This week’s blog brought to you by the Biotech Cheer Squad…

Just kidding.  We’re too nerdy to be this coordinated.  Allison and Holly are just good sports. 

Along with the hoodies, jeans and wind-tousled hair, the autumn weather has brought a slew of new classes:


Molecular Biology I:

This past week in Mo Bio we worked on learning to set up restriction digests.  While I was initially intimidated by the calculations, I warmed up when I realized how “logic puzzle-esque” it really is.  We also whipped some competent Escherichia coli JM109 cells, by taking a sample from a mid-log phase suspension culture, spinning those puppies down and decanting the supernatant, dousing the whole she-bang in CaCl2, and spinning them down again before resuspending the pellet in a CaCl2 and glycerol mixture for freezing.  Eventually we’ll be introducing a little ampicillin resistance to those wee animalcules.


Quality Regulations and Standards:

This is an elective and I’m glad I opted for it.  The first week, we discussed how government regulation for the protection of consumers began and read the first part of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle to help illustrate the necessity of intervention.  I read the book in high school and when the instructor mentioned the book in class I said “Oh my gosh, that was such a sad story! And they all die at the end!” about five seconds before it was assigned as reading, which earned me a well-deserved stink-eye from everyone who planned to read the whole book.


Protein Bioseparation Methods:

So far in Proteins, we’ve worked on the Bradford and β-galactosidase assays, and learned to use sonication to prepare a protein lysate:

My instructor, Joe, helping us set us the sonicator.

My classmate, Shannon, reflected in the background.


We started off with an E. coli paste and loosened it up with a 100 mLs of breaking buffer and let me tell you, that smelled wretched.  Then we shook it in the sonicator for 12 minutes (Proteins is turning out to be a true treat for the senses) before centrifuging for a half hour.  The crude extract and the pellet were stored in separate conical tubes for work I’ll be describing next week.


Cell Culturing:

Inexplicably, this is turning out to be the class I’ve loved the most in the entire program.  I’m surprised because houseplants and goldfish resign themselves to an early demise when they learn they’re off to reside in the Hunter household, so I thought surely my Chinese Hamster Ovary cells (CHO cells), African violet cells, and carrot cells would similarly give up the ghost.

But my CHO cells are hanging on with (fingers crossed and knock on wood) nary a sign of contamination, despite being on their third passage.  My carrot cells, on the other hand, have some suspicious looking flecks in the media, which will bear investigation after the weekend:

Maybe they’re little carrot colonies?


We’re going to be introducing a fluorescent gene into the CHO cells, which prompted Devin, my husband, to make me promise to ask the instructor if I could introduce the gene into the violets instead, so he could line our walkway with them and then navigate our yard at night with a UV flashlight.  I don’t think I sold the instructor on the idea.

he consequences of some of Devin’s other great ideas…perhaps we shouldn’t allow him access to the manipulation of genetics.  He’s already super-villain enough with that mustache.

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Madison Area Technical College


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