Spotlight on geekStarters: Lisa Oberding

Spotlight on geekStarters: Lisa Oberding

Lisa Oberding – Mentor of synthetic biology team from Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy in Canmore since 2014. In this photo, Lisa (right) teaches the students laboratory techniques at the Lab skills workshop held at University of Lethbridge in March 2017   10 Quick Questions for Lisa How would you describe yourself in one sentence? I’d say I’m very curious, tenacious (or stubborn, depending who you ask), and I love a challenge – I love learning new things, as well as using that knowledge to either master a new skill or build things from it in new and better ways. What do you love the most about your work/school? I love the challenge of what I do – really getting to apply what I have learned to solve problems and build something useful, and the potential to really make a difference in the process. What is your best accomplishment so far? Probably being a part of founding FREDsense and helping it to get to where it is now while getting my M.Sc. at the same time. What is something you are working towards right now? Outside of work, I’m currently working on learning how to code as well as learning to be completely fluent in Spanish before working on learning another language next year. How do you like to spend your downtime? My downtime (when I get it) usually goes one of two ways; either I’ll spend hours curled up reading a good book, or I’ll go on some kind of adventure – I love to travel and scuba dive, as well as bike, hike, rock-climb, and snowboard. What...

geekStarter Community Highlights – July 2017

Summer is peak time for iGEM teams. Find out what they have been up to in recent weeks.   UAlberta iGEM 2017 – Edmonton Aiming to develop a buoyancy based-bacterial screening method which utilizes a bacterial two-hybrid system, the team completed the assembly of the construct needed for this system, and is currently working on building a fluorescent reporter. They have run into some roadblocks in the cloning of the gas vesicle cluster of eleven genes into a single plasmid, but they welcomed this challenge because it exposed them to many different cloning techniques. The team has also started the modelling component of their project and are excited to get the ball rolling with that. As for human practices, they have been super busy reaching out to various channels for feedback on the project, setting up social media accounts, and planning different fundraising and community outreach events!   UCalgary iGEM 2017  With their research revamped towards a focus on long term space missions and the colonization of Mars, the progress of engineering their bacteria to produce bioplastics by recycling human waste has acquired increased momentum. The past few weeks have found them conversing with experts in numerous fields from scientists at the Calgary wastewater treatment plant to astronauts, including Chris Hadfield, to help guide their project towards completion. In the lab, the team has made valuable advances in the process of making Escherichia coli bacteria that can produce and secrete bioplastics. The lab work is divided into three groups: one which handles the complexities behind synthesizing the bioplastics, another which is figuring out methods of extracting the bioplastic from inside the cell, and finally a group to develop the complete process of plastic production, which rounds out the non-biological side of the project. The...
Spotlight on geekStarters: UAlberta iGEM Team

Spotlight on geekStarters: UAlberta iGEM Team

Postcard from Edmonton! University of Alberta iGEM team members in favorite photo collage   Meet the 2017 Collegiate iGEM team from University of Alberta in Edmonton, and learn about them and their project from this recent interview they gave us.   What is unique about your team? Any memorable moments? We have nine undergraduate students from both engineering and science. There are both senior and first year students on the team, and this brings a wide variety of perspectives to the table. However, we all share a common interest for synthetic biology. Our most memorable moment to date would have to be our night out in Calgary before the iGEM kickoff meeting.   What is your team’s favorite fun activity? What’s something your team does to bond? Our team is very passionate about food… particularly all-you-can-eat sushi! We also have a group chat so we can stay connected, or more realistically, so we can send memes to each other and go off on random discussions about life.   How does your team use social media? We use social media to connect to other iGEM teams, set up potential collaborations, and most importantly for checking out memes. Once our social media presence is further developed, we would like to utilize it as part of our community outreach.   How would you describe your team’s project in 3 sentences or less? We are attempting to engineer bacteria to select for and optimize protein-based drugs for the treatment of cancer using a buoyancy-based screening system. Favourable protein-protein interactions will trigger the production of gas vesicles, and the cells’ buoyancy can be used to screen and...

