Demystifying What It Means to Be Good Enough…

Today’s post is written by guest blogger, Elizabeth Smith, PhD, Field Client Support Specialist at Promega

As a person of color (POC), I would like to share my story to raise awareness on how important diversity programs are in my community and how they helped to shape my career. My hope is that it will inspire the younger generation and provide insight into a different perspective. Growing up, I always felt like there was something great out there for me to achieve. As a young child, never did I imagine that I would have what it takes to obtain a PhD. This was not on my radar as a young student, and not something that I thought would ever be in my future. I did not see people that looked like me reflected in this space, so I never considered it early on.

I knew that I wanted to go to college with a science focus, but I did not really explore what life would look like or should look like after that. What I was sure of was being involved in science in some way. Whenever, someone asked my younger self, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer would always be, “A Scientist!” All throughout elementary and high school, I focused on science related courses and did very well. This enabled me to apply for and receive a full undergraduate scholarship.

At this level of my education, I felt like I had to prove to everyone, and even myself, that I belonged here. That I was deserving of this scholarship and placement at the university. That I was good enough to receive a bachelors.

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More than Gazpacho: Farming the Soil to Sustain the Ecosystem

This post was written by guest blogger, Karen Stakun, Brand Manager at Promega Corporation.

When I arrived at the garden that morning, I was completely focused on the clusters of ripe tomatoes I’d hoped to see. I was there to take photographs, and the red, ripe fruit was going to be the star of the show. In every direction, there were long rows of plants: raspberries, peppers, okra, cabbage, fennel and kale. A black pickup truck pulled up to the edge of the Promega garden and a pair of well-worn work boots landed hard on the dewy grass. Mike Daugherty introduced himself as a Master Gardener, Master Composter, and member of the Promega culinary services team.

Mike laid out black plastic crates at the end of each row of the tomato garden. There were 700 bed feet of heirloom slicers and paste tomatoes to be harvested. Seduced by the intense red, orange and yellow of the juicy tomatoes, my thoughts immediately drifted to visions of BLT’s, caprese salad and gazpacho soup. As he hand-carried 3 or 4 tomatoes at a time and laid them in the crates, Mike called my attention to all the other things that were going on around the fruit.

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An art award for a picture of a rock? A decade of the UW-Madison Cool Science Image Contest

Celebrating the art of science is something the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cool Science Image Contest has been doing since its inception 10 years ago as part of The Why Files. The 2020 winning images include entries as diverse as videos of neural stem cells, eye-ball licking geckos and yes, even a picture of rock: actually a thin section of tractolite, an igneous rock composed of feldspar and olivine  collected near Duluth Minnesota form the Proterozoic Mid-continent Rift. This image was collected by Natalie Betz, PhD, Associate Director of the UW-Madison Master of Science in Biotechnology program and her daughter Anya Wolterman, a recent graduate of Macalester College with degrees in Geology and Physics. Natalie has a long-time connection with Promega and the BioPharmaceutical Technology Center Institute, so we reached out to her to get the perspective of a contest entrant.  Natalie is answering for both her and her daughter while her daughter is away doing some trail maintenance in the Rockies and is not available for comment.

This thin section of troctolite, an igneous rock composed of feldspar and olivine, was collected near Duluth, Minnesota, from the Proterozoic Midcontinent Rift. The rift is a tear in the Earth’s crust caused by continental plates colliding in the Lake Superior region. Polarized light accentuates vivid colors.

Promega Connections: Why did you decide to enter the UW Cool Science Image contest?

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The Marine Biological Lab: Finding Answers Beneath the Ocean

cuttlefish

Marine animals are fascinating. Not only are their appearances alien-like (think tentacles, suckers and bioluminescence). But many have also developed unique capabilities unlike anything you see on land.

