Team:Cambridge/Blog/Week 4



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Week 4 : 18th of July to 24th of July


Joe and Cat examining our Loligo vulgaris.

Impatient at the non-delivery of the squid, two team members approach a local seafood restaurant and with a stroke of luck come away with a large bag of what the chef assures us is the right genus. Miraculously we seem to have approached a chef with a working knowledge of cephalopod cladistics, for a marvellous reflective layer is seen in dissected tissue under a microscope.

The rest of the day passes in much less exciting fashion, with much of the nitty-gritty of research dealt with: primer-design, reagent-ordering and the steady onward plod of our software tool.


When extracting DNA from a sample it's usually the case that the end-product is not only colourless but microscopically small besides, and further work on the extract must be done with a kind of religious faith in its existence.

Booking flights, accommodation and suchlike is taking more time than we'd thought. There are a few mutterings within the group that our coefficient of inefficiency (Parkinson 1959) is above the critical value!


Wednesday, and by another of those miracles the group seems prone to, the primers, due on Friday, turn up mid-morning. Eager to get stuck in to actually creating something the team at once drop everything and spend several hours setting up 72 (!) PCR reactions. For those unfamiliar, this takes about as much time and has much of the character of creating 72 complicated, but ultimately rather boring sandwiches.

Amidst the general chaos of this, the team spend a little time thinking about the presentation we're to give at a meet-up for UK iGEM teams on Monday. Many members of the team insist on 'winging' their portion, while others are adamant that these types will experience an embarrassing 'mind-blank' in front of all the people, and a script is quite the proper thing. Ought to be an interesting experiment, one thinks!

Previous errors were not going to be repeated


Straight away the team set about running the products of our PCR reactions on a gel, hoping for the presence of reflectin. Our hopes are dashed however, as it seems that our genomic DNA extraction failed. With long faces we therefore set about planning another lengthy extraction using a different technique.

Some of the microscopic images we're taking of reflective squid tissues are both extremely pretty (in a kind of complicated way) and scientifically curious too. They should be posted on the wiki soon.


The microscopy (a long and painstaking process, with much dial-twiddling and 30-minute long exposure times) continues, with some even more impressive pictures emerging. Well worth a look.

DNA extraction Mk. 2 begins in earnest. In our eagerness, however, too many people aid the job, and the pernicious 'comittee effect' slows our progress, with every decision needing to be put to democratic vote. Nevertheless, the team have a good feeling about this attempt.

Please do not fear the worst if the blog isn't punctually updated for a day or two - the team are going on an overnight trip to a UK iGEM conference. One forsees a few interesting anecdotes for Wednesday's post!