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Worm Lab

This is what put a quarter into the video game that was our summer adventure. I worked at a lab at the University of San Diego that studies the nematode worm, C. Elegans. When the worms are under a microscope, they look like

So there they are following worms around all day under high magnification, and they thought, "What if we could make an automatic worm tracking system that could follow these puppies around and detect behaviors like egg-laying?" That is the project I worked on while I was there: automated worm tracking and behavior analyzation. When the worms lay eggs it looks like

The black and white only image in the bottom left of the egg-laying picture is the type of image we give the computer to analyze for the automated tracking.

When I got to the lab in San Diego, the lab looked like

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One of the worm tracking systems that I worked on looked like

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If you care about how the tracker works, there's a picture of the concept here.

There were lots of biology graduate students and professors at the lab. When they are at a party, they look like

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The people who missed the party, but later agreed to take a picture look like


The guy who missed the party and one guy who didn't are setting up a screened in air hockey table. The air hockey table also has other uses such as doing experiments that aren't affected by vibrations or electric fields from the area around it. The little holes in the air hockey table blow out pressurized air and create a layer of gas between the table surface and the bottom of the microscope. So, any vibrations in the table are absorbed by the layer of gas. It looks sort of like


I tried a lot of different techniques to get clear images of worms. Sometimes people laughed at me because my ideas were slightly ridiculous. For example, one time I died the auger of the Petri dishes with food coloring to see its effect on the image quality. This is what it looked like:

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