Team:Lambert GA/Human Practices Overview




Impact of Lambert iGEM’s Integrated Human Practices on the Final Project

For our 2018 iGEM project, we strived to address the devastating effects of waterborne diseases, specifically cholera. We altered and adapted our project over time, integrating feedback from researchers, professors, and doctors working in the field. The goal of our project is to create a practical and beneficial detection mechanism for pathogenic cholera. An inexpensive and efficient mechanism for individuals living in developing nations without access to clean drinking water and for organizations such as the Thirst Project.

iGEM members spoke to residents living in a city called Hato Mayor in the Dominican Republic. Since a vast majority of the residents living in the Dominican Republic do not have access to clean drinking water, iGEM members wanted their feedback on the usefulness of our overall project and design.

Most of the Lambert iGEM team members have never truly witnessed the tangible consequences of drinking contaminated water; therefore, Lambert iGEM strived to inform every team member, as well as other high school students, to the global problem. By listening to speakers from the Thirst Project and residents living in the Dominican Republic, we have been inspired to take action.

For example, Lambert iGEM presented the 2018 project in front of researchers working at Boehringer Ingelheim, a global, research-driven pharmaceutical company. Members received significant feedback on our project, altering aspects of app development, outreach, and wet-lab. Researchers spoke to us about the practicality of our project and exposed us to the reality of working in the field.

Problem Lambert iGEM Strived to Tackle

884 million people lack access to clean water, and 3.4 million people die every year from water-borne diseases. There is an urgent need for an inexpensive, efficient water-borne disease detection mechanism.

Cholera takes the lives of approximately a million people annually. Due to their prevalence in developing nations such as Yemen, strategies are being employed to solve these critical issues; however, these methods are often ineffective and expensive. Cholera cases are concentrated in areas with poor sanitation and hygiene and in places suffering from economic instability; therefore, these pathogens are able to thrive. Without an effective solution, cholera cases will continue to claim millions of lives in the future. The 2018 Lambert iGEM team strives to develop a practical, yet efficient detection mechanism to ensure that these epidemics can not only be detected but prevented as well.

Project Goals

  • Construct an inexpensive and efficient detection tool-kit for pathogenic cholera
  • Develop and distribute alternatives for expensive lab equipment such as the Chrome-Q and 3D Fuge
  • Contribute to an open-source platform to advance the field of genetic engineering and disease detection
  • Create a software model through machine learning to predict the occurrence of cholera outbreaks
  • Educate and inform the public about the devastating effects caused by pathogenic cholera
  • Empower the next generation of scientists by planning a 3-day summer camp and by designing a girl scouts kit

Toehold Switches | Why?

A significant obstacle in diagnostics: lack of accessibility and practicality.

Many developing nations lack a simple yet specific test to detect waterborne diseases such as cholera. Toehold switches are biosensors that can activate gene expression in response to a specific RNA sequence.

Project Timeline

Lambert iGEM created an interactive timeline to display the evolution of our project. This visual timeline will illustrate how the team integrated and implemented ideas advised by experts in the field.
Please click on one of the circles below for more information.

thirstproject gt openhouse dayonechallenge dominicanrepublic boehringer summercamp dollkit leanprocess

Day 1 Challenge | May 5, 2018

Summary Points
  • Development of CALM model through integration of ideas from experts in the field
  • Presentation at Tech Square
  • Receiving feedback from artificial intelligence experts
  • Developing connections with machine learning model experts and public health professionals

The AI Day One Challenge is a high school state competition sponsored by Tech Square Atlanta to encourage innovative thinking and to determine the future of technology such as Artificial Intelligence.

High school teams from across the state of Georgia were encouraged to propose a solution to the challenge question: “How do you propose we use artificial intelligence by 2030 to fundamentally alter how we address one of these societal needs: education, health, or sustainability?”

Lambert iGEM’s software committee proposed our machine learning model “CALM” (Cholera Artificial Learning Model). CALM predicts cholera outbreaks a month in advance and informs healthcare organizations and civilians in developing nations to allocate resources in advance to provide a timely solution to an incoming outbreak.

Our CALM team won the overall grand prize, top public vote, and runner-up in best pitch video bringing $2000 in awards.

On May 5th, our CALM team was invited to the AI Day One Summit in Tech Square Atlanta where we presented our idea to a panel of technology experts, who gave us feedback on our model. They introduced us to public health professionals and machine learning model experts. This challenge has allowed Lambert iGEM to connect both the scientific and technology communities in order to make solution for the ongoing cholera outbreaks.

Experts in the fields of epidemiology, finance, and public relations provided highly valuable insight to the CALM team. The specific data flow between the SMS bot and the model itself were clarified during extensive discussion. Additionally, several experts pointed out that locals in many countries may not find answering health and sanitation surveys a practical use of their time, that not all data is necessarily accurate, that the knowledge of the project will require time to spread, and that there needs to be concrete, real-world actors for implementing CALM in health practices.

Photo of Day One 1 Photo of Day One 2


Georgia Tech Meeting | January 21, 2018

Summary Points
  • Which water-borne disease should Lambert iGEM focus on?
  • What type of construct should Lambert iGEM use for detection?
  • How can we integrate machine learning into our project?
  • What are our short and long-term goals?
  • What are the alternatives of our proposed detection mechanism? How can our 2018 project improve upon current methods?
  • How can we improve the 3D Fuge?

Lambert iGEM planned a meeting with Dr. Mark Styczynski, Dr. Saad Bhamla, Ms. Monica McNerney, Ms. Yan Zhang at Georgia Tech and Dr. Barr from Emory University to discuss the 2018 project. Lambert iGEM presented a proposal for the 2018 project in order to receive critical feedback from experts in the field. After hours of planning and brainstorming our design, we focused on how a lack of clean drinking water can lead to lower literacy levels.

Ms. McNerney and Ms. Zhang, PhD students at Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, advised us to look into a toehold switch construct. This construct would allow for specificity, which would allow us to detect specific pathogenic cholera.

Dr. Mark Styczynski is an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Dr. Mark Styczynski has been working with Lambert iGEM since 2012, challenging us to consider the different variables in our project design and to expand upon our perspectives.

Photo of Dr. Styczynski Photo of Dr. Bhamla Photo of Ms. Zhang Photo of Ms. McNerney


Lambert Open House | May 1, 2018

  • Lambert’s first presentation in front of experts in the field
  • Input from professors working at Georgia Tech and Emory University
  • Sponsors, local business owners, and parents

Lambert iGEM presented the 2018 project to local business owners in our community and to professionals in the field.

This presentation outlined the accomplishments and goals for this year’s project. After the presentation, the audience provided suggestions to enhance the project. Overall, the 2018 open house allowed members to focus on critical aspects of the project that were missed during the initial planning session in January at Georgia Tech.

Photo of Open House

Lambert Staff Presentation | May 24, 2018

Summary Points
  • Presentation in front of Lambert administrators
  • Informing the public about the prevalence of pathogenic cholera and the devastating effects
  • Emphasizing the positive correlation between lack of clean drinking water to decreased levels of literacy
  • Pressure on women and children in developing nations to obtain drinking water

Lambert iGEM was invited to present our 2018 iGEM project for Lambert administrators. We received and integrated feedback on our project by using the surveys that the Lambert administrators filled out.

Because Lambert iGEM presented the 2018 project in front of education experts, the team decided to focus how a lack of clean drinking water could lead to decreased literacy levels. Individuals living in developing nations walk, on average, 3.75 miles to fetch water. Women and children between the ages of 8 and 13 are often responsible for the task of collecting water. Due to the thousands of hours they have to spend annually hauling water, women are unable to get jobs or contribute financially to their households. In addition, children are unable to attend school or get an education.

Photo of Lambert Logo

Meeting with Dr. Barr | August 2018

Summary Points
  • Threshold level
  • Negative and Positive results
  • Boehringer Ingelheim presentation reflection

At the presentation at Boehringer Ingelheim, it was brought to our attention that we need to determine the threshold level, sensitivity, and specificity for our biosensor. To answer these questions, we had a meeting with Dr. Dana Boyd Barr from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. She said that we should find our threshold level based on the infectivity rate of Cholera. She recommended that we lower the threshold from the infectivity rate because of how much water the average person drinks per day and that the Cholera cells will accumulate in the body. To add, she explained sensitivity and specificity to the team and how it is important because those values convey to the public the accuracy of our test. Dr. Barr described that we should compare our biosensor’s results to a reliable detection method’s results. She also recommended that we have a higher sensitivity to specificity in order to be health protective, but our specificity cannot be too low because we do not want to cause a false panic. Overall, Dr. Barr was helpful with outlining aspects of epidemiology that we were not familiar with.

