Graduation project: Evaluation of new buffers for DNA preservation of samples

Mario Heheman

My name is Mario Hehemann (32) and I am currently studying Applied Livestock and Crop Sciences (M.Sc.), with a specialized profile in biotechnology at the University of Applied Sciences Osnabrueck, Germany. Previously, I studied bioengineering (B. sc.), finishing with a project at the Universidad de Costa Rica. During this project I was involved in the development of novel crystalline proteins, being applied as an insect repellent against Hypothenemus hampei which is a pest affecting coffee beans.

I have moved to Groningen to do an internship at Microbial Analysis for six months in order to prepare my master thesis. I will be dealing with the topic of DNA preservation, trying to evaluate new buffers for the shipment of microbiological samples. 

As being the first step in every analysis, taking samples and preserving the microbiological community is a crucial part of every customer project. Because samples being taken on sites which may be far away from civilization, without having the ability to instantly freeze them, specimen may suffer from severe environmental conditions like heat and degrading enzymes (e.g. nucleases). With regards to these external influences, a novel buffer system should be developed, providing further protection of samples during shipment around the world. Furthermore, the samples might not always be handled by specialists, therefore it must be ensured that the used buffers are easy to handle, non-hazardous and do not fall under shipping restrictions.

What I like most about my Internship at Microbial Analysis is the interdisciplinary and creative working environment which is provided. When handling multiple types of different samples (e.g. Water, soil, metals), a wide range of factors can influence the stability of DNA. Stability can, for example, be influenced by different methods of analysis, but also by difference in DNA-degradation. This approach of combining different sciences fits well with my personal background as a bioengineer.