Monday, July 28, 2014

Learning About Plant Biotechnology

Because students can either put $20 towards printing on their card or go to the library to put a more reasonable amount of money on it (reasonable for me, at least. I only have a week left here!), I left the dorms early this morning to go to Crerar, the scientific library. Halfway there, I realized I had my money in my other bag! I speed walked back to the dorms and to the library, and thankfully made it to class with a minute to spare.

Despite my unlucky start, the rest of the day was pretty good. I presented a Biotech in the News article before the lecture today. It was about the very recent sequencing of African rice, which has drought-resistant properties, and wild South American tomato, which has genes linked to drought-resistance, fruit development, and ripening. The South American tomato is already being interbred with the common tomato to develop tomatoes scientists hope are tastier and more stress-resistant. The sequencing of these genes will lead to the green revolution the article talked of: the creation crops requiring less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. My article was actually a great segue to the lecture, which was about the methods, applications, health, and environmental concerns of plant biotechnology.

Seedless watermelon, a polyploidy plant
We talked about past agricultural techniques such as cross breeding (did you know popcorn has been eaten for 6,000 years?) and artificial selection, polyploidy plants that have a higher amount of chromosome sets than normal (like seedless watermelon), plant transgenesis (the direct transfer of genes to plants), the agricultural revolution currently happening that involves the engineering of drought-, cold-, and salt-resistant plants, among other modifications. Dr. Schonbaum discussed the methods using in plant transgenesis like cloning (like the leaf fragment technique, chloroplast engineering, antisense technology, and use of gene guns), and the vaccines, genetic pesticides, and herbicide resistance this field could result in.

After class, we went to the lab, where we neutralized E. coli by infecting it with the bacteriophage T4. It was a fast lab; the whole class finished in less than an hour.

As usual, lunch was spent at the Dining Commons. Once in class an hour later, we discussed our two reading assignments, “Intoxicated on Independence: Is Domestically Produced Ethanol Worth the Cost?” and “Biofuels.” The discussion was a lot of fun. We talked about our stance on the environment and what we think will force people to realize that things must be done. Some people, like me, believe that every little scrap of paper or bottle recycled does in fact make a difference, while there are those in the class that think that one bottle does nothing to stop the environmental effects other people are doing on Earth.

At around 2:30 PM I went to the Crerar library to work on the PowerPoint I’ll be presenting with April on Thursday. We were so productive! I have to admit that the enormous computer screens that let you see multiple windows on at once were greatly helpful. The chairs are also really comfortable! The computer lab is now one of my favorite places on campus.
One beautiful, beautiful computer
One of the best chairs you'll ever sit in

April left the library early, so I went to the bookstore to relax after finishing my work. I browsed through books, clothes, and stuffed “cells” before making my way back to the dorms.
So cute!

My evening, as usual, was a mixture of eating, talking, and working with other people. I learn more and more each day I spend here—not only about my class, but about myself and how to manage time and when to socialize. This trip is an eye-opener in many ways. 

1 comment:

  1. I really like the sound of the article you found. It shows an incredibly important application of biotechnology to help solve some of the biggest issues today. Good work finding it!