Melinda Ma's blog

Living Among Microorganisms

I came across this article today and wanted to share it with you all. This is a picture of the microorganisms found on the palm of an 8-year-old boy after playing outdoors. Experimental tests have not been done yet to determine what types of bacteria were cultivated, but Tasha Sturm, microbiology lab technician, believes that the hand print includes yeast, fungi, and bacteria. As pretty as this petri dish may seem, it is truly an astounding reminder of the plethora of microorganisms that live amongst us.

EVENT: The Art of Hair

The day I went to visit the "Making Strange" exhibit in the Fowler Museum, I also went to see "The Art of Hair in Africa." This exhibit displayed a variety of hair pins, sticks, combs, and ornaments that have been worn by African women of different class and tribe. The artist states that the use of certain hair pieces function as a form of social communication, to construct one's identity and culture. It was so interesting to see the large display cases with intricate ornaments that were all selectively grouped and labeled.

EVENT: Making Strange

Today, I visited the exhibit in the Fowler Museum called "Making Strange: Gagawaka + Postmortem" by Vivan Sudaram. The artist presented this jointed idea of intertwining the human body and fashion by displaying sculptural garments made out of medical supplies and recycled materials (tubes, rubber, plastic).


My assigned zodiac animal is the rooster, which is very fitting since the majority of us are roosters in the Chinese zodiac. A rooster is the term for an adult male chicken and can be found in every continent in the world except Antarctica. A female chicken is called a hen. Chickens only display changes in gender after 6 months of age.

LASER symposium!

I was able to attend the LASER symposium on May 21st! I enjoyed all the TED-style talks where each presenter had around 5 minutes to showcase their research topics. I heard about Robert Gero's Infinitely Changing space, in which he developed his philosophical idea of creating a constantly changing internal space but stable exterior structure. Many of the computer generated imaged he displayed reminded me of illusion and the movie, Inception.

Lecture: Leila + Cary

I was not able to attend the workshop on fermentation, but I did listen to the evening lecture by Cary Peppermint and Leila Nadir titled, "Recover from Industrial Amnesia." They began their presentation with their 2011 project called "Indeterminate Hikes." It is a mobile phone app similar to Google Maps, but instead of giving the most direct route, this app takes people on an obscure trek through random alleyways, the wilderness, etc. and gives interactive instructions like in the picture shown below.

All About Bees!

We were also able to try some of Jason's delicious honey! My favorite was the orange honey and a close second was the clover. Jason mentioned that only certain types of honey have medicinal benefits, such as the Manuka honey. This was news to me, because I thought any raw form of honey would have health benefits. This makes me wonder whether my mother has been scammed at farmers markets all along! My mother would pay $20+ for a jar of honey, because the sellers would say that their honey builds up strong immune systems. I did my own research and found this helpful site, which describes multiple types of honey and its different health benefits! For example, clover honey promotes wound healing and regulates blood pressure, orange blossom honey have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits, and avocado honey is rich in antioxidants and vitamins. (


(photo credit: me)

Science, Innovation, and Creativity!

I was fascinated by everyone's presentations and active discussions. It makes me proud and excited to be among such great, creative minds. We are surely one bright generation :) 

My favorite proposals were Jacob's "Plantronics" and Sarah's "ECOfacts." It is already known that the Earth is a conductor of electricity and we use the ground to place power plants, electric generators for our homes, and multiple other electronic devices. But, it never occurred to me to utilize plants' own natural networking system within the soil instead of wire connections. I didn't even think about the reference to Avatar, where the trees were used for energy. I found an article about a replica of Avatar's 'Tree of Souls' that was built in London's Hyde Park. This tree (picture below) is made up of a metal structure with one root that acted as an electric cable to power the whole tree and it's glowing fiber optic cables. The article said that the tree provided it's own WiFi network so visitors could log into their website and play music to change the tree's colors. Although this tree was man made, we could possible use living plants to do the same thing - transmit electricity. 

(Photo credit:


(photo credit:

"Ecofacts" was such an innovative proposal. Sarah's project design was also well thought out and user friendly. I believe that, in theory, this idea could do wonders for our society and environment. However, like many people addressed in class, the meat industry and the government has so much authority over food production that it would be a challenge to implement this idea. Also, food production is a large multi-step process and it would be hard to track an accurate usage of water, carbon dioxide, land usage, etc. I am not sure if farmers/producers even measure these usages. I feel like current ways of being 'green' is by changing ways food is produced. I found an article on this Meat Plant Waste System that saves carbon dioxide emission equal to 2,700 cars! The biotechnology uses anaerobic bacteria to digest around 80% of the organic matter in waste water and produce green energy. 

I completely agree with Sarah's statement that "change begins with education" and Ecofacts is a great way to make people more aware of what they are consuming. Other methods of providing education is through sites such as Food Production Daily (

Green Energy Orb (photo credit:

(photo credit:



Gromicko, Nick and Shepard, Kenton. "Home Service Grounding Electrodes." InterNACHI.

"Local and Regional Food Systems." GRACE Communications Foundation.

"Oakey Beef’s spectacular green energy orb opens the way to environmentally outstanding and profitable performance." CST Wastewater Solutions.

Richards, Julian. "'Tree of Souls' Found Growing in Central London." CultureLab. 26 Apr 2010.

Whitehead, RJ. "Unique Meat Plant Waste System Hailed as Green Vision of the Future." Food Production Daily. 4 May 2015.


Plants: We Are One

We all know that plants are living creatures, just like animals, which are multicellular and need water, food (nutrients), and energy (sunlight) to live. But, who knew that plants could sing and dance and possibly have feelings too? My first encounter with a "human-like" plant was this flower plant I have at home (pictured below) with bright pink petals that open during the day and close at night. These types of plants have circadian rhythms and go to 'sleep' at night just like we do. According to Dr.

An exciting week with Kathy High

Kathy High's lecture and art show last week was truly eye opening. The most fascinating work for me was Revital Cohen's "Life Support." They used animals as a means of clinical treatment for respiratory problems and kidney failure. I have several elderly relatives who have kidney failures and undergo routine dialysis in the hospital. Although using a sheep is unconventional, it is an interesting point to say that a sheep's kidney is a "more natural, organic filtering system" for the patient.

"Strange Culture"

Biotechnology and Art is a completely new field to me and what initially drew me to this class was the art portion of the course description. I have always wanted to learn more about the arts, so I enrolled in this course because it was also highly recommended by my friend, Alon, who took it last year.

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