Innate Immunity and Elegant Worms

Innate Immunity and Elegant Worms

Whether it be from ads on TV selling products that claim to boost your immune system or some terrifying statistic about how many bacteria humans are constantly exposed to, everyone has probably at least heard of the immune system.  Truth is, no amount of multi-vitamins or disinfectants are going to protect us from getting sick – our immune system is already doing a tremendous amount. What most people don’t know is that all vertebrate animals, humans included, have two immune systems, the adaptive (or acquired) immune system and the innate immune system.

The adaptive immune system is what most people think of when they think of immunity. It is composed of highly specialized, circulating cells (B and T cells) that process and eliminate an infection once the body has been infected. In adaptive immunity, pathogen-specific receptors are acquired during the lifetime of the organism. This response is said to be adaptive because this recognition of past infection prepares the body’s immune system for future infections from that specific pathogen.


The adaptive immune system, however, is only present in vertebrate. The innate immune system on the other hand is evolutionarily conserved and is present in all multicellular organisms. It serves as the body’s first line of defense against pathogenic microorganisms, including bacterial or fungal pathogens. The innate immune system has many facets including anatomical barriers, inflammation, and pathogen recognition. Anatomical barriers are physical, chemical, and biological barriers whose job is to prevent microorganisms from entering the body in the first place, or from entering sterile cavities of the body (such as the blood stream) from a non-sterile cavity (like the intestine). Examples of anatomical barriers would be sweating, gastric acid, digestive enzymes, mucus, saliva, tears, and, most importantly, skin and epithelial cells. Inflammation is stimulated by chemicals released by injured cells which establishes a barrier against the spread of infection, and promotes healing of any damaged tissue following the elimination of pathogen from an area. Inflammation occurs when a cell recognizes a pathogen.

Pathogen recognition is a major component of the innate immune response, and indeed innate immune recognition of a pathogen is required for the adaptive immune response to learn what is and is not a pathogen. In many organisms innate pathogen recognition is accomplished using pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), which recognize toxins and other chemicals that are broadly shared by pathogens but are distinguishable from host molecules, collectively referred to as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). Pathogen recognition is necessary in innate immunity because although innate immunity does not involve memory of specific pathogens, the innate immune system has slightly different responses for different broad classes of pathogens. For instance, in flies, there are distinctly different responses for gram negative and gram positive pathogens. It is also essential that the innate immune system can distinguish between pathogen, non-pathogen, or commensal bacteria which are required for the health of the host. The immune response is resource intensive and can cause damage to the organism so improper activation is detrimental to the host.


Schematic of the innate and adaptive immune systems and how they interact with each other.

In short, the innate immune system is very important! All multicellular organisms have an innate immune system, while only vertebrates have developed an adaptive immune system. The adaptive immune system is a comparatively recent development to immune responses. However, there is much more known about the adaptive immune system than the innate immune system because adaptive immunity is very relevant to human health and vaccine production (So don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of innate immunity!). Considering the innate immune system is crucial to not only our survival, but the survival of all organisms, it is important that the innate immune system is studied to the extent that the adaptive immune system has been which is where we (the Powell lab) come in.

In the Powell lab, we use C. elegans as a model host organism to study innate immunity. C. elegans make a good model host for a variety of reasons. C. elegans are bacterivores and are thus exposed to a diversity of bacteria – some of which are used as nutrition while others are pathogenic.  Another important reason is that they are invertebrates and therefore lack an adaptive immune response which allows us to study only the innate immune response. C. elegans also have a digestive tract comparable to that of humans which is able to be infected by human pathogens. This could lead to better understanding of how bacterial infections are combatted in human intestine. C. elegans are also very good lab specimen because they are small and easy to maintain which allows us to work with them in large numbers and they have a short life span which allows experiments to be completed in a relatively short time period.

