In this one-on-one, the founder and editor of microbiology blog microbeonline.com discusses his journey, motivations, perspectives, aspirations and goals. Learn here about one of the top microbiology blogs on the internet.
Interview By: Timothy P. Gauthier, Pharm.D., BCPS-AQ ID
Blogging as a way to communicate information continues to impact our world and many academics have taken to blogging as a way to convey messages, share passions and become inspired. The following questions were asked of the founder and editor of popular microbiology blog MicrobeOnline. The purpose of this interview is to identify the origins of this blog and to also discuss the current and future role of blogs in the field of microbiology.
Could you share some information about yourself?
My name is Tankeshwar Acharya. I am from Nepal, the country which is known to others as a land of Himalayas, Mount Everest, or birth place of Buddha. I have completed a Masters in Science in Medical Microbiology from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. Currently, I am working as lecturer and Microbiologist at the department of Microbiology and Immunology of Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS).
What drew you in the field of Microbiology?
I came into the field of Microbiology twice. The first time, I had no other choices left to pursue, but the second time I found a purpose.
When I was teenager, I had a dream of becoming physician so that I could treat my mother who suffers from asthma. Later, I realized that I could not afford to enroll in a medical school.
In an attempt to move forward, I modeled my path after the renowned Professor Dr. Bharatmani Pokhrel, a Fulbright scholar, my relative and an imminent professional Microbiologist. In time I chose Microbiology as a major and enrolled in an undergraduate program. I focused and made it through the program while regularly securing top level grades. But, I just did not have the passion to be a microbiologist in the same way that I had the passion to become a physician.
At crossroads, I left my studies and chose to explore other interests. In that period I served as a Medical Sales Representative in various parts of my country.
Witnessing children dying from preventable diseases like cholera, typhoid, and outbreaks of other bacterial infections in maternity ward of hospitals weighed heavy on my heart. Through my interactions with service seekers, pharmacists and health care professionals, I realized the existing gaps in the health service deliveries of Nepal. Specifically for infectious diseases, irrational prescribing of drugs, over the counter sale of antibiotics without a proper prescription and poor diagnostic methods were compounding the problems.
In this journey, I realized the gravity of the problems associated with epidemics and diagnosis of infectious diseases as well as the role I could play as a professional microbiologist to directly combat these problems. The road to travel and the tasks to complete were becoming clearer for me each day. With strong determination of changing this scenario one day, I returned to Kathmandu to pursue a graduate degree in Medical Microbiology.
What motivated you to create the website microbeonline.com?
It took time a long time to develop.
If you brows my blogging history you will find that my first post was back in December of 2008. Thinking back, I do not recall having a specific purpose; I just wrote random thoughts in the blogspot and hit post. My second post was not until 2010, again a fairly random post.
To a degree, the initial motivation of blogging as really so I would have a place to store the study materials I had accumulated over time, so that I would not lose things and could access it from anywhere at my convenience. My blogging continued on and off up to 2013 without any specific mission/purpose.
But then, things started to change.
Visitors started to come to my site, read my blog posts and leave comments. It got me motivated. The sense of being noticed and being able to create value for others life (whom I never met or known) gave me sense of satisfaction and pushed me to excel in this particular field.
In May 2016 I launched www.microbeonline.com so that I can serve my visitors well with the related contents in which they have shown affinity and reading in my blog. I used to think, what’s the use of creating a site with general contents which are available everywhere (in the internet or in books), but after launching microbeonline and seeing the growing number of visitors, I feel that it’s never too late to start any projects.
I encourage the readers not to hesitate and to follow their passion.
What can people expect if they visit microbeonline.com?
Microbeonline.com is a niche education website which provides basic information about various etiological agents of infectious diseases and common laboratory approach for their diagnosis.
It gives fair idea about different available tests for the diagnosis of Bacterial, Fungal, Viral and Parasitic diseases. Fun facts about microorganisms, tips (mnemonics) to remember particular topics make my posts informal, interesting and popular among target audiences.
I get many emails and comments in which my site’s visitor thank me for writing the particular topic in that particular way. This feedback has been important to keeping me motivated.
Are blogs important to the field of microbiology?
Microbiology is a very dynamic discipline, full of interesting tiny creatures with their own unique potential to help mankind to capacity to eradicate the entire human race. Such interesting phenomenons are mostly discussed in blogs rather than textbooks which generally repeat same essential facts.
I like blogs because of their originality: it comes directly from the mind and heart of the authors who are free from editing by others. Unlike journals and textbooks which take time to reach their prospective readers, blogs travel faster in time and space. As journals and textbooks follow certain fixed patterns, I found them boring compared with blogs, which mostly deliver the message in interesting, imaginative or creative ways.
I read various blogs to gather ideas about recent developments in the field of microbiology, antimicrobial resistance, emerging infectious disease and also to find better ways to delivering particular topics so that audiences/students will easily understand the topic and retain it for a longer period of time. There are certain sites and authors whom I follow everyday and try to read every post of them (if that post’s title arouses my interest). I am a big fan of Professor Vincent Racaniello who runs “this week in virology” blog and podcasts.
Understand, I do not mean that we should only read blogs. Journals and textbooks are indispensable for students, researchers and professionals. I only mean that blogs are gaining momentum as a next powerful tool of persuasive writing even in the scientific arena.
What can we expect for the future of microbeonline.com?
Let me think…
That’s the most interesting question but difficult to answer. For the next few years, it will be a continuation of my ongoing works with more posts of similar nature. Currently, I am planning for my PhD too which I expect to open more exciting fun filled academic/research journey for me.
Whatever the future circumstances may be, I will try my best to serve my visitors well, and to contribute in the field of Microbiology teaching/learning.
I would like to express my utmost appreciation to Mr. Acharya for taking time out of his busy schedule to participate in this one-on-one, so that his story and insights can be shared. Please be encouraged to visit microbeonline.com and explore the content that is available.