The iGEM TEC-Chihuahua team in Mexico has also been working on a project to help save honeybees this year. Though our teams are working on different threats to bees, we saw our common goal as an awesome chance to work together, and reached out to TEC-Chihuahua early in the iGEM season. We shared our first abstract with TEC-Chihuahua, and stayed up to date on their project and goals throughout the season.
In our communication with TEC-Chihuahua, we shared that we were working with live bees in our project. As their team was not keeping bees, our access to bees and the knowledge we gained from working with them became a valuable asset that we could share to help with their project. One question that TEC-Chihuahua had not been able to figure out on their own was how long it would take for a bee to secrete a substance it was fed. Because of the use of bees in our project, our team had made an effort to learn about the care and physiology of bees, and built connections with a bee researcher at our institution, Courtney McInnis. We used our resources to find an answer to TEC-Chihuahua’s question, and were able to send them information drawn from Courtney’s first hand experience. The information we sent to the TEC-Chihuahua team will be used to determine the path of nanocapsules fed to bees at different timepoints.
OLS Canmore Canada
We also collaborated with a local high school team from Our Lady of Snows High School in Canmore. One of our team members is an alumnus of the OLS high school team, so we connected with them to learn about their project and see if there was any way we could help. We were able to meet with them in person at the aGEM provincial meet up hosted at the University of Calgary in September, and learned more about what they working on and how we could be involved. Their team told us they were having trouble determining what direction to take an ethical evaluation of their project. UAlberta team members had an in person brainstorm with the Canmore team at the meet up to share our knowledge and experience of ethics based on what they said they needed. We shared ideas of ethical issues their team might want to look into, like the elimination of jobs by the introduction of their technology, and the accessibility of their product to different municipalities and inequalities this might contribute to.
Beyond being a local team and the former home team of one of our members, OLS Canmore was also working on a project that had a special connection to the University of Alberta and the UAlberta iGEM team.Their project involves the use of mCherry, a fluorescent protein that was invented by team UAlberta’s principal investigator. This connection was a perfect opportunity for collaboration. We sent them purified mCherry for use in their experiments, and we were also able to provide them with information on the environmental persistence of mCherry from the lab the protein was invented in.
This year was our second year attending aGEM, held by the University of Calgary. This collaboration with the Calgary iGEM team involves bringing together all of the Albertan iGEM teams. The conference allows iGEM teams in Alberta, to gather for a mock iGEM experience, by having each team present, participate in workshops, and work together to mutually improve. This year, the Calgary team was gracious enough to plan and host the conference on their campus in collaboration with geekStarter. The aGEM conference also helped facilitate our collaboration with the OLS Canmore Canada team, and other iGEM teams.
Utrecht, TUDelft, and Leiden
One of our team members spent the first two months of the iGEM season studying abroad in The Netherlands. This opportunity was used to connect with Dutch iGEM teams, specifically the teams at Utrecht University, Delft University of Technology, and Leiden University. We met with them in person to learn about their projects, and to share information about our work. We were also able to compare our progress and the difficulties we were experiencing in the early months of the iGEM season. We also kept in contact with these teams after our meetings. Team members at TU Delft were able to supply us with contact information for former members of the Wageningen 2016 iGEM team, who had also worked on a bee-related project. This connection allowed us to have conversations with Wageningen alumni about how they had created their kill switch, and considerations they had taken in making sure their product was safely contained in the environment. In our meeting with Leiden, we talked about strategies for public outreach and education about genetics and bacteria. We stayed in touch with the Leiden team throughout the season to discuss and compare our approaches to human practices. Being able to meet Dutch teams in person gave the UAlberta team the opportunity to share ideas, compare experiences, and make connections that lasted for the duration of the season.