Michael Chao

Project Manager, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
  • United States of America

About Michael Chao

I first developed an interest in bacterial pathogenesis while at Cornell University. I then earned my PhD in Biomedical and Biological Sciences from Harvard University in Eric Rubin’s laboratory, studying cell wall remodelling in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. From 2012-2015, I continued my training as a postdoctoral fellow in Matthew Waldor’s lab at Harvard Medical School, investigating the role of DNA methylation on regulating fundamental cellular processes in Vibrio cholerae.

Recent Comments

Feb 02, 2017
Thanks for the post; it really brings me back to those good (and stressful) old days. One thing that I would tell any starting grad student is that finding the right lab is more important than just finding the right 'question'. You can learn to be a good scientist in many different labs, and being too caught up on a specific topic area might limit your ability to find a better fit in another lab (in terms of personality cohesion, level of support from other members, ease of learning, etc). Opportunities abound to pick up knowledge about lots of different areas (rotations, seminars, collaborations, journal clubs), but finding a place that feels right and will work for you for 3-6 years is something you should prioritize. Also, wanted to point out that several points are also relevant for navigating scientific publishing too: 16. Publishing a work is indeed a long process, as your peers are both your friends but also top scientists who are tasked with ensuring the conclusions of the published work are sufficiently supported. This often requires a long time devoted to additional (and sometimes unexpected) experiments and revisions. As such, point 13 is also good to think about before going in--given the choice between an indirect but easy experiment and those that can more directly address the question at hand (but may require a lot more work), most scientists reading (and reviewing) a paper will likely want the latter (even it's more difficult); it might be easier to nail the point with the most informative experiment upfront. 4. Constructing a paper with a straightforward narrative that includes clear rationale enables both editors and referees to understand the work and identify salient points and critical points requiring additional work; in particular, what might be second nature to the researcher could be presented in complex leaps of thought that are hard to follow for others (even other experts), which can lead to more confusion about the overall conclusions. Having others read your drafts is a good way to deal with this, but point 9 is also relevant--side projects and tangential findings can be fun and important, but think hard about whether they fit the goals of the main paper and should be included, as they can distract from the main message and sow confusion down the line.
Apr 01, 2016
The good news for us at the team is that there was no non-disclosure clause on selling gossip about you to the tabloids. Hello, alternative revenue stream...
Comment on From farm to fuel
Feb 23, 2016
They actually brought in goats to Boston a couple years back to help clear out a huge patch of poison ivy in a park they were redeveloping. Human workers just couldn't access the site for its sheer size and the logistical nightmare of trying to weed in thick protective gear in the middle of summer. So they just trucked in a few goats from a nearby farm, fenced them into the plot for a few weeks and presto, no more poison ivy (and lots of natural fertilizer on the ground to boot). I think the totally cost was a couple of grand. Now, the question is which microbe is responsible for destroying poison ivy's auto-inflammatory inducing compounds...
Feb 17, 2016
Super cool, but world-tilting. It's like finding out your parents were once hippies or something. 'You mean, you were once wild and interesting?!' Incidentally, I think this could be the start of a new food craze--bread and beer made from wasp-passaged yeast. Similar to, but much less cruel than a specialty coffee they have in Southeast Asia where coffee beans have been partially digested by passing through a jungle civet's GI tract (yes, nose to tail) before roasting.
Feb 10, 2016
Ok, that's officially super cool. I wonder if other cyanobacteria call them 'four eyes'.
Feb 09, 2016
Very interesting; I hadn't come across the work. From a 10,000 foot view, I think the issue of persisters and the fact that many of the current antibiotics requiring active cell growth and metabolism is renewing our interest in engineering membrane disrupting compounds (e.g, daptomycin, colistin, metal nanoparticles). Why try to trick the cell when you can hit it with a hammer I guess.
Feb 04, 2016
I'm rather afraid to know the results of the 16S sequencing... But couldn't be worse than the NYC subway, at least.
Comment on Reviewer number two
Jan 27, 2016
Late reply, but I agree that the thoughtful reviewers are the ones that really drive research forward. I also had a paper in grad school where a suggested experiment changed one of our conclusions, but rather than put a big, fat reject on the work when we resubmitted, the reviewer looked at the whole of the work, appreciated that we took the time to do the experiment and make the science more robust and still supported publication because it didn't impact the central finding. I think that's an important lesson to take away, especially in how editors approach referee reports: we have to be open minded enough to accept some limitations and flaws in otherwise impactful work, and also to be fair to the community and request that the science be up to scratch to support the major conclusions.