Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

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moofpi
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Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby moofpi » Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:09 am UTC

THE POINT: I have been doing the motions and I need my passion back. I think getting out of the classroom and just jumping into something really using biology would do that. I've seen sites like biocurious and diy biology, but nothing remotely near my area (Tennessee). Do you guys have any ideas?

THE REASON: So here is my predicament. I got a one-year free scholarship to Lee University that sounded good at first, but I was going in with a fiery passion for biology and it's a Christian school. At first things were going great until I was the only one professing in class about how evolution isn't a religion and there is no real controversy about Creationism. I was the absolute minority. I think it's totally okay for people to have a religious environment for their education, until it tries to discredit science on the grounds of Genesis. I dropped out halfway through second semester because I realized I could not get a proper education in biology there. Started completely over this past year at our community college for I am broke, but I had kind of lost momentum I had walked into Lee with. I still really enjoy it, but in class and lab it's the same lectures and lab procedures I've been doing since high school and everyone else I've met in my classes is just doing it for the requirement or med school. No one is actually INTO it and I get glared at by fellow classmates for raising my hand throughout the power point lectures to ask questions that, god forbid, aren't covered in the chapter or are on the exam. Sorry I went off on a rant, but I'm alone because no one I talk to gets it, and hoping you guys could help me find a way to get back that real connection with science I once had.

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Interactive Civilian
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Re: Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby Interactive Civilian » Mon Feb 13, 2012 1:24 pm UTC

Don't know how small or big you want to start, but I always find that paying a little extra attention to your surroundings and rediscovering nature and the living world all around you is often a great re-motivator. And, luckily, there's an app for that. ;)

Project NOAH

Considering your rant, don't let the name scare you off. It's an acronym for Networked Organisms and Habitats. It's basically a site where people all over the world submit pictures they've taken of local wildlife, including the location, information about their specific spotting, identification (or help with it, if you can't identify your organism), links to more info, etc. You don't actually have to use their app; you just need a camera and a way of digitizing your photos if your camera is film. However, if you do have an iPhone or an Android Phone, they have an app which allows you to take pictures and immediately upload them. I use the app on my iPhone, and I'm very impressed.

Anyway, if the humans around you are bothering you and making you forget what it is about biology you love, then try focusing on all of the non-humans around you. And Project NOAH is a good way to do this. :)

[edit]
All that said, I'm really sorry that your current learning environment is turning you off to biology, because biology is AWESOME. 8) Hope you can stick with it and learn enough on your own to keep you up to speed and hopefully still loving it. Don't give up, because the study of life is just awesome. I don't know how tied you are to your university, but I'd have to say that if it were me in such a crappy biology program, I'd strongly consider transfering, and scholarship be damned. But then again, I also went to university for biology (Studied and graduated with a BS in Marine Biology, now teaching HS Biology in Thailand while reading tons of various research papers for fun in my free time).
I (x2+y2-1)3-x2y3=0 science.

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ahammel
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Re: Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby ahammel » Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:29 pm UTC

Well first, let me congratulate you for getting out when it became clear you weren't going to get a real education. That can't have been an easy decision.

I always enjoyed plant identification, even though I wound up in a completely unrelated field. You can teach yourself to a certain extent with a good flora or a field guide (and possibly Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary by Harris and Harris). It's a lot of fun to a certain kind of mind and you learn a lot about plant morphology and evolution. You might consider volunteering at a university herbarium if there's one nearby. They're nearly always understaffed and they'll teach you a bit of plant ID.
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Interactive Civilian
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Re: Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby Interactive Civilian » Tue Feb 14, 2012 1:43 am UTC

Interactive Civilian wrote:[edit]
All that said, I'm really sorry that your current learning environment is turning you off to biology, because biology is AWESOME. 8) Hope you can stick with it and learn enough on your own to keep you up to speed and hopefully still loving it. Don't give up, because the study of life is just awesome. I don't know how tied you are to your university, but I'd have to say that if it were me in such a crappy biology program, I'd strongly consider transfering, and scholarship be damned.But then again, I also went to university for biology (Studied and graduated with a BS in Marine Biology, now teaching HS Biology in Thailand while reading tons of various research papers for fun in my free time).

Derp. Sorry. I admit, I only skimmed that last portion of your post and didn't see the part where you said you got out. My bad. :oops:
I (x2+y2-1)3-x2y3=0 science.

moofpi
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Re: Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby moofpi » Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:52 am UTC

Thanks for the responses guys, I'm loving these ideas. But I posted this story elsewhere and I got some advice from them that "Any experience is good experience. Ask your professors about any research projects that you can volunteer on or something." And so I talk to my professor at school, and instead of the research paper for the big grade of the semester they suggested I could do a research project. Now I just need to think of what to do for the research. I've seen some pretty doable synthetic biology projects (which is the field I'm aiming for in the long run) so I'm thinking about that. Impressive is not a word I would use to describe our school's lab, so do you guys have any kind of ideas for experiments I could do?

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Izawwlgood
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Re: Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:02 am UTC

One thing I always wish I could do/knew about, was being able to name every kind of local flora and fauna I encountered. I'm shit with botany. But DIY? Check yourself for a gene mutation. Pick a gene, see about ordering primers online, probably only costs 10-20 bucks, and build a homemade thermocycler. It'll be dirty, but everything required to do basic cloning can be built with homemade stuff. We routinely bitch about how expensive gel boxes are given that they probably cost 30-40 bucks in materials to make.

Too complicated or machine intensive? Try breeding fruit flies! Or some kind of plant?
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iop
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Re: Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby iop » Thu Feb 16, 2012 12:34 pm UTC

What kind of lab equipment do you have access to? Could you grow bacteria or yeast on agar plates? Do you have access to any kind of microscope? Do you know programming, so that you could possibly create a simulation?

moofpi
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Re: Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby moofpi » Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:08 pm UTC

iop wrote:What kind of lab equipment do you have access to? Could you grow bacteria or yeast on agar plates? Do you have access to any kind of microscope? Do you know programming, so that you could possibly create a simulation?


Yeah, we have access to agar plates, some bacteria, and microscopes. No to the programming though :/ That would be awesome.

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Re: Help with DIY and Amateur Biology

Postby Karantalsis » Fri Feb 17, 2012 4:16 pm UTC

There are all kinds of research projects you could do with bacteria, depending on what you ahve access to. Do you ahve access to any molecular biology resources (PCR machines etc.) if so I could suggest a good number of projects that I've had students do, or come up with something similar.

If you can put up a description of what you have available, such as budget, particular microflora, access to different media etc. I could come up with some suggestions for you.

If you have access to bacteriology supplies (which you do :)) the simplest experiments would probably be to attempt to make a synthetic media (either CDM or minimal) for a bug you have available, or if you already have those (which you liekly will if it's E. coli) you could look at inhibition of growth by various compounds (Hydrogen peroxide is a good one, as are metals).

If you have access to strains encoding proteins under inducible promoters (particularly something like LacZ or a Xylose or Alcohol promoter) you could look at developing an autoinduction media and comparing protein yields.

As I say I'd need more info on what you ahve available, but I have supervised alot of undergrad and masters projects, so I'll hopefully be able to help.


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