Friday, October 27, 2006

Underage Drinking on Campus

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength and in water there is bacteria. -Unknown

This morning when I arrived at work, I found several students and professors in my laboratory enjoying the science of brewing technology. It was such a culture shock to see students, most likely under the age of 21, drinking on university grounds and the professors encouraging them to taste and develop a palette for beer. Sadly, I arrived a little too late to join in on the lecture and tasting :-P

Monday, October 23, 2006

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
Today in lab, I was given the task to optimize the concentration of MgCl2 used in the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) we are using to identify various bacteria in a waste water treatment system and various food processes. My results showed that the reaction is independent of the concentration of MgCl2, and my boss was pleased with the results. The one aspect from the gel that needs further investigation is the streaking of the third DNA sample, which probably means that the DNA was excessively fragmented.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a molecular biology technique for enzymatically replicating DNA without using a living organism, such as E. coli or yeast. Like amplification using living organisms, the technique allows a small amount of the DNA molecule to be amplified exponentially. However, because it is an in vitro technique, it can be performed without restrictions on the form of DNA and it can be extensively modified to perform a wide array of genetic manipulations. (
Karlštejn Castle

This past weekend, I organized a little tour to Karlstjen Castle which is just outside of Prague by train. I was running a little late to meet everyone at the train station, but it worked out well since we took a later train which allowed Javier from Peru time to meet us. The more the merrier! After enjoying a nice espresso in the historic train station, we took a very modern train with two levels to the town of Karlstjen. Once there, my friend Karel, who lives nearby, met us and lead us to a quaint and charming village nestled under the magnificent Karlstjen Castle. Before taking a tour of the castle, Karel took us for a hike through the forest to a nice authentic Czech pub where all enjoyed a traditional Czech meal.

After the meal, we hiked up to the Karlstejn Castle, which is one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic and sits well up on a hill overlooking the Berounka river. The castle is a High Gothic castle, dating from the 14th century, and was founded by Czech King and Roman Emperor Charles IV as a repository of imperial crown jewels and sacred remains, especially Charles's collection of holy relics and the coronation jewels of the Roman Empire. Since this castle was meant to be Karel IV’s summer residence, he ordered the very beautiful Chapel of the Holy Gross to be built within the walls of the Great Tower, which we did not tour though.

One aspect I liked about the castle was Charles IV’s throne room, where he placed his throne between to windows so that his guests could not see his facial expressions, but the light from the windows allowed him to clearly see those of his guests. Charles IV was a very intelligent man who is credited with issuing a Golden Bull to establish Charles University, one of the oldest universities in Europe and one of the leading universities in Central and Eastern Europe. The university has a very intriguing history for those interested and understanding the importance of history.

Here is a picture of Graham enjoying a little mediaeval expereince.