In fact, most of the biodiversity of the world lies beneath the ocean. According to the World Register of Marine Species, there are more than 400,000 marine species, and it is estimated that 91% of marine species have yet to be identified. Studying marine animals may help us learn more about how we evolved and even lead to new ways to study and treat human diseases. At the forefront of marine biology research is the Marine Biological Lab (MBL), located in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

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A Valuable AP Biology Throwback

Today’s blog is written by guest blogger, Isobel Utschig, a science teacher at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, WI. We bring this to you in celebration of #TeacherAppreciationWeek 2020

About 10 years ago, I attended a field trip at the Biopharmaceutical Technology Center Institute with my AP Biology classmates. I felt apprehensive upon seeing the micropipettes and other “foreign” lab supplies on the benchtops. We learned that we would be using enzymes to cut DNA and visualize those different fragments on a gel. I marveled at the glowing streaks and found it incredible that I was looking (albeit indirectly) at real pieces of DNA. As we moved into the genetic transformation activity I was even more intrigued. We opened the tubes of bacteria and added some luciferase DNA, which would allow the bacteria to create a light-producing protein.  We then “heat shocked” the bacteria to coax them to take up these plasmids from their environment looking at the bacteria later, their glow revealed our success. The day flew by and at the end I marveled at all that we had done!

Students from Dominican High School AP Biology busy at work 
during a BTC Institute field trip
Students from Dominican High School AP Biology busy at work
during a BTC Institute field trip

Three years later I joined a research lab at Marquette University. Upon seeing the lab benches full of unfamiliar equipment, the same wave of apprehension came over me. My PI introduced me to the first task: digest a plasmid with restriction enzymes and verify the cut with gel electrophoresis. Memories of the high school field trip flooded my mind as I gripped a micropipette and attempted to nimbly load the wells. While I greatly improved in my skills over the course of the summer, the familiarity I had from my trip to the BTC Institute put me at ease from the beginning.  

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Earth Day 2020: Celebrating Nature During A Pandemic

Since Wisconsin issued a Safer at Home order on March 25, I have been leaving my home exactly once a week. Every Tuesday morning, I drive to a small town outside of Madison to spend an hour monitoring a nest of bald eagles. I’ve been volunteering for Bald Eagle Nest Watch since the beginning of the year, and three weeks ago I got my first look at two newly hatched eaglets. Over the past few weeks, I’ve found that my time at the eagle nest is a wonderful relief from the stress of the pandemic and the confinement to my home.

I’m not the only person escaping to natural spaces for relief during the widespread lockdowns in response to COVID-19. Parks have been filled with people taking daily walks and enjoying fresh air when there are few places indoors they can safely go. Besides encouraging many people to visit local parks and forests, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many complexities of humanity’s relationship with the environment. The severe drop in human activities has resulted in decreased air pollution, as well as fascinating changes in wildlife behavior. However, the pandemic is also an important reminder that the environmental impact of human activity has drastic consequences for global risk of infectious disease. This Earth Day, it’s the perfect time to pause and examine how the COVID-19 pandemic and the natural world are influencing each other for better and for worse.

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Meeting Customer Needs in Response to Market Dynamics: Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Today’s blog is written by Chuck York, VP of Manufacturing Operations at Promega.

Coronavirus SARS-2-CoV continues to fuel unprecedented demand for COVID-19 related products. Once a term relegated to virology research labs, “coronavirus” is now a household term and a global crisis that has upended lives, disrupted entire economies and shaken our sense of normalcy.

Clinicians, researchers, government officials and the general public are understandably concerned about the availability of reagents for coronavirus testing. At Promega, we are hearing the needs and concerns of our scientific colleagues and partners, and we are doing all that we can to help alleviate them.

At Promega, we are hearing the needs and concerns of our scientific colleagues and partners, and we are doing all that we can to help alleviate them.

As a global company with thousands of products, we have been meeting customer demand in response to market dynamics for decades. Our long-term approach has served customers well. Our efforts to provide support for the COVID-19 response began in early January, with our work with our colleagues and customers in China. We are applying what we’ve learned to propel us forward in the most efficient way now.  

We continue to increase production of all COVID-19 related reagents and instruments due to an unprecedented increase in global demand. Production lines that were running one shift 5 days a week are now operating 3 shifts seven days a week, and we continue to take measures to increase our manufacturing capacity.

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Building a Collaborative Research Network to Address a Rare Disease

Early June 2016

Chris had extreme leg pain off and on for about a month. Pain that came and went, creeping in slowly but sometimes with extreme intensity. Based on x-rays an orthopedist diagnosed a torn hamstring that was on the mend. We were sent home to rest and ice his muscles.

One Sunday Chris played in the pool for 5 hours straight and didn’t wince once. The following week he was fine so he went to soccer practice on Wednesday and swim team practice the next day. At 11:30 that night he woke up screaming in pain. Same leg. Same spot. Back again.

