O.G.C. Club

The idea behind O.G.C. Club, or Optimal Growing Conditions Club, came when we discussed optimal growing conditions for microbes. I wanted to have a creative way of showing a microbe finding its optimal growing conditions. The microbe pictured is on a journey to find where it would grow the best by going down a hallway, opening each door to a new environment, and deciding what environment has the best conditions. The first door with a flower on it represents a soil environment that needs microbes to carry out decomposition in order to help release nutrients to facilitate plant-growth. The next door with the waves on it represents an aquatic environment, specifically the ocean. The ocean is salty meaning that halophilic microbes are going to thrive in that type of environment. The door that the microbe is opening and seeing an erupting volcano represents heat, which thermophiles will grow best in. The last door represents a frozen lake with methane bubbles, so the microbes, specifically archaea, would most likely be found occupying that environment.

Microbial Worlds Extra Credit

  1. I was drawn to Deceptive Beauty by Ree Nancarrow because of the overall color scheme: having the warm and cool colors together to provide contrast makes a piece stand out more to me because the piece seems to pop. There are a lot of little details that stand out more as I looked closer at the piece. Nancarrow executed the methane theme very well because without reading the artists’ statement, I would have had no idea what the piece was representing. I think leaving the audience to guess what the theme of the artwork contributes to the artists’ message. Nancarrow successfully conveyed the meaning in the piece because Nancarrow mentioned the production of methane bubbles being produced in frozen lakes.
  2. The Prokaryotes by Mariah Henderson and and Eric Henderson embodies the idea of prokaryotic evolutionary relationships since Bacteria and Archaea domains represent prokaryotes, which is considered to be the more diverse than eukaryotes. I was drawn to this piece because of its simplicity, yet the concept that it represents is far from being simple.
  3. The concept of the human microbiome is exemplified in Specimen by Margo Klass. We recently went over some of the basics of the human microbiome and touched on the mouth because of what we would be doing in Lab 10. This art piece relates to this concept because it is a prime example of the damage that microbes can do if we do not take care of our body. In the artists’ statement, Klass briefly mentions how there are some bacteria that can thrive when sugars are present and cause tooth decay/damage, and in lecture we went into more detail about how harmful microbes can be to teeth, such as plaque build-up.
  4. If I were an artist working in this show, I would probably make a piece of art exploring the concept of viruses because viruses are very prevalent in today’s society between increasing news coverage about disease outbreaks or the fact that there are more viruses that are mutating and starting to become resistant to treatment. I probably would have created an abstract painting focusing on the structure of a particular disease and kind of showing the impact that it has on people in terms of the symptoms that it causes.

Dan Stinchcomb Extra Credit

Vaccines are essential for combating various diseases, yet there are still a lot of diseases that still need a vaccine. Dan Stinchcomb has been involved with the creation of vaccines for various diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya, and zika. Stinchcomb highlighted that vaccines are designed to initiate an antibody response to help build immunity to the specific virus. He also mentioned RNA vaccines and how these vaccines are a lot easier to administer than DNA vaccines.

Overall, Dan Stinchcomb’s presentation was interesting and thought-provoking. Viruses are an issue that a lot of people care about because of how detrimental they can be to the human population and how quickly viruses can spread now. The main defense that people have against viruses are immune responses and vaccines are critical when it comes to encouraging the immune response and preventing infection. This seminar relates with what we have learned in class because we had an introduction to viruses and their different replication cycles; basically how viruses work. Knowing the mechanisms behind how viruses attack a person’s immune system can make a vaccine more effective in combating that virus. Something that popped into my mind was how will new technology help with the creation of vaccines? Will they be able to be produced at a faster rate while an epidemic occurs? Will new and more advanced technology lead to a better understanding of rapidly-evolving viruses and create more efficient vaccines?

