The Undergraduate Research Experience. . . so far

As my first REAL research experience, I had no idea what to expect.  Back in high school, I did a little research in my statistics class where I tested students’ memories based on the type of music they were listening.  Obviously, the data I collected wasn’t going to be research paper worthy.  Before I began working under the Eisen Lab, I thought to myself, “This is my chance to find some crazy new bacteria and name them after me!”  (Spoiler: None of us have yet found a novel bacteria.  Pretty disappointing, I know.)  Eventually, Winter Quarter came along and the undergrads finally began researching.

It was a pretty rough beginning for those first few weeks.  We didn’t know how to pipet – considering the only pipets we were exposed to were those plastic pipets in Chemistry labs; didn’t know the proper lab protocols for avoiding contamination; couldn’t perform a simple dilution streaking; didn’t know what was done and what needed to be done; and so on and so forth.  After finally coming up with a good system, the research went by smoothly.  And it actually has become a very fulfilling experience.  I’ve really come to appreciate the variety and unique characteristics of bacteria in the world.  Sometimes, I find myself looking at a surface and wondering what bacteria has made a home there.

Currently, each undergrad is isolating and extracting bacterial DNA from their choice of environment.  I took a couple of swabs from a restaurant’s chair, table, couch, and counter in Davis.  And I also took some swabs from a nursing home, and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  I’m really close to submitting some of my 16S DNA in for sequencing.  I’m pretty excited to see what the results are.

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