and disparity.

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Defachelles, L., Russo, A. E., Nelson, C. R., & Bhalla, N. (2018). PCH-2TRIP13 regulates spindle checkpoint strength. bioRxiv, 389080.

Lambing, C., Osman, K., Nuntasoontorn, K., West, A., Higgins, J. D., Copenhaver, G. P., … & Franklin, F. C. H. (2015). Arabidopsis PCH2 mediates meiotic chromosome remodeling and maturation of crossovers. PLoS genetics, 11(7), e1005372.

Drugmonkey blog


Ginther, D. K., Schaffer, W. T., Schnell, J., Masimore, B., Liu, F., Haak, L. L., & Kington, R. (2011). Race, ethnicity, and NIH research awards. Science, 333(6045), 1015-1019.

Montgomery, B. L. (2018). Building and Sustaining Diverse Functioning Networks Using Social Media and Digital Platforms to Improve Diversity and Inclusivity. Frontiers in Digital Humanities, 5, 22.


The nine types of reply guys twitter post

The Matthew Effect

How men can contribute –  blog post by Needhi:

A Beginner’s Guide for Addressing Sexual Harassment

Boynton J.R., Georgiou K., Reid M., Govus A. (2018) Gender Bias in Publishing. The Lancet, 392(10157):1514-1515.

The Taproot is the podcast that digs beneath the surface to understand how scientific publications in plant biology are created. In each episode, co-hosts Liz Haswell and Ivan Baxter take a paper from the literature and talk about the story behind the science with one of its authors.

Subscribe to The Taproot podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Questions, feedback, suggestions?  Contact us at taproot@plantae.org.

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