Dr. Barr


Boehringer Ingelheim Presentation | August 10, 2018

  • Reality of working in the field
  • Practicality of the 2018 project
  • Improvements needed for the project
  • With a limited amount of time, should Lambert iGEM continue with our helminth project? Should we postpone our plans for next year?

Lambert iGEM presented at Boehringer Ingelheim where experts from the world’s largest animal health pharmaceutical company provided feedback on the developing components of our project. Since the presentation, the team has reached out to non-profits such as the Thirst Project to confirm the practicality of our project, including the plan with our distribution kits.

We had an extensive question and answer session after our presentation to discuss our project at length.

Logo of Boehringer Ingelheim


Dominican Republic Trip | March 30 - April 6, 2018

Summary Points
  • Would our project be relevant in real-life situations?
  • How can we improve our project to address critical needs in developing nations?
  • How dire is the water crisis?
  • Is there a detection mechanism already available? Is it specific? Is it inexpensive?
  • Impact of drinking water from contaminated sources.

Several Lambert iGEM alumni and current members traveled to the Dominican Republic, specifically the city of Hato Mayor, to work on a water filtration project.

We met with Dr. Rainyer from the Ministry of Health; Dr. Rainyer emphasized the lack of practical mechanisms available to detect waterborne diseases in contaminated water sources. According to Dr. Rainyer, there is no proactive treatment mechanism available for waterborne diseases in the city of Hato Mayor. After informing him about our project, Dr. Rainyer stated that having an efficient, inexpensive detection tool would be extremely useful for field testing. As a result, we decided to focus on using frugal science as a means to address the funding issues for non-government organizations.

A majority of the residents living in Hato Mayor did not have access to clean, drinking water and buying bottled water was a financial burden. While installing water filters, iGEM members had the opportunity to speak to the residents living in Hato Mayor.

Buying bottled water cost on average 60% of a families annual income, a financial burden. Since many of the residents did not have access to transportation, they would have to pay for the costly trip.

Megan Hong, Lambert iGEM member describes her experience: When we traveled to the village by Hato Mayor, we were instantly surprised by the amount of trash filling the streets, homes, and water sources. Without direct access to clean drinking water, the residents of the village had to travel about 20 miles out of their way to the city in order to obtain bottled water. We installed 12 water filters throughout the area, which would help to serve over 50 people. While we implemented these systems and taught the locals how to use and clean the filter, the residents talked about how much the clean water would impact their lives in a positive way.

Photo of Dominican Republic 1 Photo of Dominican Republic 2 Photo of Dominican Republic 3


Thirst Project | August 25, 2018 and October 15, 2018

Summary Points
  • The world’s largest YOUTH water organization
  • Evan Wesley from the Thirst Project
  • Empowering and informing hundreds of high schoolers
  • Exposure to Lambert iGEM members to the water crisis

The Thirst Project is a non-profit organization. They strive to provide safe drinking water to communities around the world where individuals do not have immediate access to clean water. Their mission is to “build a socially-conscious generation of young people who END the global water crisis by educating students..." about it and activating them to rock the clean water cause and build real water projects all over the world”. The Thirst Project collects money and builds self-sustaining wells all across the continent of Africa. The Thirst Project has served for over 13 countries and 330,863 people. They have held projects in 13 countries; however, they are currently active in five: India, Uganda, El Salvador, Kenya.

An integral aspect of the 2018 Lambert iGEM project was to inform the public about the water crisis, the propelling force underlying our project and to empower others to take action. In order to accomplish this, we partnered with the Thirst Project and planned a Thirst Project rally for Lambert High School students. We invited other organizations at Lambert High School such as HOSA, Beta Club, Science National Honors Society, Medical Science Academy, and Key Club International to reach a wider audience.