C. elegan anatomy.

C. elegan anatomy.

In C. elegans there are a variety of known genes involved in innate immune response pathways, including one which Dr. Powell discovered as a post-doc: fshr-1. The gene fshr-1 codes for a G-protein coupled receptor that is required for the innate immune response for most pathogens. A G-protein coupled receptor is a type of protein that binds to small molecules such as neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and odorants. This type of protein activates other proteins which can induce neuronal or transcriptional activity. Our work in her lab focuses on characterizing fshr-1. Our goal is to determine all of the facets of immunity in which fshr-1is involved, stresses it responds to, as well as the immune pathways it is part of.

C Elegans are the most elegant of all the model organisms. ;)

C Elegans are the most elegant of all the model organisms. ;)

Alcoholic Rats

This is our 6th week working at Utrecht University in the Department of Animals, Science, and Society, Division of Behavioral Neuroscience. Our research here mostly focuses on the effects of adolescent alcohol consumption on later motivation to consume alcohol and the neurobiology of addiction. The rats we use to model addiction are male Lister-Hooded rats, which are an outbred strain characterized by their high intelligence.


These are 48 of the rats that we are responsible for.


This is a photo taken through the peep-hole of an operant box. This rat is exploring its surroundings.










We’re helping with two projects. The first is an experiment that is examining the correlation between adolescent (21-42 days after birth) play behavior, adolescent alcohol consumption, and consumption of alcohol in aversive conditions in adulthood.

Adolescent rats love to play, but to encourage them to exhibit this behavior during testing, they are isolated before all play tests. This makes the rats “hungry” for play and ensures that we will have plenty of play behavior to observe. Play sessions can last 5 or 10 minutes, sometimes longer. We can quantify the rats’ playfulness by counting the number of times they pounce on or pin their partner.

After play testing is completed, the adolescent rats are given either alcohol or water to drink so that we can relate adolescent alcohol exposure to alcohol consumption later in life. During the time between adolescent alcohol exposure and adult alcohol exposure, the rats complete a series of behavioral tests, including the elevated plus maze, the open field test, and the cognitive hole board test. Once the rats reach adulthood, they are given alcohol and water bottles to choose from for 24 hours, three days a week. We weigh both the alcohol and the water bottles before and after they are given to the rats so that we can measure their drinking preferences.

When the rats are finished with the alcohol self-administration period, they begin testing in the operant boxes. An operant box is used to assess motivation for reward. Inside, there are two levers. Pressing of one of the levers leads to the animal receiving a reward (alcohol in this case), while pressing the other lever does nothing. The inactive lever’s purpose is to control for general exploration. When the rats start training, they are on a “fixed ratio schedule”, meaning they receive one dose of alcohol for every active lever press. Once they seem to understand that there is an association between the active lever and the reward, they begin random interval training. In a random interval schedule, the rat can make as many lever presses as it wants, but they receive no reward until a random amount of time is up. In the first random interval (RI) test, the animals must wait an average of 5 seconds in between rewards. Eventually, the rats can be trained to respond even when the random interval is an average of 120 seconds. In a one-hour testing period, some rats on a 120 second RI schedule may press the lever 600 times! How many times the rat presses the lever to obtain alcohol indicates their level of motivation to obtain the alcohol.

Because this research is focused on alcohol addiction, we also measure the rats’ motivation to consume the drug in spite of aversive stimuli (a characteristic of addiction). To do this, we train the rats to associate a tone with a foot shock. After they have learned this association, we place them back in the operant boxes and measure how they adjust their alcohol consumption in the presence of the tone. The idea is that if the rat is truly addicted to the alcohol, it will continue to seek a reward by pressing the active lever even if it thinks that seeking a reward will also yield a foot shock. This system is intended to be analogous to a situation in which an addict continues abusing a substance despite aversive consequences, such as losing their job/straining their family.


We have to wear lab coats, hair nets, and clogs to enter the lab. The rats are on a reverse light cycle, so our work day occurs during their nighttime. Rats can’t see red light, so the lab is lit in red at “night”.

