Not much to update for today, but I’ve mostly been hanging out in the food science building during the majority of the morning and afternoon. So far, I’ve been able to observe 3 phd/grad students and the projects that they’ve been working on so far. Yesterday (June 6th), I was able to observe one student who is working with miso and observing fungal fermentations with different environmental conditions, so I was able to see her transfer fungal samples onto PDA agar plates, which contains essential nutrients that the fungus needs in order to grow. A lot of the techniques that she used are similar to what I’ve done in microbiology lab (both FSHN 312 and MCB 101), it’s just that the lab equipment is a little bit different.
Today, I helped out a pHd student’s project with red wine fermentation. He’s using a specific strain of yeast in order to carry out the biochemical reaction needed to produce ethanol and carbon dioxide, which are the primary products during fermentation. Different strains of yeast can affect the flavors of wine, and his project focuses on a specific strain that (if I heard him correctly) he was able to isolate (Which is super cool!) and it will carry out several fermentation steps before making the final wine product. We also ate the actual fermented fruit (after we separated the wine from the grapes/initial fermentation step), and it actually tasted pretty good! Slightly bitter, but honestly really tasty! He then decided to take the remaining grapes, and added a few other ingredients to make jam, and tons of it! (Hey, better than throwing it out, right?)
The next fermentation step isn’t going to occur for several days, so it’s only a matter of time until the yeast finish processing the sugars from the grapes. The thing with microbiology is that the bacteria/fungus need time to carry out different reactions/grow/etc, so patience is always a virtue (something that I’m slowly trying to learn haha). Usually when I’m not having to do anything, I’m either reading research papers, looking into graduate school options, and of course getting distracted here and there with social media/Game of Thrones YouTube clips (who doesn’t to be honest).
Finally, another student showed me how to use a bioreactor machine, which can be used for various fungal/bacterial fermentations (e.g. liquid/solid media). He explained how to set it up, and gave a very general overview of how to check that everything is working properly before sanitizing it in an autoclave machine. For those who don’t know, an autoclave machine is basically a piece of lab equipment that uses a high amount of heat to kill off any contaminants that can affect the lab experiment. Let me tell you, the bioreactors are very durable, have quite a bit of weight to them, and are pretty expensive. I think he said that one bioreactor cost around 1,000,000 (I assume in NTD of course), and when you convert that to USD, that’s at least $30000+, so yeah, you definitely don’t want to break it haha! It’s going to be in the autoclave machine overnight, so tomorrow, I think he’s going to proceed with his experiment/project and put the machine into use, which is something that I’m really excited to see!
Even though it’s only been a few days, I’m really enjoying the lab experience so far! I still don’t know how people are able to determine a very specific research topic, but I’m really finding microbiology really interesting so far! I think it’s cool that Dr. Cheng is letting me shadow different students rather than sticking with one person, since I can see all the different facets that contribute to food microbiology. I still find everything that they’re working on pretty cool (I find a lot of things fascinating to be honest haha), but I think wine fermentation and enzyme work is very intriguing so far!
All the best,