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!
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!
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, prizes, and 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!
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
SoundBio’s Director of Operations, Yoshi Goto, was a judge for both fairs. Here’s what he had to say.
We are incredibly proud of all of our students and their achievements! Congratulations to them 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, 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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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!
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:
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.”
We are grateful for Dr. Sauro’s continued collaboration with Sound Bio and his efforts towards advancing the goals of our educational outreach program.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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:
While a lot of the research at SoundBio Lab focuses on molecular work, we still encourage and support other scientific activities as well, including dissections. It’s a great way to learn anatomy, while having fun and (quite literally), getting your hands dirty! In the past, we hosted a very popular dogfish shark dissection. The sharks were procured from Bio Corporation.
We have a wide variety of members in our lab, including families who either home school their children, or simply like to encourage fun science activities. SoundBio offers a safe space and supplies (ex: scalpels, forceps, scissors, fine tweezers, trays, etc) to perform kid-friendly activities like dissections.
This is exactly what Theo Sauro did after receiving a frog from Santa. He brought his entire family to the lab, so they could assist in his dissection. Of course, Theo and his younger brother Ty were supervised by their parents, and wore gloves and safety glasses. Here are a few images they shared while learning about frog organs. Ty was most enamored with the intestines, as they reminded him of spaghetti (of course).
SoundBio is here to encourage these types of hands-on activities, with experts ready to assist in the discovery process. We can also help procure specimens too. Contact us at: info (at) sound.bio to learn more!
SoundBio Lab is excited to announce an entire suite of new workshops for 2019!
Here’s a snapshot of what’s to come…
HANDS ON LAB ENCOUNTER
Designed for beginners, this 1 hour lab tour will introduce you to some basic equipment & how to use it safely. You also get to play around with a few simple items such as pipets, microscopes and centrifuges. Several dates and times are offered, starting in late January. Join us!
LAB 101 SERIES
Back by popular demand! Designed for curious beginners, Dr. de Lange will walk you through some basic laboratory skills so you can safely and confidently get your feet wet. It’s the best way to start if you’ve never worked in a lab. 2 series will be offered in Feb, and 1 in March.
GMO - PCR
For those already familiar with pipetting and lab safety, this workshop introduces participants to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Using PCR, you’ll detect DNA that has been introduced into plants, examining this inside an agarose gel under UV light. We’ll also discuss the controversy surrounding GMOs in the food supply. This 3.5 hour workshop will be offered at 3 different time slots in mid to late March.
Remember, if you are a SoundBio member, you get a significant discount on Workshops. Member and non-Member pricing is listed on the Workshop page which will be updated regularly.
Given that space is limited, we kindly request that all participants RSVP ahead of time. This allows our workshop leader, Dr. Orlando de Lange to prepare. If you haven’t met Orlando yet, please introduce yourself! He’s busy leading our TOP project, so is oftentimes found at SoundBio Lab.
Further updates to report from the Science Curriculum Adoption Team for Seattle Public Schools.
As reported in a previous blog post, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has committed to updating all of their science curriculum over the next few years. They are beginning with K-8, and will tackle high school next. This is a big step and commitment by the district because SPS serves over 54,000 children. There are many reasons why this is happening, but the 2013 Washington mandate to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is the primary reason.
The adoption team has met many times at the John Stanford Center Center for Educational Excellence to first create the assessment rubric, and then to review all vendors who responded to the Request for Information from the Department of Instructional Materials. Teams were divided into K-5 or 6-8, depending on their area of expertise, and were comprised of teachers, principals and community members. SoundBio’s Dir. of Outreach, Holly Sawyer, is part of the K-5 group.
The teams met and scored the curriculum packages based on their detailed assessment rubric. In addition, a public survey was offered to all SPS parents, asking about their concerns and priorities for science. Not surprisingly, hands-on learning (a cornerstone of SoundBio Lab), came in as the number one goal. Parents are also concerned about too much screen/computer time at school, and want more hands-on activities to stimulate curious minds.
Taking into account all of the above, 3 vendors have been chosen as our finalists. These finalists have just moved forward to field testing, at both K-5 and 6-8 schools, where they will be used in the classroom. A variety of schools across the district are represented to cover the diverse student body served by SPS. Once the testing is complete, a thorough analysis will be performed before the winners are selected. They will then be formally recommended to the Seattle School Board. Stay tuned as we follow this exciting new development in science learning!
We sat down with Dr. Sleight, founder and CEO of Sleight Beer Lab to learn about his new business and the role that SoundBio has played in it.
Can you tell us a little about your background and why you decided to become an entrepreneur?
