Everyday science is beautiful. I’m not speaking of the lush, intricate images that may pop to mind when one thinks of science photography (usually of animals or gorgeously fluorescing cells). I’m speaking of finding the beauty in the ordinary, everyday science that happens in tens of thousands of labs all over the world.
I discovered this while running an RNA sample on an agarose gel. For those of you unfamiliar with biochemistry and molecular biology, “running a gel” is the biotech equivalent of the copy machine. It’s what you do after you’ve amplified your DNA or RNA sample to see if your gene of interest is actually present. It’s one of the most basic and most standard experiments in molecular biology. Done so often and so reflexively there’s hardly any mystery surrounding it. And yet . . .
One day, while running a gel in my small, very dark work room about the size of a closet, I started playing around with an LED lantern that I kept around in case of power loss. I happened to pass it over the acrylic box that held the gel I was running and was surprised to see millions of tiny bubbles produced by the current that I was using to migrate my RNA sample.
It was something I’d passed over hundreds of times before without really seeing it. Now I noticed how intriguing all these little bubbles were and I became interested in manipulating the current and the lighting to see what would happen and trying to capture that with photography.
I probably don’t need to say that I’ve never had any photography training what so ever. This was all trial-and-error. I used a Canon PowerShot SD750 (usually on macro) to take the pictures and Gimp to edit them. Most shots were created with an acrylic gel box, sodium borate buffer, current ranging from 100 to 120 volts, 1.5% to 2.5% agarose gels, RNA samples, and regular and colored LED lights.
Some are shots of the light fixtures at Georgetown University’s Medical-Dental Building built in 1930.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask and I hope you enjoy my homage to my other great love.