Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Q+A with SHS Students

What are the buffers and reagents your making for your analysis?

Great Question! I am making Tris-Acetate and Tris-HCL buffers. These are commonly used buffers in biochemical assays that help keep the pH of a solution stable. In my specific application, I am using them in the "firefly" assay. This technique is used to measure the amount of ATP in a sample. The assay derives its nickname from the use of luciferase and luciferin, an enzyme and pigment found in a fireflies. Luciferase catalyzes the oxidation of luciferin when ATP is present, producing light.

We use a special instrument called a Luminometer for this measurement. I can place a sample inside and shut the door to block out all ambient light. The luminometer then injects a mixture of Luciferase and Luciferin into the sample and measures how much light is produced using a super-sensitive light detector called a photomultiplier tube. Based on this measurement, we can then calculate how much ATP was in the sample!

What are some of the foods that you take on your trip, do you use any freeze dried food?

Surprisingly, we eat pretty well in the field. Breakfast almost always consists of bagels or English muffins with juice or coffee. During lunch, we are usually up at the tunnel site working on excavating the tunnel or sampling ice blocks. As a result, we usually just chow down on granola bars, trail mix, and lots of chocolate to keep our energy up. For dinner, We cook lots of canned veggies and pasta mixes, but we also have frozen chicken, pork, and beef as well. Each camp member takes a turn cooking dinner each evening, and some of us are very good cooks: Roast pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and brown gravy... yum!!

We do have freeze dried meals in our survival bags in case of emergencies. Last season in 2007, I had to eat a few during snow survival training. They don't taste amazing but in a survival situation comfort is not a priority.

P.S. Whats with the metal icecream cone in the background in the New Zealand picture?

The big ice cream cone is actually a sculpture called the Chalice. It was built in the square in 2000 to commemorate the new millennium.