June 8, 2016:
This morning I spilled bacteria on my hair. Bacteria! On my hair! Gross.
Oh, the joys of being a research scientist.
I immediately looked for the ethanol spray bottle and doused my locks with it. Now my hair will be completely dried out. Great. But I didn’t stop there. I found the bactericidal spray and swished that on my hair too. Then I ran to the bathroom and washed my hair with hand soap.
Then I remembered feeling some bacteria drop on my foot. Yep – I wasn’t wearing the best shoes for bench-work. My toe was on fire! I swear it was. Even though this bacteria is harmless, I swear the little buggers were eating my flesh. So I triple wiped my foot with ethanol, bactericide and hand soap.
I think I’m ok, but I will smell my hair for the rest of the day.
(photo credit: S. Hasse)
If you’re wondering, “Why bacteria?” here is why…
In molecular biology, we use a bacteria strain, E. coli, to make DNA for us. We have usually manipulated the DNA in vitro, on a small scale. A common manipulation in my lab is to simply add a fluorescent tag to a gene so that we can see it under the microscope. Hey gene, whatcha doin??! (We actually look at the protein associated with the gene under the microscope, but let’s just keep it simple for now). If we want to actually use the fluorescent DNA for anything other than small scale in vitro tests, we need TONS more DNA. So we put our manipulated DNA into E. coli and the bacteria “grows” the DNA for us. We basically utilize E. coli’s DNA replication machinery to make more DNA, then discard the E. coli – which is what ended up in my hair. Yuck.