Sunday, November 16, 2008

Harry Potter and the Virologist's Core

I was up late last night..So excited about the new developments in the world of Virology..Hogwarts ( of prior Witchcraft and Wizardry fame and prolonged NIH funding) has announced its foray into Virology,offering a Graduate Program in Virology...Here is the website...( click on the image for a larger view)

I think this is how a typical graduate degree at Hogwarts would play out..

Year One : Harry Potter and the Virologist's Core

"Hmmm civil engineering or mechanical ?",thought Harry Potter aloud one Sunday morning.He was going back and forth between the two.He was eleven and it time to decide a course for the future...of course a lot of his friends had lost interest in the future..but not he,he was a survivor!
"Hmm what's this..a letter addressed to me..Hogwarts School of Witchcraft...", he trailed off riping the envelope and greedily snatching up the letter..."Dear Mr.Potter" it began.."We are pleased to announce your admission to Hogwarts School of Microbiology for the Fall term of 2008.We received a large number of qualified applicants this year.However our genetic screening system picked you after a careful review of your parents accomplishments in the field.Drs Potter were posthumously awarded the "Viral Wand" , the highest honour our school confers.
Kindly respond to this letter by Owl no later than April 31st.Our mailing address is:
Hogwarts School Of Microbiology
Rhabdo Drive,

Giddy with excitement ,dulled only by a little shock,"I thought they bulit bridges..and died under a bridge collapse...",Harry dashed off a letter to Hogwarts.Smug with satisfaction..he busied himself with the requirement list.
Wand - 1
Gown/Robe -2
Gloves - 4 boxes
Chemical glasses - 2 pairs
Booties - 2 pairs
Introduction to Microbiology - Part I

July rolled in and Harry boarded the train to Hogwarts....Glasses fogged with excitement he began his long journey to Graduate School.

" Welcome to Hogwarts ", a booming voice greeted Harry and his class at the door..." You will now proceed to be sorted..."Expecting a challenging Microbiology question,Harry was petrified,A fellow classmate however remarked in a loud , bossy voice,"Of course I know all the spells and I spent a whole week on Virus classification!"
His class was sorted into 4 houses..Slytherin ( Salmonella was their common room),Hufflepuff(Blue green alga was theirs),Ravenclaw(Saccharomyces) and Gryffindor ( Retroviridae)....Harry found himself in Gryffindor...along with afore mentioned bossy voiced girl!

Monday morning dawned bright and early..and Harry struggled with his gown,almost tripping at the self sealing door to Microbiology class.

"Welcome to Microbiology 501 and 3/4 ", remarked their rather strange-looking professor.Staggering under the weight of his Gown, he had a large backpack on his back."This course will have several modules and I,Professor Antiviral , will teach , Defence against the Dark Arts.A ripple of excitement went through the class...and a pale faced Slytherin ( Malfoy) remarked ," I have been preparing for this class since I was seven".
"Our first class will be to learn how to track deadly Microbes.All slytherins will be the target Microbes and the other three will try to track them down.(" Not destroy ?" , asked Ron Weasely , another Gryffindor,hopefully.) " Remember tracking Microbes is serious business.Many good Wizards have been lost to them.Why only recently, Amelia Bones was admitted to St.Mungo's with a mysterious Immunity crippling Virus"..having said Professor Antiviral flagged off the class with a final,"Wands at the ready..." comment...

Harry found himself daydreaming during "Herbology and Microbes", a not-particularly interesting class taught by Professor Fungus Sprout..Seated at the next table,playing truant during class too were the infamous Slytherin gang.Malfoy,the gang head was saying rather pompously,"Of course father was the first to be informed.They think the mystery virus is trying to seek out Mudbloods in search of that special Reverse Mud-transcriptase.Then its DNA can integrate into that disgusting species and live on immortal...Father thinks ,and I agree, that I should help with the Virus-quest..and aid it in its Noble mission".Harry was alarmed..."How come I know nothing of this.Cool...a mystery Retrovirus..that's right up my alley!"He glanced around his table..who could he share this with?Ron perhaps..and maybe bushy-haired Know-it-all..After all .she did Know-it - all!!!