geekStarter Community Highlights – June 2017

Meet our new teams…   …and learn about their exciting projects.   Synthetic Biology Teams – Collegiate UAlberta iGEM 2017 – Edmonton This team wants to engineer bacteria to select and optimize drugs for the treatment of cancer. To be selected, a candidate drug will have to bind to its target inside the bacteria, which in turn will trigger the production of gas bubbles and make the bacteria float. The team plans to use the cells’ buoyancy to screen and optimize the cancer drugs using a process called directed evolution, which they intend to automate.   UCalgary iGEM 2017 – Calgary This will be the second year in a row the iGEM team from University of Calgary will be working on a space travel application. This year’s team plans to build a bacterial system for making biodegradable plastics out of bio-waste produced in space. They also want to make the bio-plastics production process easier and less toxic than currently available methods by programming the bacteria to self-lyse upon reaching saturation with bio-plastics. ULethbridge iGEM 2017 – Lethbridge This is the tenth year that University of Lethbridge participates in iGEM and, as befits this special occasion, the team plans to combine technologies developed by past ULethbridge iGEM teams into a capstone project. They want to develop an economically viable, cell-free kit for the detection of pathogens that will be safe and serve a wide range of users, from EMS vehicles to space stations. The team also plans to conduct a thorough review of current policies and practices relevant to synthetic biology and nano-technology applications.    Synthetic Biology Teams – High School UrbanTundra High-School iGEM 2017 – Edmonton The team wants to continue a project started last year, which is building a bacterial device that converts the toxic chemical perchlorate into chloride and oxygen. Originally intended for use on Mars, whose soil abounds in perchlorate, the system was designed...

geekStarter Weekend of Celebration and Deep Learning

This is an exciting time of the year for the geekStarter community! On June 10 and 11, geekStarter teams gathered together to share and celebrate their projects. They met with experienced guests and mentors and learned tips for how to succeed at competitions and what it would take to bring their projects to life and make an impact in the real world. Highly anticipated events like these are at the core of our program, which is operated by MindFuel with funding support from Alberta Innovates. They are key to Alberta teams’ excellent performance at competitions such as the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM), and plant the seeds for start-up companies in new technologies such as synthetic biology. Here is what Justin Pahara, Co-founder and Chief Science Officer at Amino Labs and one of the expert guests, commented: “It’s amazing that Alberta has this program – This is a great example of Alberta leading Canada out of the commodity economy.” At geekStarter’s 2017 High School Jamboree held at Notre Dame Collegiate in High River on Saturday June 10, six of geekStarter’s high-school teams presented their projects and received feedback and guidance from six experienced judges from academia and industry: Emily Hicks (President and Co-Founder at FREDsense Technologies), Julie Legault (CEO and Founder at Amino Labs), Robert Mayall (Vanier Scholar at University of Calgary, and Co-Founder at FREDsense Technologies), Justin Pahara (Chief Science Officer at Amino Labs), Anam Rizvi (Student in Mechanical Engineering with Biomedical specialization at University of Alberta), and Patrick Wu (Biotechnology Consultant). The Jamboree culminated with the top three teams winning special awards chosen by judges based on each team’s performance and areas of strength. Team...
Spotlight on geekStarters: Lethbridge High School iGEM Team

Spotlight on geekStarters: Lethbridge High School iGEM Team

Best Communication Awardees at geekStarter’s High School Jamboree on June 10: Lethbridge High School iGEM team – Pictured with them (at left) is judge and mentor Emily Hicks, presenter of the award Meet the High School iGEM team from Lethbridge, and learn about them and their project from this recent interview they gave us. What is unique about your team? Any memorable moments? We are an ethnically diverse group of high school students that very much enjoy synthetic biology and have found a way to try to solve a significant real world problem with syn bio. We have also found success with our project, performing greatly at the recent high school jamboree! What is your team’s favorite fun activity? What’s something your team does to bond? We have had a game night with our team, where people brought snacks and we played board games for hours! How does your team use social media? As of now, our team does not have a social media presence, but that is something that would be great to use! How would you describe your team’s project in 3 sentences or less? We will be manufacturing pigments using synthetic biology, to use for our own environmentally-friendly inks. To do this, we are using genes from many different organisms to create four colours, cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Our pigments will be created in the bacteria Escherichia coli, therefore being natural and much less environmentally damaging than current ink products. What has been one highlight of working on your project so far? Just recently, we won a special award at geekStarter’s High School Jamboree for best communication! What is your team’s biggest challenge?...