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Announcing the winners of the 2013 Life Technologies Cell Health Essay Contest

First Place
Andrew Woodham
University of Southern California

EVOS® FLoid® Cell Imaging Station

Second Place
Brooke Saepoo
University of Toledo

EVOS® XL Core Imaging System


Third Place

Samantha Calcatera
Clemson University

Tali® Image-Based Cytometer


Fourth Place

Carly Buckner
Laurentian University

Countess® Automated Cell Counter

Winning Essays

We received hundreds of essay entries from some very creative scientists. See the entries that topped the list and won the prizes.


First Place—Andrew Woodham
University of Southern California, California, USA

‘Twas the night before testing, and all through the lab
Not a cell was unhealthy, thanks to LifeTech from Carlsbad.
The pipettes were hung by the benchside with care,
In hopes that the scientists soon would be there.

The cells were in culture all snug in their plate,
Cozy in media, awaiting their fate.
Non-sterile conditions can cause apoptosis,
And without proper care, cells won’t do mitosis.

Media supplements from Gibco we buy
For clean looking data and a happy PI.
We use antibiotic-antimycotic
With proper pH and pressure osmotic.

We add sodium pyruvate and GlutaMAX,
To make our cells happy, then measure with FACS.
And pen-strep protects against bacteria,
Such as harmful gram-positive Listeria.

With reagents added, I slept soundly in bed,
While visions of manuscripts danced in my head.
And magnificent dreams then soon did arise,
Of eventually winning the Nobel Prize!

The next day I went to retrieve all my cells
To see if they lived overnight in their wells.
Away to the Countess I went to confide,
Added Trypan Blue Stain, and inserted the slide.

When, what to my critical eyes should appear,
But millions of cells per milliliter
And ninety-nine percent viability,
Which gave me a strong sense of tranquility.

I returned to the hood with calm temperament,
And knew it was then time to experiment.
Healthy cells were required as part of my aim,
And I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

Now HeLa! Now RenCa! Now HaCaT and LnCap!
On Vero! On HUVEC! On Jurkat and DuCap!
I collected the cells one well at a time,
Turned on the cell sorter so that it could prime.

To see if their plan was self-destruct or survive,
I stained with Invitrogen’s Annexin V.
Which is tagged with the marker Pacific Blue
To further confirm that their cell health was true.

I also added Vibrant Dye Cycle Stain
For data on cell phases I could attain.
The cytometer hummed and counted
And read the number of cells that were living or dead.

Just as I foresaw there was little cell death,
I wrote down the numbers and took a deep breath.
Then collected the proteins for a future test
With Novex reagents I know to be best.

We value these things from Life Technologies
To help with molecular cell biologies.
But now this tale ends, so lay down your cell scraper,
Good research to all and to all a good paper!


Second Place—Brooke Saepoo
University of Toledo, Ohio, USA

We are BON cells. We are an established cell line derived from a human carcinoid tumor from the pancreas. We are strong, healthy and very happy in our current locale.

We started out from a working stock and we remember our first warm embrace of nourishing cell culture media and the perfect balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our new home. There was more space to stretch out in comparison to that small, cold, dark tube we originated from. Our new environment gave us a chance to grow and divide. Our human workers are very attentive towards us. They make sure that we are free of any harmful intruders. We shudder at the thought of any yeast, molds, or bacteria, especially the dreaded mycoplasma gaining a foothold in our presence. One of our brethren heard from a visiting cell line that they were having bacterial problems in the room next door. The horror! Our technicians know to keep a careful eye on our viability and nutrient supplies. They would never let us perish so. We have traveled to many receptacles big and small since our arrival. Many of us have also been put to sleep in order to ensure future generations in case disaster should fall upon us.

You might ask what we do for our humans in return for our lavish lifestyle. Do not be concerned that this is an unequal partnership. We eagerly participate in activities that challenge our growth and development which in turn may reveal the secrets of life. We are quite patient with our technicians and are always willing to undergo repeated measures in order to further their knowledge. They are constantly trying to gain insight into our inner workings and seem to have a fascination with intracellular calcium signaling mechanisms. They are wise to do so since calcium is essential to the survival of all living organisms.  Our humans use a combination of electrophysical and optical lab procedures to follow our real-time movements when we are exposed to different levels of calcium and pharmaceutical agents. Sometimes they wish to study us individually; sometimes they examine us as a group. They know that we are at our best when we are healthy.


Third Place—Samantha Calcatera
Clemson University, South Carolina, USA

Addy, the Adipocyte, here - blogging about my oh-so-exciting life in culture. My blog may not be as suspenseful as “Twilight”, but life does get wild sometimes, WITHOUT needing vampires to make things interesting!

