Educated and Enlightened by E. Coli Experiments

The past seven weeks at the Wu Orr Lab have zipped past me so quickly. It feels like just yesterday that we were attending the Boston Bacterial Meeting and setting up our goals for this summer. And although I may not have been able to fully analyze all 32 of my mutant strains before I left, I was still able to learn some valuable lessons and skills.

One of the biggest things I have taken away from this summer is to “never do science tired” as my professor would say. There were multiple times where fatigue and drowsiness caused complications and wasted time. One time my lab stayed until 8 pm because we could not manage to do simple arithmetic even after our professor told us the answer to the calculations. It is very important to get enough rest, so you don’t spend five hours calculating dilutions for a minimum inhibitory concentration plate or accidentally switch antibiotics.

Another large lesson I learned this summer was the importance of being orderly. Of course, I knew that keeping things nice and tidy, but since many of the assays we perform in the lab require multiple days to set up, and some like minimum inhibitory concentration plates and gradient plates require over a week, keeping a tidy bench and lab notebook makes everything so much easier especially if you are a forgetful person and don’t know where you left off. It also helps your labmates pick up on anything they missed if they were out and makes analysis less confusing.

Something I learned during talks with my professor is that there is so much you can do if you are interested in pursuing a career in biology/biochemistry. Beyond medical school and academia, you can go into industry developing pharmaceuticals, scientific equipment, or reagents.

Companies like NEB labs or Thermofisher typically offer internships each summer where you can get a taste of what it is like to work in industry.