The second project is one that uses optogenetics (stimulation of specific brain areas using fiber optic cables) to examine the effects of inhibition of different brain areas on alcohol seeking behavior. Optogenetics is very new to neuroscience research and we are still in the process of perfecting the techniques in this lab. It is very useful as it can allow us to see the effect of temporarily increasing or decreasing the activity of the selected brain region in real time, rather than studying the effects of permanent brain damage. To use this technique, we first must perform stereotaxic surgery on the rat to make a hole in the skull and brain through which we can insert the fiber optic cables. Then, a viral vector encoding a gene for a light-activated sodium (if excitatory stimulation is desired) or potassium (if inhibitory stimulation is desired) channel is administered. The brain cells that are infected with this virus can then be activated by shining a light through the fiber optic cables and into the brain. After surgery, the animals are trained in the operant boxes as explained above. Once they have been trained, we can place them in the operant boxes while they are connected to the fiber optic cables and record their reward-seeking behavior while we activate the brain areas expressing the ion channel genes.  It is expected that inhibition of the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) will decrease responding. This is because the DLS promotes rewarding behavior.

This research is important in that it will provide information that can be used to understand the underlying causes and characteristics of addiction.

Tick, Tock, Biological Clock

My name is Amanda Loehr and I am working in Dr. Brandauer’s lab. I am studying circadian rhythms—biological processes that happen in about a 24-hour oscillation.

What are we doing?

Circadian rhythms were first discovered in the 1700s. French scientist, Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan observed that plants make daily leaf movements—what was interesting though was that these movements continued when the plant was in the dark with no exposure to sunlight. This gave scientists the first important clue into circadian rhythms: they happen even in the absence of external cues. The plant wasn’t moving in response to the sun, it was being controlled by an internal clock.

Although circadian rhythms are not controlled by external cues, they do align to external cues. For us, the light and dark cycle of day and night is the major external cue for our rhythms. For this reason, if we travel across time zones or work abnormal shifts we get jet lagged—our circadian rhythms are being disrupted.

Disruption of one’s circadian rhythms has been associated with many mental and physical disorders from depression to cancer. In Dr. Brandauer’s lab we are particularly interested in how circadian rhythm disruption relates to insulin sensitivity and the development of type 2 diabetes.

To do this, we have to study the molecular genetics of the circadian clock in mice. Since scientists have realized that circadian rhythms have a genetic basis, several proteins have been described that control this biological clock. CLOCK, BMAL1, NAMPT, SIRT, PER and CRY all interact to regulate each other as well as the “clock”.

How do the concentrations of these proteins change throughout the 24-hour cycle? What about mRNA expression? Do the oscillations differ between different tissues, like skeletal muscle, liver and adipose tissues? Do the 24-hour oscillations of the protein concentrations and mRNA expression differ when the mice are jet lagged? These are all questions we are working to answer.

Why are we doing it?

Understanding the circadian clock at the molecular level is imperative to understanding its relationship to the occurrence of many diseases. Many disorders have a ‘rhythmicity’—heart attacks are much more likely to happen first thing in the morning than any other time of day. There are clear physiological explanations behind this phenomenon but the biological clock controlling the physiology could shed some light on a more complete understanding.

How are we doing it?

We just underwent our first 24-hour long experiment. We collected 12 tissue samples from six mice every four hours for 24 hours. One major obstacle that we had to overcome was the fact that the mice could not be exposed to ANY light for the 24 hours that we were conducting the experiment. How are we supposed to get into the mouse room without letting light in? This is where mine and Dr. Brandauer’s woodworking skills came into play.

SAWWe spent a few days with a circular saw and a power drill, constructing a lightproof enclosure to go around the mouse room door. Making it 100% void of light was not an easy task, but after the use of black paint and lots of black gorilla tape we had made something we were very proud of.


Our 100% light-proof enclosure!

How are we able to see in a lightproof room? Infrared night vision goggles!


The night vision monoculars were not very easy to use!

