Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Look Back at Week 3

Week 3 has come and gone! It's hard to believe this experience is half way over already. Lesson planning is well under way for how the teachers are going to implement our research experiences into the classroom.

This week, Helen took us to the clean room for the second time. I worked with Gary, John P. and Rick to make our wafers. (Kevin made the mask the week before when we were all in the clean room). It was a great experience because my partner John W. and I are actually using small wafers. also known as cells, in our laboratory (BSAIL). I won't be using the actual wafer that I made in the clean room, but it was neat learning the processes necessary to create the wafers used in our laboratory.

On Friday this week, John took me out to UMASS to check out his old bacteria laboratory that he worked in. It was a very interesting experience, because I was able to see another laboratory besides the engineering laboratories at Boston University. John seemed right at home in his old lab and very excited to share his past experiences working in the lab.

I'm looking forward to next week because hopefully John and I are going to get started using the IRIS system!

Do you know how to culture bacteria?

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Look Back... Week 2 Reflections.

What is the Hypothesis you are testing?
John and I are going to do research with an e-coli stand. We are going to test the e-coli against it's antibody, and see if they bind using the LED or Laser system. If time allows (normally research is ongoing and takes years), since we only have four weeks left, we may be able to compare our results of the Laser system against the LED system. The laser system will give more accurate results, but the LED system is what will eventually be affordable and taken into the field. Normally the BSAIL laboratory works with viral detection, but John and I proposed using the same system to detect bacteria (e-coli specifically). If we can successfully test the presence of bacteria at various quantities, then this system that is being developed to take into the field can be used as an environmental detector for water quality.

What kind of controls does the experiment have?
John and I are going to test the effectiveness of the IRIS system in detecting bacteria using possibly both the laser and LED systems. The laser system would be baseline data because it is more accurate and then we could compare our results using the LED system to our results from the laser system. Our first runs of the experiment may serve as a control to test other bacterial strains for binding. We have ordered a generic antibody for e-coli bacterial strains. Towards the end of our research if time allows we could run different bacterium against the antibody.

How will you measure your results?
We will measure our results using computer and graphical analysis of the images collected of the binding of the e-coli with the antibodies. The IRIS system is able to produce a visual image of binding as well as quantify.

How will the reliability of your data be ensured?
The reliability of our data will be ensured through repeated experimentation and the use of different equipment for bacterial detection. Alex, a graduate student here, works on the calibration of the laboratory equipment because one of his roles in the lab is to construct the equipment. We will need to run repeated experiments with varying concentrations to verify the data. Our data could potentially serve as (preliminary) baseline experimental data, which could one day be compared to results obtained in the field.

How will inquiry figure into your lesson plan?
I am looking forward to the challenge of implementing this experience into my curriculum. I think that a few of the concepts that I have been learning about this far will fit in nicely in my chemistry, biology, and ecology units. I will fit inquiry into my lesson planning by keeping in mind the curiosity and wonder that the students, may have for the individual project that I am working on.

What materials will you use to carry out your lesson
I hope that we will be able to bring a mask back to our classroom for our students to observe, I also hope to bring back images that were taken through out these six weeks to facilitate discussion and trigger questions. I would also like to use a laser and LED light simply to discuss the differences between the two and how they can be used as a biosensor.

A Look Back... Week 1 Reflection

Here are the questions posted in our journal assignment:

Who Introduced you to the laboratory space?
Two people introduced me to the laboratory space this week. One is a Post-doc named Carlos Lopez. A Post-doc, is someone who has already received their doctoral degree (i.e. Bachelor's degree, Master's degree, Doctoral degree or doctorate), but is now working in the lab doing research. Carlos walked John and I through the lab and showed us the equipment used in the lab and reviewed the protocols for how everything works. The second person who helped me learn my way around the lab was a woman named Chelsea Pereira. She just finished her undergraduate degree, but is continuing the research of her senior year design project this summer. Chelsea showed me the process of how they use the lab equipment.

Do you share a space or have your own space?
Our laboratory is a shared space. The lab requires swipe access to get into the laboratory; I need to swipe my ID card to gain access to the room. When you first walk in there is an office with desk and computers for the researchers and students to work on analysis of data and to complete additional research. Then the next room is the laboratory itself. There is a big black curtain that separates the preparation area from the area that uses lasers and LED lights. Some of the undergraduate students have to use space in a back room of the lab, which is where a graduate student named Alex is working on building additional equipment for the lab. My partner, John and I use the conference room on the 7th floor mostly to get our own preliminary "research" done on the lab itself and about the materials that we need to use.

What were the primary tasks you performed?
This week I mostly tried to research information about the research that the lab has already completed and I've done that by reading the published papers that the lab has produced. I've also done my own microbiology research so I can familiarize myself with the scale of the research and the science content behind the research.

What techniques have you learned?
I haven't learned very many techniques thus far because I've only made observations of the laboratory. To work successfully in this lab, you need to remember your chemistry and mathematics skills. When making solutions in the lab researchers need to keep track of their mathematics and show their work in their lab notebooks for how they came up with how much of each solute (what is being dissolved) and solvent (what is doing the dissolving) is needed to make a solution to be used in an experiment. There is also specific protocol for how to use each of the pieces of lab equipment, the spotter, the LED, the Laser, etc.

To what tools have you been introduced?
I've been introduced to the IRIS interferometer. (Details about this equipment to come)

What is the significance of the research?
John and I are working in the BSAIL lab and the system that we're going to be using used to be called the SRIB system, but it was recently changed to IRIS. The slang term for this lab is V-IRIS. Any guesses why? ... This lab works on viral detection (detection of viruses). Chelsea (the woman I mentioned earlier) is working with her lab partner to detect the virus, Hepatitis B in low amounts. John I, however are going to work on detecting bacteria using the IRIS system. The ultimate goal of this lab is to create a devise that can be patented and sold as a portable, affordable, and a system that can be used in the field.

What content knowledge is significant to know to perform research in the field or topic?
In this lab, the content knowledge necessary to perform this research is physics, chemistry, and biology (specifically microbiology).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

An Introduction.

This summer I thought I was going to be living in NJ, relaxing and spending my time lakeside in NJ, but those plans quickly changed when I was given a wonderful opportunity to participate with a 6-week Research Experience for Teachers (RET) at Boston University (BU). Basically the National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsors programs like this in order to get high school and middle school teachers into actual research laboratories so that we can get a first hand experience in a research laboratory and then bring this experience back to you, our students.

I am one of eight participants in BU’s RET program in Biophotonics. (What is Biophotonics you may ask? We’ll get to those details in a later post).

As a middle school science teacher, I was paired up with a gentleman, named John Walsh, who teaches high school Biology AP and Environmental AP at BC High. The two of us were placed in a lab that uses light as a biosensor, which basically means the light (UV, LED lights, or lasers) are used to detect a biological or chemical substance and quantify it (aka: find out how much of the substance is present); our lab specifically works to detect viruses.

My partner, John and I are going to develop our own research project for the summer. John has had experience working with bacteria, so we’re going to use the lab equipment to detect the presence of bacteria, which could possibly serve as a water quality analysis in a marine ecosystem in the real world (as opposed to simply in a laboratory).

I keep referring to myself as a sponge, soaking up as much information as I can! My learning curve is exponential and I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks…