Team:Cambridge/Blog/Week 1



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Week 1 : 27th of June to 3rd of July


The first day of iGEM 2011 - we met the full team for the first time, and attended some introductory talks. Some of the more physical types had to dredge up the last remnants of GCSE Biology in order to keep up! Synthetic biology starts to look a lot harder than it seemed conceptually...


Morning lecture from Jim Haseloff on 'How to design a synthetic gene'. We also heard from iGEM Cambridge 2010 team (see here) giving us some valuable tips on how best to organise ourselves to create a successful project.

This was followed up in the afternoon by a nanophotonics talk from electrical engineer/physicist Matthew Hawkeye, discussing colour from structure & other topics. Brainstorming begins in earnest - lots of crazy ideas, which hopefully we'll be able to distill into plausible project ideas asap!


We were introduced in the morning to the famous 'Gibson Assembly'; we can finally understand what our predecessors were talking about in the viral "Gibson Assembly Song" (see here if you're not already infected)! In the afternoon we undertook some exercises to test whether or not anything we'd heard about over the last few days had actually sunk in - apparantly not, for many non-biologists! We sincerely appreciate the invaluable assistance of our life-scientist friends...


An Arduino Board

A morning exercise of playing around with Arduino boards. The engineers/mathmo's/physicists seem relieved to be on familiar territory for a change. That all changes in the afternoon, when work begins on our mini-project, designed primarily to acquaint the physical types with the vagaries of performing complicated operations on invisible substances. A GFP fusion is to be made to a protein of interest and expressed, to be visualised by fluorescence/confocal microscopy. Quite some time is spent trawling the literature (and the biologists' quite impressive memory of cellular components) to find an interesting target. The mini-project is particularly exciting, since we'll be using the powerful and fairly novel technique of Gibson assembly (well worth looking-up if unfamiliar). More details on the mini-project are available here.

Our main project thoughts are strewed upon post-its upon a large table - still no single idea cool enough to work on, but we're confident that more than one will distill from the chaos next week.


Morning, and the mini project teams design primers for the fusion/expression experiment the traditional way - with pen, paper and thought.

The mini-project teams present their fusion-targets to the group after lunch. Three interesting targets - fingers crossed they work (and if they don't perhaps a valuable lesson will have been learned about biological lab-work - to paraphrase our supervisor Jim, "biology doesn't work". This is swiftly followed by a long, but mercifully very interesting lecture on particularly weird behaviours observed in certain bacteria. It turns out not only to be interesting, but useful too, as a flurry of new ideas are sparked therefrom.

Our post-it table is closely approaching that critical density at which the chaos turns from the creative variety to the obfuscating; some idea-pruning will need to be done next week.

The whole group are looking forward to punting (with lashings of Pimms!) tomorrow. Hooray!


The team take a break with punting down the idyllic Cam. A surfeit of Pimms makes our path somewhat erratic, but it's such a lovely day that we don't mind taking a full two hours over the normal time to reach our target - the very English village of Granchester. Fuelled by a pub lunch we make (relatively) swift progress on the return journey.


A general day off from all the excitement. The iGem'ers no doubt have a very long lie-in.