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Submitted by Mandy Hunter on Fri, 02/08/2013 - 1:58pm
Mandy's been busy making cheese (Madison College is in Wisconsin after all!), bioprospecting in animal poo and finding out that washing your hands doesn't kill the stuff under your fingernails.
Think back to middle school. Remember when your science teacher was demonstrating the scale of the universe and our relative insignificance in comparison? Remember how that teacher told you that if Earth was the size of a pen tip, Jupiter would be a marble and the Sun would be the size of a grapefruit? Remember how you were taught that if the Milky Way were a football stadium that our solar system would be the smallest speck of dust imaginable? And that if you shrunk that stadium down until the Milky Way was the size of a penny, the edge of the known universe would be on the horizon, about twenty miles away?
Yeah, Biochem is that horizon and my mastery of the subject is that pen tip.
It started off innocently enough. I walked into the first class thinking “Me and Chemistry, we got no beef.” And then WHAM! Formulas, equations, laws and expressions tumbled forth at break neck speed. Normally, Algebra and I enjoy a mutually satisfying relationship. Not so much lately:
Now, Bioprocessing on the other hand has been loads of fun. In the last week we’ve been simultaneously working on making cheese, brewing root beer and “bioprospecting” for organisms that produce enzymes that breakdown cellulose. Given that we were making food for our consumption at the same time we were mucking around in herbivore feces, this took careful coordination of our team. Half of us were making yummy cheese in one room:
While the other half of us were in the lab, streaking for isolation after having incubated plates we’d loaded with decidedly un-yummy dilutions of barnyard treasures:
Yup, that sure is what you think it is.
My friend Angie has asked that I mention her contribution to science in pursuit of these samples. Her family owns horses, goats and sheep and she courageously went forth and gathered.
In Micro, we took a gander at those hand washing plates I mentioned last week:
See those crescents a little to the left of middle on the left hand plate, and at the left and right most edges of the right hand plate? You know, the spots with the greatest concentration of growth? That would be my disgusting fingernails, despite having been scrubbed and sanitized. I am seriously traumatized by this. On the plus side, you can see from the left hand plate that washing and sanitizing definitely reduces the number of microorganisms you may be transferring all over the place.
After that lab, we learned about Environmental Monitoring Programs and the ubiquity of microorganisms. We got to pick parts of the lab to swab to see what would grow and we discovered that our lab is remarkably clean. I swabbed the handle of our chemical refrigerator and this was all I got off of my minus one dilution:
I’d eat off those floors, but we’re not allowed to have food or drink in lab.
It’s pretty sad when you realize that the fingernail has more growing on it than the petrifilm does!