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!