In a rare opportunity offered through Dr. Yu Lei, we had a chance to have a morning tour through his lab in July of this year. Dr. Lei is a highly respected scientist who has garnered literally millions of dollars for research at the University of Connecticut. With his lab assistants, we had a golden opportunity to have a visit that afforded us with some awesome hands-on experiences.
As we toured the lab, we could really catch the spirit of excitement of Dr. Lei and his colleagues. They were enthused about what they were showing us, whether it was scientific equipment, nanotechnology, fluorescence or the special places where they do their experiments.
It looks like UConn really has a great research program with all the technology they are able to use. They are distracting strands of DNA from places that are so small you need a computer screen and special microscopes to see them!
The kids got to wear lab coats and make Petri dishes of agar with which to do their experiments. I think Rosie could have stayed there all day and done experiments. It was hard to tear her away from all the tubes and the equipment that she was given the opportunity to use!
It was a joy to see people at work who really love what they do and who feel a sense of enthusiasm for their tasks. I think that this is definitely an attitude that is “caught” rather than “taught.”
As the programs at UConn expand, others will hopefully be afforded the opportunity that we have had this past month. It was truly a privilege to be invited to learn more about the research that Dr. Lei and his colleagues are doing. The pictures will “tell” you a lot about what we did.
A field trip to UConn
By Rosie Alumbaugh
I had a special opportunity at UConn to go to a lab and take a tour. Now I’m going to tell you about what I did there.
We (my family and I) walked into the building where we were supposed to meet our friend Yu Lei. He met us in the lab because he was running a little late. We also met a grad student named Liang and another grad student looking for a job and her name was Ashley.
Well, we first took a tour of the lab where Yu Lei works. It was so amazing that I really can’t explain it.
We got to see a freezer that makes things 80 below freezing Fahrenheit! It was really cold!
Next, he showed us how he makes bacteria and how he makes gel, to put the gel onto make bacteria and that’s not all. I got to make the gel and bacteria, put on the lab coat, and every thing! It was fun and educational.
Trip to the lab
By Jonathan Alumbaugh
We leave the house early (for a Friday, that is) and hop in the car and head for the University of Connecticut in Storrs. We get to the building where our friend, Yu Lei, works. Dad drops us off at the door and heads for the faculty parking place because Yu Lei lent us his parking pass on Thursday night. We wait outside Yu Lei’s building, and dad finally gets here, so we go inside.
We find his room, but he’s not there, yet. So, we talk to a couple of his associates, Ashley and Liang. They’re both really nice people.
Ashley tells us that she spins nano fibers and what the medical uses are for it, and Liang tells us that he works with Yu Lei and what he does with him.
He tells us about how they grow “colonies” of germs on a jelly-like substance called agar. He shows us a sample, and the jelly stuff looks kind of yellow like ginger ale, and the colonies are like little white dots on it.
He said that it ate the agar because of the nutrients in it.
He also told us what they used the colonies for. The colonies are actually e. coli colonies that have been genetically modified so that they aren’t harmful.
Then Yu Lei showed up and he told us about the stuff around us, gave us a tour about what we would be doing and stuff like that.
There was a DNA copier, a fridge that had temperatures of -80 Fahrenheit, and a 7000x microscope.
At this point, we were given a lab coat and rubber gloves so we could do some experiments. One of the experiments gave us an opportunity to pour some of the agar substance into a Petri dish. We then we put the colonies into another liquid that it ate. We grew some colonies after the substances were allowed to mix together in a special piece of machinery.
Another experiment we did was with fluorescence.
Dr. Lei put a liquid on a slide and then put it under an Ultraviolet (UV) light. We could see his name written on the slide; it looked sparkly blue, kind of like the stars at night.
In addition, we went to another lab where Ashley showed us how she spun nanofibers. It was pretty neat! The machine she was using used 30,000 volts of power and the current ran through the nanofiber as it was being strung.
We could see the sample up close and personal with the high-powered microscope. It looked like a really dense spider web.
At the conclusion of our visit, we turned in our lab coats, donned our street clothes, and headed to the University of Connecticut Dairy Bar. There, I had my favorite flavor ice cream to celebrate the success of all of my experiments (!). My favorite flavor is the Husky Tracks; it has peanut butter cups, vanilla ice cream and chocolate in it. It was a perfect ending to a great field trip!
Posted Aug. 30, 2009