Monday, 17 November 2014

Escaped scientists spotted in Tasmania!

It appears that we forgot to lock the lab and office doors again! A few of our researchers escaped and boarded the brand new Australian Marine National Facility research vessel from the CSIRO, The Investigator.

They are taking part in one of the first scientific sea trials which left from Hobart, Tasmania, last Monday. The transect is going northward criss-crossing the continental shelf. These first sets of voyages are used to check, test and optimise all of the equipment onboard, so they can be used to full capacity when the full research voyages start early next year. A few things are still getting sorted on the ship with the usual teething problems, but it seems that a lot of very good science was still being done, so we should have a good crop of seawater samples and other experiments to analyse. Our escapees also had a fantastic time watching various whales jumping around a little way off the ship. I'm sure Martin and Deepa will tell us more about their adventures when we recapture them this week! So stay tuned...
photo of the Investigator from the ship's blog

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Music Videos from iGEM

A number of iGEM teams made parody music videos. A couple of my favourites are here:
Plasmid'outai from the INSA-Lyon team which has a nice Bollywood fell to it.
The St2ool Project from the Valencia Biocampus team- a parody of YMCA.
There was also a Katy Perry parody I liked, but I haven't been able to find the video yet, I'll update this post when/if I find it.


Congratulations to the Macquarie IGEM team, who are the first Australian team to ever win a gold medal at an iGEM competition! Congrats to all of the other medal and award winners (full results here), especially the Grand Prize winners, Heidelberg in the undergrad category, and UC Davis in the overgrad category.

The 2014 iGEM contestants-the Macquarie team and myself are in the very front, slightly left of the centre

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Greetings from Boston

I'm in Boston along with the Macquarie iGEM team attending the iGEM Giant Jamboree. iGEM is the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition where teams of undergraduate students from around the world showcase their synthetic biology research achievements. This year there are 245 teams with over 2500 participants attending the iGEM Giant Jamboree. In addition to the Macquarie University team, there are two other Australian teams from Melbourne University and Sydney University.

The Macquarie project was Photophyll: the Green Machine, where our students were looking to express the chlorophyll biosynthetic pathway in the bacterium E. coli, with the idea of trying to make a photosynthetic E. coli that could use light energy to make hydrogen gas as a biofuel by linking photosystem II to a hydrogenase enzyme. We also have a great outreach project- So You Think You Can Synthesize- the worlds first online synthetic biology reality contest, which I have blogged about previously.

Our team gave a great presentation today and did a good job handling the questions from the judging panel, who were excited by So You Think You Can Synthesize. I think our team has a chance at a gold medal, we will have to see how we go. This is the fifth year we have had a Macquarie team competing in the competition, so far we have been the top Australian team each year, and we have won 1 bronze and 3 silver medals.

It has been an interesting experience for me attending iGEM for the first time, quite different from going to a normal scientific conference. There is an enormous range in the quality of the research projects from pretty weak to absolutely amazing. So far the highlights for me were the teams from Imperial College London, Paris Bettencourt, and Stanford-Brown-Spelman. Imperial College would be my pick for the top team overall with their project of making bacterial cellulose that could be used for water filtration, and functionalised with specific binding proteins to remove water contaminants. Paris Bettencourt had a broad ranging project investigating different ways to manipulate the bacteria that live on human bodies in order to change human body odour. Stanford-Brown-Spelman had an ambitious project to make a biosynthetic unmanned aerial vehicle manufactured out of a bacterial cellulose acetate with biologically-programmed waterproofing, programmed timed biodegradation and biosensing capabilities. The imagination and creativity of some of the teams has been very impressive.

The MQ iGEM team in Boston flanking our team banner there in the background