Founding Member Spotlight: Wakenene Kamau

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Wakanene grew up in Ohio with parents who were both botanists. From a young age, he wanted to pursue biology, but in his own unique way. He majored in biological chemistry while in college, and when he moved to Seattle, he looked for a deeper connection to his community through science. One day, while working for a local biotech company, Wakanene noticed a bioart book on the coffee table. It immediately sparked his interest, so he put a sticky note on it, hoping to find the owner.  SoundBio co-founder, Dr. Mike Galdzaki responded, and before he knew it, Wakanene was in Zach’s garage pursuing his first citizen science project!

Wakanene loved getting involved with the Citizen Salmon project early because he could help define the project and influence its direction. This freedom of scientific pursuit was exciting and empowering. In high school, Wakanene remembered how amazing it was to study bacteria in the lake near where he lived. Having such a close environmental connection to his work was particularly meaningful, and he finally found that connection again, through Citizen Salmon.

Wakanene appreciated the more informal, inspirational gathering of like-minded folks pursuing a common goal. He loves that citizen science projects attract curious and passionate individuals. Because he had a strong educational support system growing up, he was in a great position to repay the favor by helping others.  Wakanene believes that SoundBio projects encourage curiosity, community and fun!

SoundBio helped to sculpt my world view as a citizen scientist.
— Wakanene Kamau

Realizing that not all science has to be formal (i.e. publish or perish), Wakanene purposefully sought out a non-traditional graduate program last fall.  He is currently getting his Masters in Media Arts and Sciences at MIT’s Media Lab. As a member of the Sculpting Evolution group, he is studying evolving systems including, but not limited to, gene drives - which are capable of altering DNA in wild populations.  The projects he works on today help broaden participation in science, and often involve community engagement, two key pillars of SoundBio. Fantastic!

SoundBio celebrates Science in Space!

The first of 3 steps - swabbing the control panel!

The first of 3 steps - swabbing the control panel!

Out tabling activity was a hit with kids!

Out tabling activity was a hit with kids!

SoundBio was delighted to participate in a special, invite-only event at the Museum of Flight on June 26th. The purpose of the event was to celebrate a new traveling Smithsonian exhibit now on display called ‘Destination to the Moon’. This exhibit celebrates one of mankind’s most groundbreaking accomplishments - sending astronauts to the moon! The mission (Apollo 11) happened 50 years ago and marked an extraordinary moment in the history of space exploration.

To celebrate Apollo’s 50th anniversary, SoundBio wanted to come up with something exciting and new for the Museum of Flight. With help from some wonderful volunteers, including a member of UW’s Astrobiology department, we devised a new tabling activity entitled “Find the Spaceship Germ”. The kids performed 3 steps:

  1. Swab a contaminated ‘control panel’, then transfer the ‘germs’ to a microtube

  2. Pipet the liquid from the tube onto a petri dish

  3. Incubate the petri dish and discover the bacterial colonies

While kids did not directly handle the bacterial colonies, we did have fun explaining how the germs could be separated and grown so that scientists could better study them. Overall the kids and parents had a great time thinking about science in space!

If this type of activity sounds interesting, please don’t hesitate to contact us at info (at) sound.bio. We are always looking for more folks to help with our educational outreach events.

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Thank you to our wonderful volunteers: Kalyani, Holly, Tracy and Anastasia (not pictured).

Thank you to our wonderful volunteers: Kalyani, Holly, Tracy and Anastasia (not pictured).

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Intern Spotlight: Sophie Liu

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Sophie Liu is a 17-year old at Newport High school in Bellevue, WA. She discovered SoundBio through an online search for internships after recognizing someone she knew from a blogpost about SoundBio’s iGEM team. This led Sophie to join the 2018 iGEM team, followed by a 9 month internship at the lab. She was dedicated to both endeavors, spending two hours a day on the bus during her commute from Bellevue to the U-District.

Sophie’s motivation to pursue the sciences started at a young age. She went through many different science ‘phases’: grade 1 - egyptology, grade 2 - geology, grade 3 - astronomy, grade 4th - physics/chem, grade 5th - marine science, and grade 6th - biology. It seems biology stuck! As Sophie says, “Life on a small scale is compelling because so much is not known.”

