This blog post was written by Adriann Negreros, an undergraduate researcher in the Dutton lab at Harvard.
We work in a cheese lab, so it’s no surprise to learn that we all love to eat—and to have fun. Yes, we do have our 9-5’s, but the daily grind in the Dutton lab just isn’t all that troublesome (clearly, we need to work more). Jokes aside, when we’re not dissecting a fresh rind of Bayley Hazen Blue into 1 mm x 1 mm squares (to discover just “who” is living there), or slowly uncovering a new species via our cheeses—we’re playing with mites. Yes, mites; those seemingly scary eight-legged little critters capable of growing on cheese.
As you may remember from my last post, I am starting a lab focused on the study of the microbial ecosystems on cheese rinds. As it turns out, doing microbiology research requires a lot of stuff. At least that is what I am realizing as I set up my new lab… There's the equipment: pipettmen (to transfer small volumes of liquids), tubes (to hold the liquids), racks (to hold the tubes), and machines like a vortex (to mix the liquids in the tubes), freezers (to store samples), incubators (to grow microbes), and microscopes (to look at those tiny microbes). Then there are the reagents that make the experiments we will do possible, things like: growth media (microbe food), cell-lysis chemicals (detergents that bust cells open so we can extract their DNA), and enzymes like DNA polymerase (a purified enzyme that makes copies of DNA so we can study it- the one we use comes from a microbe found at vents at the bottom of the ocean!).
Remember when you were a kid, and how excited you were to find out you got to go to the zoo? Remember how thrilling it was to get to see all of those wild and sometimes scary, sometimes cute animals you had only read about in books? Well, that’s exactly how I felt as I spent the last 6 weeks interning at Jasper Hill Farm and Cellars in Greensboro, VT.
See, I’m a microbiologist, and for me, those wild and unseen animals are the microbes I’ve spent so many years studying.