Bug Burgers and Other Science Adventures

Bacterial Colonies

Science majors at any university or college are expected to take a lot of lab classes.  Personally, I do not truly understand what the heck we are talking about in class until I see it being done in front of me in a lab section.  Now that it is my senior year, I can definitively say that I think I have seen it all when it comes to the sciences at Southwestern in terms of lab classes.  Without further ado, these are the top three best lab experiences I have had on campus:


In the fall of my Junior year, I was enrolled in Dr. Gonzalez’s Microbiology course.  The entire premise of the lab was that we were going to grow up one bacterial colony, feed it, and attempt to keep it alive for the entire semester.  At the end of the course, we had to identify what specific bacteria we were growing based on different chemical tests.  The catch: we had to swab different parts of the Southwestern campus to get our bacterial colonies.  For example, we could swab door handles, computer keyboards, desks, bathroom sinks, fraternity house showers, or anything else we could think of.  One ambitious guy swabbed the inside of a dead armadillo’s mouth and found the bacteria that causes leprosy; another girl swabbed a puddle and found Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax (but not enough to cause any health problems at all!).  The lab definitely makes you think twice about carrying Purel in your backpack…


In her invertebrate ecology course, professor Romi Burks wanted all of her students to understand how important insects are.  In one example, she said that insects have four times as much nutritional content and proteins than beef.  To drive her point home, Dr. Burks decided that we should all eat different insects and bugs in one of our labs.  At first I thought she was kidding.  I realized she was not when I walked into class one day and she had earthworms in a blender and crickets soaking in chocolate.  Dr. Burks and her mom prepared fried crickets, caramelized crickets, chocolate- covered crickets, mealworm pancakes, and earthworm sliders for each of the students in the class and we were asked to try all of them.  I can proudly say that I sampled each dish and that I may have had a cricket leg stuck between my teeth for the rest of the day.


I did a couple of dissections in high school, but they all pale in comparison to the dissections we do each week in Dr. Sheller’s Organ Physiology lab.  Dr. Sheller sacrifices large frogs about five minutes before the start of each class and removes their heads.  Because they have just been sacrificed, all of their muscles are still capable of contracting and moving.  For example, if you tie a piece of dental floss to the sciatic nerve of the frog and pull the floss into a knot, the frog’s legs start to move!  Even if you completely remove the frog’s calf muscle but keep it attached to the sciatic nerve, it still randomly contracts and spasms.  It is both amazing and terrifying that a frog with no head is still capable of moving.

One of the Invertebrate Ecology students prepares chocolate covered crickets for the rest of the class.



6 Responses to “Bug Burgers and Other Science Adventures”

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