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Don’t worry, it’s only antibiotic resistant E.Coli

So says the safety officer as I receive safety training the first day. This seems like it will be a fun and interesting summer for certain….

I finally came back to Caltech after a long, restful vacation and was ready to work! I went into lab on Monday and after the safety training went straight to work. It was a little difficult adjusting right away (what with the jet lag and long work hours) but I’m slowly getting used to the process.

This is my lab bench. I have to share it with another SURF student so it’s rather messy right now…. On the right side you can see the bottles of buffer solution I had to make on my first day. These solutions are used for lysising cells (cutting them up), washing cells, and eluting protein from the cells. Don’t worry, they’re only E.Coli cells, don’t feel too bad for them.

I also learned how to make many gels that are used to separate proteins after they’re eluted from the cells. It’s a rather simple looking apparatus but….

My first couple of ones looked like this. Leaking. A.k.a. failed. My mentor laughed a little, but reassured me it happens to everyone the first time they do it. Hopefully he wasn’t just saying that to make me feel better.

Finally a gel came out right and I was able to successfully run my protein down it. This is what the result looks like after we scanned the gel. So basically, these kind of gels work by running a voltage through the gel and the proteins will travel down the gel based on size, i.e. the smaller proteins move faster, so they travel farther down the gel and the larger proteins stay at the top. We then use a fixing solution and a stain to see the proteins (after running the gel you can’t tell where the proteins are since they’re colorless). Finally we image the gel my scanning it into the computer, cleaning it up and voila, here’s the final product. Pretty cool right?

Here’s what the gel actually looks like. Sorry for the poor quality and the fact that it’s actually upside down… But at least you can get a feel for what it looks like. You have to be very careful with the gels because they easily tear, which I learned after tearing one (however, it was in an empty lane so I was super lucky!!)

After a long week of leaking gels, standing in the cold room (which is at 4 degrees Celsius) for an hour, and non-stop work, what’s better than watching a movie with friends? This is at Academy Theaters, which is just a few blocks from campus. They show older movies, usually one or two seasons old, but for a super special, wallet-friendly price of $2 for matinee showings and $3 for night showings.

Off to enjoy more of my weekend… Till next time 🙂

Megan Lo