Saturday, July 26, 2014

Two Classes Are Better than One

Brian Coe, CEO of SlipChip
We had a guest lecturer today—Brian Coe, CEO of SlipChip. SlipChip is a device that allows the precise concentration of biomolecules outside of labs. It’s called a SlipChip because the molecules “slip” through holes in order to be counted. I thought everything Brian (he told us to call him that. He said everyone in business is on a first-name basis) said was interesting. He told us how his father wanted him to be a doctor, though Brian found his true passion in business. He claimed to be an amateur scientist and a professional businessman. He told us that to go anywhere in life, you must have a dream that improves your and your community’s lives, otherwise classes might just seem tedious and a waste of time. He advised us to take statistics classes (he said he’s taken four of them and wishes he could’ve taken more), which he said will help us in the workplace no matter what we become.

Brian showed us videos of children trying out the SlipChip. As I’m sure was the point of the video, I was impressed that those little kids were able to amplify and count single molecules on the SlipChip. He also showed us a video that shows the counting of molecules on a SlipChip using a cell phone (see here: The cell phone imaged the chip in a shoebox and sent the image to a remote server that calculated the number of molecules in the sample. From there, the results are emailed. I find it so cool how people can do these analyses in their homes.  

A SlipChip
Brian opened up a new career path of biotechnology I previously hadn’t thought about. The business aspect of biotechnology personally isn’t all that appealing to me, but it’s nice to know my options. He told us that he’s like a die-hard fan at a baseball game—he understands all the rules (of science), though he would never be one to actually go to bat (do the scientific research). 

He passed around a SlipChip. The wells are so small and it’s about the size of a credit card. Bringing the SlipChip around everywhere would definitely be doable, if people wanted to.

After Brian Coe’s lecture, we went to the lab to analyze our PTC taste receptor. The lab is three days long, so we still haven’t found out yet. Today we used our cheek cells from a previous lab to use in PCR. The whole point of this lab is to see if we’re tasters or non-tasters of the bitter chemical PTC. Apparently two scientists were working in a lab when one complained of the bitter taste of the crystals in the air. The other scientist could not taste the bitterness of the crystals. This led to the discovery of TAS2R38, which is responsible for bitter taste receptors.

Because some people in our class had to redo their cheek cell samples, the rest of us had a lot of down time and leisurely did our work while waiting for the rest of the class (they want us all to do PCR together because it’s important that the cycling process starts within 30 minutes after mixing the PCR ingredients together). We then all mixed together our primer mix and cheek DNA to our “Ready-to-Go” bead of dehydrated PCR mix (with Taq polymerase, buffer, and nucelotides).

We took a break for lunch, ate at the Dining Commons, and went back to class in time for our lab protocol quiz. It was easy! I was so proud of myself when I actually knew the answers to the quiz. The labs become easier and less nerve-racking each day. April and I feel like professionals when using our pipettes (a bit of an exaggeration, but we have gotten pretty good at pipetting).
Our gel while it was running

Our gel!
Speaking of professionals, look at our gel from today! It was a group of six of us to one gel, and our gel came out pretty well, based on what Danny and Ciara (our TAs) said. We also went to the Contagion class to literally give them some hands. Students from both classes placed a "virus" on their hand and had to walk around and shake hands with others. We placed our hands under UV lights afterwards to see if we were sick (I wasn't). This was to show us how viruses infect (there were only two people with the "virus". About 25 people were sick in about 40 people total). I think this goes to show how important hand washing is. I liked the lab; collaborating with the Contagion class, working together to figure out the two sources of the "virus", and being with Vicky and others was fun.
Disclaimer: Not my picture, though Dr. Schonbaum and Dr. Fineschi also inspected our hands like this.

Once back in our classroom, we interpreted our gel and calculated our PCR product concentration and PCR product amount, then headed to the bookstore. A lot of people from our Biotech class coincidentally ended up there! We bonded over jackets and overpriced pajama pants.

At the dorms, Kaitlyn did my and April’s nails. Finally, some down time! Never have I missed the simple acts of painting nails and watching Netflix.
Nail-painting in the dorm

Later on in the day, I researched and wrote a bit more about my book report, which will be on the ethics of cloning.

I can’t wait for tomorrow! I get to go to a church again after all these weeks. Also, Alexa and Oyin will go with me, so that should be interesting!

1 comment:

  1. The class you had sounds pretty interesting - you're writing about some stuff I didn't even know about - awesome! Also now you have evidence for hand washing you can share that with people you meet to help stop contagion :)