A few weeks into the semester after a particularly hard class of Microbial transfiguration.(Professor Infectswitch McGonagall had them learning spells to transfigure deadly bacteria into their own phages."None of that silly hand waving here,none of that woolly occult,this calls for sheer concentration",she remarked sternly), they were in for a surprise...a Guest lecturer! None other than the famous Microbiologist,Nicolas Flammel..."Good morning First years...",sounded his gravelly voice."I am here to tell you a bit more about the Magic of Cloning.Now,this is not like Undergrad , where I will give you all the answers.Grad school is designed to make you think.To think beyond the restraints of your spell books".Having said he looked around the class."Hmmm is that the Potter boy,how like his father he looks..I wonder if he has his prodigious talent too?"Nostalgia clouded his aging brain..and he remarked,"Ahh..back in the day we celebrated the advent of Ligase-free cloning.You youngsters are a spoilt bunch...vector-free cloning!! All you need do is learn the precise wand movement, and Hey presto! clones in your petri!"The wand movement however turned out to be anything but simple.A challenging grasp of the wand with the 4 fingers of the hand( barring the thumb) and the motion of moving the thumb down onto the wand(For older students,this was referred to as the 'pipetting hold') while enunciating clearly,'Expecto clonum'....Severely beaten at the grasp( Hermione was the only student to have achieved it correctly,earning Gryffindor a new PCR machine) ,Harry and Ron trudged out of class.

On the way back to Retroviridae, they noticed their least favourite Professor,Glucose Snape speaking in hushed tones with Professor Antiviral.Snape, took great delight in humiliating Harry in every class of Potions and Media making.Harry ,Ron and Hermione snuck behind a pillar to listen in."I don't know what to do.I am so scared to carry it around...what if it infects me?" quivered professor Antiviral.Snape replied,curling his lip in disdain,"Surely you know the properties of the Virus,Antiviral?..Unless I am to assume you are mixed blood".Antiviral looked more alarmed at that suggestion than at the prospect of his supposed infection.Snape looked around,"It's not the best place to talk about this...let's go into my chambers"...with a flash of his gown...he and Antiviral disappeared from view.

"They are talking about the mystery Virus...I bet they know where it is...",muttered Ron excitedly."Of course you realise that this means Snape is involved in its safe-keeping",said Hermione, a tad pompously."We need to do something,just last week,Parvati was taken away to St.Mungo's ...",said Harry.And off they went in search of the mystery virus.

Being a reputed School of Microbiology, they expected Hogwarts to have every measure of protection in place.They were not disappointed.Password protected doors,Hermione broke through the spells...A giant chess game played with Bacteria as black and Viruses as white,Ron exchanged his Sindbis for another Ebola, and checkmated the opponent's E.coli.The next task to overcome was a Virus Classification Quiz...Hermione aced it ( after a weeks preparation mind!)..and finally the last task...Tracking down deadly bacteria.This was the only subject that Harry excelled at.Keenly observing all the clues, he pronounced the enemy to be 'Streptococcus pyogenes',and prescribed antibiotics for it.As he uttered the last syllable of his cure,the door swung open.....

He was face to face with Professor Antiviral..."You!" they both remarked at the same instant.."Maybe I can use you to get past this darn mirror",said the agitated professor.The Mirror of Erised, would only help those who wished to find the virus to destroy it.Professor Antiviral who was hoping to find a way to infect more Mudbloods had had no luck with the Mirror.He pushed Harry in front of the mirror.Harry saw the cell culture flask containing the Virus inside the Professor's back pack...

"Accio backpack",yelled Harry, at the same moment as Antiviral yelled,"Micro Kedavra".The combined spells hit the backpack that was still in midair.The combination spell somehow mutated the virus...and it now infected Professor Antiviral.."My eyes"..he screamed in he slowly began to fade from view...Harry was left alone in the room.

