Thursday, August 7, 2008

Introducing my new lab assistant

Today Niecey raided my closet and found some old balloons I had bought on clearance years ago (I am a bit of a pack rat/impulse buyer who forgets she bought something). I blew up a bunch for her and we played with them for hours, $1.00 well spent! Pa showed her how you can rub them on the couch and then stick them to the ceiling. I told her that it was making electricity and that is what held them up and showed her that she could also make it by rubbing her hands on the balloon and then it would stick to her hand. She was quite impressed!

Niecey has been wanting to see where I work and see my microbes from even before she got here. Everyday she has asked me when we will go to the lab to see my bacteria and I told her they were sleeping (they were incubating, the plates were boarder line not ready when I took them out). So after informing her of the "Don't touch anything unless I hand it to you" rule several times I brought her to work with me. I sanitized everything and let her count the plates that I didn't need. Counting plates is a tedious job that is made easier by a "colony counter", which is just a hand held device that you push the button and it clicks to the next number, this of course was a great toy for my little click monkey. Dad coined the phrase "click monkey" to describe someone who keeps pushing buttons when they don't need to, like clicking an icon or link 5 times because it is not loading fast enough (Niecey and my mom are both chronic click monkeys).

Counting plates is what I do to get the data for my experiments, basically I want to know how many bacteria I have in my sample and so I dilute it out until there are between 20-200 bacteria per milliliter and spread it across petri dishes containing agar where each cell (theoretically) will land and then grow into a visible spot (colony), which I count and then multiply by how many times I diluted it, typically my bacteria grow to about a billion or two cells per ml. Plates that have less than 20 colonies are considered statistically insignificant, but make for great counting practice for a kid about to enter kindergarten. I was also testing one of my cultures for contamination and so was making a slide to view under the microscope. So Niecey, and Dad, got to see bacteria in two different ways (I could have shown them bacteria grown in broth tubes but that is somewhat boring), on plates you are seeing a colony that has millions or more cells together forming a spot and with the scope you see what the cells look like by themselves.

All in all a good day with Niecey and Daddy. Perhaps I have inoculated Niecey's mind with the idea that science is fun and cool and it will grow into a love of the subject. And you have to admit, she looks adorable in a lab coat!

Safety First!

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