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  What's in the Fridge?

Winter seemed a particularly fitting time to survey the contents kept cold in refrigerators across the Homewood campus. In our visits to labs, dorm rooms, and eateries, we hoped to find more than the ubiquitous carton of milk. We weren't disappointed.

By Sue De Pasquale
Photos by Will Kirk


Something Fishy
Coral and fish need food to grow, so biology professor Gary Ostrander stocks plenty of brine shrimp eggs (blue can) and fish food (red canisters) in the refrigerator of his Macaulay Hall #215 lab. Ostrander gathers and grows coral (some with cancerous tumors, others without) from waterways around the world, then looks for differences in gene and protein expression levels between the two. The microcentrifuge tubes on the second shelf (bright pink and orange holders) contain coral DNA and retino-blastoma genetic material from the medaka (a small fish). The black-capped tubes in the doorway hold glycolipids extracted from rainbow trout and English sole — useful to Ostrander and his students and colleagues in their quest to better understand the biological mechanisms of cancer in all species.

Antibodies in the Deep Freeze
"There are samples in here from 1992," says research assistant Tim Hoen, as he lifts trays of antibodies from an insulated tank, or "dewar." Thanks to liquid nitrogen, the dewar keeps things at a frigid -200 Celsius. Hoen works with biophysics professor Richard Cone, whose lab in Jenkins Hall is investigating antibodies against "sperm and germs." Their goal: to develop microbicides that prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and herpes. Explains Hoen, "Antibodies are so stable that if you keep them cold you can keep them for decades."

A Sticky Situation
Athletic tape in the chiller? "It keeps it fresh, which helps with adhesion," explains Brad Mountcastle, one of three full-time athletic trainers who provide injury assessment and rehabilitation to Homewood's 700 varsity athletes at the Newton H. White Athletic Center. Trainers use the tape for bracing and supporting injured ankles and other sports casualties, while the cups of frozen water (top) are perfect for ice massages — commonly used in treating knee and shin injuries.

Dorm Grub
Freshman roommates Chloe Thurston and Leila Lackey "are both into the whole health food thing," says Thurston. Their larder was low the day we visited (witness the scraped-clean container of organic peanut butter), though they were well stocked with tuna, chicken, and soy milk. Other favorites normally on hand: okra, asparagus, and frozen Indian dinners.

Cold Comfort
Refrigerators had not yet come on the scene in the early 1800s, when Charles Carroll Jr. and his family resided in Homewood House, the historic home that today sits next to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on campus. To keep white wine chilled at tableside, the family would have used a tin-lined wine cellarette (with ice), like the mahogany one above, ca. 1800.

Ain't the Beer Cold!
The walk-in fridge at the Hopkins Club holds beer used for stocking the main bar and for big parties (wedding receptions, bar mitzvahs). The champagne is popped for Sunday brunch. The club's most popular brews: Heineken and Budweiser.

Swamp Things
Water from the Dismal Swamp in Virginia is rich with natural organic matter (NOM) — ideal for Charles O'Melia and his Geography and Environmental Engineering students in their quest to develop more effective means for filtering drinking water. If they can purify the murky swamp water (laden with decaying plant and animal life), then they can filter anything, says grad student Rodrigue Spinette with a laugh. Refrigeration is necessary to prevent the organic matter from decomposing too quickly. Top: Sediment core samples taken from Maryland's waterways await study by professor Grace Brush (see Stories from the Sediment for more on her work).

Return to February 2004 Table of Contents

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