How to get started in epilepsy genetics – The Channelopathist’s third birthday

Happy birthday. The Channelopathist turned three last week, i.e. exactly three years ago we started writing regular blog posts on epilepsy and genes, starting with a post on how SCN2A was rediscovered in neurodevelopmental disorders. Since we had many new subscribers last year, I thought that I could use this opportunity to write a brief post on how you can get started on Beyond The Ion Channel and how you can navigate our blog.

I have to admit that I haven stolen this photo from our daughter's third birthday party - at the top you can still see the feet of Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie who decorated her birthday cake.

I have to admit that I haven stolen this photo from our daughter’s third birthday party – at the top you can still see the feet of Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie who decorated her birthday cake.

A brief review. On our blog, we aim to cover all relevant publications and news in the field of epilepsy genetics. Over the years we have found different niches for our posts – I am using the the phrase “over the years” with a certain gravitas given that I am proud that we have made it past the three year mark. Roughly, we can split our posts up into the following three categories.

(1) Gene or disease-related posts
Blog posts on new genes or novel developments on known epilepsy genes takes up the lion’s share of blog posts on Beyond the Ion Channel. Judging by the search terms that have led you to our blog, the demand is highest for blog posts on SCN1A, but there is also much interest in SCN2A, SCN8A, and KCNQ2. Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), Infantile Spasms, and Doose Syndrome are the diseases that we have written about most frequently.
How to navigate the blog? Type a gene name or a disease name into the search window on the upper right hand side and you will find a selection of posts. You should get a good sense of all that we have written about by reading through the first two blog posts, as most of the older posts are linked somewhere in the text.

(2) Opinion pieces, consortium news, or posts on technology/bioinformatics
As clinician/scientists we work within formal and informal networks, and the Channelopathist was initially developed as a communication tool, a virtual journal club, within the EuroEPINOMICS consortium. We have long outgrown this initial idea and are currently writing on behalf of the Genetics Commission of the International League Against Epilepsy. Research consortia or commissions have one major problem – it is hard to develop reliable and regular communication with the outside world. This is why some of our posts have aimed to tap into the dynamics of the current research networks on both sides of the Atlantic.
How to navigate the blog? Search for blog posts on EuroEPINOMICS, RES, or E2 starting with our post on the formation of the E2 working group or the Epi25 project. This may help you develop a sense on where we are aiming to go on an international level.

(3) Posts on lifestyle as a scientist
And then, after talking about genes and consortia, there is us. How do we think as scientists, how do we cope with disappointment, and how do we make sure that we collaborate rather than retreating into egotistical solitude? We had very positive responses to our initial blog post on how to deal with scientific disappointment, which motivated me to write about these issues occasionally, trying to come to terms with how to balance my three lives including patient care, research, and family life and trying to understand where our motivation comes from. Blogging helps you rephrase your thoughts in a positive and constructive way.
How to navigate the blog? Start with our post on the three things the beach told me about science, then move on to our post on scientific disappointment and your real motivation for epilepsy genetics. Latch onto anything that sticks with you, as there are many hyperlinks embedded in these posts.

Thank you
Here is a big Thank You to everybody who has helped with the blog, has given me feedback, provided me with slides or ideas, and has had an interest in what we were writing about. I wish I could write more. Our blog has the potential to keep me busy full-time. And even though the thought of being a full-time blogger sipping latte in fancy cafes while writing about other people’s work somehow appeals to me, I don’t think that this would be me. I want to be involved in patient care, do research, and write. Therefore, my plan of writing more is by asking for help. As everybody else is as busy as I am or even busier, we were wondering whether hiring a scientific writer might be an idea. Frankly, I would have no idea how to go about this, and I would be happy for any input on how to get such a recruitment process started – consider this the most awkward job announcement in the field for a while.

Ingo Helbig is a child neurologist and epilepsy genetics researcher working at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), USA.


4 thoughts on “How to get started in epilepsy genetics – The Channelopathist’s third birthday

  1. Congratulations!
    And thank you for this over the years often more expected blog than the daily newspaper. Thank you for keeping a large community up to date in epilepsy genetics!
    Ulrich Stephani

  2. Congratulations Ingo for this great success! An unusual but clearly useful and fantastic way to disseminate news, articles, opinions, ideas, thoughts (and not just purely scientific ones as you state above), and results. Had I had a background in genetics and epilepsy, I would have been your science writer with great pleasure (I did that for 5 years in pharma!). I hope you will find the ideal person! Best wishes to you and long career and success to all EuroEPINOMICS people! Maria

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