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  • Writer's pictureEnid Gonzalez-Orta

A Great Battle of Microbial Proportions by Sam. H.



Sam H. loading his PCR samples into an agarose gel.

As a Sacramento State student enrolled in BIO 145 (Diversity of Microorganisms), I have endeavored along the Tiny Earth Project in order to find new antibiotics from soil and gain research experience. The “Tiny Earth Student Research Guide” claims that the Tiny Earth Network has “four goals: educate students about the antibiotic crisis, educate students about the soil crisis, engage students in original scientific research and to discover new antibiotics from soil”(1). 

 

BIO 145 is my first research-driven course, and I was very excited to get started and gain more laboratory experience. To put into context, the first few weeks consisted of obtaining a soil sample, diluting the sample with water, and then plating it on a petri dish in order to find unique bacterial colonies for further testing. However, I ran into a roadblock almost immediately in the form of Bacillus mycoides, which is a stubborn and pesky bacterium commonly found in the soil. The problem with B. mycoides is that it grows rapidly and covers the plate in a sort of branching root appearance that makes it tedious to get rid of. When your agar plate is covered in B. mycoides, it is near impossible to distinguish unique colonies or even count them, effectively halting whatever progress you hope to make. I had multiple sets of dilution plates and isolate plates infected with B. mycoides, thus for about two to three weeks I made no progress. Seeing the majority of my peers advance and be excited about the unique colonies they plated, while I was at a standstill, produced feelings of inadequacy within me. I started second-guessing myself, doubting if I was following the steps of the procedure correctly. When culturing bacteria on a petri dish, you usually have to incubate it for at least a day, depending on the temperature and media. Thus, I had to wait until the next lab period in order to see if my new plates still harbored B. mycoides or not. Thankfully, after expert advice from Dr. Gonzalez and a significant amount of trial and error, I was able to get some peculiar-looking plates without the accursed bacterium. Dr. Gonzalez continuously reminded us that scientific research is not a problem-free route. Research is a lot of working around roadblocks and retrying experiments. Dealing with these issues has pushed me to be a more patient and level-headed scientist. In closing, I would recommend BIO 145 and the Tiny Earth Project to anybody interested in bacteria, antibiotics or both!


References:

Hernandez, S., Tsang, T., Bascom-Slack, C., Broderick, N., & Handelsman, J. (2020). Tiny earth: A research guide to student sourcing antibiotic discovery. XanEdu.

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