Halloween Costumes: Retro Science Style

“Back when I was in the lab…”: it seems like every former scientist has a story. Kind of like Thanksgiving Dinner among your elderly relatives, scientists are quick to one-up each other with horror stories from our days at the bench—stories that included escape artist rats, a leaky sequencing gel apparatus, and the iconic radioactively contaminated post doc.

We turned to our favorite science cartoonist, Ed Himelblau, to ask for some retro Halloween costumes based on stories of things that used to be common in the lab that don’t seem like such a great idea now. Enjoy…and if you have a few retro horror science costume ideas of your own, please share them.

Continue reading “Halloween Costumes: Retro Science Style”

It Takes a Village: Automating Plasmid Purification for iGEM

Today’s blog is guest-written by Wihan Adi, a Master’s student majoring in physics at Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen and team member of iGEM Marburg. Although his background is in nuclear and particle physics, his research interests shifted toward affordable biosensors for point-of-care cancer detection, which is how he ended up doing microbiology for iGEM.


Back in March when the iGEM season had just started, Maurice, a fellow iGEM Marburg team member, told me that he was exchanging emails with Margaretha Schwartz from Promega. Given my background as a physics student, Promega was not a household name for me at the time. “So, are you interested in automating a plasmid purification protocol?” asked Maurice. He told me that Promega was willing to supply the Wizard® MagneSil® Plasmid Purification System for this purpose; that was another name that added to my confusion.

This year, iGEM Marburg is aiming to establish a fast phototrophic organism as a synthetic biology chassis. For this goal we chose Synechococcus elongatus UTEX 2973, with a reported doubling time of 90 minutes. More specifically, we are creating an easy to use toolbox to empower rapid design testing, including genome engineering tools, self-replicating plasmid systems, natural competence and a Golden Gate-based part library. Our team chose to work on phototrophic organisms because we envision accelerating research in this particular field. (Note: Last year, Marburg’s iGEM project won the Grand Prize!)

Continue reading “It Takes a Village: Automating Plasmid Purification for iGEM”

Seeds of Change Award Recognizes Commitment to Local Community

Nicole Haselwander and Stephanie Shea accept the Seeds of Change award for Promega.

Community Shares of Wisconsin presented Promega with its Seeds of Change award for our workplace giving efforts. The award is presented to a local business that shows innovation, growth, and commitment to Community Shares of Wisconsin. Over the past 15 years Promega and our employees have collectively contributed more than $717,000 to Community Shares work! Our 100% corporate matching helps employee gifts go twice as far to member nonprofits and the community.

Charitable giving programs and paid time off for community service are examples of Promega’s commitment to corporate responsibility. Learn more at https://www.promega.com/responsibility #corporateresponsibility

Nicole Haselwander and Stephanie Shea were on hand at the Community Change-Maker Awards hosted by Community Shares of Wisconsin to accept the Seeds of Change award on behalf of Promega Corporation. “It was an incredibly inspiring and uplifting program,” says Stephanie.

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Promega Named One of Madison’s Best Places to Work

Promega Corporation today was named one of the “Best Places to Work” in the greater Madison area in Madison Magazine’s annual survey. Promega ranks fifth in the category of large companies with 101+ employees. The “Best Places to Work 2019” list includes 30 local workplaces.

“We are honored to be recognized among these great Madison companies that clearly value their employees and put people first,” says Gayle Paul, Director of Human Resources Operations at Promega. “Nurturing a work environment and culture that allows each person who works at Promega to realize their full potential benefits not only our business and customers, but also each employee, their families and our community as a whole.”

Are you looking for your Best Place to Work? Explore the career opportunities on our website.

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Promega Wins Economic Development Award

The CEDA awards program of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association recognizes businesses, projects and organizations that are making significant contributions to Wisconsin’s economy. Last week Promega won the Business Retention and Expansion award. short.url/aBcXyZ

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Experimenting with Resilience: Lessons from Grad School

Today’s blog is guest-written by Susanna Harris, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.


It’s one thing to hear that everything is going to be okay. It’s another to know it and make it that way.

Susanna and her lab mates at a recent bar night
Photo provided by Susanna Harris

At the end of a lab meeting where I had outlined my last of six years getting my PhD, my advisor announced she would be moving the lab from North Carolina to Massachusetts in about six months. Just when everything had settled into place, this announcement turned my bookshelf of plans on its side once again. Suddenly, I didn’t know what would happen next.

I chose to go to grad school partly to challenge myself to accept uncertainty. When I started my PhD in Microbiology in 2014, I thought this would mean reading new papers and adjusting experiments accordingly. As it has turned out, the real challenge has been to constantly get back up as life and graduate school knock me flat on my ass. Yes, I needed strength to power through, but even more than that, I needed resilience.

