Our Lab and Our Equipment
For ten weeks in the summer, our team worked in a laboratory in the Centers for Molecular Medicine at Stony Brook University. Our lab is BSL-1 and contains a Class IIA2 biosafety cabinet. In the lab, we used personal protective equipment, such as nitrile gloves worn in the lab at all times. 70% ethyl alcohol was used to sterilize the lab bench before working. When working with E. coli cultures, we used a bunsen burner to maintain a sterile environment. With the cyanobacteria, we generally worked inside the Class IIA2 biosafety cabinet to protect the samples from contamination. Furthermore, we wore UV-protecting goggles when visualizing gels and working with ethidium bromide.
To prepare for lab and safety procedures, our lab members took a Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training course on responsible conduct of research. We also took training courses on chemical hazards, biological hazards, and hazardous waste management through our university for a more in-depth and personalized experience. Dr. Iwasaki also provided advice on basic laboratory safety procedures. We also received general safety information from Dr. Collier from the Stony Brook School of Atmospheric and Marine Science. Additionally, our project does not have major safety or security concerns, as we are not working with toxins or viruses. We dispose of our biological waste and liquid biological waste in separate containers from regular waste. Our work complies with university standards for lab safety.
Risk Group 1 organisms are low risk and do not cause disease in healthy adult humans. For our project, our cyanobacterial strain of Synechococcus leopoliensis (or Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942), strain UTEX 2434 was obtained from UTEX and is a Risk Group 1 microorganism. We also utilized DH5alpha Escherichia coli obtained from New England Biolabs which are also a Risk Group 1 microorganism.
Safety and Ethical Risks
As our cyanobacteria are non-pathogenic, there is not a large risk for safety. However, the traditional risks associated with antibiotic-resistant organisms apply to our project. If our project is successful, our project could outcompete corn and possibly sugarcane, which may be an ethical concern.