Team:Cambridge/Blog/Week 2



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Week 2 : 4th of July to 10th of July


The day is mainly used in a series of lectures on the use of programming languages for biological systems (see GEC (Requires MS Silverlight on Windows or Mac, seems to work on Linux with Moonlight), followed by a workshop to put some of the ideas into practice. Much fun and head-scratching ensue when we model a logic gate, within a bacterium, on a computer (!). The team are keen to get down to more brainstorming; as a result of our all-round keen-ness, the working day seems to be steadily creeping longer.


Brainstorming in the afternoon

A general laboratory safety lecture in the morning, with some emphasis on the global safety concerns that come with easier access to recombinatorial techniques. More admin is to follow with the set-up of our lab; much confusion results as years-worth of accumulated equipment is unpacked, haphazardly inventoried and replaced according to an esoteric categorising system.

More brainstorming in the afternoon - it's good to see that our thoughts and efforts are spontaneously channelling into particular areas of interest; hope that a fantastic idea will materialise and fear that it won't, in equal measure.


Veronica's Presentation

The morning was spent in another challenging lecture about how to prepare and use gel electrophoresis to separate DNA by strand length. It looks rather daunting to people who have never even used a pipette before in their lives, when we realise how little time we have to familiarise ourselves with a lot of material in a very short amount of time, The afternoon was a lot more chilled, in more ways than one; we heard about many fascinating (yet at times somewhat disturbing) ways in which artists have interpreted the potential future of synthetic biology from Veronica Ranner. Veronica's talk had us all enthralled, and inspired us to yet another brainstorming session. We still don't look like we're narrowing down our options much; many ideas look like they have potential, but nothing's clicked yet...


The first laboratory exercise

The team's body clocks seem to be adjusting to 'University Time', with the beginning of the working day gradually creeping closer to noon. An introduction to pipetting for the physical types in the morning, with much amusement as the engineers create solutions wrong by over six (!) orders of magnitude. Their new-found skills are put into practice at once, as the practical side of our mini-projects (GFP fusions in B. Subtilis) begins (after a short informal talk on PCR). Another lesson in the unpredictability of biology as we see that the largest fragment didn't amplify at all for any of the groups - we'll try again with a different polymerase tomorrow *sigh*


Felix extracting the DNA

All day spent redoing the PCR reaction using Phusion polymerase and subsequently performing gel electrophoresis. Thankfully it all goes smoothly, with all fragments amplifying as expected for all groups. Unfortunately, work still didn't end until well after 7pm...can't wait for the lie-in tomorrow.