With regards to her education, Sophie believes that while grades are important, life is experiential. She is self-motivated in this quest and appreciates that SoundBio offers a variety of experiences to everyone regardless of their educational background.

SoundBio allows motivated people to explore science.
— Sophie Liu

Sophie’s delve into exploratory science was magnified while participating as a member of the iGEM team and gaining hands-on lab experience in synthetic biology. Additionally, she learned about community norms, such as how to effectively communicate her findings to a broader audience.

Sophie realizes that she is currently in the transition phase from adolescence to adulthood. She believes SoundBio has assisted her during this time by offering opportunities to engage with adults in scientific arenas. It has also given her a glimpse of what it’s like to work ‘in the real world’, and the responsibilities this entails. Her favorite memory regarding SoundBio was being given a set of keys to the lab. This was a new level of freedom and accountability for Sophie, and it played an important role in her transition towards independence.

Sophie hopes the lab can grow in size over the coming years. When asked about what SoundBio represents to her, she stated, “Potential!”. We think she’s right; the possibilities of scientific discovery are endless, and SoundBio offers a stepping stone for curious minds like Sophie to start exploring.

Seattle Public School Adopts new Science Curriculum

On May 29th, 2019 the Seattle Public School Board voted to approve new science curriculum. As the largest public school district in the state of WA with ~ 54,000 children, Seattle leads the way in adopting new Next Gen Science Standards. A more detailed overview of the process & the motivation behind it is explained here.

SoundBio Lab has been following this exciting development because our Director of Outreach, Holly Sawyer, was a member of the K-5 committee this past year. A separate 6-8 committee covering middle school science curriculum occurred in tandem with the K- 5 team. After a long process and in-field pilots, both teams nominated Amplify Science as their preferred vendor. Headquartered in Brooklyn, NY, Amplify Science was initially developed on the West Coast by UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science. Their website describes the new phenomenon-based approach as follows:

“Each unit of Amplify Science engages students in a relevant, real-world problem where they investigate scientific phenomena, engage in collaboration and discussion, and develop models or explanations in order to arrive at solutions.”

Now that the Seattle Public School Board has formally voted and approved Amplify Science, the new curriculum will be offered as soon as next fall. Rollout will likely occur in stages given the size of the district. SoundBio Lab will continue to follow this exciting new development to ensure our outreach efforts and lab workshops complement the science being taught at our local schools.

Community Project Spotlight: DirtLife!

A Winogradsky column - Named after Sergey Winogradsky, a famous Russian microbiologist from the 1880’s, this column of water, dirt and nutrients will create a wonderful new home for a variety of microorganisms.  Learn more here .

A Winogradsky column - Named after Sergey Winogradsky, a famous Russian microbiologist from the 1880’s, this column of water, dirt and nutrients will create a wonderful new home for a variety of microorganisms. Learn more here.

Every wonder what kind of living organisms thrive in different types of dirt? Curious about microbes, biodiversity and the world of microscopy? If so, we have a wonderful new community project for you to join called DirtLife! This new group of 6 dirt & microbe enthusiasts currently meets at SoundBio Lab every Sunday morning. With diverse backgrounds, participants bring a variety of expertise to the table, so everyone gets to learn. No prior experience necessary!

The goal of this group is to get better acquainted with the microbes that live in our soil and local waterways. Because the group is new, they are currently trying out a number of different mini-project ideas until they settle on something long term. So far, the team has created soil ‘micro-growth’ chambers (pictured), looked at different water samples using various microscopes, and plated out symbiotic fungi on agar plates together with plant hosts.

Curious but not sure where to start? Please consider stopping by Sunday morning, or reaching out to DirtLife lead - Orlando de Lange. Contact him at delangeo (at) gmail.com. Happy digging!

Culturing different fungi on plant hosts.

Culturing different fungi on plant hosts.

2019 Shoreline STEM Festival

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Shoreline Community College recently held their annual STEM festival and science fair for the 6th year running. SouldBio was happy to participate for a 3rd year in a row. This time, our outreach volunteers decided to host a filtration challenge.

