U.S. National Arboretum Internship

 

I had the opportunity to do my Spring 2018 internship at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.  The Arboretum is run by the U.S.D.A.’s Agricultural Research Service and hosts many different types of gardens and exhibits.  I had three different tasks: spend four Saturdays working in the National Herb Garden, create herbal monographs for several herbs that I worked with, and finally, to assist in the design, planning, and execution of a workshop on herbal bitters that would be held on the Arboretum grounds in August.

The work in the gardens provided a new appreciation for the hard work horticulturists put in.  My internship started with hours of carrying and planting herbs, and digging up tulip bulbs from the Spring entrance display.  The next Saturday, I planted enough corn and sugarcane to fill in the entire display we had dug up the week before. I pulled weeds, planted lemon balm, and pruned other herbs.  Dozens of people stopped to ask questions, providing an opportunity to share knowledge about the plants. During my two remaining days of work, I pulled weeds and helped shape plants in the Medicinal, Native American, and Culinary Herb Gardens.  The hard work in the garden paid off because I learned new gardening skills such as the right planting depth, proper pruning, and all about several garden pests. These skills will be very useful for cultivating my own herbs.

Creating the herbal monographs required a lot of research, my own organoleptic experience, and taking photos of properly identified plants.  The monographs can be viewed here. The final task, preparing for the Bitters Workshop, required extensive soft skills. I worked with the Arboretum staff via email, telephone, and through live collaboration sessions where we edited documents as we exchanged ideas.  

Each of the three tasks was very different from the others. I was able to do some manual labor, research, and event planning all surrounding herbs.  In the end, I walked away with some cultivation skills, experience creating monographs, and an appreciation for the amount of coordination that goes into planning events.  

Disclaimer:  Due to the beauty of Arboretum, I took an obscene amount of photos from May – July so I captured both Spring and Summer in the Herb Garden.

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MUIH Microbial Analysis Experiment Internship Part II

The second part of this post covers the first phase of the actual experiment.  If you missed the first part of this post, you can find it here.  Technically, this is no longer an internship because I didn’t do it for college or work credit.  After all the research and planning for the experiment, I wanted to be part of it.  I was excited about the prospect of participating in a study between two universities, with the possibility of the findings being published.

We were testing the theory that a bunsen burner could create a sterile field. The reason this would be cool is because many product makers are small businesses that cannot afford to rent lab space for product creation.  The execution of the experiment required learning and using aseptic lab techniques (limiting variables), meticulously documenting each step and then counting colonies.

 

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The bunsen burner was turned on for five minutes to create the sterile field.  Measurements on the table indicate the distance of each TSA plate (a.k.a. a petri dish to most) to the burner.  After 5 minutes the lids were removed to expose them to the microbes in the air.
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After the predetermined amount of time the lids were replaced and the dishes were wrapped in lab film to keep them secure.
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Close up of the dishes before the incubation period.
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Here is a couple of days in.

 

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This is after 7 days of incubation. Look at all of those organisms!

The study has not been published yet so I will not discuss the results.  Needless to say, my personal results were… gross.  It was really awesome learning about aseptic lab techniques and getting to participate in this study.

Part III of this post will be the final part and will cover the second, and last, experiment conducted as part of this study.

 

 

MUIH Microbial Analysis Experiment Internship Part I

The Spring 2018 trimester marked my first of three required internships.  I wanted at least one of them to be focused on scientific testing and lab work since I have a keen interest in the science behind the plants I study and work with.  To meet this goal, I did my first internship with MUIH faculty, on the Microbial Analysis Experiment.

The Microbial Analysis Experiment is a joint experiment between the University of Maryland’s Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) and the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) Dispensary.  The research objective of the overarching study is to compare the results of microbial testing conducted in a laboratory setting versus multiple non-laboratory settings that use a bunsen burner to create a sterile field. The study is broken into 3 phases, with my internship occurring during phase 1: the Research Phase.

My assignment was to conduct research remotely to: determine the regulatory requirements for microbial testing, develop the steps for selecting and preparing a laboratory environment in a remote location, and develop a list of materials that would be required to conduct microbial testing in an aseptic home/remote lab.  All work was due by April. This research will provide small business owners (me!) with the education necessary to properly test botanical matter. The sanitization techniques are also applicable for product development and manufacturing.

I have included the first deliverable as an example of my work.  It is a list of the resources that I found to answer the questions posed. Each of these sources was part of my literature review and provided information as to industry standards for testing, or how to properly prepare a lab environment.  Other documents are still being collaboratively worked on. This internship is still ongoing at the time of this posting.

HRB 690 Lit Review Resources

Part II of this post discusses the actual experiment that was conducted during Summer 2018.