Author Archives: Saiaparna_Konde

Almost the end?!

I can’t believe that just a few months ago, we were learning how to serial dilute our samples and trying to look for a phage. This semester has been so enriching- from learning how to use DNA Master to going through the research process and developing our independent project. Our group has worked on comparing certain genes between all the known Arthrobacter genomes. It was amazing to realize how well everything came together in the end last week, when we were compiling and synthesizing our data for the final presentation. We started out having so many questions about where to start and how to gather data, but learned so much during the entire process. Good job to all the other groups on great projects as well!

“Chernobyl’s birds adapting to ionizing radiation”

Birds in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, a city in Ukraine which was the site of the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, are adapting to and benefiting from long-term exposure to radiation. The explosion that occurred in 1986 resulted in large quantities of radioactive particles to remain in the atmosphere, as well as numerous other environmental consequences. Ecologists have found that with increasing background radiation, the birds’ body condition and glutathione levels increased and oxidative stress and DNA damage decreased. These results are important, as they explain to us more about different species’ ability to adapt to different environments that have been sites of environmental catastrophes. Here is the link to the article-

New Virus Found in Russian Tundra

I found this interesting article on the Economist, and thought I’d share. A group of virus-hunting scientists thawed a 32,000-year-old slab of Siberian permafrost and discovered a virus that infects a species of amoeba. While an average virus has 9,000 bases, this virus (named Mimivirus) has more than 1m bases in its genome. It is also huge physically – 600 nm across. Scientists claim that even though this virus is enormous, it is not very dangerous to people/humans. The full article link is-

Human Evolution- Homo Sapiens Became Black to Beat Cancer

This article explains one possible reason why humans have darker skin than chimpanzees (after humans and chimps parted ways). Because of evolutionary pressures, human skin was almost always black. This may be due to the role of melanin in black skin. Melanin helps absorb ultraviolet light, prevents DNA damage and protects mutations, protects against skin cancer. Interesting read!

Heartbeats Help People See

I thought this article was so interesting. Everything is connected! This article highlights this very fact. According to this article from Nature Neuroscience, each heartbeat creates a blip of neural activity, and this helps us better detect things in the world. Another theme that is talked about in this article is how all bodily functions have some kind of an effect on the brain. Enjoy!

Annotations Complete?!

It seemed like just yesterday that we were struggling to learn how to annotate a gene. It’s safe to say that we have come a long way! Our group decided to split our portion into two. Bethany and I annotated the first 12 genes plus 2 tRNAS, and Jeremy and Chloe annotated the rest of the gene assigned to our group. The main thing Bethany and I had a hard time with was a huge gap (over 200 bp). We added genes where we thought they would be appropriate, although we are not 100% sure they are right. We merged our files during the last lab, and I can’t wait to see what other groups have come up with! Hope everyone is having a great break!

Answering the Question: What Will Stem Cells Become?

Hey Guys! So Dr. Adair showed this awesome link today in class which discusses some recent uses of biotechnology. I read this article on stem cell techniques, and I thought it’d be worth sharing on our blog. Here’s the link-

This article talks about a technique that was developed by the scientists at the University of Toronto. This new technique has the potential to rapidly screen stem cells to control what they will turn into in the future. The technology can be used in regenerative medicine and drug development; it can also give a better understanding of how to turn stem cells into clinically useful cell types. Science is amazing!

The End!?

So today was my last lab day, and I can’t believe we’re done with one whole semester! Being a part of this amazing group has taught me so much – from filter-sterilizing lysates to problem-solving skills. I am so grateful to Dr. Gibbon and Dr. Adair for all their work and help; I’ve honestly gained so much from this one semester! I can’t wait to find out what next semester has in store for all of us. This lab also wouldn’t have been the same without y’all- my fellow phage hunters. Thanks for being simply awesome. I’m also thankful for Pizooky. Although we haven’t known each other for too long, finding him (?) was probably the highlight of my semester. I’m so glad I got to be a part of this experience!!


So today, I was able to name/archive my phage. Because discovering that I had a phage made me as happy as eating a pizookie, I named it after the best dessert in the world. 

30 minute lab funsies!

I finished my third round of purification last week, and when I observed my plates, they were not contaminated. So, I was able to move onto the next step- flooding the plate that was webbed the most with 8 mL of phage buffer! The shortest lab ever!


So today, I observed my plates and saw that my agar had slipped. However, I did see my phage! Thankfully the agar problem didn’t affect the phage. Although my phage is pretty weak, it is very uniform throughout. Today, I repeated the the purification process once more (this is my second time). I’ll have to repeat the plaque assay procedure one more time before moving on. Hopefully my phage doesn’t die! I’ll do my 3rd purification step on Monday.


So I may have finally found a phage! On Wednesday, when I looked at my plate, I could see small phage which looked like pin pricks. They were super small, but hopefully they will still work! I was able to pick the plaque and am eager to look at my plates on Monday. The soil that was positive for phage was from a flower bed. I’m so glad I found a phage; definitely made my weekend.

Fingers Crossed!

So I decided to try Arthrobacter one more time yesterday. I also collected new soil samples to move onto smeg as a back up. I’m hoping I get some phage tomorrow! A couple of days ago, I wanted to see what happens when I respotted a plate that had already been incubated (there was no contamination on this plate, just grainy agar). Yesterday, I was able to take a look at the plate- I noticed that the grainy agar had increased, but there was no contamination or phage. Although my experiment didn’t give me exciting/thrilling results, it was pretty cool to try something new. Keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow!