Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Who I am: I am Christian K. Smit. I am currently a junior at George Stevens Academy in Blue hill. I am interning at the Connell lab because I was given an opportunity to study an interesting topic on genetic mutation and red tide.

What I want to do: I want to learn what the science field is like, as well as see if it completely fits my interest. I want to also learn about what a lab consists of on a day to day basis and see if I actually understand and enjoy the process.

What I learned: During my visit to Connell Laboratory I learned: basic lab safety, how to extract hemolymph from clams, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Pipetting techniques, proper techniques in a hood, electrophoresis, how to prepare a gel box for electrophoresis, the use of a cell counting chamber, Creating growth rate charts on yeast, Culture streaking with yeast, inoculating culture into (YPD) broth, Obstacle density sampling, Dilution calculations, how to perform basic lab math, and how to write a blog.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grad Student Returns from Internship


Graduate Student, Janice Duy, was selected as a Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship intern for the summer of 2012.  The award, sponsored by the Department of Energy, gave 20 students from all over the country the opportunity to work at a DOE facility on different fossil fuel-related projects.  Janice worked at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, PA, under the supervision of Paul R. Ohodnicki, Jr., PhD, and Michael Buric, PhD, in the Advanced Sensors Development Laboratory.  This group focuses on the design and testing of optical sensors for the quantitative analysis of gas mixtures at high temperature corrosive environments.  During her 10-week stay, Janice worked on modeling the responses of novel thin-film sensor materials and geometries to evaluate their suitability for this application.  The results of this work were published in a conference proceedings paper for SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

Welcome back to the lab, Janice!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Upward Bound

Hey all,

Today we would like to give a very warm welcome to the smart and talented upward bound students who will be helping us out for the next few weeks.

First we have Heidi Ortiz.

Heidi is a senior from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School. Upon finishing high school, she plans on going to the University of Miami to major in Marine Biology. She is currently doing an experiment on the effects of prolonged light exposure on Antarctic Fungi. Can't wait to see the results!

Next we have Chhayheng Chhoeu, a Senior from Lowell High School. Upon finishing high school, Chhayheng plans on going to college to major in Biology or Premed.

Chhayheng is currently helping Amber out with her study of the Red Tide algae. How awesome is that?

Once again, we here at Connell Lab would like to welcome you both! Here is a picture of a cake to celebrate the occasion.


We look forward to working with you!

By Ben Segee

Friday, April 20, 2012

First Place!

Amber Bratcher with her first place poster at the University of Maine Graduate Student Expo

The Connell Lab is excited to announce that one of our graduate students, Amber Bratcher, won first place for the Foster Innovation Center Award for work that best exemplifies innovation excellence at the Graduate Student Expo. 

Congratulations Amber!

Specifically, Amber's work is on the detection of harmful algal blooms. Read more about her work below and here.

SPIRIT: A portable biosensor for the early detection of harmful algal blooms. 
Amber R. Bratcher, Laurie B. Connell, Paul Millard

         Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is caused by consumption of shellfish that have fed on toxic algae and is a major health issue worldwide. Low cell densities of dinoflagellates from the genus Alexandrium can produce dangerous amounts of PSP toxins. Toxin and non-toxin producing species are difficult to distinguish morphologically. Current identification methods are expensive, time-consuming, and require special training, thus the development of a rapid, low-cost, easy-to-use device for detection and monitoring would be an important advancement. 
         We have developed a method for detection of Alexandrium fundyense and A. ostenfeldii, two commonly co-occurring species in the Gulf of Maine. Our assay is designed for field-based identification and utilizes a custom-built, portable surface plasmon resonance (SPR) instrument. SPR is a rapid, label-free, optical detection method that measures the change in refractive index after binding (hybridization) of target to probe on a sensor surface. Species-specific RNA probes are bound to the surface of sensors in the instrument, and samples containing RNA extracted from Alexandrium are flowed across the seniors for assay results in as little as 8 minutes. We have verified the specificity of this method using RNA extracted from cultured Alexandrium, and this summer we will test our method in the field with naturally occurring Alexandrium blooms.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Janice and Amber - Big Island Conference

Janice and Amber traveled to Waikoloa, Hawaii for the 2011 Marine Technology Society/IEEE Oceans Conference.  The conference had over 1100 participants and covered a multitude of topics, including autonomous underwater vehicles, ocean sensing technology, and harvesting ocean energy.

Janice took part in the student poster competition, with her poster titled “Low-cost colorimeter development for the field-based detection of harmful algal blooms.”  Amber gave an oral presentation on “Portable biosensor detection of the harmful dinoflagellate Alexandrium using surface plasmon resonance and peptide nucleic acid probes.” 

Both had a great time at the conference and thoroughly enjoyed the sunny Hawaiian weather.


The conference was held at the Hilton-Waikoloa Village.  No complaints about the d├ęcor!

One of many beautiful beach sunsets we saw.

Some of the resident Green Sea turtles agreed to pose for a quick photo with Amber and Janice.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Since the beginning of time man has been plagued by many questions, what is the purpose of existence? why are we here?  Does free will exists, or are we simply a complicated but ultimately predictable reaction in response to environmental stimuli?

However, one question makes all these pale by comparison. A question that makes the others seem as insignificant as an argument on an elementary school playground with each side arguing either nu'uh, or yeah'hu, a question that has driven many great minds to madness, that question is, Is it possible to unmake chocolate milk?

You can almost see the insanity in his eyes. 

Well, today marks a glorious day for mankind! Today, the question will finally be answered, for today, we will attempt to unmake chocolate milk!

The following is a record of notes taken while the experiment was preformed. 

8:00am: I woke this morning with excitement and dread in my heart, today, today we would finally gain an answer. I went to my refrigerator and removed the milk and bottle of chocolate. Steeling myself for what was to come, I mixed them together in a plastic bottle, knowing full well that I may never be able to separate them. 

9:00am: I arrived at work and tried to go about my daily routine, but I was unable to focus on my work. The bottle was sitting on a lab bench, almost as if it was staring at me, inviting me, teasing me, mocking me. 


Finally I could bear it no longer, I had to have my answer. I took two test tubes and filled them with the sweet and creamy substance. The sight of the test tubes, sitting like two giant chocolatey obelisks almost made me lose my resolve. But I had made my decision long ago, I knew what must be done. 

The most intimidating thing I have ever seen. 

I took the samples and placed them in a centrifuge. All evidence suggested that the centrifuge would separate out the milk from the denser chocolate syrup, but I knew enough to know that I was dealing with forces greater than I could imagine. With a silent prayer I turned the centrifuge up to it's max speed and set a timer for 1 hour. In one hour I would have my answer. 

May God have mercy on us. 

9:30am: I feel like a child who is not sure if he has been good or not lying in bed on Christmas eve. I am brimming with excitement, knowing that I will soon have my answer, but I am also filled with dread knowing  that instead of brightly wrapped gifts, I may only receive a lump of black and gritty coal. 
Half an hour, I'm not sure I can stand the anticipation. 

10:00am: My hand trembling, I turned off the centerfuge. This was the moment I had been wating for. I slowly opened the centerfuge lid and removed the sample, and in a blast of rapture I saw a clump of dark syrup at the bottem of the tube, white creamy milk above it.

Pictured: Dark clump of syrup and white creamy milk.

I had done it, at long last I had my answer. I had once and for all answered the question that so many before me had strived for. I was overcome with emotion, I fell down on my knees, and wept.