Painting with Microbes

I wanted to choose something to paint with that was simple and did not require a lot of colors because there was not a lot to work with. Overall, I like the way that my paintings turned out because I had no idea what to expect since the bacteria needed to be incubated to grow. The TSA plate had the best results, showing the three bacterial strains that I used. The painting still showed up pretty well on the MAC plate with the red being very prominent, although the plate itself did not really show any color change. This could be due to not incubating it long enough, or the bacterial strains I used were not reacting with the pH in the agar. However, the painting did not really come out on the EMB plate, with only one, maybe two, bacterial strains showing up. This could also be because I did not incubate the plate long enough of the bacteria were not enteric or do not ferment lactose.


Eric Collins Extra Credit

Summary:  Ice can affect how microbes grow and interact with their environment, with different types of microbes inhabiting either the same patch of ice or various patches of ice. The water flows through due to the currents, which can transport some microbes to a new environment. Collins examined the microbial diversity in the Arctic and how the ocean currents effect that diversity. By doing so, he was able to map out not only the temperature variations and depth of the ocean in his study areas, but also where certain microbial strains may be.

Reflection:  Eric Collins’ presentation was really easy to follow and understand what his study was about and what the results were. He provided sufficient background information to understand how the different regions that he collected his samples from would be effected. Throughout the presentation, Collins incorporated some light humor, which I felt helped keep the engagement of the audience. The connection between this seminar and class is looking at how different environmental conditions, such as temperature, salinity, amount of nutrients, can effect microbial growth. Depending on what is in the environment, various microbial strains will thrive and grow better than other strains based on their needs. One question that came to mind while listening to his presentation is: could this study lead to future environmental studies to find out if there are microbes that could provide benefits for decreasing the rate at which the sea ice keeps shrinking?

Simon Lax Extra Credit

Summary:  In his presentation, Simon Lax provided background information to provide insight into he did for his research, such as information on 16s rRNA. The basis of his research examined the microbial communities in buildings, such as houses, and how those microbes resembled the people that inhabit those places. There seemed to be similarities between the microbes found on people and the microbes that were found in the houses that he sampled from, and looking into the role that people play in transporting microbes. Hospitals are another place that could show how microbes flourish because nurses are tending to patients that could be infected with bacteria or other types of microbes. Even though hospitals and other health care facilities are constantly cleaned and sterilized, that may encourage antibiotic resistance because the bacteria and other microbes are trying to find away to keep reproducing.

Reflections:  Although informing, Simon Lax presented his information in a really fast-paced manner which made it really hard to follow what he was explaining. The results were very in-depth and there was a lot to take in to comprehend. The main thing that made it hard for me to listen to his presentation was the fact that he talked so fast. I thought it was interesting how the results showed similarities among what microbes were found in the houses and on the people that lived in those houses. Also, it seemed as though the microbes that are found on our skin and in the place that we live in are influenced by the lifestyle that we live, whether we have pets or spend a lot of time outside. When he reached the portion of the presentation about the types of microbes in the hospital, it made sense that microbes can build up antibiotic resistance because they grow on surfaces that are constantly sterilized indicating that the bacteria and other microbes need to find a way to survive. These microbes survive by building up resistance to whatever the hospitals use to sterilize the surfaces. In class, we have learned that microbes grow where there are optimal conditions, meaning that they grow where the environment is best for them. If people are spending a lot of time in certain areas, the microbes inhabiting those places are going to travel with the person to potentially be introduced to other optimal environments. One question that popped in my mind while listening to Simon Lax’s presentation is: how would this study contribute to reducing the chance of getting a disease while in a hospital, or another “sterile” place? What could this study suggest about people’s lifestyles?


New Factors Contributing to Parkinson’s Disease

Source: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Title: Even More Evidence Has Linked Parkinson’s Disease to Our Gut Bacteria

Source:  Mark McRae from Science Alert

Date:  March 4, 2017


Summary: Recent evidence has found that Parkinson’s disease may not only be influenced by the brain, but by gut bacteria too. Also, people’s bodies and the microorganisms they have may influence how they respond to the treatment provided to battle Parkinson’s disease. Even though studies are starting to make the link between microbes and Parkinson’s, these studies can help lead microbiologists and other scientists in the direction of making better medications and treatments for those fighting this disease.

Connections: There was a brief moment in the article that mentioned making medications specific to the individual that needs it based on the microbes within their system, which involved genetics. The bioinformatics lab gives us a glimpse into what goes into identifying bacteria based on their genetic sequence and the different functions that the bacteria’s genes carry out.

