Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic
Biology student share experiences from internships in the Arctic

Learning more about molecular biology

Picture of a agar gel with PCR products running in a gel electrophoresis.

As we agreed on our midterm appraisal talk, Stuart has lately been teaching me a little more about molecular biology. So far, I’ve been doing DNA extractions, PCR and gel electrophoresis, and making glycerol stocks of e.coli cultures. Stuart is a good teacher, and lets me do everything myself. This is a good example of how well learning by doing works. Although it is a little frustrating in the beginning when I have no clue what I am doing, Stuart has been very patient and explains everything very well. Instead of just being told what to do, I have to think myself. One challenge with these tasks is to work as sterile as possible, so I really need to think through every movement and be aware of what I’m doing. Through doing these tasks on my own I get a better understanding of what I’m doing, and thus I learn more.

Some of the molecular work we have been doing is part of a new little project we are doing. UNIS is a part of a new marine research project called The Nansen Legacy, and they want to test some different methods of extracting DNA or RNA from seawater to see what works best, so that they can make a standard protocol. Therefore we have been collecting some seawater, filtering it, and extracted DNA and RNA from the filters, with a few different methods. This way I have gotten to practise my pipetting skills a lot, and I have definitely improved, and feel more confident in the lab now.

After extracting DNA with one of the methods, we did a test PCR and gel-electrophoresis to make sure we didn’t get any contamination and the result came out perfectly! The photo in this blog shows the result, and although there’s no explanation on the photo, all the controls were how they should be.

We have also given another try with the nutrient analyser. But however hopeful and optimistic I was, we still kept having the same problem. We got the new part that wasn’t working, and we have been following the procedures exactly to the point with cleaning and reactivating it, but had no luck. We have had a lot of headaches trying to figure out what could be the problem. Now we have contacted the company that deals with these machines to see if they can help us, and hopefully they will give us some useful tips to what we can do to finally make it run!

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