This challenge is a fun brain teaser, as kids and adults must figure out how to separate rice from 3 other ‘contaminants’ using a variety of tools. Everyone approaches the problem differently, but eventually, by using various attributes of the contaminants, they figure it out. Our booth was very busy and we hope the kids had a blast! SoundBio couldn’t participate in these types of events without our volunteers - We’d like to thank Kyle Shanafelt and Christiana Doulami for their support in running this event.

If you like to engage the public to share your scientific expertise, please consider joining us! We’d love to hear from you!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Christiana Doulami

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Christiana Doulami currently works for a pharmaceutical company in Seattle as a researcher. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology, and has laboratory experience in crystallography and academic cancer research from the University of Athens. She recently relocated to Seattle from Greece to grow her professional research experience; something that can be difficult to achieve in Athens.

Being an avid volunteer her entire life, Christiana explored volunteering opportunities upon arriving in Seattle. She was amazed by the number of non-profits and the vibrant volunteering community here. SoundBio stood out to her based on her background and interests, so she contacted us. To Christiana, SoundBio was ideal; friendly and diverse faces, open to all, and fully equipped for research.

Within her first few weeks Christiana participated in one of our outreach events, teaching middle school kids how to extract DNA from strawberries. Besides the pleasure of contributing to the community, she saw this as an opportunity to practice her presentation and communication skills. She did an incredible job, and found the experience both memorable and rewarding. This and many other SoundBio activities turned out to be a great experience for Christiana, and through them she met and collaborated with many science enthusiasts while expanding her social and professional network.

When asked about SoundBio, Christiana said she is amazed that as a nonprofit, we have the equipment necessary to conduct a wide range of experiments. A laboratory is a typical space for biology majors and professionals, not generally for individuals lacking a scientific background. For her, the idea of a biology makerspace where ordinary citizens participate in hands-on science activities is exceptional.

Everyone who loves science can now become a scientist! Your educational background no longer excludes people from pursuing science as a hobby.
— Christiana Doulami

The Citizen Salmon project is particularly meaningful to Christiana because it connects her to the environment and a crucial source of local food. We are delighted that Christiana has found a new home here in Seattle and at SoundBio.

Science with Olympic Hills Elementary School

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SoundBio Lab was invited back to Olympic Hills Elementary School in NE Seattle for another wonderful night of hands-on learning! For the 3rd year in a row we participated in their science night where 5th graders presented their science projects, and all kids had a chance to participate in some fun tabling activities. We hosted 2 separate activities this year - making science necklaces and introducing the kids to micro-pipetting. With our new, fixed volume pipets, we had kids transfer colored water into 96 well plates to practice their liquid handling skills. We saw lots of patterns and rainbow designs! The older kids loved the challenge of moving as little as 20ul of liquid from well to well. We had so many interested kids we could barely keep up with them. The future is certainly looking bright for these young scientists!

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SoundBio High School members participate in Science & Engineering Fairs - 2019

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For many aspiring students interested in science, winter and spring can be a very busy and exciting time! Every March, the state of Washington hosts six different Science and Engineering Fairs, all affiliated with the Society for Science & The Public. These Washington regional and state science and engineering fairs can qualify some high school students to compete at the prestigious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), widely regarded as the ‘Olympics’ of pre-college science fairs.

Early last winter, three project groups performed their research at SoundBio Lab! SoundBio Lab was able to provide them with a safe laboratory space and oversight so they could compete in the WA state science fairs. We offer this service to high school students because lab space and equipment are typically not available at local high schools. The student groups included:

  • David Lu, representing Roosevelt High School in Seattle, WA

    • The Effect of AHLs on Microcystis Growth

  • Aditi Ekbote & Vidhi Jain, from Tesla STEM High School in Lake Washington, WA

    • Drug Combinations with Antibiotics and Curcumin to Combat Antibiotic Drug Resistance

  • Cameron Suraci, Kaylee Hynek, & Jaden Lofrese, from Mountlake Terrace High School in Edmonds, WA

    • A Method for Causing Cucurbita Pepo to Produce Delphinidin

For Snohomish and King County, the Regional Science and Engineering Fair is the Central Sound Regional Science and Engineering Fair (CSRSEF), organized and hosted by Bellevue College. This year’s fair was on March 16th. For Snohomish and King county students, participation in this regional fair was mandatory for ‘promotion’ to participate in the state fair. All three of our projects chose to participate in the fair with great success. Aditi and Vidhi won a 3rd place award in category, and Cameron, Kaylee, and Jaden won an honorable mention in category!

Cameron, Kaylee & Jaden (Left to right) of Mountlake Teraace HS worked on their project with advise from Dr. Orlando de Lange.

Cameron, Kaylee & Jaden (Left to right) of Mountlake Teraace HS worked on their project with advise from Dr. Orlando de Lange.

Aditi (Left) and Vidhi (Right) of Tesla STEM HS tested antibiotic drug resistance. The labspace at SoundBio had the right equipment!

Aditi (Left) and Vidhi (Right) of Tesla STEM HS tested antibiotic drug resistance. The labspace at SoundBio had the right equipment!

David Lu of Roosevelt HS worked on a Microcystis project from December at SoundBio Lab.

David Lu of Roosevelt HS worked on a Microcystis project from December at SoundBio Lab.

Congrats to our award winners!

Congrats to our award winners!

The entire state also participates in the Washington State Science & Engineering Fair, (WSSEF) in Bremerton High School. This year’s 62nd annual WSSEF, held on March 30th, awarded more than a million dollars in scholarships and prizes. It also included awards from many sponsors to ‘Promote future scientists and engineers.’ SoundBio’s two team projects decided to come to Bremerton to compete.

We are proud to announce that BOTH of our teams received awards!

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Aditi Ekbote + Vidhi Jain:

●     First Place in Category

Cameron Suraci, Kaylee Hynek, and Jaden Lofrese:

●     First Place in Category

●     Ohio Wesleyan University – Outstanding Achievement in Science Scholarship

●     Wolfram Mathematica Software Award

All smiles!

All smiles!

The trio from MTHS won two additional scholarships!

The trio from MTHS won two additional scholarships!

SoundBio’s Director of Operations, Yoshi Goto, was a judge for both fairs. Here’s what he had to say.

When I was in high school, I also was a student in these science fairs. Coming back as a judge many years later, I was blown away at the level of complexity, thoroughness, and professionalism that many of the competitors showed. All of these high school students approached SoundBio Lab out of their own initiative, because their school didn’t, or couldn’t, host the projects they wanted to run. I was impressed with their level of commitment towards their projects which were conceptualized independently. They went through all the hard work, frustrations, and unexpected situations that comes out of any real experiment. I am glad that SoundBio was able to actualize their projects and provide a testing ground for real experimentation.

We are incredibly proud of all of our students and their achievements! Congratulations to all!

If you or your children are interested in performing a project at SoundBio Lab for a competition, please contact us at info (at) sound.bio.

Jane Addams Middle School STEAM Fair

2 of our 4 DNA stations, ready to go!

2 of our 4 DNA stations, ready to go!

Jane Addams Middle School, part of the Seattle Public School District, recently hosted their 4th annual STEAM Fair to help promote science and STEM careers. SoundBio Lab was delighted to be invited back for a 3rd time. When our volunteers weren’t enjoying the complimentary taco bar (thanks, it was great!), they were busy showing kids how to extract DNA from strawberries!

This popular and engaging tabling activity is well suited for middle school kids because 6th grade science curriculum includes an introduction to cellular biology. Kids are always amazed when then see the DNA forming at the last step - a definite ‘A-HA’ moment because you do not need a microscope to see it. We have the children transfer their DNA sample to a micro-tube so they can clip it onto a piece of yarn. This allows them to wear their very own DNA necklace to show family and friends. We ran into one 8th grader who told us that he still had his strawberry DNA in a tube from 2 years ago - fantastic! We look forward to joining Jane Addams next year for more hands-on learning.

Volunteers busy showing participants how to extract DNA from strawberries.

