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Postby Argentum » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:47 am

Hello everyone! My name is Ethan, and I would like to say hello to everyone as I am new to this site. I have been looking around for a good biology forum, and this appears to be the best.

A little bit about me. I am from the United States and I currently attend college (or university depending on where you are from). I really like molecular and cell biology, and I am interested in getting started in amateur biology. Which leads me to a few questions. What does the amateur biology community look like? Does this site have a decent population of amateurs, and does anyone have any resources I can check out to help get me started. Thank you very much!

-Ethan
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Postby JackBean » Tue Jul 05, 2011 6:51 am

and where are you from?

And what do you think that amateur biologist usually does?
http://www.biolib.cz/en/main/

Cis or trans? That's what matters.
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Postby Argentum » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:18 pm

I live in the United States. And I am not sure exactly what is possible with amateur biology. I know people involved in amateur chemistry, which I believe is a bit more common. If anyone knows more about amateur biology, I could dfinitely use information.
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Postby JackBean » Tue Jul 05, 2011 4:32 pm

OK, so what's your idea of amateur chemist?
http://www.biolib.cz/en/main/

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Postby Argentum » Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:03 pm

Basically engaging in chemistry for enjoyment outside of a formal lab or in a self-constructed lab. I imagine biology would be about the same, but I don't know much about its prevalence.

I don't have any interest in producing drugs or other illicit substances. I would be interested just for pure intellectual enjoyment.
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Postby canalon » Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:54 pm

I know that there are people doing that. I remember seing a site with a complete description on how to build your own PCR machine with a well equiped shop for approx $100. So yes this is possible.

Practically I can see a few problems:
- Health and safety. Yes you can use a pressure cooker as an autoclave do sterilize stuff and get rid of waste, but many chemicals that are common in media and reagents cannot easily be disposed of. And a standard pressure cooker will have a hard time sterilizing all equipment and waste.

- Legality. Many biological agents are restricted for sales to licensed companies and educational facilities, to comply with regulations concerning both health and safety and bioterrorism. This might sound trivial, but a scientist and an artist friend of his ended up in big trouble in the US because of some completely innocuous bacteria given to the former by the latter for an art project.

- Cost. A sad reality but many of the kits, equipment and reagent needed for basic biological experiment are quite expensive. Although eBay might help, but at some non trivial risk of getting something that does not work, or worse, ready to fail (ultracentrifuge explosion might lead to more than just the cost to replace it...)

But good luck nevertheless. As someone who gets paid to do that, I do not have that kind of problem.
Patrick

Science has proof without any certainty. Creationists have certainty without
any proof. (Ashley Montague)
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Postby Argentum » Tue Jul 05, 2011 6:56 pm

Thanks for the info! I have already come across some of the troubles that you brought up, and I am currently trying to think of solutions for them. For the health and safety issues, I will attempt to avoid hazardous and difficult to dispose of reagents for the time being until I have a better understanding of the ways in which to handle all of them outside of a formal lab. I am thinking of starting on some basic microbiology stuff because simple culture media tends to be free of any materials too difficult to deal with. I also understand the risks involved in releasing lab grown or modified cultures into the environment, so I will ensure that those are disposed of properly.

As for legality, I am aware of laws in place, but I will definitely do some more research to make sure. I know amateur chemistry runs into tons of problems with legality, usually unjustly. It seems that if authorities don't understand it they automatically assume it is either drugs or explosives. I imagine the same would hold true for biology (substituting explosives with bioterror agents). That said, I will be sure to keep things relatively quiet and within legal restrictions should it have to come to that.

The cost has probably been my biggest limitation. I will probably get some glassware and maybe an incubator from ebay or similar places. I am not quite ready to shell out the money for equipment like an ultracentrifuge, though that will definitely provide limitations as well. Media is also expensive, and I am a poor college student. I am currently attempting to develop a home-made luria broth analog using autolyzed yeast extract and protease-digested casein all made in the kitchen! Getting formulations right should keep me busy for a while.

Thanks again!
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