After a lot of practice with dissection and tissue processing, we were ready for our 24-hour experiment. Lots of coffee, food, and a positive attitude took us a long way. 432 tissue samples were collected and will be processed during my last two weeks here. Hopefully our data reflects our hard work these past few weeks!

Why snails aren’t depressed, and a glimpse into the adventures of Dr. Fong’s lab.

Why snails aren’t depressed, and a glimpse into the adventures of Dr. Fong’s lab.

When people first hear about our research project, we, Lizzie Donovan and Taylor Bury, have noticed that there’s a pretty common course of conversation.


Lizzie and Taylor say hello from Lewes, DE!

Them: So what kind of research are you doing?

Us: We’ve been dosing snails in antidepressants to see effects on their behavior.

Them: Huh…but wait. Are snails depressed? I guess they do move a little slow.

Us: (laughing at the bad joke) It’s a bit more complicated, but no. Snails aren’t depressed.


Some of our labeled mud snails getting ready to be dosed.

At least as far as we know. In our waterways, there are things called Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API’s for short). These are chemicals or drugs that come from humans when we use the shower or flush the toilet, and end up going through directly into creeks, streams, rivers, and oceans.

Places like Marsh Creek are a good example.

Places like Marsh Creek are a good example.

They’re probably not a good thing for the creatures that live there.

Some of the most common API’s are antidepressants, so that seemed like a reasonable place to start as far as testing drugs and the different concentrations that go through these areas. Meanwhile, the snails we’re using (both marine and freshwater), take up the drugs directly through their skin, and have a couple behaviors to study. Dr. Fong has published a few studies in this area, which you can find here, here, and here. In particular we’ve been looking at righting behavior- basically flipping a snail over and seeing how long it takes to put itself right side-up again.

Which, as you can imagine, has brought us to a bunch of different places:

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Like our indoor lab, for example.

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But we can bring a little bit of lab outdoors as well.

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In a bigger context these API’s could also be affecting snail predators and prey, as well as other organisms living in these areas. Snails may seem tiny, but their impact on an ecosystem is surprisingly huge. Without their presence, many of the places would drastically change.

The Team

Taylor Bury: Taylor has never met a donut that she didn’t like. When not in lab, the rising senior Biology major and Chemistry minor can often be found roaming the battlefields of Gettysburg, playing guitar, or feeding her coffee addiction at The Ragged Edge. Currently she’s also applying to dental schools, because four years of undergrad wasn’t enough.

Lizzie Donovan: Did not want to write this section but couldn’t leave it blank. In addition to binge-watching Netflix and drinking copious amounts of tea, this avid petter of dogs and wildlife enthusiast loves being outdoors and doing fieldwork, hence her major in Environmental Studies and minor in Biology. Despite slothful indulgences and a tendency to make her lab partner late to work, after college and a couple of years abroad, she plans on getting a higher degree in an ecology-related field.

Dr. Peter Fong: Dr. Fong is boss man. When he’s not taking his dog Messi for a walk, you can find him fishing, collecting snails in one of the many creeks surrounding the Gettysburg area, and talking to ghost hunters by the Covered Bridge.

Rats, Drugs, and a whole lot of PB

Hello I am Josh Rubinstein and I am working in Dr. Siviy’s lab this summer! His research focuses on play behavior in rats and more specifically why a specific strain of rats (F344 better known as Fisher rats) play less than other strains of rats.










So far we’ve done quite a lot and still have a lot more planned. The first experiment we did was to use different concentrations of a drug that inhibits the alpha-2 norepinephrine receptors in neurons in order to create a dose response curve and to observe the effect of different doses on the play behavior of the F344 rats. With the dose response curve we will chose a concentration to use in conjunction with amphetamine in an upcoming experiment. Amphetamine releases both dopamine and norepinephrine so with a norepinephrine receptor inhibitor we can examine the effects of released dopamine on play behavior.

