By: Andrew Houppert

Andrew Houppert has earned a B.S. in Microbiology from Indiana University in Bloomington and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from Indiana University.


Andrew currently serves as the interim Manager of Biological Safety and has served as the Assistant Biological Safety Officer for IUPUI since 2014.


E-mail Andrew at:



Alternatives to Using a Gas Flame for Basic Microbiology

IUPUI has recently removed natural gas service to some of their buildings which contain laboratories. This has led to several labs asking about alternatives to using a gas burner when performing basic microbiology techniques. Here are some alternatives for anyone seeking an alternative to using a gas burner in the lab.

For streaking a plate, labs can purchase an alcohol burner for flaming a loop.

Additionally, lab personnel can use disposable loops.

Or for a cheaper option, consider using sterile pipette tips or toothpicks.

For spreading bacteria onto a plate labs can use glass spreader beads. The beads are nice because after spreading they can be dumped into a beaker of 70% ethanol or 10% bleach. After soaking them for 30 minutes, you can pour off the liquid, collect the beads, rinse them in water, autoclave them and reuse them. Alternatively, a glass or metal “hockey stick” can still be flamed using an alcohol lamp.

For inoculating broth cultures, use an alcohol lamp to sterilize a traditional metal loop. Alternatively, a disposable loop can be used to pick the colony and inoculate the broth. Another option is to take a micropipettor and clean the end with 70% ethanol, put on a sterile tip, touch the tip to your colony and then eject the tip into the broth or swirl the tip in the broth.

Please contact IUPUI Biological safety staff at ehsbio@iupui.edu or 317-274-2005 with any questions about alternatives to using a gas burner for basic microbiology.

Lab Notes is a quarterly publication by IUPUI Environmental Health and Safety. Lab Notes is designed, edited and published by K. Lee Stone.

"Don't Learn Laboratory Safety by Accident!"