Olwen Reina

I am a Clinical Research Coordinator at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with a background in basic research, writing, mentoring and teaching. I studied Natural Science at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, specializing in biochemistry with immunology and I am currently undergoing ACRP (Association of Clinical Research Professionals) certification. In my spare time, I enjoy studying HTML/CSS and SEO, doing acroyoga, making kombucha, salsa dancing, voluntary community projects and eating sushi. Feel free to send me a note with any writing opportunities or to say hello.

Articles by Olwen Reina:

Capillary Gel Electrophoresis: An Alternative to SDS-PAGE?

When you think about separating proteins, do you think about separating them using a gel? Specifically using SDS-PAGE? If you answered “yes”, it is for good reason. SDS-PAGE is ubiquitous in molecular biology labs because it is good at separating proteins. However, SDS-PAGE takes a lot of time and is labor-intensive. So let’s expand your…

19 May 2015 Protein Expression & Analysis

Seamless Ligation Cloning Extract (SLiCE) Explored and Explained

Traditionally, if you’re hoping to clone a DNA/RNA fragment (or insert) into a vector, such as a BAC you would need: Expensive exonucleases, called restriction enzymes: pacman-like enzymes that chomp at specific sequences in your destination vector or fragments to be inserted (often just “inserts”). Sequence homologies between your inserts and your destination vector, called…

18 May 2015 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

PCR on a shoestring: Build Your Own PCR Machine

Maybe you’re a teacher hoping to do something different, maybe you’re a student trying to drag out their funding, or maybe you just want to build something really cool. Did you know that PCR used to be done by hand? Imagine three water baths with thermometers, a timer going off every few minutes, and a…

06 May 2015 PCR, qPCR and qRT-PCR

Polymerase Incomplete Primer Extension (PIPE) Cloning Method

PIPE PCR is a ligase-independent, restriction enzyme-free cloning strategy like SLIC (link to my SLIC article), SLiCE and CPEC. The PIPE method eliminates sequence constraints and reduces cloning and site mutagenesis to a single PCR step followed by product treatment. It is fast, cost-effective and highly efficient. The key step is designing the primers; one…

04 May 2015 Lab Statistics & Math

How to Be Greener – The Environmentally Friendly Guide to PCR

Science is an expensive business and those who use high energy-demanding techniques may not even realize just how expensive they are. The Cost of PCR Let’s looks at PCR. You need to pay for the machine, all the ingredients including expensive enzymes, a freezer and a fridge for your ingredients, tubes and caps, not to…

19 Mar 2015 PCR, qPCR and qRT-PCR

The 10 Unspoken Rules of Working in a Lab

There are so many unspoken rules to working in a lab! It’s unnerving what will cause frayed nerves to snap, people not to trust you and a good relationship to turn sour. Here are some of the rules I’ve learned. Feel free to add more in the comments section below. 1. Thou Shalt Not Touch…

09 Feb 2015 Basic Lab Skills & Know-how

Finding Nemo: Understanding Single Cell Isolation and PCR Amplification

Every protocol for single cell PCR can be broken down into two steps. In the first step, the cells are isolated by micromanipulation, laser capture microdissection, flow cytometry, or by direct micropipetting. Next, the genetic material is processed by PCR to amplify your sequence of interest. Here, we’ll go through the different options for isolating…

05 Feb 2015 PCR, qPCR and qRT-PCR

Six Ways to Measure T Cell Responses

T cells can be problematic to characterise because they have a wide variety of subtypes and because of the technical difficulties of studying the membrane-bound T cell receptor, but there are situations where you want to be able to do this such as analysing the degree to which immunological memory has been induced to measuring…

21 Jan 2015 Cells and Model Organisms

Letting Go of Your Ligase: Transfer PCR

When I buy a new sweater, I love finding out that it goes with several pairs of pants, the scarf that’s an awkward color and the earrings I haven’t worn yet. PCR is like this sweater –  it goes with almost everything and molecular biology is taking full advantage of this using it at every…

02 Jan 2015 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

Say Goodbye to Restriction Enzymes and Ligases: An Introduction to Sequence and Ligase Independent Cloning (SLIC)

