Why Biotech?

Why Biotech? 

Well, the answer’s right there in the question.  As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to know why?  Why, how, where, who and what the heck happened.

My name is Mandy Hunter and I’m currently in my second of three years as a student in Madison College’s Biotechnology Laboratory Technician program.  When I made the decision to leave the field I’d been in for the last ten years and go back to school, I knew that I wanted to attend a two year college.  And I knew that if I was going to invest the time and effort into changing fields, by golly this time I was getting my questions answered.  I read an excellent article that suggested returning students wondering what fields to consider should think back and ask themselves “which classes, either in high school or previous college experience, did you really look forward to going to?”  For me, the answers were journalism, creative writing and my science classes.

This is where my inner geek poked her head out and hollered “Hey, you know how when we’re cleaning out the car we wonder about the possibility of finding sucrose based life forms living under the car seats, having risen from French fries and M&M’s?  And then we pretend that we’ve christened those new life forms the Mandians and we reign as their benevolent overlord?  And you know how we get nerdy heart palpitations when a show about astrobiology comes on?  We might want to consider something along the lines of, um, I don’t know…BIOLOGY.  Just saying.”  So science it was.  When I stumbled onto Madison College’s Biotech page, I knew I was in love.

Fall term is a light semester for me this year (seven credits).  I had my fourth child this past summer, and as I must at some point sleep, I thought this prudent.  So right now my schedule consists of General Cell Biology and the safety series: Hazardous Materials, Biosafety, and Radioisotopes.  Each of the safety series’ classes are six weeks long and consecutive to one another, so I only ever have two classes in any given week.  We’ve already completed Hazardous Materials, so right now my week includes General Cell Biology and BioSafety.

Mitosis, Mendel and Meiosis (Say that three times fast):

This past week in General Cell Biology, we explored molecular genetics and DNA replication.  Who knew we’d be using socks and pipe cleaners to demonstrate chromosomes and chromatids?  I caught on to mitosis fairly quickly, but meiosis had me scrambling for a pencil and some graph paper so I could chart exactly what wound up where.  Stinking haploid cells.

When an instructor tells you that someone was absolutely brilliant, it’s probably a good idea to pay attention. I remembered Gregor Mendel and the Punnett squares from high school, but had never really explored the topic in depth until now.  The fact that Mendel worked out the inheritance of traits without ever having laid eyes on a chromosome is pretty amazing. 

When we started looking at dividing cells under a microscope in lab, I and another lady discovered something disturbing about ourselves:  We see double when using a microscope.  After our instructor and other students tried unsuccessfully to determine if the microscope could be adjusted to solve the problem, I googled the situation and discovered that it’s a common problem, but no one seems to know why.  Even optometrists weighed in on the discussion threads, saying there’s just no eye related reason for it.  Evidently, that’s just how some of us roll.  We’d be very grateful if anyone’s ever encountered and overcome this problem and would care to share their remedies!

Bioaerosols, Aseptic Technique, and the First Time I Got to Count Colonies:

This past week, we tested the effectiveness of various disinfectants by creating lawns of Escherichia coli at various concentrations on LB Agar plates and using disinfectants on half of them.  After incubation, Lysol was the hands down winner, with nary a colony in sight afterwards.  My disinfectant, AlcoScrub, left some survivors behind:


What my plates looked like




What it made me feel like




Biotech Club (MMMMM Doughnuts):

This week Biotech Club is participated in a fundraiser to benefit the Red Cross’s efforts to provide relief to people suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  So if you’re at the Truax campus Wednesday, November 7th, stop by the Student Life office to purchase individual doughnuts for a dollar or a dozen for ten dollars.  Fried sugar and fat + helping people = good karma and a full belly!

Bio-Link Program: 
Madison Area Technical College

Welcome Mandy! It looks like

Welcome Mandy!

It looks like one of your plates, on the left side, has bacteria that aren't E. coli.  They're probably Staph and maybe some other kinds as well, judging from the colony color.  If all your bacteria were E. coli, the colonies would all have the same color, shape, and texture.

That was my air plate :)

That was my air plate :)

Hi Mandy! Great blog! I can

Hi Mandy! Great blog! I can totally relate to your inner nerd leading you in this direction! I look forward to reading your future contributions. :) 

Thank you Jennifer! Reading

Thank you Jennifer! Reading your blog first was a great help in figuring out what direction I wanted to go in.

Hi Mandy! Its great to have

Hi Mandy! Its great to have another great biotech blogger here! I have a suggestion about the double vision microscope problem. Many many years ago I had the same problem in my high school bio class and my teacher (Mr G who I admire greatly) would walk around the room saying "star gazing, people!, star gazing!"
The logic is that we can't see the magnified image well if our brains are trying to focus as though we are looking at something up close. The trick is to tell your brain you are gazing at far away stars. It helped me in almost no time at all and I now am the one shouting about stars to my own students.

Thank you so much! I'll have

Thank you so much! I'll have to try it!

Josephine, I just had to tell

I just had to tell you, I used your star-gazing tecnique on my lab fianl and it totally solved the problem. I received full point for that section. Thank you so much!!

That's great! I'm glad it

That's great! I'm glad it worked.


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