If I Win It…

One topic that I have hoped to emphasize much more on this blog is amateur science, and in particular (given my educational background) amateur Microbiology.

Don’t be dissuaded by my use of the word “amateur” here. I don’t mean “not really” science (i.e. the microbiological equivalent of the “baking soda volcano”). Rather, here I’m using “amateur” in its proper etymological sense – science done for the love of it. I don’t just mean my brief series of experiments on the toxicology of expired JellOŽ. I mean actual microbiology with potential practical application as well as educational value. Unfortunately, there are a few bits of equipment for this that I can’t reasonably cobble together out of spare parts or repurposed household appliances. A microscope, for instance. Or a dry-ice maker.

Being a full-time college student, I’m poor, and can’t afford a microscope. A decent ordinary “brightfield” microscope appears to cost about $400. Bonus materials like a “darkfield” condensor are extra, unless I think I can rig up an equivalent on my own. A nicer digital camera to take pictures with to share with you, my loyal reader(s) would add some more to the cost. Even in the case of equipment and supplies improvised from more ordinary and readily-available materials (pressure-cooker=”autoclave”), there is still a cost. Woe unto me, what shall I do?!?!?

For the moment, I shall revert to the time-honored traditions of “begging” and “hoping”…

You see, there appears to be a scholarship available for bloggers who are full-time college students. Why, what a coincidence! I blog…and I’m a full-time college student! What luck!

There appears to be a US$10,000 (that’s almost 10000 CANADIAN dollars!). It’s not explicitly stated but last year they also had $1,000 “runner-up” awards as well. Here, then, is my pledge to you all.

Should I be selected as a finalist for this scholarship competition, I will eat 2-year-old JellO! Furthermore, if I were to actually be selected to win a $1000 scholarship, I will buy a real microscope and be able to blog my microbiology experiments and studies much more vividly. I will also blog the design and construction of my own amateur microbiology lab, to the extent that I can afford. (Well, I was ALSO going to do this anyway, but with a scholarship I’d actually be able to start doing it…)

Were I to be selected to win the full $10,000 scholarship I propose to go absolutely Nucking Futs, with a microscope, a nice new digital camera, dry-ice maker and plenty of CO2, perhaps some dedicated hosting for this blog, and a complete collection of useful microbiology equipment (mostly improvised still, but that’s half of the education right there…). Furthermore, should my readers demand it, I might even be persuaded to drink a cup of fresh Lysogeny Broth!

Come on, who needs this money and attention more – me, or some wealthy (compared to me) graduate student over on scienceblogs.com? I bet none of them would eat 2-year-old JellO or drink E.coli Chow for it, would they?

10 Finalists are to be announced October 7th, from what I understand…wish me [good] luck…
UPDATE: I made the finals, though my fame doesn’t seem to be carrying along a rose-petal-strewn path to victory yet…

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The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

3 thoughts on “If I Win It…”

  1. Oh, and good luck with the scholarship! Hopefully you win, as I really want to hear about this lab, and your adventures with it.

  2. The main reason for the dry ice is extreme cold – I don’t think I can afford to buy and pay for the electricity to run a -80°C freezer, and it’s probably easier and cheaper to make than buying liquid nitrogen.

    Plus, it makes a handy form for adding carbon dioxide to solutions, or making additional carbon dioxide available in a sealed system (if I plant a seed inside a 2-liter plastic bottle with soil, I can drop in a few chips of dry ice and seal the top, and see how much the CO2 addition boosts the plant growth, for example).

    I’m not sure if I can pretend to be a chemical engineer sufficiently well, but if one can arrange a system where the pressure is just right, conceivably one could also manage to melt the dry ice and end up with liquid carbon dioxide, which I gather is an excellent solvent for certain kinds of extractions – caffeine for example (then when you open the sample, the carbon dioxide evaporates away leaving just the extracted material.

    I’ll get my lab built one of these days, one way or another, but if I won a scholarship I’d be able to start it much sooner.

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