In addition to this we also got in pregnant mother rats that gave birth just a couple weeks ago.

IMG_3467 IMG_3468

For about 10 days Rose, Mary, and I all observed the mothers with their young by recording the kinds of nursing they were doing as well as if they were licking and grooming them and every morning we handled the rats which means that we took the pups out of some of the cages away from their mothers for about 15 minutes. This is to encourage the mothers to lick and groom them more. The more a pup gets licked and groom by their mother the less anxious they will be later in life. We also examined strain differences because we have F344, Sprague Dawley, and Lewis rats. Both the F344 and the Lewis rats are inbred strains from the Sprague Dawley strain.

Throughout the summer we have all been performing immunohistochemistry on the brain slices that we have. This involves a number of steps including subjecting the slices to phosphate buffer (PB) washes and attaching antibodies to a specific compound that we are looking for. This allows us to label specific neurons (oxytocin neurons in the hypothalamus for example). The picture below is actually a slice of the hippocampus!










I have had an amazing time so far and am excited to do even more this summer!

If You Think Bullets are Fast, Check Out Our Magnesium 32!

20150621_132500A particle accelerator is a term that gets thrown around a fair amount in physics; many of you have probably heard of such a thing but what do we physicists do with them? What is their purpose? Well, Maria Mazza and I (Sam Wilensky) are working with Dr. Stephenson. The three of us are working on experiments at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) up in Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and we are learning about just how we can manage to get these particles to relativistic speeds (pictured above) and the data we can obtain from doing these types of experiments.

MSU Sign at the Bogue Street Entrance on a August Summer dayp1009511261-3

The physicists at the NSCL are looking at the structure of the nucleus in order to gain a better understanding of the nuclear force. But how do we do that? Well, we take Magnesium 32 nuclei and smash them into a Beryllium 9 target. But it isn’t quite that simple. First we need to make sure that we have a beam of Magnesium 32 nuclei and only Magnesium 32 nuclei and this is done through several magnets, which manage to separate the contaminants of the beam. Once the beam has been cleared of contaminants we send it to the Beryllium target. If only it were that simple for us to observe! Unfortunately, the amount of time it takes for the Magnesium nuclei to pass through the target is on the order of 10-11 seconds, which even our best detectors could not quite measure. So what we do is we look at the fragments that come out of the target-beam collisions. Through a series of detectors we are able to obtain data, which can give us the momentum and energy of the fragments. This data can tell us what kind of fragments we have. The end goal of obtaining this information is backtracking the path of these fragments to the Beryllium target and seeing how the Magnesium nuclei broke apart after colliding with the Beryllium target.


Maria and I are working on applying corrections to the data and calibrating the data in such a way that we are able to discern the momentum and energy. This will allow us to identify the particles we have hitting the detectors after the collision. Maria and I spend the majority of our time in the student lounge of Masters Hall in front of computers, working on macros (computer codes) and applying them to the data. This week, however, we found ourselves away from Masters Hall up in the home of the Spartans (MSU), at the NSCL. Being on site gives us a better picture of what it takes to obtain this kind of data and run these types of experiments. This week we are working hands on with the neutron detectors and arranging them for the next experiment the NSCL collaboration to run this fall.


Wingardium Lipidosum

Wingardium Lipidosum

Meet the Crew

Mike “Couniham” Counihan and the Skin Project

The stratum corneum (SC) is the outermost layer of the epidermis, the outer part of the skin in mammals. The SC consists of corneocytes (dead cells) suspended in an extracellular lipid matrix. This lipid matrix is composed of ceramides (Cers), cholesterol (Chol), and free fatty acids (FFAs). The vast majority of the hydrocarbon chains in the Cers and FFAs are fully saturated (no double bonds). Together with their relatively small headgroups, the lipids pack together more closely than a typical cell membrane (which is made up of phospholipids with a mix of saturated and unsaturated tails). Most commonly, the matrix is made up of three bilayers in between each corneocyte, giving it both lateral (horizontal, within a layer) and lamellar (vertical, between layers) organization.

