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The Newcastle iGEM team hosted the UK meet-up between July 30th-31st. The meet-up included presentations from each team in attendance as well as team-building exercises and socialisation sessions to allow opportunities for teams to organise collaborations. In addition, teams were also able to attend sessions at the Designer Biology conference, with one lucky team chosen to present at the conference.

The Newcastle iGEM team also collaborated with the University of Waterloo in order to better model our system.

UK meetup

On the 30th-31st July, we hosted the UK iGEM meet up here in Newcastle in conjunction with the Designer Biology Symposium. Teams from across the UK attended this two-day event to showcase their projects so far.

To kick off the meet up, we started with some team building exercises to break the ice. Teams were mixed up and our first team building exercise was an anagram exercise. Each letter was denoted by a triplet codon. A sequence of codons made up the letters of scientists and scientific terms (and a surprise celebrity, the one and only Madonna), which were scrambled and teams had to guess what the letters spelt (despite a typo in Dmitri Mendeleev’s name).

Our second team building exercise was a blind drawing task. One member of each team was asked to come to the front of the room and was shown an image of “The most complex synthetic biology circuit”. They then returned to their teams and explained what they saw whilst their team members had to draw what they were describing. The team with the drawing closest to the original picture received a prize!

Every team had to prepare a 12 minute presentation and an A0 poster of their project, which were displayed at the Designer Biology conference. We had the opportunity to introduce our project and our aims for the summer. This was really interesting as we were able to learn about the innovating project ideas this year and it provided an opportunity to practice our presentations ahead of the giant jamboree. Through presenting our projects, teams were able to give each other feedback and discuss potential collaboration opportunities.

We rounded up the presentations and each team had to vote for a ‘team-choice’ presentation from one of the teams to be presented at the Designer Biology Symposium iGEM presentation spot. The lucky team was Sheffield with their project OPENLUX, an open source alternative to commercial plate readers and representing the potentials of iGEM.

University of Waterloo

Our collaboration with the University of Waterloo started long before we had our own project. In the latter half of April, Dylan, a team member from Waterloo, was visiting Newcastle and was invited to the University by Connor for a talk with the PIs. During this meeting Connor and Dylan discussed experimental design and the importance of controls with Dr Thomas Howard, Dr Jon Marles-Wright, and Dr Jem Stach in order to minimise the chance of important experiments being missed. From here, a mutual mentorship environment developed between the two teams.

In June, the rest of Newcastle iGEM called members of Waterloo iGEM over Google Hangouts to discuss how the project at Waterloo had developed and the potential projects we were considering to carry forward. In July and August, Connor called again for help with our models. The Waterloo team were instrumental to our model construction, providing numerous mathematical equations and resources that would be built into our model design; examples of these equations can be seen here. Furthermore, the Waterloo modelling team advised that some of our equations - particularly mass actions - would not give an accurate representation of the system. As a result, a number of equations were substituted in the CRISPR SHERLOCK model which ultimately allowed construction in a more appropriate manner.

In return the Newcastle team provided additional advice for dose-dependant kill curves to the Waterloo team. This is as kill curves were completed by Connor as part of the 2018 project 'Alternative Roots' and this year by Matt to determine the toxicity of diethyl ether. Through this mentorship, the Waterloo team were able to complete kill curves for Rhizobium sp. in the presence of toxic degradation intermediates.

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