I moved to Seattle in 2007 after I earned my PhD in microbiology and molecular genetics from Michigan State to pursue a post-doc in Dr. Sauro’s lab at the University of Washington. While at UW, I studied a variety of things, including the evolutionary stability of genetic circuits and developing novel DNA assembly methods for synthetic biology. This work led to a job at Matrix Genetics where I was a manager in their synthetic biology group. We were responsible for developing synthetic biology techniques used to genetically alter bacterial strains. At the time I was an avid homebrewer and interested in pursuing brewing science as a possible career path. Matrix Genetics ended up closing shop, so I decided that was as good a time as any to start a business.
Without SoundBio, what were the key barriers that would've prevented you from being able to attempt your project?
Everything! Rent, lab space, and of course equipment. I would have had to pay thousand(s) a month to have a lab space because a standard office space wasn’t an option. It needed to be a lab….so really, it was the only financially viable option that included access to lab equipment.
What impact from your Sleight Brewing work are you most proud of during your time running it at SoundBio?
Finding a unique yeast strain that other people can use to make great beer. I can now go to a brewery, order a beer, and know that it was fermented with my own strain. That is very exciting and cool. It was possible because I could do brewing science at SoundBio.
How did SoundBio help with your transition between jobs?
SoundBio played a huge role! It allowed me to make a modest income after my unemployment ran out and to pursue a brewing science hobby at the same time. It meant I did not have to move out of the city or take a horrible job, just to pay the bills. It gave me some breathing room, and a runway of sorts, to take time to assess a new market (without a huge upfront financial investment that required investors). It was really an unknown entity, starting this business. As I see it, there were two options:
1) develop a hot new technology and then go after investors...or
2) leverage my science background, do something I know how to do & make money immediately
The 2nd choice was obvious given my financial constraints. There was too much risk and uncertainty with option 1, not to mention the time frame would likely be years.
How, if at all, did being connected to and interacting with the SoundBio community (its members and others who would drop in from time to time) help you on your project?
I received a lot of moral support, particularly from Mike, a SoundBio co-founder. He offered a lot of encouragement. Zach was also very interested and supportive. I felt like SoundBio was taking a bit of chance on this project and new business. They could have said no, but instead, SoundBio embraced the unknown, and I am tremendously thankful for it.
Little things in the lab made a difference: I was given specific equipment training (as needed) and both Zach and Yoshi were great sounding boards to bounce ideas off of. So it’s really a combination of moral support, and having some technical expertise that was most helpful.
What are some ways that SoundBio could improve its ability to enable more entrepreneurs in the future?
It’s actually pretty amazing already, what’s going on at the lab. I have no real complaints and there were no specific barriers that prevented me from doing anything for my business, Sleight Beer Lab, so any feedback would be minor. One issue that could be improved is scheduling of large groups. It did get crowded sometimes when there were 12 iGEM kids in the lab, so knowing that schedule ahead of time would be helpful, but I fully recognize that it’s a community lab and it will get busy.
SoundBio is a community of amateur and professional science enthusiasts dedicated to providing access to biotechnology, equitable science education, and supporting the next generation of young scientists. How does Sleight Beer Lab both benefit from, and help support SoundBio’s mission?
By using SoundBio’s lab space, I was able to start a business with very little upfront risk at a fraction of the cost. My business never could never have existed without SoundBio Lab.
Broadly speaking, SoundBio allowed me to use my wet-lab skills to help bring biotechnology to the brewing industry - to solve real world problems. So I think this clearly made an impact, and benefited my clients who are not trained in genetics, microbiology, or fermentation analysis of yeast strains. It is also exciting to know that through my work in the lab, I was able to identify and share new, robust yeast strains that can used to ferment high quality beer - for many others to enjoy! I learned recently that one brewery in Seattle is now using my yeast as their house strain.
I also taught a workshop on yeast, which was fun to do, and I think benefited many homebrewers in the area.
I did my best to give back to the SoundBio community directly by teaching others. I love that SoundBio welcomes and accepts amateur scientists (not just professionals). During the past year, I helped train 2 interns, teaching them molecular biology and microbiology as related to the beer industry. This was done in part because it’s fun to give back (once you know something, teaching is fun), but also because it was great to see so much enthusiasm for my work. It was mutually beneficial and is part of the culture at SoundBio.
In early November 2018, SoundBio Lab teamed up with Celgene for a one-of-a-kind biotech workshop event for middle school children. Held at Celgene’s Juno Therapeutic’s location in Seattle, WA, this event specifically targeted girls and under-represented minorities in order to promote diversity in biotechnology.