The headmaster,Albus Microdore boomed,"For sheer bravery and immense courage,I now pronounce Gryffindor the House Flask winner..I think a new -80 'C is in order" saying he clapped his gown-ed hands and a gleaming new RevCo appeared in the hall.Harry thought back at the last few days.After he ,Ron and Hermione had destroyed the flask with the virus..exam week had begun.He had botched his Microbiology practical ( 503 and 1/2) because the staircase leading to the Lab dungeon had chosen that very moment to switch courses.He was nervous about how he had done.Ahh well..The results wouldn't be out for another month..

Hugging his friends goodbye,he thought,"Wouldn't it be fun to set up my own Virology lab in the basement ?"...but the restriction of Underage Magic forbade them from any such thing...Hmm...

That was the first year of Graduate School....Once the results are out..I will chronicle the second year..'Harry Potter and the Innoculum of Secrets'

Note : Thanks to Mosi for help with the technical 'stuff'..I am hopeless with all that!


mosilager said...

:) hahahaha! I was laughing my head off, this is hilarious stuff!

shilpa said...

Haha thanks a ton Mosi!!!! I loved the idea...had to work on it right away!

HellBound but Still Divine said...

hahahahha !!!!!

Expecto clonum !! hahahahahah

awesome ... awesome... do you sign your copies??

Scarecrow said...

Excerpts from 'Wands and Wizards' by Eppendorfvander,
"....Some wizards (and witches) have developed a slightly different version of the 'pipeting hold'. In this, they hold the wand between the thumb and the last three fingers and using the index finger to move down upon the wand....."
"...One of the most complicated versions of this hold is used by the greatest potion makers. In this, the wand is held between the middle and ring finger, allowing the use of the ring finger and the little fingers to open sterile potion bottles. This hold can be mastered only after years of...."

Cynic in Wonderland said...

this is rocking!

Like robin cook meets rowlings!

shilpa said...

Hellbound...Thanks a ton!Hmm signing copies eh..must teach my faithful wand to sign for me! that's remarkable..haha is that a book?i'll remember to google that before I publish my posts!

Cynic...Great to see you here! Thanks for the comment..Especially if Robin Cook liked to throw a tall pointed hat onto his chief protagonist!

tanvi said...

shilpa .... awesomely riveting i must say :) although i generally dont read HP , I was compelled to continue reading to the end !!! it was worth it !!! waiting for more!

Scarecrow said...

Ah....How dare you suggest that a wizard book will show up in a muggle search engine??

Aneesh said...

oh queen of scientific creativity...i bow down to you!! sorry i took so long to read it, was in pune...

Aruna Talapatra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anjana Talapatra said...

:) I loved it Shilpa..Brilliant! Sorry I somehow was logged into my sister's account and hence had to delete the comment!

Shruthi said...

Enthralling! But what ever happened to Amelia Bones and Parvati? Surely at Hogwarts or St.Mungo's, they can find a cure! Oh, and I appreciate that Sindbis was instrumental in winning the chess game!

Nandini said...

so sorry.. took so long to really come here and read. Awesome :D Awesome :D I am in the lab and had to face people giving me strange looks as I was reading ;p
keep me posted when u write a new one

shilpa said...

Tanvi..thanks girl! Im honoured that you read till the end...even though you aren't HP crazy!!!! I'm working on Year 2..!!!

Sacrecrow...Forgive the slight! My brain was fuzzy from too many Bertie botts every shaped virus kit!...Im working on part2....

shilpa said...

Aneesh...sir no issues with late reading!!!I took even longer see!Thanks for the compliment.......PS Im gonna make people call me that!

Anjana...great to see you here!!!!!Thanks for the comment..Haha no issues with the other one!..Ready to read part 2?

shilpa said... girl..finally!!! thanks for the comment!!!! Hhaa...dont worry your pretty head with Amelia and Parvati..the next edition will bring them health,wealth and medical insurance!Haah..well had to pay homage to the first virus I worked on!

Nandu....great to see you!!!! Thanks for the comment!!! Hhaa..sorry that the lab folk gave you a hard time! Maybe they can read too??? I'll definitely give you a shout when I have the next one up!Should be soon..working on it!!!

lova said...

Hello there,
Having fun I see. hey sorry but you got tagged. The tag, why blog about Africa if at all ? Since you are in Lusaka, I figure...:) Cheers,

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