Volunteers busy showing participants how to extract DNA from strawberries.

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High School Synthetic Biology Workshop

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SoundBio recently hosted a unique, 2-day workshop called the “Synbio Bonanza”, organized and led by senior high school student, Sarah Alvi. Sarah became involved with our lab through SoundBio’s iGEM program. After realizing what a unique opportunity iGEM provides, Sarah became motivated to inspire other students interested in STEM careers. She decided to host a 2-day science workshop as part of her senior project at the International School of Bellevue. Sarah was responsible for all aspects of the workshop; devising the curriculum, organizing the materials, managing the logistics, recruiting students, and teaching the workshop. SoundBio staff, including Dr. Orlando de Lange and Yoshi Goto, were particularly helpful in supporting Sarah with the protocol and reagents.

During the first day participating students were provided introductory and safety lab training. They completed a transformation protocol which involved inserting a small, circular piece of DNA (called a plasmid), into a safe strain of E.coli bacteria. The DNA in the plasmid encoded amilGFP, a chromoprotein (originally isolated from coral), that fluoresces. The plasmid was introduced into the E.coli bacteria via a process called electroporation. Electroporation is a heat shock mechanism that causes the cell membrane to briefly ‘open up’, thereby allowing the small plasmid to safely enter the cell. If done correctly, the process does not damage the bacteria or plasmid DNA. After allowing the transformed bacteria to grow on agar plates over night, students looked for fluorescent bacterial colonies.

A successful transformation of plasmid DNA into E.coli. Each glowing dot represents one bacterial colony expressing a fluorescent protein.

A successful transformation of plasmid DNA into E.coli. Each glowing dot represents one bacterial colony expressing a fluorescent protein.

The second day of the workshop involved investigating the plates to look for fluorescent colonies. One of the four transformations worked, which was exciting given this was the first time they had attempted a transformation!

After discussing the science behind the transformation, the rest of the workshop focused on STEM careers and future opportunities that would help the students gain further hands-on experience.

A seminar-style discussion was led by Rachel Calder, an Education Coordinator for the Systems Education Experiences (SEE) Program at the Institute for System’s Biology (ISB). This discussion focused on providing immersive and impactful STEM experiences for high school students available in the Seattle area. SoundBio’s Zach Mueller, Yoshi Goto, and Anastasia Nicolov also participated, discussing additional avenues for involvement through internships and other research opportunities available at SoundBio Lab. Congratulations to Sarah Alvi and all the staff who supported this wonderful workshop!

SoundBio staff members and participants of Sarah Alvi’s synthetic biology workshop.

SoundBio staff members and participants of Sarah Alvi’s synthetic biology workshop.

Citizen Salmon Spotlight: Carson Anderson

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Several years ago, Taylor Anderson moved his entire family from Florida to Seattle. Taylor met SoundBio co-founders Zach and Regina at an Amazon maker faire where he learned about the Citizen Salmon project. At the time, Taylor’s son, Carson, was showing a strong interest in science. Carson soon became a regular participant in the project; which at that point, was meeting in Zach’s garage!

Taylor was amazed that something like SoundBio and citizen science existed. He was impressed by several aspects of SoundBio; particularly the generosity, inspiration and caliber of people who supported his son.

It was an eye-opener - that this kind of opportunity [for a high schooler] was even available.
— Taylor Anderson (Carson's father)

Taylor says that involvement in SoundBio helped his son make deeper connections - both from an educational and career-driven point of view. “It’s one thing to learn about DNA in a classroom, but it’s quite another to connect the dots and go into a lab and work with it.” Carson’s involvement in SoundBio allowed what he was learning in a textbook come to life, all while working among professionals in the biotech community. It allowed Carson to envision a career in the life sciences while contributing meaningful efforts in conservation. As Taylor says, “it felt tangible and accessible”.

SoundBio Open House Day

Our wonderful volunteers, ready to go!

Our wonderful volunteers, ready to go!

SoundBio recently hosted its first official Open House Day, inviting members of the Puget Sound community to come into the lab to learn more about our non-profit. Folks who attended were treated to a lab tour, followed by several fun, hands-on science activities.