Women and children walk, on average, 3.75 miles to fetch water. Hearing this, Lambert iGEM strived to inform the public and raise awareness. In addition, hauling water in a jerry can that weighs 44 pounds 3.75 miles can cause countless women's’ health issues. The Thirst Project came to speak to Lambert iGEM students earlier this spring. Aware of the impact that a lack of drinking water can have on women and children, Lambert iGEM addressed the gender gap in STEM fields by creating a doll kit for a local girl scouts troop and running a synthetic biology summer camp for 40 rising 8th and 9th graders.

Lambert iGEM scheduled a video call with Evan Wesley, the Vice President for Student Activation for Thirst Project. “Gathering data is crucial for alleviating the water crisis”. These are the exact words of Evan Wesley. We spoke to Evan about our plans for the future, including our plan to distribute portable kits to non-profits working in targeted areas. He confirmed the practicality of our project goals and our future plans. On October 15, 2018, two Thirst Project road warriors, Erin and Kyle, came to speak to Lambert students about the water crisis and how we can take action to alleviate its devastating effects on a community.

Key Points from the Thirst Project Presentation
  • Waterborne diseases kill more children every single year than AIDS, Malaria, and all world violence combined.
  • Disease rates can drop by up to 88% virtually overnight by providing a community safe drinking water.
  • For a person with HIV/AIDS, even if he/she has access to medical treatment or antiretroviral medication, but is still forced to drink dirty water from contaminated sources, the diseases in the water he/she drinks will actually kill them faster than AIDS itself.
  • Women and children spend an average six to eight hours every day walking to fetch water, and the average distance that women and children in developing communities walk to obtain water is 3.75 miles.

The Thirst Project spoke about their commitment to provide safe, clean drinking water to the entire nation of Swaziland by 2022! This project will cost a little more than $50 million.

To learn more about the Thirst Project, visit the Thirst Project's website.

Photo of Thirst Project 1 Photo of Thirst Project 2


Summer Camp | July 18-20, 2018

Summary Points
  • Introduction of synthetic biology to interested science students
  • Expand knowledge of biotechnology in the community
  • Practice presentation skills with a patient and constructive audience

Information Data
  • Gathered survey data
  • How did Lambert iGEM address the survey data

Lambert iGEM created a 3 day camp for rising 8th and 9th graders from the local middle schools, where the team taught them about biotechnology. The team gave lectures over basic content in biology and labs based on biotechnology principles. The participants began the camp not knowing much about science, but by the end, they understood the importance of biotechnology and the different aspects in it. The Lambert iGEM team ran this camp to expand the knowledge of the students in our community about biotechnology in hope that they will consider it a career option. We integrated feedback from the girl scouts troop while planning the summer camp.

We created the guide in hopes that other iGEM teams will refer to it as a helpful outline.

Photo of Summer Camp 1 Photo of Summer Camp 2


Doll Kit | April 14, 2018

Summary Points
  • Exposure of young girls to science as a fun and accessible field
  • Improvement of communication skills through explanation of complex concepts to younger children

Lambert iGEM recognizes the significance of disproportionate demographics in the biotechnology and the scientific community as a whole, especially with women. This problem is largely due to lack of exposure to STEM as young girls. Lambert iGEM discovered that most lab kits or chemistry sets for children were marketed towards boys rather than girls. As a result, the team created a doll kit specifically designed for elementary-aged girls to increase exposure and interest in biotechnology. These kits include basic laboratory materials such as pipettes and beakers as well as Lambert iGEM’s very own 3DFuge. This kit allows girls to explore biotechnology as fun and accessible rather than something strictly for boys, significantly increasing interest in the science field. Placing the possibility of a successful career as a scientist in the minds of young girls has immeasurable value to the confidence of the girls themselves as well as the scientific community as a whole.

Photo of Doll Kit 1 Photo of Doll Kit 2


LEAN Process

Summary Points
  • Paul Standeven, a Green Belt LEAN Expert
  • Developing a Problem Statement
  • Principles of Lean Methodology
  • Process Mapping
  • Value of Stream Mapping

The team decided to delineate the various aspects of our project to create an all-encompassing problem statement, process map, and value stream mapping. This helped our whole team clarify our vision and implement specific targeted processes to address needs in the complex issues of Cholera outbreaks.