This year our team showcased our project at the 2018 RiboWest Conference held at the University of Lethbridge in June. The conference brought researchers from across Canada and northwestern USA to discuss and disseminate research around the topic of RNA. During the poster sessions, we received initial feedback from members of the science community outside of iGEM including professors, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students. We were given suggestions on how to improve our project as well as some potential problems that we may encounter. The poster sessions also gave us an early opportunity to hone our presentation skills.
North American iGEM Meet-Up
This year, we attended an official iGEM meet-up hosted at the University of Calgary in July. At this meet-up, we gave a brief presentation of our project to gain feedback from other iGEM teams. We were also able to hear about other iGEM projects from teams across Canada and parts of the USA. This was a great opportunity to connect with other iGEM teams!
Our team attended the Alberta Genetically Engineered Machine (aGEM) competition hosted by the MindFuel and GeekStarter programs. We competed against other iGEM teams from Alberta, including the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. The competition provided critical feedback from experienced iGEM judges, as well as an opportunity to practice our presentation. We received a $2000 travel award from this competition.
For the second year, we were a part of the 12th annual Chinook Symposium that is hosted by the University of Lethbridge’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department in September. This Symposium showcases local research at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We presented a poster of our project to increase awareness of iGEM and our project throughout the University of Lethbridge. We received positive feedback from undergraduate, graduate, and faculty members about our project and provided yet another oppotunity to practice our poster presentation.
This year the RNA society established August 1st as RNA day. Since the University of Lethbridge is home to the Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI), we collaborated with them to have a booth at our local farmers market that day to engage with the public. We had a great time interacting with people of all ages by teaching them about RNA, synthetic biology, and our current iGEM projects. The people we spoke with seemed very interested in the work that is occuring at the University of Lethbridge.
This year, both the collegiate and high school iGEM teams had a booth during Whoop-Up days, an annual carnival that takes place in Lethbridge. At this event, we interacted with members of our community about synthetic biology and our iGEM projects. We also brought along pipettes to teach people basic laboratory techniques. The individuals we spoke with were very interested in our work and we were also able to gain insight on local opinions on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Overall, this event was a great way to connect with the public.
During the season, one of our team members authored a related literature review titled, "The Biomedical and Bioengineering Potential of Protein Nanocompartments". It is an in-depth comparison of biological protein nanocages (including virus-like particles, ferritins, vaults, bacterial microcompartments, encapsulins, and more) and their wide-ranging current and potential applications in medicine and engineering. The article is currently in preparation for submission to a scientific journal later this year.