Late June 2016

We were on vacation in Greece. The pain started again, severe and intense and scary, so bad he couldn’t sleep lying down in a bed.  Desperate, we ended up in a Greek hospital… the local pediatrician was wonderful and recommended we fly home and see an orthopedic doctor as soon as possible…a terrifying flight home: No answers and a pit in our stomachs. Chris was in a wheelchair.

July 2016

We finally got the orthopedist to order the MRI. The MRI results were what every parent fears: “leukemia or lymphoma” and a referral to an oncologist.  After many invasive tests, the oncologist said it was probably not cancer.  We felt such relief, but we were left with no answers for all his pain. We moved on to infectious disease.

August 2016

The infectious disease specialist said they could not culture anything so they didn’t believe that Chris had an infection. Again, incomplete answers.  We were then passed off to rheumatology.  The frustration of not having any answers and our child still in pain was heart-breaking, isolating, and terrifying.

Based on the bone biopsy and MRIs the rheumatologists finally gave Chris a diagnosis: Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis (CRMO often pronounced “chromo” for short).

The good news: it was not cancer; the bad news: very little is known about CRMO because it is a rare disease.

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Rapid Test to Detect SARS-2-CoV Developed in Brazil

The Virology lab at the Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA), led by Dr. Gúbio Soares, has developed a fast and specific real-time PCR assay using GoTaq 1-Step RT-qPCR for detection of SARS-2-CoV (the coronavirus previously named 2019-nCoV), which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. The Maxwell RSC instrument is used for automated extraction of RNA from oral-pharyngeal secretion collected by swab or bronchial wash prior to the assay. This coronavirus-specific assay can shorten the time to identify SARS-2-CoV from 48 hours to 3 hours (1), providing critical information to public health officials in a timely fashion.

“Promega has been providing all our reagents for standard and real-time PCR and also for nucleic acid extraction. It’s a company I can rely on the relationship; they are our partners and have provided excellent support both technically and financially. Promega is the base of all our assays.” Dr. Gúbio Soares.  

Dr. Soares’ laboratory has experience developing assays to identify and detect emerging viral pathogens. Their laboratory first identified the Zika virus as the etiologic agent in the large outbreaks of acute exanthematous illness (AEI) in northeast Brazil in April 2015 (2). Zika was eventually declared a public health emergency of international importance by the World Health Organization in February 2016, after increased incidence of microcephaly was detected in the infants of women infected during pregnancy. Many of the lessons learned in the management of the Zika crisis are informing how scientists are addressing SARS-2-CoV. The Zika response was characterized by a collaborative spirit to share data, samples and resources among scientific labs across the globe.

Below is a video link from Brazil (audio in Portuguese) describing Dr. Soares’ group work on SARS-2-CoV. https://globoplay.globo.com/v/8302334/

Sources Cited

  1. TV Bahia (2020) Test developed at UFBA can identify coronavirus in 3 hours, says researcher. [Internet: https://g1.globo.com/ba/bahia/noticia/2020/02/07/teste-desenvolvido-na-ufba-pode-identificar-coronavirus-em-3h-diz-pesquisador.ghtml Accessed: February 19, 2020]
  2. Sandler, N. (2016) Zika: Personal Perspectives, Global Responses Promega Corporation. [Internet: https://www.promega.com/Resources/PubHub/Inspiration/Zika%20Perspectives%20Responses/ Accessed : February 19, 2020]

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How Does Our Garden Grow?

It’s the time of year in the northern US when you start to the miss green grass, ample daylight and warm breezes that are still months away. The promise of spring’s renewal and seedlings sprouting from the snow-covered ground seems too far out to even indulge in a daydream of better weather.

But then again, I’m not a farmer.                                                    

The Promega Culinary Garden at Bluebird Farms.

Now is the time of year when farmers are reflecting on last year’s harvest, making decisions about changes that need to be made and planning for the upcoming growing season. This work includes choosing what plants and varieties will be planted, estimating how many of each are needed and ordering the seeds. Crop rotation and cover crops are also part of the considerations.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know that Promega has a culinary garden that supplies some of the produce for our cafeterias on the Madison campus. During the growing season our Culinary Gardener, Logan Morrow, oversees the operations of Bluebird Farms with the help of his colleage Mike Daugherty.

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