Research weeks 3 and 4: the importance of controls

Week 3 was a bit of a shorter work-week due to the July 4th holiday. Independence of another sort was being celebrated in the lab: at this point my students were trained for lab safety and had done most of the techniques at least once, so they were able to work more on their own. They are also becoming more independent in their experimental design and have been instrumental in thinking about different ways that infection could be measured.

C. elegans on a bed of dermatophyte conidia

During week 4, we took the lessons learned from our preliminary trial runs and set up an experiment that we think will give us a good indication as to whether dermatophytes can infect C. elegans. At this point, we are using death as an endpoint, but we will look for other measurements of ill-health as well.

One thing that’s important in any experiment is to include proper controls. For example, if all our worms die, how do we know that they died because the fungi were killing them? Maybe the incubator was too hot, and that was what really killed the worms. One way that we are controlling for this is to have a group of worms that are kept under the same conditions but without exposure to the fungi. We expect these worms to be healthy at the end of our experiment. This shows us that factors other than the fungi are not causing harm to the worms, and it also gives us something to compare our “infected” worms to.

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2 responses to “Research weeks 3 and 4: the importance of controls

  1. Hi Rebecca, hooray for research and worms! there are some great reporter constructs out there that can indicate infection. you could get in some of the strains and look at activation under the fluorescence dissecting scope. really easy peasy.

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