Asia Research News 2021

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PEOPLE

Polarization microscopy images show typical fingerprint textures indicating assembly of a large population of liquid crystal coacervate droplets.

Credit: Tommaso P Fraccia, ESPCI-Paris

in Unit B (biology), but I am the lab manager of Unit C (chemistry). Unit C has around 15 researchers, staff and students. We have a number of general spectroscopy and chromatography instruments. Since ELSI’s research goals are quite broad, we lack certain specialized equipment and often collaborate with colleagues in labs and institutes elsewhere in the country and internationally who have access to instruments we don’t have. The researchers and students focus mainly on research, while lab technicians support researchers by assisting with analyses, maintaining the facilities and with administrative tasks.

management, and the management of assets, safety and human resources. Since 2020, COVID restrictions have required cataloguing and sometimes restricting researcher movements in the labs. While we have become more accustomed to the current situation, policies are regularly updated, so we are learning to be flexible and to react quickly to keep in line with university standards, while still maintaining a safe environment. Lab operations would be impossible without support from our team of technical staff.

Q: What skills have you found are necessary for managing a lab?

A: Each aspect of my work is very

A: Managing the lab requires proficiency,

efficiency and organization. It involves instrument maintenance and repairs, stocking consumables, budget execution and

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your work? rewarding in different ways. Being able to work with many different collaborators at ELSI and around the world has been really rewarding intellectually. Most faculty do not get management experience before starting their own lab or research

group. I consider my management and grant-writing duties as great training for future positions. I find the mentorship aspect of my job especially rewarding. Many students and researchers, especially in still-developing Asian countries, may not have the same opportunities as their peers from other regions. It is up to us, in more senior or advanced positions, to advocate for them, provide opportunities and be supportive. I believe that it is very important for researchers in Asia to help expand the reach of astrobiology so that more students can have opportunities in the future. To this end, ELSI is hosting the Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) for the first time in Asia this year, and a few researchers around the region have banded together to found the Astrobiology Society of Asia-Pacific. Hopefully, together, we can all help to create a future where there are more astrobiology research opportunities in the region.

Credit: Tony Z. Jia, ELSI

ASIA RE SEA RC H N EWS

Jia and his team showed that alpha hydroxyacid monomers, which were found in the chaotic prebiotic Earth soup, can form polyester microdroplets that could have acted as primitive compartments for very early life.

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There’s more! Listen to Tony Z. Jia discuss his work on the Asia Research News Podcast.

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