Experiencing work as a scientist at GTAC was both captivating and educational. Throughout my week at the centre I participated in a range of activities with various GTAC scientists who all made me feel welcome. These activities included practical scientific exercises, a mock forensic investigation, completing laboratory tasks and an investigation about bacteria.
One of the activities I found most interesting was an investigation we conducted into bacteria. Over a number of days we collected and grew samples of bacteria to find out what kinds of microorganisms were living on and around us. Firstly we made agar plates on which we would grow the bacteria, this required us to mix chemicals and use machines in the laboratory. After this we gathered bacteria (which was very easy considering we couldn’t actually see them) from different surfaces and put them on the agar plates. I swabbed my mobile phone screen and the handle of a soap pump above a sink, I also pressed my fingers onto an agar plate to see what bacteria was present on my fingertips. After putting our tiny (invisible to us) samples on the agar plates we left them in an incubator over two days allowing the single pieces of bacteria to grow into colonies. I discovered that there were many species of bacteria on my finger tips and only a few on the mobile screen and soap pump. I found this whole investigation amazing as it made me realise the presence of the incredible numbers of tiny organisms on and around us.
My favourite activities throughout the week all included the use of microscopes. Microscopy amazed me as it made mundane items incredibly interesting to me. I loved the details I could see in the tiniest things that I would never had known existed.
The first thing I viewed under a microscope was just a simple preserved garlic root, but once I saw it under the lens it became very interesting as I could see each individual plant cell and the patterns they formed.
One of the best things I saw was under an electron scanning microscope, a hi-tech device which fires electrons at a specimen to model its shape down to its finest edges. I decided I would look at a flower bud using this microscope and what I saw was quite incredible. To the naked eye the bud had looked relatively smooth and dull but under the electron scanning microscope at 1500x magnification I could see an intricate forest of hair covering the surface which looked incredibly cool.
My week at GTAC was an awesome experience and I would like to thank all of the people who helped make it so interesting and encouraged my interest in the sciences.