Critical Analysis: The title of the article caught my attention because I have been hearing more and more about Parkinson’s disease recently. Also, I was curious to see what the author had to say about other factors that play a role in this disease, instead of being just one component of the body. However, the way that the author wrote the article was a little confusing at times because it seemed as though the author would start to go into more details about the studies that they discuss, but then they would quickly become vague what the researchers were saying based on the results from the studies. Also, there were times that the author seemed to be a little disorganized when it came to presenting their thoughts and backing up their argument with a study.

Question:  Since more studies are starting to link bacteria with the cause of Parkinson’s disease, is there a way to protect against these specific bacteria increasing the chances of someone getting Parkinson’s?

Microbes Play a Beneficial Role in Food

Miso soup
Source: SMarina/iStock

Title:  Fermented flavours

Source:  Chris Loss from Chemistry World

Date:  March 7, 2017


Summary: Microbes play a large role with the food that everyone eats and how various food items grow. Scientists and chefs are starting to team up to enhance the eating experience that people enjoy by examining how they can use different microbes contained within the food to enhance flavors and potential benefits to people’s health. Besides changing the how certain foods taste, microbes can increase the “nutritional” benefits these foods provide too.

Connections: In this article, the author mentions the importance of  the microbes that are being manipulated to help chefs better their customers’ food experience, which adds to the list regarding the importance of microbes.

Critical Analysis:  I have briefly heard how microbes are starting to be used to influence how food tastes and what food can provide for our bodies prior to reading this article. I found the fact that these microbes being manipulated to make some food dishes more nutritionally beneficial to be interesting because this is a field of science that can be explored more. In terms of the scientific accuracy of this article, I could tell that the author was catering towards the food theme, trying to link puns when describing the role of microbes or biochemical processes. Although this makes the article entertaining and easier to read, the author could provide a brief background as to how proteins are influenced by “biochemical cleavers,” for example. This article definitely did a good job at informing the public of the science that is going on and how this type of science can benefit people because the author primarily expressed the benefits of having microbes in food.

Question: Could experimenting with the microbes in fast food make fast food items more nutritional and beneficial to people while keeping the price relatively cheap?

What’s Going on With Our Phones?

Title: Scientists Discover 3 New Species of Microbes Growing on Mobile Phones

Source: Press Trust of India from Gadgets

Date: March 6, 2017


Summary: A lot of people have their cell phones attached to their hands wherever they go, but what researchers have recently found is that phones are starting to become a home for a diverse array of microbes. In the midst of their research, scientists came across three new species of bacteria, as well as one new species of fungi. Not only that, but the researchers found that people’s phones contain more species of microbes than what they found on toilet seats. On the plus side, these scientists found that from the phones that they sampled, there were no dangerous bacteria species.

Connections: The microbial world is extremely diverse between the different species of bacteria, fungi, and archaea. Bacteria and fungi can flourish in any place that provides them with the optimal growing conditions, like temperature or amount of light. We have briefly explored how diverse the Bacteria domain is, as well as discussed different types of environmental conditions that assist with the growth and survival of bacteria based on their composition.

Critical Analysis: Reading through this article, I was surprised about how many species of bacteria and fungi grew on the surfaces of our phones. Not only that, but the fact that the researchers behind this study discovered 3 new species of bacteria and 1 new fungal species just further proves how diverse microbes can be. The article presented the findings from the study that would stand out and catch the audience’s attention, so I feel as though the article was scientifically accurate, even briefly including some of the methods used to obtain samples. The author even pointed out where the researchers could enhance the study by taking samples from phones that belong to those who work in the medical field. This article was easy to read and was written in a way that was somewhat entertaining and attention grabbing, which helps the audience stay interested in the material presented. I also liked how I was expecting the article to be all doom-and-gloom, but the authors had a positive tone.

Question: How would the microbial diversity be on phones that were sampled from people that work in healthcare locations, like a hospital? Would there be deadly bacterial strains and would this effect the sterility of an environment that is supposed to be completely sterile?