Spotlight on geekStarters: Chris Isaac

Spotlight on geekStarters: Chris Isaac

Chris Isaac – member of ULethbridge iGEM team and dedicated geekStarter mentor – shares tips for designing successful bioengineering projects at the Lab skills workshop held at University of Lethbridge in March 2017   10 Quick Questions for Chris How would you describe yourself in one sentence? Something along the lines of a jack of all trades and a master of none: picking up the skills I need to know as I go. What do you love the most about your work/school? Having recently begun my Master’s at the University of Lethbridge, I most enjoy the freedom associated with studying at a higher level. While you have objectives that need to be met in your research program, it’s also possible to enjoy the full support of faculty in pursuing additional academic projects even if they don’t perfectly align with your supervisor’s laboratory goals. What is your best accomplishment so far? Most recently, I had the good fortune to collaborate with wonderful people on the Lethbridge Collegiate iGEM team while working on a fantastic project. As a result of our efforts, we were nominated for several awards at the international level. I’m very proud of our team and the part that I played in helping us to that success. What is something you are working towards right now? There are always several irons in the fire, but there are two really cool things happening right now. The first is my academic research into picking apart disease pathways that are common to both Alzheimer Disease and Cancer. The second is a personal research project wherein I develop software to address biosecurity concerns in order to keep...

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?...

geekStarter Community Highlights – May 2017

UPDATES FROM SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY TEAMS Lethbridge High-School iGEM The Lethbridge HS iGEM team has been picking up the pace lately, and has lots to report! After exploring a few project ideas, the team settled on making biological pigments in E coli bacteria, with the goal of producing large quantities of biologically friendly ink for the printing industry. With help from their team mentors, the students designed genetic constructs for four different colours of Synthetink, and are getting ready to start cloning soon. Excited for the opportunity to document their project and publish it, the team wrote an article for BioTreks 2017, which is getting into very good shape as they continue to edit it and incorporate feedback from judges and other teams from the BioTreks online community. On April 29, the students participated in the BioTreks online conference, where they learned about other teams’ projects and received feedback from judges in real time.   On May 4, the team hosted a parent and teacher lab night – their first ever. At the event, the students familiarized parents and teachers with their synthetic ink project and the benefits of participating in the iGEM competition. They also guided their guests through hands-on experiments such as DNA extractions from strawberries and gel electrophoresis with crayola markers, to give them a sense for wetlab protocols in a fun way. The lab night was well received by parents and teachers and will likely become an annual event that will increase public engagement and awareness about the benefits of the program. Awesome work, Lethbridge HS!     Notre Dame Collegiate Syn Bio team from High River While still looking to develop an ovulation-detection system for natural family planning, the team has shifted gears regarding the hormone they’ll use. Additional research and their mentors’...
Spotlight on geekStarters: Isaac Ward

Spotlight on geekStarters: Isaac Ward

Isaac Ward – Mentor of synthetic biology team from Notre-Dame Collegiate in High-River since 2015. This photo of Isaac was taken at the Lab skills workshop at University of Lethbridge in March 2017   10 Quick Questions for Isaac 1. How would you describe yourself in one sentence? I am an adventurous person, who loves science and is a little too curious. 2. What do you love the most about your work/school? I spent this past winter as a ski instructor, and really find it fulfilling when a student has that eureka moment and realizes what they are learning. 3. What is your best accomplishment so far? I think, that would have to be the journey to accomplishing my university degree and all the adventures and achievements that I experienced along the way. 4. What is something you are working towards right now? I was just accepted into a Bachelor of Education program, and will spend the next few years working towards hopefully becoming a high school biology teacher. 5. How do you like to spend your downtime? I really like spending my downtime in the outdoors, hiking and camping and then skiing in the winter. 6. What is something you can’t imagine your life without? I think I would have to say learning, and having access to education. This was not always the case but once I was in university I really learned to love it. 7. What is one thing that people will be surprised to hear about you? I feel like there are a number of things that people are surprised to learn about me, It might have been the cougar that tried to...

geekStarter Community Highlights – April 2017

geekStarter’s Robotics Workshop Our first robotics workshop took place in Calgary on April 9. Many thanks to our awesome speakers and panelists, and congrats to the teams for their presentations! Read more here.   geekStarter teams in First Robotics competition On April 5-8, teams Trappers, RoboMaidens and APEX Robotics competed in the First Robotics – Western Canada Regionals at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. This was a most exciting and fast-paced competition involving 50 teams from across the world. The competition consisted of a series of matches in which three-team alliances raced their robots to get their airships ready for flight. The better prepared their airship was at the end of each match, the more points the alliance would win. After a tough two days of matches, APEX Robotics, RoboMaidens, and Trappers finished their First Robotics season and took home new learnings from this amazing experience, as well as some very exciting results.   Updates from UAlberta Problem Solving Club Alberta Gold – the ACM-ICPC team which advanced to the 2017 World Finals – is currently training assiduously and takes part in 4-5 hour long practice contests every Saturday. These contests often involve other ACM-ICPC teams from across Canada, including other 2017 finalists such as the Pacific Northwest region champions from UBC. Keep it up! In preparation for the next season, the club recently held an outreach programming contest which gathered a total of 110 participants, including computer science teachers and 22 high-school students from the Edmonton area. Thanks to connections established by the undergrad computing science society from University of Alberta, local IT companies made prize donations at the event – a most welcome surprise and promising sign for the club’s future endeavors.   Ross Sheppard High-School team in Edmonton continued to work on...