Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

MONDAY, DECEMBER 13TH, 1999 -- BIOTECH PLACES & DZIBILCHALTUN RUINS (CONT.)

The professor leads us to his lab. He has a mustache and a few strands of gray in his black hair beginning to bald. He's wearing a plaid shirt with pens in the pocket, and a black (snake skin?) belt, and black dress pants, and dress shoes. They're working on food science, like making octopus (lots of octopus fishing nearby) taste like turkey. Sign says "Peligro no fumar".

Outside, the birds give a clipped "cheap" -> "chip" or "eet". Students on the 2nd level of a building's balcony are laughing and pointing at each other. The air smells fresh like a basketball court. Only some students are smoking. The lab is small, but smells just like a lab should.

The head of food technology has dark brown glasses and a serious expression. He wears a silver-colored analog watch. They're trying to strengthen and enrich vegetables. They work directly with food plants here in Yucatan. It's very hot in here.

The room is only 20'x20', plus two small office along one wall with a glass partition and doors. There are two black lab benches. I ask, What's different here in biotech research? They are not able to do the research they want to, because they are not able to get access to some things. There are certain problems with a lack of ingredients due to a technology ban. But they have a good relation with England.

What's banned? Well, certain chemicals they need to separate protein. The laws of Mexico forbid it because Mexico is worried about being used for drugs. They can't have: t-chloramide, which used to be allowed, and sulfites. Also they have a lack of money, so no reading gels for electrophoresis. It can be very frustrating to them.

I ask, What kind of jobs might an unspecialized person do here? Well, they have technicians who get field jobs. They are trained to collect samples and to with the equipment here. These guys have been VERY nice to us. Any anecdotes about the lab? Sometimes when people work with acid and water, they have problems with explosions.

I ask, What hobbies might a typical biologist have? Or do they just focus on work and don't have hobbies? Only about 10% are obsessed. Most people have time for recreation: have a drink, play soccer, big parties, joint parties with other departments. He says that today they just had a big "end of year" party.

The microbiology lab is the same size, also with two offices. The black lab tables have spots and scars where acid has been dropped! They work trying to get the skin of the orange to retain vitamin B12. The cement floor is scarred & scuffed. The grey paint shows the cement underneath.

Amy looks at the equipment and writes "inject air & microorg. Liquid enriched for bio reactor. To add oxygen to be shaken". The lab door says "Tecnologia Enzimatica y Microbiana" There's a hood, and one of those emergency water flood things on the ceiling. There's a hood where the base is totally rusted -- very orange! The workbenches are white tile.

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