This year we were very well organized thanks to Dr. de Lange, who took charge in leading the event. With 3 volunteers, we were able to cover a variety of stations: microscopy, bio-craft balloon making, and micro-pipetting. Here are a few pictures from the event which was a huge success.

A busy Open House with engaged visitors.

A busy Open House with engaged visitors.

Visitors practice micro-pipetting for the first time.

Visitors practice micro-pipetting for the first time.

Using sodium alginate and calcium lactate, participants  made bio-balloons  to play with!

Using sodium alginate and calcium lactate, participants made bio-balloons to play with!

Our micro-pipetting station is always a hit.

Our micro-pipetting station is always a hit.

We hope to do more Open House offerings in the future. If you missed out this time around, don’t worry! We’re happy to offer lab tours and answer any questions during our regularly scheduled Open Hours. Questions? Feel free to email us at info (at) sound.bio.

Microscopy 'Foldscope' Workshop

As a maker space, we love exploring the creative side of science. So when one of our members introduced us to Foldscopes, which are origami-inspired microscopes, we had to investigate! These awesome microscopes are not only fun but practical due to their low-cost and small size. They travel anywhere and are even water resistant.

A completed Foldscope Microscope.

A completed Foldscope Microscope.

The Foldscope was developed at Stanford University after two scientists traveled the world and became frustrated with the lack of accessibility to microscopes. You can learn more about their fascinating story on their website but their overall goal was simple; to create a $1 microscope so that everyone could carry a microscope in their pocket.

The technology that went into this little microscope was published in PLOS if you’d like to learn more.

Building Foldscope Microscopes in the lab.

Building Foldscope Microscopes in the lab.

SoundBio recently hosted an evening workshop for folks interested in building a Foldscope. Foldscopes arrive in a mesh pouch and require assembly. Led by Dr. de Lange, participants built and folded their microscopes together, including the lens which has several parts that connect together via magnets. Once assembled, participants tested out the microscopes with SoundBio’s slide collection. Here’s one awesome image of fungi that was captured in the process:

Coprius fungi - releasing spores ~ 140X magnification.

Coprius fungi - releasing spores ~ 140X magnification.

More Foldscope images taken from scientific enthusiasts around the world can be found on their community website called Microcosmos. Be sure to check it out here. We hope it inspires your curiosity!

STEM Women Fly!

SoundBio was delighted to be included in the resource fair for the Museum of Flight’s ‘Women Fly’ event this year. This incredible 2-day annual event is for middle school and high school girls who are interested in pursuing STEM careers. This was our first time attending and we absolutely loved it!

Middle school girls wait before entering the Resource Fair….ready, set, go!

Middle school girls wait before entering the Resource Fair….ready, set, go!

The girls first attended two different workshops followed by a visit to the resource fair. A variety of STEM-related organizations shared their offerings, including SoundBio Lab. Tables were organized into 3 groups:

  • Schools - applications, majors, campus life, etc.

  • Industry - future jobs opportunities

  • Activities - how to get involved, cool things to do

The girls had to go around collecting stamps, visiting 3 tables from each of the above groups. At the end they earned a special treat - astronaut ice cream!

Not surprisingly, our booth was an activity station. The girls had a chance to work with 200ul micropipets, moving water around a 96-well plate without spilling. For many, this was their first time working with real micropipets, not just plastic droppers. While they were busy learning how to pipet, we shared with them what it’s like to work in a laboratory. We also shared information about our new workshops and our iGEM Team.

Some of the girls expressed an in microscopy so they had a chance to play around with our 3D printed microscope clips and took some great photos. It was a fun and engaging event for both the organizations and participants. Thank you to the Museum of Flight for organizing such a wonderful STEM outreach event in support of females in science!

Our booth featured pipetting and our microscope clips.

Our booth featured pipetting and our microscope clips.

Many girls signed up for our newsletter and expressed interest in our high school iGEM team.

Many girls signed up for our newsletter and expressed interest in our high school iGEM team.

Practicing their pipetting skills!

Practicing their pipetting skills!

