During the second week of GSA, we were introduced to several individuals who focused on a variety of topics related to agriculture which would have not been the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of the word, “agriculture”. We were sat down in the auditorium after we entered the Food and Life Sciences building, where we were then on a tour of the various facilities in the building including the mass spectrometers. While walking up the stairs, empty work spaces were visible with the approaching doors on the opposite side reading, “authorized personnel only”.
Entering one of the doors, we were introduced to where Virginia Tech professors and students study genetics and where an initial prototype of the COVID-19 virus was developed. As we were taught about the various works that were done in the lab, I could only stand in amazement by the sheer importance of the DNA and RNA sequencers, with the ability to identify key components of a subject’s genetic material which could be translated to see what genes contribute to what phenotypes. The other lab we visited was one filled with large machines and tubes running across the floor. The lab included three spectrometers and the professor identified that the tubes were needed in order to produce a vacuum for the vaporized substances being analyzed by the spectrometers. I have personally researched thoroughly in the past about spectrometers for a NASA research program that I participate in and with so many unknown substances in the universe, the use of spectrometers in regards to space is very prevalent. After walking down the same flight of stairs back into the auditorium, I realized firsthand that agriculture does not only include barn animals, farmers, and crops but is simply a subcategory in STEM.