For example, yesterday -- boy, I’m glad I wasn’t in the plates above me. Human #1 came in with a New Human that we’d never seen before. Right away we sensed trouble in the air, non-HEPA-filtered air…and you know what that means. Human #1 took the brand new Stromal-Vascular family out of our warm, cozy, highly regulated neighborhood here, into the bright, cold room, and placed them in that huge, noisy box that blows nice, clean air. Sure, Stromal-Vascular’s are a big family, LOTS of extended relatives if you know what I’m saying, but why must they be separated? The Blood Cell branch of the family was first to go, Mr. White and his cousins, and eventually Little Red’s family went too. Human #1 happily showed New Human how to wash the ‘undesirables’ away. Murderer! 

Then, things got ugly. Human #1 would normally put us under a warm light and look at us through these 2 tubes that she says make us visible. But this time, she had a noise coming from her pocket, so she left the room to talk to the noise-maker. New Human got curious and picked up what was left of the Stromal-Vascular family…WITHOUT GLOVES!!! Next, he took the clear ceiling off their house, without putting them in the big, loud box first…Human #1 ALWAYS puts us in that box before taking the ceiling off of our home. Suddenly, we heard the Mesenchymal’s screaming that the Bad News-Bacteria were attacking!! Then the Fibroblast family started yelling about Mangy Mycoplasmas invading! Our neighborhood has always been a safe place up until now.

Human #1 screamed when she saw what New Human had done…she immediately replaced all of Stromal-Vascular’s liquid groceries with some added medication, but knew it was too late. This morning, the groceries are orange and fuzzy. The cells that were attacked are all acting funny, changing shapes, and aren’t going to work like they normally would. I’m thankful the invaders didn’t find my home because my little ones, pre-Addies, as I call them, would have lived through that Battle of Contamination. Let’s hope there aren’t residual effects on us survivors; I sure don’t want to pass any bad genes to my family.

Human #1 rid our neighborhood of the intruders and contaminated families by dropping them in a big red box with strange symbols on it. She was sad but said she couldn’t keep them because data wouldn’t be accurate, so she couldn’t tell people about us and the wonderful things we do, because the damage done by the invaders was irreparable. I’ve never heard of this data thing before, but it sounds pretty high-maintenance and finicky. Life in culture may never be the same after this. I hope we never see New Human again!


Fourth Place—Carly Buckner
Laurentian University, Ontario, CAN

My B16-BL6 murine melanoma cells are my babies. I’ve raised them since their first day home from the ATCC. I’ve fed them only the best, DMEM supplemented with FBS and antibiotics to ensure they grew big and strong. I've nurtured these cells by sub-culturing every 3-4 days to ensure they had ample space to grow. I’m proud to announce that they’ve grown from cell monolayers to mature tumours.

Such a hardy cell line that is capable of thriving under various culture conditions, it’s what makes it so frustrating when students abuse their cells, either by contaminating or letting them overgrow. You know, you just can’t tell people how to raise their cells. Some days I wish you had to have a license to grow cells. I know I may come off as overprotective but I'm always worrying about leaving them overnight in the incubator; worrying that my clean cells might catch mycoplasmic cooties from the other cell lines.

I’ve treated the B16s with various natural products and electromagnetic fields. I've even gone beyond regular maintenance and provided them with “extra” genes to determine if increases in gene expression interfered with the effects of our treatment. These extra genes definitely changed their style. I don’t think that their parental line would approve of their edgy new look. When they misbehave, I try to remember that it’s not their fault. I sometimes forget that years ago I too was once a cell.

We’ve been through a lot together, a Masters, a PhD and now a postdoc and as passage number increases I can guarantee that with my perfect tissue culture technique I have not induced genetic drift. We’ve had some great experiments and some “not so good” ones (epic failures). Even when they don’t behave the way I expect them to, I never get mad at them, just very disappointed.
I’ve watched them under the microscope while applying a specific electromagnetic field pattern designed to increase calcium uptake. I’m not sure if this was an unpleasant experience for them but it increased fluorochrome expression which definitely brightened my day. It’s funny, when I treat them, they signal back to me in so many ways, but they always seem to prefer when we blot to the west.

I’ve always wondered what they actually thought of me, nice lady who feeds us or sadistic woman who tortures us until we have no choice to but to undergo apoptosis? It’s hard to explain to them that it really isn’t my fault, my supervisor makes me do it.

