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Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO Microbiology and Biology Departments

Page history last edited by Madame Curious 13 years, 3 months ago

03/29/2011 – Colorado State University, Department of Biology


     Today I was pretty worn out from my trip to CSU so I decided to take it a little easy. I went with my friend Laura to a lab in CSU’s Anatomy/Zoology building! The researchers in this lab do a lot of work with plants’ genes. A lot of the plants they work with are in the genus Arabidopsis (plants that have little flowers and are really similar to cabbage and mustard plants, too)! A lot of genetic researchers choose to work with these plants in particular because their ENTIRE genome has been completely sequenced, meaning that ALL of the genetic letters in a plant’s DNA have been identified! There are MILLIONS of these letters in an organism’s DNA – so that’s a lot of work! So because of this genome being fully sequenced, it makes finding and controlling this plant’s genes a much faster task, although still difficult!

     After I learned more about these plants, I learned about something that happens in every single lab but is something a lot of people don’t know – cleaning, washing, and sterilizing the lab’s instruments! Cleaning the equipment in a lab is a lot like cleaning dishes, but instead of having leftover food to clean up, you have plant matter, bacteria, fungi, chemicals, and lots of other stuff to worry about! Because of all of the possibly dangerous bacteria and chemicals, you have to be extra careful about keeping everything (including yourself!) clean so as not to cause a mistake in someone’s experiment.

     So after everything’s been washed, cleaned, and dried, there’s one more last (but maybe the most important) step to do – autoclave! “Autoclave” is kind of a funny word, isn’t it? In the lab we went to, the autoclave is a VERY big machine that gets really hot (over 250 degrees!) and pressurized over about half an hour in order to kill all of the bacteria that could be growing all over whatever’s put into the autoclave to get sterilized. In this case, we were putting in the bottles, flasks, test tubes, and pipette tips that we had just cleaned, but lots of other stuff can go in the autoclave, too.

     To use the autoclave, I had to go through a quick safety lesson with Laura because the machine can be easy to use wrong and can burn you if you’re not careful! We signed our name up on the autoclave list so we could put our stuff in when our turn came up (since there are other people in other labs who also use the autoclave) and then waited for our turn!

Me looking at our clean instruments and making sure everything looks ready!


Me signing up with Laura on the list!


     When our turn came up, I let Laura open the autoclave door because she was wearing thick gloves to keep her hands safe from the heat of the machine and we put our stuff in! Less than an hour later, all of the stuff we had put in the autoclave was totally clean (and hot!), so we were sure that everything was completely sterilized and ready for everyone to use for his or her experiments.


Phew! That was a long day!


03/30/2011 – Colorado State University, Department of Microbiology



     Today was filled with lots of stuff! First I went with Laura to the general microbiology lab room and learned all about Gram staining and bacterial isolation! Right now in the microbiology lab the students are working on identifying unknown bacteria and to do this they have to do lots of tests. First, they have to isolate their unknown colonies onto these agar plates called TSA plates so that they can run the rest of their tests on the bacteria. The pink plate in front of me is called a MacConkey agar plate that tests for the ability of certain bacteria to ferment lactose – an important thing for some bacteria! The plate next to me is a TSA plate.

     Next we did something called Gram staining on the bacteria that was isolated on the TSA plates. Gram staining lets you designate a bacterium Gram positive or Gram negative by how they look after the stain’s done. Gram positive bacteria look purple while Gram negative bacteria look pink! They stain these different colors because of how their cell walls react to all of the stains used!

Here's me looking through a microscope at a Gram stain!


Here I am getting ready to use one of the stains for the Gram stain - Safranin!


Here's the blood agar plate (I made sure to keep it pointed away from me so as not to get microbes on me!)

     After going to the microbiology lab, I learned more about a whole different kind of agar used to grow bacteria – an agar called BLOOD agar that is made with sheep blood! This agar is especially good at growing bacteria that lives off of the nutrients blood provides. With this particular blood agar plate, we wanted to isolate one of the bacteria that had grown all over the plate to a TSA plate (like what we did earlier!). Today was definitely filled with lots of microbes! But I made sure to keep all the bacteria off my hands so as not to get sick!


03/31/2011 – Colorado State University, Department of Biology

            Today I went to a whole new place! I went along with my friend Erin to another lab in the Anatomy/Zoology build at CSU that works on stuff like cell and development biology. Specifically, this lab focuses on the role of different genes (which I learned a little more about earlier this week) in heart development in zebrafish! Zebrafish are pretty cool looking fish, and they’re from India, too! The researchers in this lab like these fish because their embryos are transparent, letting them see the hearts more easily. These fish are also different in that they can survive for SIX WHOLE DAYS without their heart functioning, so the researchers can work on more gene mutations without having to worry as much about the fish not getting enough blood. The zebrafish are also different because a lot of them have hearts that glow green when you see them under a microscope! Who would’ve thought fish could be so neat!


Here I am in the room where all the fish are.


Here I am with the tanks full of fish!


Here I am collecting some fish eggs to get DNA out of.


There's me looking at brine (the sea monkeys that are hatched and fed to the fish!)


There I am catching fish that the researchers set up to breed!





On my last day, here at Colorado State University, I joined in with the Medical Bacteriology students during their lab time.  These student are working on identifying bacteria and specifically today, spore forming bacteria. In order to see whether the bacteria form spores, we have to stain them with a special stain called an endospore stain! This was very cool- or should I say hot! We used fire to steam the stain! I was worried I might catch myself on fire, but all worked out just fine.


After we were done staining, we looked at the slide under the microscope. If there were spores present we would see little blue-green spots among all the pink bacteria. This is what I saw in the microscope:



Pretty Neat!




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