This year, our project focused on enhancing fundamental understanding of decoding circuits. As such, the wetlab portion of our project consisted solely of experiments in the laboratory. We worked only in nonpathogenic strains of E. coli, (JS006, 5-alpha, and 10-beta), all of which are classified as Risk Group 1 microorganism on the Safety Whitelist, as well as by the NIH. We followed the appropriate safety practices for handling these organisms in accordance with the recommended practices of the NIH as well as our institution. A full list of safety practices is indicated on our safety form.
The vast majority of parts that we have chosen to use this year are parts that have been previously characterized in iGEM and have been shown to not be harmful humans, animals, or plants. Of the novel sequences we submitted, none encode any toxins or proteins that have been shown to be harmful to higher organisms.
Specific Lab Practices
Our lab is a Biosafety Level 1 lab, which means that none of our reagents are known to be pathogenic in healthy humans. There are numerous safety procedures that we use in lab every day that comply with the BSL-1 precautions. Whenever we are working on wet lab procedures, we always wear gloves and make sure to take them off before we leave lab. We also always empty our small trash bins into our BSL-1 trash receptacle before we leave the lab for any reason. We ethanol down our workbenches and any equipment we believe might be contaminated. We keep our lab passcode protected to keep a control on who can access the lab. In order to make sure our lab equipment and liquids sterile, we bleach and autoclave them on a regular basis. No food or drinks are allowed in our lab at any time and we make sure to wash our hands after working in the lab. Closed toed shoes, long pants, and tied up hair are all required before entering the lab. Before we began our lab work, we had our PI, Dr. Margaret Saha, train us in basic lab safety and specific BSL-1 lab protocols that we needed to follow. Over the spring semester, we had training on how to do simple lab procedures like pipetting, waste removal, working under the fume hood, as well as specific protocols like the minipreps and pcr. Early on in the summer, we had a two-hour biology lab safety session in which the Director of the Environmental Health and Safety Office at The College of William and Mary gave us a talk about important safety regulations that we needed to follow in all biology labs over the summer. Everything we are doing in lab follows the protocols approved by William and Mary Institutional Biosafety Committee.