Looking back to the exciting classes we’ve been having in the past two weeks, today seemed relatively dull in comparison. In the lab, we prepared our own DNA samples from last week for PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction). PCR is a technique used to amplify (clone) specific DNA sequences up to millions of times. The way it works is through thermal cycling of repeated heating and cooling. The use of PCR augments many other techniques. For one, it can be used to analyze extremely small samples of genetic info, such as in forensic analysis.
I’ve performed the procedure myself, but today we didn’t get to experience it first-hand, instead giving the job of preparing the entire class’s samples to only three people. Despite my slight disappointment, tomorrow we’ll get the chance to analyze our own DNA through gel electrophoresis!
Next for protocol 4, our job was to prepare and stain a glass slide from living cells for viewing under a microscope. During the procedure I got caught up in the rush and began to panic, in the process mixing up steps and getting confused. I had to start over several times because of it and ended up becoming very frustrated with myself. Jody emphasized the importance of patience working in the lab: after all, it’s necessary to know exactly what you are doing instead of rushing in blind—like I did.
I refreshed myself by taking a break to read the protocol carefully on my own, making sure to comprehend every word. Afterwards, I calmly restarted, and everything went smoothly from there on. I have to admit, studying samples under a microscope isn’t exactly inspirational for me. I usually take most of the time trying to position the slide and keeping my eyelashes from blocking the view. The interesting part about this protocol, however, was being able to see with our own eyes, the stained chromosomes that we only see in textbooks. Most of the nuclei we observed remained intact with the DNA still inside.
Near the end of class, Jody and Colby gave us a briefing and a Q&A session on our figure presentations, which is taking place at the grand finale of the class on Friday. Our assignment is to find a published research article on a cutting-edge topic in the field, study a specific figure within the paper, and explain to the class what it means. I guess this could be considered practice for what we may encounter in the field. One day we might even be writing and publishing ourselves! Anyways, I’m not too worried, except to face my fear of public speaking…
And so our last week begins. Although today was seemingly slow, I know things are starting to build up like in the calm before the storm.