Saturday, October 31, 2015

Time for a #MicrobialHalloween and a #ParasiticHalloween

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I simply adore Hallowe'en. I always have.

Yes, I spread bioluminescent bacteria on Petri dishes, and then inserted them into a pumpkin.  A #MicrobialJackOLantern.
So it should not be a surprise that I like to incorporate this special holiday into my classes, and have a long history of doing so. Today, Saturday, is Hallowe'en.  But even so, my Microbiology students on Thursday, and my Symbiosis and Parasitism freshmen writing students on Friday, participated.  I would like to share their creativity and humor with you.  Learning can take many forms, I have found.  Plus it is fun!

First, one of my #Bio350 students shared their own #MicrobialJackOLantern with me.

Nothing wrong with some streptococcus and a microscope on a rainy Hallowe'en.  Am I right?  Here are some close ups.  I think that these were made by Brian in my class.

First, a Streptococcus-O-Lantern:

Then, a MicroscopicPOV-O-Lantern:

And another student in my #Bio350 course,  Ruth,  just made an interesting pumpkin---a #BacteriophagePumpkin?  A #PhageOLantern?

Now, I generally don't dress up for Hallowe'en any more.  This year was an exception, as you will see a bit later.  But I encouraged my #Bio350 micronauts to let their OMG™ (overwhelming microbial greatness) show itself this holiday.  And some of them did precisely that!

Here are some of my micronauts in #MicrobiallyThemed costumes.

Then, a video.

Let's view what we are seeing here.  

Madison would love to be a "genomic islander."

Kailee and I agree that calling a tool for spreading microbes on a Petri dish a "hockey stick" does a disservice to the sport.  So she expressed that well, and in competitive spirit.

Olivia decided to show her bacterial side in her outfit.  Yes, the blue flagella say it all.

Here is a close up.  I adore seeing transcription and translation taking place as a creative exercise!

Macauley decided for a more minmalist approach, depicting Serratia's lovely prodigiosin, and inexplicably carrying sriracha sauce.  The color?  Maybe the antimicrobial effects?

Hailey tried out a "Two Face" approach to microbiology, as you can see.  She even burned herself with a hot glue gun to promote her craft.

Brian honored his commitment to sterile procedure by depicting that goal via costume.  I don't know about the white hair.

Emily and Emma were inspired by a recent discussion of riboswitches in class, and became "ribos-Witches."  Very creative!

Finally, Cheyenne and Taylor created a two part costume showing the medieval view of plague, and a plague victim.  The makeup was impressive.  And fits in, I think, with some of our zombie interests in popular media these days.

Very nice!  But what about me?

Another one of my obsessions these days is the small but mighty tardigrade.  My long suffering wife Jennifer Quinn has allowed me this obsession, as she does with my microbial tattoos.  After all, they are much cheaper than red sports cars.

I have enjoyed watching them under the microscope.

Unsurprisingly, I tend to collect tardigrade toys of the plush variety.

And even of the 3D variety.

My wife in fact built me a tardigrade table for my birthday this year.

And even commissioned the great Brian Mock to create a tardigrade sculpture for me.

Yes, I seem to have a problem.

So it should not be a surprise that when I decided to dress up for Hallowe'en for my classes, I would choose a tardigrade...and its associated microbiota.  Here is an explainer.

And a close up of the truly fabulous mask Jennifer Quinn made for me.

I also received a nice surprise from one of my #Bio350 micronauts on Friday:  my very own #MicrobialJackOLantern with artwork of the logo for this year's microbiology course.  

As you can guess, I was very touched by this particular #MicrobialHalloween!

My other course this Fall is my freshman writing seminar revolving around symbiosis and parasitism.  So a #ParasiticHalloween sounds grand.  Several of my students dressed up (and I did, too, as my Disco Tardigrade).

In class on Friday, we watched "The Host," an old episode from "The X-Files," about a mutant giant fluke parasite (very appropriate given the course topic).  I also brought gummi worms for the full effect.


Theo is quite interested in parasites in the fossil record, so I shouldn't be surprised at his costume.

Cotton, on the other hand, has an deep fascination with sharks. This appears to be a "cookie cutter shark."

Carmen and Genevieve had a costume that, while not related to symbiotic associations, represents one of my favorite movies.  Can you guess what it is?

Braith did a pretty awesome job depicting a banana slug.

And I have to admit, Mary had perhaps the most horrifying costume of all.

Get it?  Sigh.  This one is less pointed than in earlier years, at least.

But when it comes to humor, I think that JT and Lauren got the greatest laughs with a highly appropriate costume that cost next to nothing.  Such creativity!  Here is the video.

You see, they are depicting the Schistosomiasis parasite, seen here.  The larger male has a channel in which the female attaches.

You can read more about these seemingly "loyal" parasites, and the serious diseases they cause, here.

So in all, it was QUITE the Hallowe'en.  I hope yours was as frightening fun as my own!

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I am happy to hear your comments and suggestions. I hope to avoid spammage. We shall see how that works out!