Organization of the human stratum corneum (figure from van Smeden et al., 2013)

Organization of the human stratum corneum (van Smeden et al., 2013)

The Skin Project looks at the lateral phase behavior of the lipid matrix and specifically how each individual component (Cers, Chol, and FFAs) affects the fluidity of the lipid layer. An example, topical medications need to penetrate the SC to reach living cells in deeper layers of the skin, so knowing what makes the SC lipid matrix more fluid, and thus more permeable to these types of medicines, will aid in the development of more efficient drugs.

SC matrix lipids: ceramide (top), cholesterol (middle), and free fatty acid (bottom)

To investigate lateral lipid organization, we create lipid monolayers on a water surface using a Langmuir trough. The lipids’ polar headgroups lie on the air-water interface, and the nonpolar hydrocarbon tails point in the air, which represents one layer in the SC lipid matrix. We then compress the lipids using barriers on the water surface and measure the change in surface tension at the interface as the lipids get closer and interact with one another. This gives us information about the fluidity of the lipid monolayer. By varying the lipid mixture composition (e.g., more Chol, less FFA), we can tease out which lipid produces greater lateral fluidity in the lipid matrix. Additionally, we can use fluorescence microscopy to visualize the monolayer and image the fluid region.

Langmuir Trough with Fluorescence Microscope

Our Langmuir trough with fluorescence microscope setup

Cartoon depiction of a lipid monolayer on a Langmuir trough

Cartoon depiction of a lipid monolayer on a Langmuir trough

David “Comic Sans” Van Doren and the Nanoparticle Project

Nanoparticles have a large, and growing, array of applications in industrial and medical settings. Their increasing use and vast potential make the characterization of nanoparticle interactions an important task for not only developing technologies, but also for understanding their potential toxicity to biological systems. Nanoparticles can interact with cells by adhering or inserting into the lipid bilayer of the plasma membrane. This interaction can have various disruptive effects, such as changing the fluidity of the membrane, affecting one or more phases of the lipid domain system, or even creating pores in the membrane. This project aims to examine nanoparticle-lipid relationships by measuring various nanoparticle interactions on model membrane systems such as lipid monolayers or giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs), with the intent of relating these simplistic, representative systems to cells that would be affected by similar encounters with nanoparticles.

Giant unilamellar vesicle of DPPC/DOPC/cholesterol.

Giant unilamellar vesicle made of DPPC/DOPC/cholesterol

GUVs, vesicles made up of a single bilayer of lipids, were prepared using DPPC, DOPC, and cholesterol to model the cell membrane. Polystyrene nanoparticles, functionalized with either amine or carboxyl groups, were applied to populations of GUVs to characterize the effects of positively and negatively charged nanoparticles on the membrane. Morphological changes in the membrane were monitored by fluorescence microscopy. By understanding basic factors that influence the nanoparticle-lipid interaction, such as charge and size of nanoparticles, researchers can begin to predict and anticipate adverse health impacts of similar nanoparticles used in products and treatments.

David in the microscope room.

David in the microscope room.

The Mom-brane Lady

Dr. Shelli Frey, known as Dr. Almighty Supreme Pastry Chef Frey in this corner of the science center, puts up with a great deal to ensure that we have an enjoyable and meaningful research experience (including being referred to by ridiculous, but fitting, titles). She fields all of the struggles, complaints, and headaches that we bring to her and sends us on our way with plans of attack for fixing what ever trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into. Currently, Dr. Frey has a lovely toddler named Ellie and a second daughter on the way (yay!). Both of her children have made considerable contributions to lab work this summer. Ellie helped describe lipid domains with a fantastic drawing, while Dr. Frey and her child-on-the-way have been tag-teaming lab work together. One might argue that Dr. Frey is even more efficient in lab in her current state of pregnancy, as her baby bump acts as a convenient and portable lab bench. Dr. Frey has asked us to clarify that she should not be confused with the psychic medium Shelly Frey, who visited our area recently. While Dr. Frey is all knowing and all seeing, she thankfully does not charge $250 for advice.

