Science Book a Day Interviews Nessa Carey


Special thanks to Nessa Carey for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome

Nessa Carey has a virology PhD from the University of Edinburgh and is a former Senior Lecturer in Molecular Biology at Imperial College, London. She worked in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry for thirteen years and is now International Director for the UK’s leading organisation for technology transfer professionals. She lives in Norfolk and is a Visiting Professor at Imperial College. – From Nessa’s Homepage

Nessa’s Homepage:
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#1 – What was the impetus for Junk DNA?

I enjoy fields where the research is starting to coalesce but there remain a lot of questions. This is definitely the case for junk DNA. The potential flip side is that you can get overtaken by events really quickly, but if you decide to write about a very topical field that’s a risk you have to take.

#2 – How long have scientists been aware of Junk DNA? And what makes it so controversial?

The term Junk DNA is one that no-one agrees on, but I wanted to give as integrated a view of the genome as possible, so I used the widest definition which is DNA that doesn’t code for protein. Some aspects of this have been known for decades, and everyone is comfortable about these. The controversy is mainly around whether or not the RNA molecules produced from non-protein-coding regions have functions in the cell, or are just background noise. There is also an evolutionary aspect to all this. Combine evolutionary theory and new views of the genome and emotions seem to run very high!

#3 – Who have you written this book for? The public? Politicians? Children?

Definitely the public.

#4 – How did you manage to convey the more difficult concepts in this book? How do you communicate the intricacies of DNA?

I relate everything back to human health and diseases as much as possible, to try to emphasise relevance. I use a lot of analogies and metaphors. But you can’t please everyone. Some reviewers think the book is too technical while others think there is too much use of non-technical analogies!

#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?

Bouncing a few ideas around at the moment, not sure which will come out on top yet.

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