2645 karmaJoined Jan 2017Working (6-15 years)Berkeley, CA, USA


Let's make nice things with biology. Working on biosecurity at iGEM. Also into lab automation, event production, donating to global health. From Toronto, lived in Paris, currently in the SF Bay. Website: tessa.fyi


Topic Contributions


I recall meeting Karolina M. Sulich, the VP of Osmocosm, at EAGxBerlin last year, and thought some of her machine olfaction x biosecurity ideas were really cool! I'd be stoked for more people to look into this.


A few more you might share:


This is great! I think that project-based learning is simply a way more effective way to learn about a cause area than going through a reading list (I know you've written about this before). Cold Takes has quite a lot of writing about how just reading stuff is probably not the best way to form a view and robustly retain things.

It's also super generous of you to offer to review people's fit-test projects :)


Another poem about loss that moves me, this one specifically about grieving a dear friend:

It's what others do, not us, die, even the closest
on a vainglorious, glorious morning, as the song goes,
the yellow or golden palms glorious and all the rest
a sparkling splendour, die. They're practising calypsos,
they're putting up and pulling down tents, vendors are slicing
the heads of coconuts around the Savannah, men
are leaning on, then leaping into pirogues, a moon will be rising
tonight in the same place over Morne Coco, then
the full grief will hit me and my heart will toss
like a horse's head or a threshing bamboo grove
that even you could be part of the increasing loss
that is the daily dial of the revolving shade. Love
lies underneath it all though, the more surprising
the death, the deeper the love, the tougher the life.
The pain is over, feathers close your eyelids, Oliver.
What a happy friend and what a fine wife!
Your death is like our friendship beginning over.

for Oliver Jackman, Derek Walcott

Answer by TessaMar 07, 202330

My favourite cookbook right now is The Korean Vegan. Magical, delicious flavour combinations. The bulgogi blew my mind. The cookbook also sets you up to have a fridge full of sauces and banchan to dress up any weekday rice + protein combination into a delicious meal.

This West-African-inspired peanut soup from Cookie and Kate is what I pull out whenever I want to make something impressively delicious, but also fast and low-effort.

I found I Can Cook Vegan by Isa Chanda Moskovitz to be somewhat hit and miss, but the hits (buffalo cauliflower salad, sloppy shiitakes, chickpea tuna melt, maple-mustard brussel sprouts) were really solid. I recommend this over her earlier cookbooks; she has really reined in her desire to have 30-ingredient recipes that take over an hour to prepare.

The Moosewood Cookbook is a classic for a reason, but you gotta get a version released either before or after the 1990s low-fat fad. We like oil and salt! We like calories! Put the fat in!!


This was a beautiful remembering, thank you for sharing it. Often how I want to grieve people is just to remember them in detail, saying: they were here, not like anyone else, but specifically this is the way they were; I remember, and I wish they were still in the world. This post felt like that sort of grief.

This is my favourite poem about grief, which I often return to when grieving the people I've lost (most especially my partner Zach):

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Dirge Without Music , Edna St. Vincent Millay


Thanks for this post! I agree with your point about being careful on terms, and thought it might be useful to collect a few definitions together in a comment.

DURC (Dual-Use Research of Concern)

DURC is defined differently by different organizations. The WHO defines it as:

research that is intended to provide a clear benefit, but which could easily be misapplied to do harm

while the definition given in the 2012 US government DURC policy is:

life sciences research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably anticipated to provide knowledge, information, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied to pose a significant threat with broad potential consequences to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, materiel, or national security

ePPP (enhanced Potential Pandemic Pathogen)

ePPP is a term (in my experience) mostly relevant to the US regulatory context, and was set out in the 2017 HHS P3CO Framework as follows:

A potential pandemic pathogen (PPP) is a pathogen that satisfies both of the following:

  1. It is likely highly transmissible and likely capable of wide and uncontrollable spread in human populations; and
  2. It is likely highly virulent and likely to cause significant morbidity and/or mortality in humans.

An enhanced PPP is defined as a PPP resulting from the enhancement of the transmissibility and/or virulence of a pathogen. Enhanced PPPs do not include naturally occurring pathogens that are circulating in or have been recovered from nature, regardless of their pandemic potential.

One way in which this definition has been criticized (quoting the recent NSABB report on updating the US biosecurity oversight framework) is that "research involving the enhancement of pathogens that do not meet the PPP definition (e.g., those with low or moderate virulence) but is anticipated to result in the creation of a pathogen with the characteristics described by the PPP definition could be overlooked."

GOF (Gain-of-Function)

GOF is not a term that I know to have a clear definition. In the linked Virology under the microscope paper, examples range from making Arabidopsis (a small flowering model plant) more drought-resistant to making H5N1 (avian influenza) transmissible between mammals. I suggest avoiding this term if you can. (The paper acknowledges the term is fuzzily defined, citing The shifting sands of ‘gain-of-function’ research.)

Biosafety, biosecurity, biorisk

The definitions you gave in the footnote seem solid, and similar to the ones I'd offer, though one runs into competing definitions (e.g. the definition provided for biosafety doesn't mention unintentional exposure). I will note that EA tends to treat "biosecurity" as an umbrella term for "reducing biological risk" in a way that doesn't reflect its usage in the biosecurity or public health communities. Also, as far as I can tell, Australia means a completely different thing by "biosecurity" than the rest of the English-speaking world, which will sometimes lead to confusing Google results.


Just echoing the experience of "it's been a pretty humbling experience to read more of the literature"; biosecurity policy has a long history of good ideas and nuanced discussions. On US gain-of-function policy in particular, I found myself particularly humbled by the 2015 article Gain-of-function experiments: time for a real debate, an adversarial collaboration between researchers involved in controversial viral gain-of-function work and biosecurity professionals who had argued such work should face more scrutiny. It's interesting to see where the contours of the debate have changed and how much they haven't changed in the past 7+ years.


Yeah, my impression from Canada is that master's degrees are not all scams. A totally normal path for an academic is to do a (poorly) paid, research-based master's in one lab, then jump over to another lab for a (maybe slightly shorter than in the USA) PhD.

That said, the most academically impressive researchers I knew at my Canadian school (i.e. already had solid publications and research experience as undergrads) went straight to US-based PhDs, even if they were hoping to return to Canada as academics after getting their doctorate.


One thing that sort of did this for me at EAGxBerlin, which I wonder if we could have some kind of infrastructure for, was hosting "unofficial office hours" where I put my name on a piece of paper and sat in a specific place for two hours, and talked with people who came past. (I was also able to tell people  in Swapcard that we could talk during that time as well as or instead of in a 1:1.)

I could imagine unconference-y or "host your own conversation table" infrastructure for this as well (instead of or in addition to "unoffical office hours with X").

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