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iGEM Member Spotlight: Mary Elizabeth Adler

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Mary Elizabeth is currently a freshman at Princeton University and is pursuing a degree in chemical and biological engineering. Mary Elizabeth first became interested in molecular biology while in middle school where she met an extraordinary science teacher who introduced her to genetics. This was a pivotal and influential moment leading her to take as many biology classes as she could handle in high school. The problem was that by the time Mary Elizabeth was a junior, she had taken all the biology classes offered. While speaking with a guidance counselor, she learned of a new iGEM team forming led by Roya Amini-Aaieni. At the time, SoundBio Lab had recently agreed to host this new high school science team in our space.

Mary Elizabeth was excited about the prospect of having access to a real lab and quickly got involved “I got to do the things I had always been reading about, like transforming bacteria and designing plasmids.” When asked about her time at SoundBio, Mary Elizabeth stated:

SoundBio and iGEM made me realize all the possibilities of science. SoundBio gave me the tools to start exploring those possibilities. This was transformative.
— Mary Elizabeth Adler

Having a hands-on learning opportunity while in high school provided something concrete to focus on regarding her future academic pursuits, and was a vital component of her college application process; she was able to discuss what she was actually doing, rather than simply stating ‘This is what I want to do’. Mary Elizabeth admitted that many of her initial experiments failed, however, since failure plays a major role in science she never felt discouraged. Through failure, we learn.

Mary Elizabeth forged new friendships and felt very warmly received. She appreciated that SoundBio provided both technical expertise and a welcoming environment. She believes a non-profit like SoundBio fills an important gap in hands-on learning. “I love that SoundBio gives kids, who maybe don’t have professors for parents, access to the tools they need to pursue science”. We couldn’t agree more!

BioCraft - Algae-based balloons

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Are you crafty? Do you have an interest in biology? If so, then we have some wonderful activities for you to consider. The first (of hopefully many) BioCraft Workshops at SoundBio Lab was held this past weekend - to the great enjoyment and amusement of our attendees. The inspiration for this creative workshop started when one of our co-founders stumbled upon the Balloon-less Water Balloon Kickstarter project. He decided to back the activity and in return, received a kit. The Kickstarter project was well supported, with 250 donors, and almost $10,000 worth of funding. Clearly they were onto something cool and fun!

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Led by Dr. Orlando de Lange, we spent an hour creating water balloons made from seaweed. The key ingredients behind this fun activity are sodium alginate (a polysaccharide in seaweed that supports cell walls) and calcium lactate. When you place a spoonful of sodium alginate into a calcium lactate bath, this causes it to create a spherical shape with an outer, gel-like membrane. The membrane forms because the calcium atoms from the bath, displace the sodium atoms from the sodium alginate. The bio-balloons do ‘pop’, and are a ton of fun to play with. They are also non-toxic, and biodegradable.

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It turns out, the process to make these gelatinous balls is a well-kept culinary secret called Spherification, used by a number of innovative chefs around the world.

This chemical process has also drawn interest by environmentalists, who are actively looking for alternatives to plastic bottles.

Have an idea for another BioCraft activity? Please reach out to us info (at) sound.bio - we want to hear from you!

SoundBio travels to Washington, DC

One of our founding board members, Dr. Herbert Sauro, was asked to speak about K-12 Educational Outreach initiatives at the IMAG Conference this March in Washington, DC. Many governmental granting agencies were present, hoping to learn more about how their federal dollars can best support our next generation of scientists.

An excerpt from Dr. Sauro, a professor at the University of Washington Dept. of BioEngineering:

“In this talk, I will describe two educational activities I have been involved in: one at the K-12 level and a second at the undergraduate junior level. I have been on the board for a number of years of a biomaker space in Seattle, called SoundBio Lab. This is a group of enthusiasts who have put together a fairly extensive molecular biology wet lab that can be used by laypeople and other interested groups such as the Seattle iGEM High School team. SoundBio also goes out to elementary and middle schools, as well as other locations, to organize after-school science activities. In addition, SoundBio has Saturday science events for anyone who wants to attend. The initial development of SoundBio was supported by outreach components from the National Science Foundation. Last year we organized a ‘Be a Scientist for a Day' game event for middle-school girls and under-represented minorities. This involved hands-on DNA fruit extraction, a novel cancer discovery game, and micropipetting practice. We will also be introducing a new event this year based around the theme of oscillators which will involve hands-on activities and modeling exercises. In the second part of the talk, I will briefly discuss a model game I have devised and use in my undergraduate systems biology modeling class.”