I know I haven’t always been the greatest scientist; having at times neglected them over the weekend; but I’ve always tried my best. I’ve kept them going this long, I must be doing something right. MCF7s, MDAs and HeLa are all worthy adversaries but none could ever take the place of my B16s, they never let me down. When it comes to the nature vs. nurture debate, I can guarantee that nurture takes the cake.


First Place—Andrew Woodham
University of Southern California, California, USA

‘Twas the night before testing, and all through the lab
Not a cell was unhealthy, thanks to LifeTech from Carlsbad.
The pipettes were hung by the benchside with care,
In hopes that the scientists soon would be there.

The cells were in culture all snug in their plate,
Cozy in media, awaiting their fate.
Non-sterile conditions can cause apoptosis,
And without proper care, cells won’t do mitosis.

Media supplements from Gibco we buy
For clean looking data and a happy PI.
We use antibiotic-antimycotic
With proper pH and pressure osmotic.

We add sodium pyruvate and GlutaMAX,
To make our cells happy, then measure with FACS.
And pen-strep protects against bacteria,
Such as harmful gram-positive Listeria.

With reagents added, I slept soundly in bed,
While visions of manuscripts danced in my head.
And magnificent dreams then soon did arise,
Of eventually winning the Nobel Prize!

The next day I went to retrieve all my cells
To see if they lived overnight in their wells.
Away to the Countess I went to confide,
Added Trypan Blue Stain, and inserted the slide.

When, what to my critical eyes should appear,
But millions of cells per milliliter
And ninety-nine percent viability,
Which gave me a strong sense of tranquility.

I returned to the hood with calm temperament,
And knew it was then time to experiment.
Healthy cells were required as part of my aim,
And I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

Now HeLa! Now RenCa! Now HaCaT and LnCap!
On Vero! On HUVEC! On Jurkat and DuCap!
I collected the cells one well at a time,
Turned on the cell sorter so that it could prime.

To see if their plan was self-destruct or survive,
I stained with Invitrogen’s Annexin V.
Which is tagged with the marker Pacific Blue
To further confirm that their cell health was true.

I also added Vibrant Dye Cycle Stain
For data on cell phases I could attain.
The cytometer hummed and counted
And read the number of cells that were living or dead.

Just as I foresaw there was little cell death,
I wrote down the numbers and took a deep breath.
Then collected the proteins for a future test
With Novex reagents I know to be best.

We value these things from Life Technologies
To help with molecular cell biologies.
But now this tale ends, so lay down your cell scraper,
Good research to all and to all a good paper!


Second Place—Brooke Saepoo
University of Toledo, Ohio, USA

We are BON cells. We are an established cell line derived from a human carcinoid tumor from the pancreas. We are strong, healthy and very happy in our current locale.

We started out from a working stock and we remember our first warm embrace of nourishing cell culture media and the perfect balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our new home. There was more space to stretch out in comparison to that small, cold, dark tube we originated from. Our new environment gave us a chance to grow and divide. Our human workers are very attentive towards us. They make sure that we are free of any harmful intruders. We shudder at the thought of any yeast, molds, or bacteria, especially the dreaded mycoplasma gaining a foothold in our presence. One of our brethren heard from a visiting cell line that they were having bacterial problems in the room next door. The horror! Our technicians know to keep a careful eye on our viability and nutrient supplies. They would never let us perish so. We have traveled to many receptacles big and small since our arrival. Many of us have also been put to sleep in order to ensure future generations in case disaster should fall upon us.

You might ask what we do for our humans in return for our lavish lifestyle. Do not be concerned that this is an unequal partnership. We eagerly participate in activities that challenge our growth and development which in turn may reveal the secrets of life. We are quite patient with our technicians and are always willing to undergo repeated measures in order to further their knowledge. They are constantly trying to gain insight into our inner workings and seem to have a fascination with intracellular calcium signaling mechanisms. They are wise to do so since calcium is essential to the survival of all living organisms.  Our humans use a combination of electrophysical and optical lab procedures to follow our real-time movements when we are exposed to different levels of calcium and pharmaceutical agents. Sometimes they wish to study us individually; sometimes they examine us as a group. They know that we are at our best when we are healthy.


Third Place—Samantha Calcatera
Clemson University, South Carolina, USA

Addy, the Adipocyte, here - blogging about my oh-so-exciting life in culture. My blog may not be as suspenseful as “Twilight”, but life does get wild sometimes, WITHOUT needing vampires to make things interesting!

