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Backyard Brains Welcomes Newest Chilean Intern: Conduction Velocity in Different Plants

conduction velocity in different plants
Tim and I talking about our experiments at the Peruvian Restaurant “Ajicito” over Ceviche, Maracuya juice and pisco sour

— Written by Carla Contreras Mena —

Hello, I’m Carla Contreras Mena, a student of Biochemistry at the University of Santiago of Chile (which we locally call Usach). I currently work in a Neuroscience Laboratory with professor Dr. Patricio Rojas, where we are investigating the neurophysiological difference of electrical activity in the mouse hippocampus between a control and a model of autism. Here is a picture of my research:

mouse hippocampus

Section of the hippocampus, specifically in the dentate gyrus of a C57BL/6 strain mouse; E = stimulating electrode; R = recording electrode

In search of an internship for my degree, my professor recommended Backyard Brains. In my first meeting with Backyard Brains, I listened a bit about this interesting way to learn electrophysiology in plants and how a simplified amplifier works to learn and teach at the same time.

I decided to learn more about it, so I accepted the offer letter!

First Steps

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Chilean High School Interns Say Goodbye (For Now!)

Editor’s note: This is Part II. You can read Part I here.

Danae

Hello, I am Danae Madariaga, a senior at Alberto Blest Gana high school. I have participated in a data collection project with Etienne, Tim, and Derek for three months. Throughout this time, I have learned many things such as the use of Google Colab to analyze my data that I uploaded to the cloud. This makes it easier for scientists from around the world to analyze my data as well.

Really though, the most important thing that I have learned is that being a scientist is not easy! It is a very hard job that requires perseverance and patience. I have also learned how to optimize my time to perform my experiments in a consistent manner. Working with Backyard Brains was my very first job and a very pleasant experience, especially with all the new tools and plants I have now!

chilean high school seniors say goodbye
My Home Experimental Setup with Basil Plants and Venus Fly Traps
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Backyard Brains Welcomes Our Newest Interns, Chilean High School Seniors

Derek Arro

I am Derek Arro, a senior student at High School Alberto Blest Gana in Santiago, Chile. Currently, I have been working at Backyard Brains for 2 weeks, and I’m in charge of helping to write the manuscript for the experiments my team did with plant electrophysiology last semester. Backyard Brains is an incredible team that designs very educational and eye catching experiments.

Derek and Danae

In our case, we recorded the electrophysiology signals of various plants to a flame stimulus. To register the signal, we used the Backyard Brains Plant SpikerBox (amplifier) by wrapping a silver electrode covered with conductive gel around a branch and with a ground electrode connected to the…. ground. Our stimulus consisted of a flame applied to a leaf next to the silver electrode (see pictures above and below). Last semester, my classmates collected data on 14 different plants, from the famous Chilean Araucaria tree to normal basil herbs. We observed responses between 5-20 seconds after the flame stimulus in about 50% of our observations.  After that, we uploaded our data analyses in Google Colab. This model serves to allow more researchers more access to the data to make a catalog of physiology of plant electricity and projects for people who want to start something in science.