Microbiology students become germ hunters

By Morgan Minnick/COMM 1316

Microbiology students recently became germ hunters on the lookout for bacteria. It sounds a little like a science reality show, and in some ways, that’s what this science lab is.

In this lab students took “environmental swabs” or samples from everyday areas such as shoes, glasses, keys, and the bottoms of their backpacks.  There was one big rule for the sampling, according to Tori Hall, SPC microbiology professor.  “No body swabs,” she said.

Just how much bacteria will show up on these everyday items?   

Student Bryleigh Pellam says, “I am excited to see if my keys are as gross as she thinks.”

What may turn out to be “gross” is E. coli.  According to WebMD, E. coli stands forEscherichia coli, and it’s a common type of bacteria found in our everyday lives. While most of it, according to the site, is harmless, other types of it can make people sick. 

Students in this germ hunting lab first made “stains” or tests in order to learn what bacteria looks like under a microscope.  Creating these stains involved first sterilizing their collection equipment with hot flames.

Students spread their environmental swabs onto petri dishes.  Then they put those dishes into an incubator.  By next week, they’ll see what grows.  

Pellem says she enjoyed the lab and is intrigued to see the “finished product.”

Will any of the “finished products” include a lot of E. coli?  

Time will tell.

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