I walked into the laboratory nervous and excited. 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, I felt like a real working adult! The first thing I learned how to do was help Morgan grind meat samples. Morgan also works in the lab and analyzing meat cuts for a cancer project. She’s really sweet and was happy to walk me through the grinding process. Basically, that entailed pulverizing frozen cuts of meat into a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. The meat dust would then be used for tests that could analyze pH, proteolysis, lipid content, etc. It took time and arm strength, but it was fun using the liquid nitrogen to keep the samples cold. The liquid nitrogen evaporated quickly, so there was always a haze of smoke. I felt like a mystical witch brewing potions and spells.
So far I have learned that research is composed of a lot of sample preparation. When it was time to get started on my own project, I spent my day making buffers and purifying meat, mushrooms and kiwi samples with said buffers into special smoothies of my own concoction. I ended up with a lovely array of brown (mushroom), green (kiwi), and red (beef) solutions. Kiwi has been studied and has shown very strong proteolytic activity on meat, so it also serves as a comparison to the mushrooms samples I’m testing.
After lab it was time for quizbowl practice, which is every Tuesday and Thursday night. In preparation for the Regional Meat Conference (RMC) Undergraduate Quizbowl Competition, me and three other girls, Morgan, Carolina, and Bailie, were being coached by Tori and Trey, two meat science graduate students. I am really excited for the RMC! We are driving from Ohio to Texas, and making pit stops at Memphis and Nashville, so it’s a road trip through the Southern United States.
I also learned to make gels for SDS-PAGE, which were tricky. Sometimes the liquid for the gels would leak out of the holder, and I would have to start over, but I ended up with three lovely gels. They were stained with a blue dye overnight, and the next day, when I imaged the gels, they looked pretty good. The first week is a success! I made more gels the rest of the week to get familiar with the procedure.
A huge thank you to Michelle, who spent the week teaching me how to make buffers and gels. Michelle is a treasure trove of knowledge who has done most of the procedures used in the lab and acted as my teacher.