A Day in the Life of a Sad and Sorry Gel

This story just cracked me up!  Gel photography with a cell phone?  Can it work?

So here’s what happened:

In Mo Bio we’ve been working on cutting the pAMP we purified from our super sweet transformed E. coli JM 109 cells with BamH I and Hind III and then electrophoresing to compare our results against negative and positive controls to see how we did.  But after bathing the gels in ethidium bromide we discovered – eeek! – no photography paper.    So we tried taking pictures with our phone:

But we couldn’t get the furthest and faintest bands on our phones.  So next, we tried rinsing the ethidium bromide out and restaining with methylene blue.  Fortunately, ours was the first group ready to stain, so ours was the only gel to get abused as thoroughly.  Everyone else had the opportunity to skip the ethidium bromide and go on to the next steps.  After the methylene blue was rinsed, we tried viewing the gels on a light box:

But again, we couldn’t see the furthest and faintest bands.  You can see the beginnings of the gel’s protest of this treatment in this picture.  So we tried leaving the gels sit overnight in water to rinse any remaining traces of the dye, and that picture way up top is the result of that.  Back to the drawing board.


In Proteins, we’ve been running the Bio-Rad and β-gal assays after every step in the purification process and using the data to calculate the activity and specific activity.  My partner and I keep getting absorbance values that are similar regardless of the dilution factor, causing a serious self-audit of our lab notebooks, trying to find the error.  Our calculations for dilution seem to be correct, we’ve switched out pipettors, we’ve alternated who was doing the pipetting, we’ve had the instructor eyeball our notebooks, we’ve switched spectrophotomers, and we still can’t find our error.  Next, we’re going to try a different mixing method during the dilution preparation and if that doesn’t work, our instructor has offered to come watch us set up and perform the assays from start to finish.  But in the meantime, my classmate Julie would like to know:

“What part of the purification process is going to remove this awful stink?  Surely there is a de-stink purification step!”

Hopefully, she is correct, because I’m not sure if I’ve conveyed fully just how badly this stuff reeks.


In community news, we recently enjoyed the 2013 Wisconsin Science Festival, an event that had expositions and demonstrations across the whole state.  We went to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery for the kid’s exposition:

And to UW Madison’s Zoological and Geological Museums:

And the kids had a blast!  They made models of cells, cloned plants, learned about cell culturing, saw human stem cells under a microscope, and played games guessing which plants were wind or bee pollinated.  But my favorite part was the game illustrating natural selection and evolution.  They picked cloth backgrounds and the volunteer scattered candies across the cloth while the kids had their backs turned.  Then the kids pretended to be birds, turning around and quickly picking “butterflies” (the candy) off of the background before turning their backs again and repeating the process.  At the end of the game, they could see how the butterflies that blended in best with their background were the least likely to get eaten.


In closing, here’s a bunch of dinosaurs, just because dinosaurs rock:

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Madison Area Technical College


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