SLIC, or sequence and ligase independent cloning, was developed by Li in 2007 and published in Nature Methods. What makes it a Nature Methods worthy protocol? Unlike other forms of cloning, SLIC does not require restriction enzymes or a ligase! Seriously! Don’t believe me? Why not have a go for yourself? I’ve detailed the main steps below to get you started. How it works To…

21 Nov 2014 DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

Thermal Asymmetric Interlaced PCR (TAIL-PCR)

What do bunnies, coins and PCR have in common? They all have tails! (ha ha!) Thermal asymmetric interlaced PCR or TAIL-PCR is used to sequence and analyse unknown DNA fragments that are adjacent to known sequences. Think of it as being rather like networking. You know you want to get to know someone so you…

26 Oct 2014 PCR, qPCR and qRT-PCR

Which Cytokine Will I Get? How to Stimulate Human Cytokine-Producing Cells

Cells are like people: depending on their current environment, past experiences and their genetic make-up they will react differently. Treat cells in different ways, and they will produce different cytokines. There are a lot of protocols out there for stimulating cells. Depending on the species of cells you plan to stimulate, different protocols are available…

20 Oct 2014 Cells and Model Organisms

Tips for a Happily Functioning Tissue Culture Room

You walk into your tissue culture room to find a window open, the incubator’s humidity tray empty and a pipette lying on its side in the hood on a used glove… After you have found and torn to shreds the person responsible for this monstrous act (!!), consider posting the below tips to help those…

13 Oct 2014 Cells and Model Organisms

How to Clean a Tissue Culture Incubator

  A few years ago, I was doing research in a lab in Ireland. Our lab, among many others, was moving to a new building. Everything was chaotic. Half our equipment was in the old building and the new lab was creepishly empty. The fire alarm went off every few days. There was a constant…

06 Oct 2014 Basic Lab Skills & Know-how

Don’t Have the Blues: Make the Lac Operon Work for You

Glucose is the preferred food source for E. coli, however when glucose levels drop, E. coli need to look for other ways to feed themselves. One way in which they accomplish this is to replace glucose metabolism with lactose metabolism. The induction and control of lactose metabolism is complicated and its process has been exploited…

03 Oct 2014 Protein Expression & Analysis

A Beginner’s Guide to Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Technology

The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 ushered in a new era of rapid, affordable, and accurate genome analysis—called Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). NGS builds upon “first generation sequencing” technologies to yield accurate and cost-effective sequencing results. Fred Sanger sequenced the first whole DNA genome, the virus phage ?X174, in 1977. In that…

02 Oct 2014 Genomics & Epigenetics

The 9 Online Calculators You Need to Know About

When you think of a “calculator”, you probably think of the plastic gadget in your lab desk drawer or an app that came with your phone. But there are so many helpful calculators online that do a lot more than just add and subtract numbers. Here is a list of some of the wonderfully convenient…

01 Oct 2014 Software & Online Tools

The Lac Operon Explained

An operon is a functioning unit of genomic DNA that contains a group of genes controlled by a single promoter. Put simply, these genes share information needed to create the tools for a particular task so they share a promoter ensuring they’ll all be transcribed together. The lac, or lactose, operon is found in E.…

22 Sep 2014 Protein Expression & Analysis

Heating up agar? Just add a cup of water and avoid the glitter and crumbs

It’s ironic how much folklore and superstition comes with being in science. “That’s a lucky pipette”, “playing Bach for your cells will help them grow”, “always make your own solutions”; we all have our own tips. Some of them might be well-founded others not so much… Tips from trusted colleagues can be very helpful though.…

22 Sep 2014 Basic Lab Skills & Know-how

The History of PCR

As with some of the greatest discoveries in science, from penicillin to microwave ovens and play-doh, PCR was discovered serendipitously. Thanks to the work of many scientists, including Watson and Crick, Kornberg, Khorana, Klenow, Kleppe (so many K’s…) and Sanger, all the main ingredients for PCR had been described by 1980. Like butter, flour, eggs,…

18 Sep 2014 PCR, qPCR and qRT-PCR