Sitting at My Computer

My work from home set up

I conducted this project as part of Professor Pringle’s EEB321 class at Princeton University. When I wake up, I open my computer. During class, stare at my screen. When I eat, I refresh my email. While I watch Netflix, I have one screen open to the show and another open with FaceTime so I can “watch a movie with my friends”. When I have nothing to do, I stare at my screen. Before I sleep, I stare at my screen.

Ever since entering quarantine, all we have done is stare at a screen all day long, every day. Don’t get me wrong, as a Princeton student in normal times, we find students hunched over their computer screens all day in the library or in their eating clubs but in quarantine that has become all too apparent. Where we use to take a break from our screens to hang out with friends, the only way to hang out with friends now is to be in front of a screen. I study in front of my screen, work out in front of my screen, and during busy weeks, have quite a few meals in front of my screen. Imagine this: you sit in front of your screen for 16 hours, what should your computer look like (without cleaning it everyday, of course). Consider the heat that provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria from your spilt dinner last night. And imagine how those bacteria from your hands are loving the nice and warm environment in the nooks and crannies of your computer.

Unlike y’all, I don’t have to imagine. Every time I used that weird condensed air (that young delinquents huff), I see all kinds of stuff shoot out of my computer. Flecks of white, grey, black come flying off of my computer. What is it? Is it dust? Is it food?

My mission in light of the pandemic was to see what was exactly calling my computer home. What things have built up in my computer after a week of not cleaning it? Will I find bacteria? Will I find dust? Will I find food particles? With the help of my handy foldascope I had my answer!

EWW!!! What is that? Well, that’s what came off of my computer. What is that? It looks nasty huh? Well, from our handy dandy ID guide, it seems like it’s just epithelial cells from my hands! No bacteria here! Or maybe its just that the resolution and magnification were not great enough. Here, I’ll attach another photo just for reference.


Yep, looks like some skin cells with some hairs here and there! This begs the question, how sanitary are our computers? Can they be a source of disease spread? Should we be wiping down our computers with alcohol? Unlike phones which go into the public, our computers mainly stay at home but they could be an important source of disease transmission.

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