Tag Archives: bioengineering

Turning Isolation into Communication: Secrets to Building a Successful Webinar in the Face of a Pandemic

This post is co-authored by Kelsey DeFrates and Katerina Malollari. When we decided to attend graduate school, we envisioned ourselves hunched over the laboratory bench, poised in front of sophisticated equipment, and knee deep in data. What we did not anticipate, however, was to be banished to our homes and forced to abandon our cell

Understanding the Mechanics: An Interview with Grace O’Connell

This article is part of STEMinism in the Spotlight, a monthly interview series. I was lucky to meet Grace O’Connell through a research project analyzing differences in audience participation during academic job talks based on gender and race of the presenter. Grace is an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering (ME) at UC Berkeley. Her research

Sports Tech—The Future of Cal Athletics

If you’re a student in UC Berkeley’s Sports Tech Challenger Class and you’ve got a good idea, you can run with it. Literally. The class, a collaboration between Cal Athletics and the College of Engineering, puts athletes and engineers to work developing base technologies or applications that improve athletic performance. “There’s only a handful of

An Ode to Patch Clamping

I’ve been a graduate student in bioengineering for quite a while now—let’s call it “more than five years”—but I harbor a far more embarrassing secret (for a bio-centric program) than that. I’ve only known how to pipette for four of them. When I entered graduate school my lab experience had been limited to computer work: mostly data analysis in Matlab. I had never actually gathered my own data. Perhaps I should’ve directly mentioned this in my application, though at times computational work is all one does to complete a PhD in bioengineering (the field is diverse).

AllYourBugAreBelongToMeThere were many times as an undergrad that I was so frustrated troubleshooting code in Matlab I actually yelled at whatever living thing was inside the computer and obviously out to get me. But I eventually figured out how to massage the computer into doing what I wanted. And that particular problem was solved.

As a grad student I’ve come to know the pains of experimental work with actual living things. One particular technique deserves the utmost reverence: patch clamping.

Less widely practiced than computer programming, patch clamping is one of the most transformative techniques in neuroscience. It’s a delicate process in which you, the experimenter, first bring the tip of a microscopic glass pipette down to a cell membrane ever-so-gently under a microscope. You then physically apply suction with your own mouth on the other end of the pipette, which is archaically connected though a long rubbery tube. By applying suction you draw the cell membrane so close to the pipette tip that it adheres and forms a seal on the rim of the glass. Then with more powerful suction, you break open the bit of membrane that’s stuck to the pipette opening, all while the cell is still alive.