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We are grateful for Dr. Sauro’s continued collaboration with Sound Bio and his efforts towards advancing the goals of our educational outreach program.


2019 Lab Reorganization

The new year has brought a number of changes including a full reorganization of our lab space. You might even say that we were ‘Marie Kondo-ed’, in that almost every nook and cranny was cleared out, reassessed, and reorganized. Functional spaces are more clearly defined and equipment is easier to reach. Navigation has also improved with fewer ‘dead-ends’ via a new bench layout. Consumables such as gloves & tips are situated in the middle which allows greater accessibility for everyone.

This effort was largely driven by the fact that we are currently supporting more workshops in the lab and needed a larger workspace in the middle that is available from all sides. Thus the 2 benches in the photo below picture are now prioritized for workshops while research projects, lead projects and group projects have priority for the benches on the left.

New central bench assists various lab workshops.

New central bench assists various lab workshops.

Our Opentrons is up and running with dedicated bench space.

Our Opentrons is up and running with dedicated bench space.

All commonly used reagents, instruments and equipment are now in the main lab space, clearly labelled and displayed. Storage bins are labelled as well. It’s worth noting that the storage room is now off-limits to members; it is reserved for staff and volunteers only.

We have a separate space in the front for jackets and bags when hosting larger groups. There is also a new community notice board so please refer to it for the latest news.

Easier access to equipment.

Easier access to equipment.

Old equipment is being sold off (good-bye Frosty the Freezer!), which will create more usable storage space in the near future.

We hope you enjoy the new set-up! If you have trouble finding something because it has moved, please don’t hesitate to ask our lab manager.

We’d like to give a shout out to Dr. Orlando de Lange for sharing his laboratory organizational skills. We think Marie Kondo would agree that our lab sparks a lot of joy!

Member Spotlight: Theo Sauro

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At 9 years old, Theo is our youngest Tinkerer member at SoundBio. He happens to love all things science and because both of his parents are heavily involved in the SoundBio community, it’s no surprise that Theo participates in a wide variety of events. He also assists with testing new activities to determine the engagement factor for other Junior Scientists.

When in the lab Theo learned about the importance of safety, and was always under direct supervision of one of his parents (both trained scientists). Here are a few fun activities Theo has participated in:

  • Private lab tour, ending in fruit DNA extraction

  • Micro-pippetting

  • Dogfish shark dissection workshop

  • Candy electrophoresis workshop

  • With help from his father, he took some great pictures of protozoa using SoundBio’s new Compound Microscope

  • Theo attended our Sign-Making Party for Seattle’s Science March and was featured in a Crosscut article about the event.

Theo with his brother Ty, and father, Dr. Herbert Sauro, getting ready to dissect a frog.

Theo with his brother Ty, and father, Dr. Herbert Sauro, getting ready to dissect a frog.

When we asked The'o’s mother about SoundBio’s impact on Theo, she said:

“SoundBio offers an extraordinary opportunity for hands-on science exposure in a safe and supportive environment. There is simply nothing else like it in the greater Seattle region. Because Theo is young we can only postulate how these experiences might impact his future. However, it’s clear that his love of science has grown. I’ve heard Theo reference the shark dissection workshop several times since participating and he asked for a frog dissection kit for Christmas. I’m quite certain that request would not have materialized without SoundBio. When he grows up Theo says he wants to ‘make products from plants - things like food, medicine and oil; all from plants’, so we may need to get him involved in SoundBio’s plant TOP project soon!'“

After speaking with Theo about his favorite workshop, he said:

I didn’t even know you could dissect an animal!
It was fun to see all the organs inside a shark.
— Theo Sauro