For example, yesterday -- boy, I’m glad I wasn’t in the plates above me. Human #1 came in with a New Human that we’d never seen before. Right away we sensed trouble in the air, non-HEPA-filtered air…and you know what that means. Human #1 took the brand new Stromal-Vascular family out of our warm, cozy, highly regulated neighborhood here, into the bright, cold room, and placed them in that huge, noisy box that blows nice, clean air. Sure, Stromal-Vascular’s are a big family, LOTS of extended relatives if you know what I’m saying, but why must they be separated? The Blood Cell branch of the family was first to go, Mr. White and his cousins, and eventually Little Red’s family went too. Human #1 happily showed New Human how to wash the ‘undesirables’ away. Murderer! 

Then, things got ugly. Human #1 would normally put us under a warm light and look at us through these 2 tubes that she says make us visible. But this time, she had a noise coming from her pocket, so she left the room to talk to the noise-maker. New Human got curious and picked up what was left of the Stromal-Vascular family…WITHOUT GLOVES!!! Next, he took the clear ceiling off their house, without putting them in the big, loud box first…Human #1 ALWAYS puts us in that box before taking the ceiling off of our home. Suddenly, we heard the Mesenchymal’s screaming that the Bad News-Bacteria were attacking!! Then the Fibroblast family started yelling about Mangy Mycoplasmas invading! Our neighborhood has always been a safe place up until now.

Human #1 screamed when she saw what New Human had done…she immediately replaced all of Stromal-Vascular’s liquid groceries with some added medication, but knew it was too late. This morning, the groceries are orange and fuzzy. The cells that were attacked are all acting funny, changing shapes, and aren’t going to work like they normally would. I’m thankful the invaders didn’t find my home because my little ones, pre-Addies, as I call them, would have lived through that Battle of Contamination. Let’s hope there aren’t residual effects on us survivors; I sure don’t want to pass any bad genes to my family.

Human #1 rid our neighborhood of the intruders and contaminated families by dropping them in a big red box with strange symbols on it. She was sad but said she couldn’t keep them because data wouldn’t be accurate, so she couldn’t tell people about us and the wonderful things we do, because the damage done by the invaders was irreparable. I’ve never heard of this data thing before, but it sounds pretty high-maintenance and finicky. Life in culture may never be the same after this. I hope we never see New Human again!


Fourth Place—Carly Buckner
Laurentian University, Ontario, CAN

My B16-BL6 murine melanoma cells are my babies. I’ve raised them since their first day home from the ATCC. I’ve fed them only the best, DMEM supplemented with FBS and antibiotics to ensure they grew big and strong. I've nurtured these cells by sub-culturing every 3-4 days to ensure they had ample space to grow. I’m proud to announce that they’ve grown from cell monolayers to mature tumours.

Such a hardy cell line that is capable of thriving under various culture conditions, it’s what makes it so frustrating when students abuse their cells, either by contaminating or letting them overgrow. You know, you just can’t tell people how to raise their cells. Some days I wish you had to have a license to grow cells. I know I may come off as overprotective but I'm always worrying about leaving them overnight in the incubator; worrying that my clean cells might catch mycoplasmic cooties from the other cell lines.

I’ve treated the B16s with various natural products and electromagnetic fields. I've even gone beyond regular maintenance and provided them with “extra” genes to determine if increases in gene expression interfered with the effects of our treatment. These extra genes definitely changed their style. I don’t think that their parental line would approve of their edgy new look. When they misbehave, I try to remember that it’s not their fault. I sometimes forget that years ago I too was once a cell.

We’ve been through a lot together, a Masters, a PhD and now a postdoc and as passage number increases I can guarantee that with my perfect tissue culture technique I have not induced genetic drift. We’ve had some great experiments and some “not so good” ones (epic failures). Even when they don’t behave the way I expect them to, I never get mad at them, just very disappointed.
I’ve watched them under the microscope while applying a specific electromagnetic field pattern designed to increase calcium uptake. I’m not sure if this was an unpleasant experience for them but it increased fluorochrome expression which definitely brightened my day. It’s funny, when I treat them, they signal back to me in so many ways, but they always seem to prefer when we blot to the west.

I’ve always wondered what they actually thought of me, nice lady who feeds us or sadistic woman who tortures us until we have no choice to but to undergo apoptosis? It’s hard to explain to them that it really isn’t my fault, my supervisor makes me do it.

I know I haven’t always been the greatest scientist; having at times neglected them over the weekend; but I’ve always tried my best. I’ve kept them going this long, I must be doing something right. MCF7s, MDAs and HeLa are all worthy adversaries but none could ever take the place of my B16s, they never let me down. When it comes to the nature vs. nurture debate, I can guarantee that nurture takes the cake.