I consider Twitter the social media tool that has been most useful for me. It is not only a real time pulsating (and often distracting) flow of news and information, but also a way to make professional and casual connections. And lately, those virtual conversations have started to show tangible results. From tweetups where you get to meet in real life those people you have been talking to (and often feel you have known for quite a while), to exchange of information, and in extreme cases, to a freezer.

image of a mini freezer

The mini freezer, sitting in the garage

This freezer is part of the Home Microbiome Project, of which you can read here. How did it happen?

Well, of course everything starts with me being an instructor of (among other things), microbiology.  The past years have been exciting in micro, and the fun thing is that the breakthroughs in research have filtered rather quickly to the general public, including students.  I am not sure if it is a general phenomenon related to the availability fo information, or is it that bugs are so interesting- probably a combination of both. The case is that I follow some of the science stuff going on in micro, and one of the threads is the whole microbiome concept. My main interest is still the human microbiota and how it affects health and disease; but still, when I read the word microbiome I usually pay attention. Add Twitter. There are several very active tweeps who are involved with microbiome studies, among them @gilbertjacka, and I became aware of his Home Microbiome project, in which they follow the microbial populations of a home and people before and after a move.  That project sounded really exciting, and when two months ago I got a new position that involves a move, I asked if the study was still going. Not long afterward, a box full with Falcon tubes containing swabs and a bunch of paperwork arrived. Some days later, the freezer made entrance, and was ceremoniously placed in an honorary place in the garage. It has been plugged in for a while, and it seems to work well. 

I am writing this just after midnight. I just activated the gizmos that will record environmental data, and sorted the tubes for early morning’s first swabbing. Two humans and a cat getting swabbed for 6 weeks, every two days. This is so cool.

I guess it is just a geek thing. In my distant past, in places where regulations were not tight, my blood cells became controls of many experiments. Even now, every iteration of a blood lab I volunteer for smears and blood group tests. I have swabbed my wallet, cell phone, and skin at countless micro labs and looked with amazement at the little Staphs growing on the plates.

Anyway, it is day 0 today. The cat has been sneezing, hope he is not getting sick. Hope the microbes filtering from the micro course I will be teaching next week will not upset our microbial ecosystem.

Swab on!