Day: April 1, 2020

She’ll Feel A Fool, All Right, In About Another Week

The human female’s team at work has been scrambling busily, trying to turn in-person  classes into online classes.  The lectures have not been too difficult, but turning the labs into online experiences has been more challenging.  For the Heredity unit, the students usually observe crosses of  various mutant strains of Arabidopsis.   Normal seedlings have hairy leaves:

seedling with hairs

…but some of the mutants are bald.

Regular seedlings behave like proper plants, but some of the “special” ones are trans-genic–they’ve been gifted with the DNA that makes them produce a protein that glows an eerie green under blue light.

f1-hybrids-gfp1 x gl1

If they don’t have the glowy gene, they don’t show up at all under blue light–they’re just dark shapes:

homozygous gl1-no gfp

Since there isn’t a way for the students to have a petri dish of seedlings to look at, the human female had the bright idea to make sets of virtual seedlings.  She came up with little images of hairy and bald plants, and has been making spreads of what they’d look like in regular and blue light.

It’s very painstaking work.  She had to wrestle all the inheritance patterns and do the math to figure out how many seedlings should be hairy and glowy, how many hairy and not-glowy, how many bald and glowy, and how many bald and not glowy.  Then she had to divide up the hundreds of fictitious seedlings into twelve sets such that the students can only figure out the inheritance patterns if they score their seedlings their arrays and then pool their data with folks who have the other sets.  Each set has to be laid out exactly the same way in the visible light view and the blue light view so that the plants can be scored accurately.

It involves manipulating layers and layers of images.

She’s stepped away from her desk for a moment.  Let’s just scoot some of these little plants around, shall we?  (I don’t need to use a mouse–I have magic!)

arabidopsis

Let’s see….I’ll take out two of the hairy/glowy ones and substitute a hairy/not glowy and a bald/glowy.   And I’ll shuffle them around in the blue-light view…  And I’ll make set G a duplicate of set B…  And then I’ll re-label set J as set number 7

And then I’ll throw in another mutation that makes them grow upside down, and…

…and then I’ll fix it so that her original files show on her computer screen, but the changed ones will go up on the server for the teaching assistants to give to the students.

I will not get to call her April Fool today, but next week, when the assignment is given out and the frantic phone calls, texts, and zoom sessions begin, the tears and wailing of the human female will be very sweet indeed.

I can wait.

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