By Mariel Emrich, Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School
The American Museum of Natural History offers many after-school science courses each year. Currently, I am enrolled in “Curing Disease in the 21st Century”. The course discusses the process of developing drugs starting from molecules in nature and in the lab.
Last week, we did a lab to find and grow our own bacteria. First, we used sterile cotton swabs and dipped them in saline in a culture tube. We swabbed any place of the museum of our choice. I chose not to swab the bathroom or food court, since most of the bacteria there is probably going to be common human bacteria. I was looking for a place with more unusual bacteria to see if they might produce anti-resistant compounds.
I decided to swab a sample of the Labradorite mineral and my partner swabbed a sample of the asteroid. We streaked the bacteria onto petri dishes with agar. Agar will give the bacteria an environment where they can grow well. Next we left the petri dishes in a 37° incubator over night. We made sure to put the lid down to prevent condensation from occurring. The next day, there were no significant changes, but we had to prepare our bacterial lawn, otherwise known as bacterial colonies.
To do this, we added a 5 ml tube of agarose/Luria on top of the bacteria, ensuring that we spread it throughout. We also prepared our control by dipping filter paper into Ampicillin. Ampicillin will kill the bacteria so we placed it in our control section of the petri dish.
After waiting a few days with the bacteria in the incubator, we re-streaked the bacteria onto various antibiotics to measure their resistance. We are currently waiting to see if anything strange will grow on the dishes.
This was the first lab that we did and provides a good taste of the course. In the course, we have/will discuss how to make a drug from start to finish, how to avoid side effects, and how to go about producing your drug once you believe yours works. This class, so far, has been a great learning experience and has been very fun! I would recommend it (or any other AMNH science after-school courses) to everyone! They are simply great!
Mariel is currently a sophomore at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City. She loves learning about science and particularly enjoys genetics, cancer research, radiology, and forensics.