Ellie's depiction of lipid domains

Ellie’s depiction of lipid domains

Extreme Makeover: Lipid Lab Edition

Summer research this year kicked off just as any other summer must: with cleaning up the messes that we let accumulate over the two semesters of research during the school year. Cleaning vials in the Lipid Lab is a big deal. It is a process that requires patience, determination, and a heck of a lot of concentrated sulfuric acid. While the Lipid Lab crew knew that they would need to deal with the endless whine of the sonicator and the burning from the lactic acid built up after hours of manually jostling vials, they persevered through their first few days knowing that cleaning vials was a small price to pay for the countless hours of uninterrupted research they would enjoy further down the road.


Water usually isn’t hard to come by in the Lipid Lab; we get a few gallons cascading through the laboratory’s wall and ceiling every few rainstorms. However, cleaning out the tubing of the water heater requires ceiling particulate-free water. The lack of a sink in the trough room required the famous engineering prowess of the Lipid Lab’s senior chemistry research assistants to provide flowing water to the otherwise arid space.

Aquaduct construction in the P-Chem lab

Aquaduct construction in the P-Chem lab

New Toys and Gadgets

Look how cute this guy is! Last summer, the Lipid Lab purchased a small trough from KSV NIMA that was used for experiments in the interdisciplinary Chem 358 course titled Salty and Fatty. He is used for creating lipid monolayers and obtaining data about the material properties of cell membranes. He holds an adorable 180 mL. Compared to Papa Trough situated in the trough room, he is a tad smaller, but comes with updated software and a sleek control box that makes him pretty fantastic to run experiments on.

Trough Jr.

Trough Jr.

Vials weren’t the only components that needed attention. After finding homes for the piles of articles and clutter that had built up in the prep lab (courtesy of Warren Alexander “Your Data Disturbs Me” Campbell IV), we next turned to the trough room. If you are avid Lipid Lab blog readers or have mistakenly found your way into the trough room this summer, you may notice that the Papa Trough is no longer connected to the fluorescence microscope that is usually on the lab’s vibration-canceling table. The motorized microscope stage required maintenance to deal with a bit of corrosion, so Mike decided to take on the rust himself. Armed with chemistry know-how and razor-sharp reflexes, he managed to dismantle a good portion of the platform. However, a wrench was thrown in his plans when he did not have the proper tools to completely take it apart (#badpun). The Lipid Lab crew wrapped up the stage in a hand-crafted cocoon of plush foam and sent it to the only person guaranteed to be able to satiate our eternal need for lateral motion: Ernie (the instrument tech at Siskiyou).

Mike tinkering with the microscope stage.

Mike tirelessly tinkering with the microscope stage.

Mike contemplating screwdrivers.

Mike contemplating screwdrivers.

Lipid Lab Strives to be X-SIG-tastic

Working in the far corner of the chemistry department all day can get lonely. One of the goals of the X-SIG summer experience is to have undergraduate research students  engage with students and concepts outside of their immediate field of interest. Aching for more human interaction and cross-disciplinary hangouts, the Lipid Lab hosted an event for chemistry, biology, and physics students to connect over a movie, Exploring the Living Cell, which deals with the basics of cellular life in the hopes that all students, especially those outside of biology, could further their understanding of the life sciences. Those that attended know that the Lipid Lab now endorses plankton for therapeutic purposes.

Exploring the Living Cell. Kleiner, V; Sardet, C. 2006. CNRS. Film.

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This work is made possible by the efforts of the Gettysburg Chemistry Department, HHMI, Avanti Polar Lipids, and viewers like you. Thank you.

#purelipids #ilovelipids #iamavanti #avantilipids #avantilipidomics #discoverthedifference #avantirulesothersdrool #thephospholipidpeople