The children were treated to several hands-on science activities designed specifically by Celgene and SoundBio scientists. The goal of this event was to inspire kids to envision themselves as scientists, and to help them see the connection between DNA and cancer.
Staff and volunteers from both SoundBio and Celgene led 7 different groups of kids in these hands-on activities, starting with a favorite, strawberry DNA extraction. The groups then participated in a novel cancer game where they got to tear apart paper mache cells to learn about healthy DNA variation, as well as the different kinds of mutations that can lead to cancer. The final activity was learning how to micropipet using colored water, parafilm, petri dishes, and 96 well plates. All in all, the kids and volunteers had a wonderful morning learning about biology.
We hope to continue this workshop series as an annual event. If you have a middle school student who is interested in biology, we’d love for you to join us! You can do so by following this LINK.
SoundBio Lab started as an empty space, but soon filled up, and fast!
So how did a new community non-profit lab acquire so much, so quickly?
We get asked this question a lot, so figured it was a great idea for a blog post. Not surprisingly, the short answer to this question is a variety of places. Our founders, members, donors, UW, and biotech companies all played a role in contributing resources.
It turned out that a number of our DIY members had equipment and chemicals they wanted to share. With a community lab space, it allowed them to free up storage space at their own home, and to share things that didn’t get used often. Definitely a win:win.
There is also a small but vibrant biotech community in Seattle, including organizations who grow, who get bought out, or labs at UW that downsize or fold. In many cases, they are looking for places to donate used and older model pieces of equipment. Because we are the only biology focused community lab in the area, folks were happy to offer up extra supplies once they knew about us. Organizations like Altius Institute, Fred Hutch and Zymogenetics all contributed in this way, and we are very grateful for the donations.
We also received individual donations (thank you Kris Ganjam!) as well as some generous financial donations to purchase hard-to-find items with a high price-point. Our -80 Freezer is an example; it has turned out to be extraordinarily useful for our members. Another anonymous donor gave the lab a wonderful new compound microscope. You can read more about that specific item here.
We also love to shop at the UW Surplus Store. This is a wonderful resource for non-profits looking to acquire more expensive items that are normally not within a limited budget. The surplus store is like Goodwill - you never know what you’re going to find - but when you find it, you’re super excited because you got an amazing deal!
Examples of items we’ve purchased from the surplus store: new lab consumables, bins, chairs, racks, glassware, office supplies and more.
Due to our connections in the Puget Sound, we sometimes don’t have space for, or need all the supplies we find through our network. In cases like this, we do our best to find worthy recipients. For example, a number of supplies were sent to Africa to help start another DIY Lab. A former iGEM student of SoundBio is starting a new lab in Southern CA, so we were able to help resource a number of useful items from Zymogenetics to aid this effort.
Whether an item lands in our lab, or another, we are extremely grateful for the ongoing community support. It’s one of the reasons we hope to be around for a very, very long time.
SoundBio was delighted to be featured as a Maker for the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) Maker Day event on Saturday, Oct 27, 2018.
This series runs once a month at the Museum of History and Industry, and features a new Maker group each month. We were asked to host our ‘Painting with Bacteria’ activity which is always a crowd favorite.
So, how does it work?
In order to create your own microbial masterpiece, you need special bacteria based ‘paint’ that we grow in the lab. Using a Q-tip, participants dip into a tube of liquid ‘paint’, and gently paint onto an agar-coated petri dish. The agar is food for the bacteria, so after folks finish painting, we incubate the plates overnight to allow the bacteria time to replicate and grow.
The key to this activity is getting the right strain of modified E. coli bacteria (that is safe to handle too!).
So how do these bacteria strains express different colors?
They’ve been altered to include a small, circular piece of DNA called a plasmid. These plasmids have an additional gene inserted in them, and that gene can express a different color or fluorescent protein.
In short, scientists have found the genes responsible for these proteins, isolated them, and have learned how to genetically engineer other organisms (like E.coli) to express these proteins! Amazing, right?
Of course you can find fluorescent proteins in nature too, the most famous being Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), which was first isolated from the jellyfish, Aequorea victoria. Once isolated, this gene proved to be a very useful tool for research scientists. In this case we’re using it for some artistic fun!
Check out our set-up and a few pictures of folks enjoying this event. After the plates grew in the incubator, we snapped another set of images - UV light, and white and black backgrounds (below). The full set were recently shared with the participants and are located HERE.
Finally, we’d like to thank MOHAI and our wonderful volunteers for helping to make this fun, hands-on event possible!
Above are a few fun examples of our participant’s plates after incubation. Very creative!