Posted by: Calvin C | June 6, 2009

Our Incompetent Bacteria

Every employer wants their workers to be competent and reliable.  When the employees start slacking off and fail to deliver good results, the bosses can give warnings and fire them.  But what if your employees are also the most important part of your work?  In a microbiology lab, your best workers are often the ones that frustrate you the most…I am talking about your bacteria.

We have some interesting experiences with our bacteria.  One of our most time-demanding protocols is creating competent cells.  The longest step requires us to gently re-suspend the centrifuged cells with our hands in freezing water.  We have tried to be creative and swirl the mixture on an automatic shaker, but that batch turned out to be a totally failure as all the bacteria decided to stay incompetent and died on our antibiotic test plates.  Fortunately for us, there is a large projector in the lab we make competent cells in, so re-suspending the bacteria with bare hands in the ice water does not seem too bad while we enjoy Transformers on a large screen.

In addition to having incompetent workers, we also have some very lazy and laid-back bacteria.  One of our strains takes forever to wake up after its long sleep in the -80oC freezer.  On the other hand, one strain enjoys reproducing so much that we have a hard time controlling it.  In order to keep track of their growth, we have created growth curves for all the strains that we use.  If this experiment were in a classroom lab, it would have been complete in one lab period.  However, as I have mentioned in my previous post, experiments in a real lab are not ideal and thus, we have experienced some problems, but everything turned out okay in the end….hopefully…

Although we all have had some experiences with bacteria, they always prove themselves useful when they cheaper amplify DNA for us.  I guess like people, bacteria have their good and bad days too.


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