We first met the UChicago iGEM team at 2018 Giant Jamboree where we discussed a modified protocol they had developed for transforming from the distribution kit. We connected again in March. In addition to sharing various tips and tricks for lab-work and iGEM, we completed two strong collaborations.
Our team began developing a phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) screening activity to teach about single-nucleotide polymorphisms, DNA extractions, PCR, restriction digests, and gel electrophoresis. We had some difficulty in the design of this activity and were repeatedly unable to get a PCR product. UChicago iGEM helped us troubleshoot this portion, allowing us to include the activity in our BioEngineering Summer Camp!
The UChicago team is working on a secondary project, engineering E. coli to process methane. They’re expressing two chaperone proteins, so we suggested the use of the dual expression vector pCDF-Duet. We were able to send them a sample to use in their research!
This year, the Calgary iGEM team designed a synthetic biology course! As a team that’s heavily invested in education, we knew we had to check it out! Unfortunately, our two teams haven’t been able to find time for a video call to discuss the materials quite yet. We have all of our input and thoughts ready to go as soon as our calendars align!
Costa Rica, Tuebingen, TAS Taipei:
We were nominated to participate in the iGEMxSDGs challenge by the Calgary team! This challenge was started by the Costa Rica, Tuebingen, and TAS Taipei iGEM teams to promote the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Our team went through each of the goals and discussed how they relate to our project. After a fierce debate, we agreed that the four goals our project most closely addresses are:
- Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
- 8.2 Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors
- 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
- 8.4 Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead
- Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- 13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning
- Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
- 14.1 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
- 14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
- 14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
- 14.A Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
- Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
- 15.3 By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world
- 15.5 Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species
One of our fellow Washington state teams, SoundBio, designed a fun camp to introduce elementary and middle school students to synthetic biology and collect “data” from camps around the world! We were eager to support fellow teams efforts in synthetic biology education, and signed up to participate right away! Unfortunately, we still haven’t found a group of students to do it with! Our materials are all ready as soon as we do!
Washington, SoundBio, Calgary:
Pacific Northwest Meet-up
The weekend of August 17-18, we went to UW Seattle and collaborated with iGEM Calgary, Washington iGEM, and Sound Bio in a Meet-up focused on creating more collaborations and getting feedback on our projects. We had speakers with experience in iGEM, synthetic biology, or similar fields of science come talk to us about their experiences and how they deal with failure. We got to ask them questions and learned a lot about holding a job in biotech and the struggles and rewards that come with it. We also got all of our Jamboree questions answered by a North American iGEM Ambassador, Varun Govil. On day one, all of the teams had the opportunity to make a mock poster and present it the next day for other teams. It was good exposure to how the actual poster session would work and prepared us for possible questions that we needed to be able to answer about our project. All of the teams also had the opportunity to go to workshops run by fellow iGEMers, as well as a few older leaders and experts. Our own Jenna Mckee-Johnson led a Plasmid Design workshop and an Agar Art workshop. It was an amazing experience to see what other teams were spending all of their time doing and what they have accomplished. We learned a lot about how we can improve our own project and what we can do moving forward that was effective for other teams.
During the PNW iGEM Meetup, our team met with a member of the Washington team about effective education and public engagement efforts. After a discussion on impact reporting and methods of outreach, we shared education activities with each other to receive input on a more specific level! Our teams had a great deal to learn from each other, as we both put emphasis on education, though we approach it from significantly different angles. Their comments were highly beneficial in the design of our first official manual for an educational activity. Prior to this season, we’ve focused on simply performing outreach and didn’t give sufficient direction for those emulating our work. Hearing from a team with more experience in that area was especially helpful.
This year, Wageningen UR hosted what they (correctly) refer to as “the most iconic scientific song contest ever”. While we discovered this competition a mere four days before the deadline, we knew we had to enter.
Day 1 - August 8 - Discovery of the competition and writing of our magnum opus: Ligation Rhapsody (a parody of the famed 6-minute operatic masterpiece, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen).
Day 2 - August 9 - Filming and initial editing.
Day 3 - August 10 - Final edits and submission!
Surveys can be a very valuable resource for iGEM teams. We make an effort to participate in every survey we come across!
- CRI Paris and Grenoble - iGEM TIES
- UC Davis - Mammalian Cell Use
- UNSW - iGEM Directory
- Virginia - Styrofoam Use
- Virginia - Social Media Hub
- Tartu TUIT - Synthetic Biology Awareness
- Lambert - Bead Homogenizer Demand