Today’s diybio nyc meetup

I got through another meeting with the diybio nyc peeps. Mostly it was management related talk with what came to be the founding members of the group, in terms of getting legal status and finding space for the group. The biggest problem for the group at the moment seem to be lack of lab-worthy space. Another big problem is finding a suitable project idea for us to go ahead with. Actually, if you ask me the lack of pervading project idea is a bigger problem then the lack of physical space, since lack of project means lack of traction and focus for the group. I would really hate to see the group evaporating due to lack of activity at this stage.

I’m wrecking my brain daily over finding an interesting enough project to proceed with, but so far I’m drawing a blank. The fact that I’m practically ignorant on the deeper nuances of the biological sciences doesn’t really help matters either.

One member of the group had been very generous in providing the group with much equipment and other resources, and the other member is doing much to get to the issue of incorporating the diybio nyc group as a nonprofit. I’m trying to look into the space issue by working with other groups outside of diybio, but I’m not too sure how it will work out… Not a lot of people want to work on unproven projects with unproven people. There is a biotech group within the city that might be able to provide us with labspace and resources but they are about incubating professional businesses which doesn’t sit well with the diybio ethos.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that sometimes I feel like a third wheel in the group, but I guess everyone feels that way at one time or another when trying to get a meaningful movement going. I will have to remedy it by working harder… I really want to do something significant for the group but I don’t know what I should start with, and I’m getting a feeling that this is a common sentiment shared by many of the ghost members of the group (and yes, there are quite a few ghost members, it’s to be expected I guess).

At the moment all I can do is try to provide more logistical data for the group, like rent, spaces, and possible collaboration with existing hackerspaces to get those things. I guess I can give a bit more info about the S.B. 4.0, there are still whole notebooks of data on that conference. I actually gave then the booklet with abstracts of presentations and posters, I hope it will be of more use to them then it was for me, with their experience with actual wetlab and all…

I am trying to come up with a project idea, though it is more likely that we’ll be going with an idea that more experienced members of the group will come up with. Just juggling through ideas of completed projects isn’t good enough. I need to think about the realistic design and research process that will lead to that finished product, which isn’t easy for someone who still has trouble digging through some of the simpler stuff of molecular biology and pathways. I guess this is time for me to go dig up more igem stuff, and try to make sense of it all in terms of technical execution and practical resource requirements. That is, we won’t be coming up with a model of minimal cell in basement lab anytime soon (as much as I would love to see that happen).

I’m beginning to think about something on the lines of building in light sensitivity into the bacterial chassis (at least I might be able to help out with physics side of things in project like that) but what exactly? What kind of project would I be able to conceive of that incorporates light sensitivity of cells while remaining imaginative and practical within the technical limitations our group face?

E.Coli chassis that follows light? Or avoids light even. Now such idea would be a problem considering that I do not have a very clear idea of the mobility mechanism behind E.Coli (CAN they move? Or will it be a cycle of dying out when within the light rich or deficient environment?).

Considerations like that makes me feel like simply suggesting doing some exercise to make bacteria glow, document the whole process and materials used so that I and other less experienced members of the group can have clearer understanding of the techniques and limitations involved in the process- notably, introduction of foreign plasmids into a native chassis. The plus side of such an approach is that it lays nice groundwork for future experiments for those who aren’t experienced with molecular biology. The negative side would be that such experiment would dig into the resources and time the group doesn’t really have. Possibility of boring more experienced members of the group is also something I need to watch out for. Diybio nyc will not be able to sustain itself without the help of the people experienced in experimental biology.

I just don’t know what to do. Even if I were to suggest the glowing bacteria as a sort of introductory warm-up exercise, we still need to come up with a great project idea at some point.

I’m writing this in the subway on my way home. It’s beginning to sound like the diybio nyc is in some mortal peril now that I read some of the stuff I’ve written. It isn’t. Considering all the odds things are going swimmingly and possibly even better than I first expected. The whole atmosphere of excitement at being able to think about manipulating biology of living systems for academic pursuit is something that makes me feel alive. And I enjoy wrecking my brain over this stuff. It’s only that I’m under constant pressure to do more and get more things done, to make the group really work. It’s because I believe that we have something with potential for some truly wonderful stuff here. And it would be a real shame to let it die out not with a bang but a whimper.

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