Team:Cambridge/Blog/Week 5



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Week 5 : 25th of July to 31st of July


The team take a train journey to Norwich to deliver an unrehearsed (and partly unwritten) presentation on our work to several other iGEM groups from the UK. Nevertheless, we seem to pull it off in style. There're other presentations on interesting things, and pizza for tea.

Finally getting to our rooms around midnight, the team waste no time in finding a local club, where we party until the very early hours. Cambridge valiantly outlasts all the other teams by at least two hours, with no less than half our team - and all our supervisors - partying to the end. Hurrah!

iGEM UK Meet Up


By a strange coincidence, about half the team fail to make it to breakfast on time.

The day at first passes by with more interesting biological talks. Talks over, we visit a nearby art gallery on the off-chance it'll be good. Tucked away behind a large block of 'Brutalist' university buildings, the Sainsbury Centre (we'd never heard of it) turns out to be a real gem. Well worth a visit.

The day ends with a visit to Norwich Cathedral (not as good as Ely's) and a rather sleepy train journey home.


The team have been in contact with a number of researchers in the remarkably small field of reflectin over the past weeks, all of whom have turned out to be very nice and rather helpful. Plasmids from Dr. Wendy Goodson arrive in the post, and no time is wasted designing primers to finally clone the thing. The team later huddle around a strange device called a 'conference telephone' for a kind of mass-phone-call with a researcher in America - turns out to be very useful.

A major point made at the iGEM meet-up was that human practices are not (as one thinks many of us had hoped) a vague box-ticking exercise, and it seems that if we're to get anywhere in the competition we'll have to put down our test tubes and think ethically about our work. It's harder than we thought.


The plasmids have been sent to us in unusual form - soaked into blotting-paper. After much effort the team think they've extracted the DNA therefrom, but biology being what it is, we think continuing on this assumption might be a real folly. With the lab's only spectrophotometer being broken we try to come up with an ingenious way of testing for the presence of DNA.

The labwork is really getting going (at last!), and the idea of half the team shifting their waking hours half a day later (in order to have people in the lab continually!) is mooted. Being the keen and committed individuals we all are, nobody objects, but quite sensibly no-one volunteers for the night shift and the idea collapses in laughter. One thinks we'll have to take a more serious look at the idea (really!) as the weeks creep closer to the Jamboree.


The week is finally over, and the team seem glad of a rest (it's getting harder). Some members of the team are still struggling with primer design - the reflectin genes which have been kindly donated to us need to be transferred into expression plasmids. We're also pulling together some of our ideas for human practices - currently we hope to create BioBrick enzymes to lower the consumables cost for future iGEM teams, as asking our sponsors for donations is a major logistical challenge.