Continue reading “Experimenting with Resilience: Lessons from Grad School”

When Five Hundred Tigers Are Not Enough—Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, I wrote about the distressing news of lack of genetic diversity in the wild Amur tiger population. International Tiger Day seemed like a good time to check in on what progress has been made to both sustain and establish wild tiger populations worldwide. In 2010, 13 tiger range countries (TRC) committed to a goal of doubling the world’s tiger population by 2022.

Amur Tiger.

That timeline was an ambitious goal, as highlighted by a report published in PLOS One in November of 2018 (1). The authors assessed the recovery potential of 18 sites identified under the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Tigers alive initiative. The recovery system has several parts: A source site with higher density of tigers that the area around it and has a legal framework that does (or will) protect the tiger population; a recovery site that has a lower density of tigers than the surrounding regions, has the ability to support more tigers but is not as supported as a source site; and a support region that connects a source and recovery site. These different site types all require different levels of management, available resources and legal protections, but they need to be managed in a coordinated way.

Aside from what is needed to manage these recovery sites, there are also other things that need to exist to support recovery of tiger populations. Some of these include support from local populations and governments, as well as environmental requirements such as breeding habitats and prey populations. For 15 of the 18 sites it is the prey population that is the sticking point. Recovery of prey populations is a slow process. The authors concluded that there need to be a commitment to achieving a realistic recovery of tiger populations, even if we miss the 2022 goal.

The fate of the wild tiger is still tenuous. Only time will tell if the interventions that are being implemented can be realized in time.

Reference

  1. Abishek, H. et al. (2018) Recovery planning towards doubling wild tigers Panthera tigris numbers: Detailing 18 recovery sites from across the range. PLOS One 13. e0207114. published online

Empowering Communities with the Light of the Sun

Today’s blog brought to you by Julia Nepper, a Promega science writer guest blogging for the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute (BTC Institute)!

“We all benefit from STEM role models. When students from underrepresented populations meet and learn about STEM professionals of color, they can see themselves as the scientists and engineers of the future. Fun, engaging science programming for children is also essential to light the spark for the next generation. A Celebration of Life, the partnership between the BTC Institute and the African American Ethnic Academy, two community nonprofits, has combined these 2 objectives for over twenty years.” according to Barbara Bielec, K-12 Program Director.

This year, the theme of the program is Sunsational!, with a number of activities related to the sun, solar energy, and STEM careers. As part of the program, students heard talks from several STEM professionals of color about their work. Mehrdad Arjmand, co-founder of solar energy company NovoMoto, was one of those speakers.

Dr. Arjmand was born and raised in Iran. His path to becoming a mechanical engineer began as a child, with him “destroying a lot of equipment” in his house. After completing his undergraduate education, he came to the States to pursue a PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he met Aaron Olson, a student who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These two discovered a shared passion for starting a business and helping their communities, which led directly to the founding of NovoMoto. The name derives from Portuguese for “new” (novo) and Lingala—a language spoken in Congo—for “fire” (moto). Continue reading “Empowering Communities with the Light of the Sun”

Restriction Enzyme Digestion: Capabilities and Resources

Restriction enzymes recognize short DNA sequences and cleave double-stranded DNA at specific sites within or adjacent to these sequences.  These enzymes are the workhorse in many molecular biology applications such as cloning, RFLP, methylation-specific restriction enzyme analysis of DNA, etc.  In order to streamline and shorten these workflows, restrictions enzymes with enhanced capabilities are desirable.

A subset of Promega restriction enzymes offer capabilities that  include rapid digestion of DNA in 15 minutes or less, ability to completely digest DNA directly in the GoTaq® Green Master Mix, and Blue/White Cloning Qualification which allows for rapid, reliable detection of transformants.

To learn more about restriction enzymes and applications, check out Restriction Enzyme Resource on the web. The resource provides everything from information on restriction enzyme biology to practical information on how to use restriction enzymes. This resource also contains useful online tools to help you use enzymes more effectively. It helps you choose the best reaction buffer for double digests, find the commercially available enzyme that cuts your sequence of interest, find compatible ends, and search for specific information on cut site, overhang isoschizomers and neoschizomers by enzyme name.

For added convenience, you can download the mobile app and use the Restriction Enzyme Tool to plan your next digest.

For additional information regarding Restriction Enzyme Digest, reference the supplementary video below.

What Makes a “Good” Buffer?

Buffers are often overlooked and taken for granted by laboratory scientists, until the day comes when a bizarre artifact is observed and its origin is traced to a bad buffer.

The simplest definition of a buffer is a solution that resists changes in hydrogen ion concentration as a result of internal and environmental factors. Buffers essentially maintain pH for a system. The effective buffering range of a buffer is a factor of its pKa, the dissociation constant of the weak acid in the buffering system. Many things, such as changes in temperature or concentration, can affect the pKa of a buffer.

In 1966, Norman Good and colleagues set out to define the best buffers for biochemical systems (1). By 1980, Good and his colleagues identified twenty buffers that set the standard for biological and biochemical research use (2,3).  Good set forth several criteria for the selection of these buffers: Continue reading “What Makes a “Good” Buffer?”