**Today’s post features observations from a brave volunteer in the armpit pilot study (aka #PitStart), David de Souza.**

When I heard that the scientists in the Genomics and Microbiology Lab at the Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences were looking for citizen scientists to take part in a fun experiment to “meet” the bacteria that grow in one’s armpit, my childhood curiosity was piqued and I jumped at the chance.

I live close to the Museum and I have an online business, which means I can work from home, so I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to come in each day and take part in the experiment. It’s always a pleasure to come to the Museum.  Each day that I have been going I browse a new exhibit, or meet someone interesting.

The experiment started last Sunday and this was arguably the hardest day as I was on the road, coming back from a wedding in DC. We were told to place our samples (essentially Q-tips in a sealed tube) in a refrigerator, but as I didn’t have one available I found a soda cup, cut a hole in the lid and stored my swabs inside with some ice. After a number of stops to refill the ice, the samples thankfully made it home in one piece!

I was a little nervous about not wearing deodorant on Monday as I was giving a speech, and I thought this might cause me to sweat more than normal. By the evening I was feeling and smelling less than my normal fresh self but it was a good incentive to have a second shower that day before going to bed.

On Tuesday I ran a half marathon. I felt like I sweated more than normal but maybe this was because I ran in the most humid and hottest part of the day.

Not wearing any deodorant started feeling a little more normal by Wednesday, but this soon changed when I went on a group run in the evening. I felt paranoid that after the run I was hot, sweaty and smelly, something that doesn’t happen when I am protected by the deodorant.

On Thursday I had my first encounter with my bacteria. Julie Horvath showed me plates of my armpit bacteria, and it was very interesting to see how the bacteria differed from each armpit.

David's bacteria as seen on Thursday - Note how the plate from the left pit (left) has more bacterial colonies than the one from the right pit (right). Photo: Jul Urban

By Friday I was glad the experiment was coming to an end, as I was going out to dinner with some friends that evening. Overall, I found the experiment very interesting, and I am looking forward to finding out more about the research. I’m eager to learn what bacteria live in my pits and to see how my armpit bacteria changed (or didn’t) over the weeklong experiment.

Thanks, David! We look forward to seeing your results, too!

PitStarters returned to their normal hygiene habits on Saturday, and continued to swab their armpits for science on Saturday and Sunday. They’ll return their samples to the lab today, where the #PitStart crew will continue to plate, count and sequence their armpit microbes. We’ll keep you posted as the results begin to roll in!

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