An Unexpected Friend




Piyapanee, Athisha

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This submission won second place in the 2018 Images of Research competition. The competition celebrates undergraduate contributions to research at the University of Texas. This submission was selected for the way it communicate science, and the excitement of unexpected discovery, to a general audience. The following caption accompanied the image submission: Uncertainty is an aspect of research. While someone may expect one thing, the results may be completely different. While culturing an unknown fungal specimen called Isolate 22, I discovered the marvel of another growth in my petri dish. This image shows the original fungus and another species growing on the same plate. Even though they are both similar colors, Isolate 22 is the lighter circle appearing to have a smooth surface while the contaminant is bordered by a ring of dark green with a more grainy texture. Although not intentional, the secondary growth seems to be a part of the original fungus grown on the plate because of their proximity to each other. However, because of another species accidentally growing on this petri dish, the DNA of Isolate 22 cannot be analyzed since there are now at least two sets of DNA on the same plate. While this may seem problematic, it opens a new avenue of research. Not only can I look at how the fungus interacts with the contamination, I can examine the composition and potential antibiotic properties of the organism. Compared to other organic materials, there is currently very little research on fungi, so the possibilities and untapped potential of discovery are endless, which means that even mistakes can, unexpectedly, make the biggest impacts in research.

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