Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Picture a Day - Day 272

I like to keep up the illusion that because I work in science I'm a weird cross between CSI, Bill Nye, and a lab mouse bent on trying to take over the world.

Sadly, it is almost never that exciting. Most labs do about the same handful of things regardless of what department they reside in. There's the upkeep, the filling in the lab book, the bureaucratic red tape just to order a box of pipette tips. It's generally a lot of the same thing over and over and over again as you try to perfect an experiment.

Sometimes that little spark of something new and exciting wafts through the laboratory stirring up the water baths and arcing across the benches. Something so involved and complicated it sucks everyone in the lab in sure to alter the lab landscape for years to come.

I've done quite a few of those crazy projects, one involving a need to get up every 2 hours to gas vials for 24 hours. It was the first time I'd ever tried anything with two shots of espresso and I quickly learned that I better keep the caffeine levels to a minimum as my legs started to twitch and I couldn't quite find my hands.

Our lab got into one of those fun projects yesterday but first there was the set up. I had to take 500 1.5 mL tubes, rack them up, and dispense 1 mL of media into each. Ever wondered what 500 tubes looks like? Take a gander.
Five hours later and I had all the colorful little tubes tucked away in their beds waiting for the big day. After getting each one a drink of water I shuffled things around in the fridge and shut the door while visions of Mannhemia Hemolytica danced in their heads.
And what were we going to put into those 500 tubes? Why lung tissue of course.

This is where I'd put a picture of a diseased calves lung, but it's pretty early and I'm sure you'll all thank me for refraining.

While my boss diced up the tissue into bite sized pieces I vortexed the hell out of them and began a 10 fold dilution which is easy to do -- just take .1 mL's from one tube and then add it to the next: repeat til your arm falls off -- it's simply incredibly mind numbingly boring.

Once I finished making the dilutions my lab mate took all the tubes and plated them onto blood agar plates. (Also not very hard, you squirt some of the hopefully bacteria ridden media onto the plate and let it soak in).
This is just a handful of the plates, there were many many MANY more.

Once all the dilutions were plated and soaked in the plates were inverted and placed in a nice warm incubator to encourage our little bacteria friends to kick it into high gear and start growing.

The final step was the next day to pull out all of those plates and count colonies, which are tiny little white dots of each bacteria that grew into clumps so the naked eye could see them. It sort of looks like someone put a plate in the dryer with a kleenex and got a ton of white tiny bits all over it.

And that is one of the exciting days in the lab. I am sorry to report that we have no bubbling colorful liquids, no extreme machines that could turn a cockroach into a 50 foot grasshopper and no genetically modified lab mice.

We're more of a chop up lungs and see what grows kind of lab. So on the notch of super evil genius I think that puts us just ahead of Barney and slightly lagging Lamb Chop.

But if we ever perfect the instant DNA analysis machine you all will be the first to know, maybe I'll even put a waffle iron/coffee maker in it so you can get your sequence along with breakfast.


Anonymous said...

I think that you definitely should have a Jesus Christ Superstar off today. But remember that "He is dangerous..." Now I need to go off and find some scaffolding and crazy plastic onion hats.

Rachel said...

Wow, you had me at "diseased calves liver".... I would like to be the first to thank you for not sharing that pic!!

Other than that, science actually sounds easy enough for me to do! Well, except I'd probably not be consistent enough to put .1 ML of whatever into 500 of those things! First, my arm would fall off around #302, and then by #413 I'd accidentally squeeze too hard and .3 ML would come rushing out. Either that or I'd turn around and bump the entire case off the counter and have to start over while sobbing and crying out "Why???".