Hello Harbour Friends! This is Aaron and welcome to the first post of my blog. I am starting my mentorship at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and will be sure to keep all of you posted!
I took the metro last Thursday from Bethesda into the Medical Center metro station. From here I traveled up the escalator to the visitor center and got a visitor I.D. card. Dr. Cheo (my mentor) says he will get me a permanent card so I do not have to keep going through security. This will make things much more convenient. I was able to enter the lab. The laboratory was very wonderful; scales, chemicals, and various microscopes abound. Dr. Cheo showed me to the “dark and cold room” where they keep all of the growth mediums. The growth mediums are used to grow cells. I suppose it is cold so as to deliberately dampen the rate of growth of bacterium (if there is any). We then entered the fume-hood room. Here there were about 4 or so fume-hoods all equipped with pipette “guns” and various other equipment. Pipette guns are used to control suction. Dr. Cheo sprayed the hood we were using with 70% ethanol to disinfect the hood. We had trouble finding gloves that would fit me, but ultimately he found a box of large nitrile gloves.
Dr. Cheo then exhibited the techniques used in sterility and was able to demonstrate what to do. He then asked “Do you want to get your feet wet?” to which I replied “Of course”. From there I was able to ascertain a good understanding of sterile technique through Dr. Cheo’s demonstration and make a growth medium of penicillium and streptomycin.
Here are a few rules for sterile technique.
1) Do NOT reach over things; particulates from your sleeves can fall into the various flasks you may have opened.
2) ALWAYS grab things from the side, for example; when opening caps or tops of flasks, grab it from the side of the cap, not using your palms to reach over the cap and open it.
3) Never ever, EVER, grab pipettes with your gloves as they may have contaminants that will touch the pipette and spread into the material you may be suctioning off with said pipette.
These things will inhibit bacterial growth. Using these pipettes, I was able to transfer cellular culture onto this growth medium and put it into the incubator. Time will tell if my technique was truly sterile or not. It should take a week or so for the results. Everyone at the lab was very nice and polite even though I am just a high school student and not an undergrad.
Thanks for joining me in my adventure by reading this. Please comment and leave suggestions if you have one. Criticism is welcome but must be constructive. All in all it was an amazing experience and I look forward to writing about what happens this Thursday.