Thursday, February 4, 2016

FWS Student Highlights: Victoria Nguyen

Hello! My name is Victoria Nguyen. I am a junior currently working in Dr. Monique van Hoek’s lab under the guidance of her Post-doc Dr. Gupta. For the last 6 months I have been working on testing antimicrobial peptides in EC50, MIC, and Biofilm conditions against Francisella novicida in addition to testing the resilience of the small colony variants of Burkholderia thailandensis against the antimicrobial peptide NA-CATH.

My work varies week to week. This week I am enumerating how much bacteria is present in a given sample.  Two different strains of Burkholderia thailandensis will be enumerated. The first strain is the wild type, and the second strainwas extracted post infection from the epithelial cell line A549. Once I know how much bacteria is present, I can use them to conduct EC50s. An EC50 is a standard protocol used to test the killing power of a drug at a concentration of 50 percent.

One thing I discovered this week that is no matter how sure you are about something you should always ask someone to double check your work! I did my calculations for my enumerations incorrectly, which set me back a whole week in my experiments. In order to do an EC50 you need a
concentration of at least 2x106 cfu/ml. My formulas were correct, but I put them in the calculator without parentheses…oh the power of the order of operations. So I wasted a whole week re-growing bacteria when in the end I had the right concentrations to begin with.

Working in this lab gives me the experience needed to become an incredible scientist. I’m learning skills some people start learning when they enter graduate school. Here I’m learning more than your basic sterility skills and calculations. I’m learning the actual work life of someone who wants to make a living working in a lab. Most of your days will be spent reading papers trying to figure out how to design experiments, or writing grants for funding. Only some of your day will be spent in the lab running the experiment. A lot of time is put into preparing all your materials before you start your experiment as well as analyzing your data and making graphs after it’s done.