Sparking our conversation

The Greek philosopher Paracelsus knew them for what they were—fire elementals; beings with the power to endure flames without harm. With scorched black skin emblazoned with brilliant yellow, the Greeks named them “fire-lizards”. We call them salamanders!

While not quite the beasts of myth and legend, European fire salamanders are fascinating animals. With a superficial resemblance to lizards, they are actually related to frogs, with soft moist skin and a habit of hiding in logs ideal for campfires. Over the past three years I have had the privilege of studying them, from their evolutionary history to the cellular and genetic basis of their diverse colour patterns.

My name is James Burgon. Originally from the Scottish Highlands (well, technically the Outer Hebrides), I first came to Glasgow in 2007 to study Zoology. I then moved to London to do a Masters in Taxonomy and Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum/Imperial Collage London, before returning to the ‘dear green place’. I am now a final year PhD student in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (IBAHCM) and one of the two new Medical Veterinary and Life Science (MVLS) postgraduate research (PGR) bloggers… acronyms abound in academia!

Along with my fellow bloggers I hope you bring you entertaining tales and informative, experience driven, posts to help you during your time at the University Of Glasgow. Sapphire kicked us off with a post on navigating the first year of a PhD, starting (as all good things should) at the beginning. And from the intro posts you can see the rest of us are itching to share our thoughts on life as a PGR. Being in my final year (and 8th at the UofG) I hope to share some valuable experiences. The jump from taught undergraduate to research postgraduate is big, scary and exhilarating.

I am particularly excited to discuss the opportunities you have outside of your studies. Alongside my work I have: run seminar series and special interest groups; taught and helped supervise students; written and edited for the student science magazine theGIST; played a key role in developing my Institute’s blog and podcast Naturally Speaking; and recently returned from a three month internship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and technology.  Countless experiences await you at the University of Glasgow!

But this is a two-way street and I am very open to commissions. What do you want us to write about?

Post Author: James Burgon

James (@JamesBurgon) is a final year evolutionary biology PhD student in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine.

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