Friday, July 25, 2014

All about Microbes

My Biotech classmates and I went into class today curious about how our first day with Dr. Schonbaum as our professor would be. Thirty minutes into the class period, I decided I liked him as our lecturer/professor. He makes topics easier to understand than Dr. Bhasin did. Like Dr. Bhasin, he also goes on tangents, though he quickly reverts back to the original topic/discussion. One of the first things he had our class do was work into groups and share something cool about bacteria. Among the things we discussed (such as how bacteria comprise 50% of Earth’s living matter and how they can withstand high pressure), I found tardigrades, bacteria that are able to withstand very cold temperatures (temperatures nearing absolute zero), and how Geobacter sulfurreducens can directly grow on an electrode and take electrons directly from that electrode two of the most interesting topics.

Dr. Schonbaum also told us about different kinds of archaea: halophiles (they can withstand salty environments), thermophiles (withstand hot temperatures), and psychrophiles (which can withstand cold temperatures. We talked about using microbes (plasmids) as tools for cloning or recombinant DNA technology, as well as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a bacterial defense system used for gene editing in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Dr. Schonbaum told us how CRISPR both removes and replaces viral DNA. An example of that is how CRISPR removes and replaces valine back to GLU.

We talked about yeast, microbial enzymes, and food products that are created in fermentation—sourdough, yogurt, kimchi, cheeses, beer, and more. He promised to bring some cheeses (stinky ones that contain brevibacterium linens, which are also found on feet) to the trip our class will take on August 1st by the lake. We took a short break, then discussed antibiotics, biofilms, and how scientists are already starting to sequence microbial genomes by starting the Human Microbiome Project.
"Micro cheeses"--made in vitro

I feel that though Dr. Bhasin is a really talented professor, Dr. Schonbaum’s way of teaching is a bit easier to understand and follow. He sticks more to the slides instead of providing too many examples/details that make it difficult to follow along. After encouraging group work and asking us to anonymously tell him our interests in biotechnology (on slips of paper), I could tell he values interaction and wants to teach in a way geared more towards our goals and interests. Also, he checked to see if we were finished copying down slides before moving on! I appreciate that.

The study room
The class moved on to discussing the books we’ll use for our book reports (I’m doing Stem Cells and Cloning), then dismissed for lunch. I grabbed lunch at the Dining Commons (macaroni and cheese, salad, chicken skewers, and tea) and headed to the Crerar library to research and write about our topics. Four other girls and I ended up having to retrieve our laptops from the dorm (students from another program had the computer lounge reserved). We laughed over funny school stories and things that happened in various labs. Once at the Crerar with our laptops, we stayed in a study lounge (one without computers) and researched.

At 4 PM I went to the gym with Alexa and worked out for the first time! I went on the elliptical, stretched, and lifted weights until going straight to the Dining Commons for dinner at 5:30 PM. Though in California I was never one to go to the gym, working out is actually enjoyable here. I guess new environments lead to new interests.

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