The 13 weeks of BIO-DESIGN for the REAL WORLD passed by very quickly at EPFL.

Our semester wrap-up started with the final presentation and demonstration of prototypes by the students at EPFL with several guests present:

  • Prof. van der Meer andProf. Bernier-Latmani from the Kick-off day,
  • Dr. Sabrina Leuenberger from the EPFL Biosafety Office, whom Emilie consulted for the legal aspects of GMOs in the field
  • Dr. Barbara Grisoni from EPFL Life Science, who teaches the practical biotechnology laboratory
  • Mr. Urs Gaudenz from GaudiLabs and the hackteria network
  • Dr. Adrian Ranga, who was filming for us
  • some interested student peers

The final presentation followed the format of the students’ final report, with the demonstration of the first and second prototypes, with FITC-dextran, rather than the Arsenic-GFP reporter bacteria*.

Briefly, they described the aim of the project, in their words

  • a sensor either for arsenic detection or coliform bacteria detection
  • sense a contaminant in water
  • build something that is accessible
  • open-source informations
  • raise awareness about water quality
  • learn how to work as a group and also with people from different backgrounds
  • integrate the different domains we studied into one project
  • go out of the lab and go to the real world

The the research that led to choosing arsenic over E.coli detection, which included the motivation they felt through having skype sessions with the students at Srishti.Then, they followed with the criteria, and their prototype design and analysis, conclusions, with future directions, including suggestions for improvements.

Overall, the presentation finished by focusing nearly exclusively on the technical aspects (detection limit and dynamic range not useful for EGFP detection), and including the future directions.

Urs pointed this out – he suggested that the project aims contained group interactions and communication, and integration of domains, and the “results” of the semester project should discuss this as well.

Solution should be comprehensive including legal framework to use the prototype, blueprints, BOM, source for parts, etc. (from Urs)

Prof. van der Meer pointed out that intermediate deadlines in addition to midterm and final presentation dates could help us be able to plan ahead the visits. For example, to see how the arsenic bioreporter assay works. Visits earlier in the semester may have resulted in better trouble-shooting. To do this, the key dates should be set well in advance of the project start date, and to make sure to inform all parties of these dates.

In general, the audience was impressed with the enthusiasm of the students. That the students invited other students to attend the final presentation was a sign they wanted to share their work with others. As the project organizers (a.k.a. Robin and Sachiko), we were also very happy how engaged the students were, and how well they worked with each other, and their use of available online and open tools (prezi, arduino, wiki, CHDK…).

On this note, we are making some notes on what we have learned from running this project as part of the EPFL curriculum, to make future improvements, have feedback on how we can have continuity through-out the year, and get feedback from others.

In addition to our BIO-DESIGN for the REAL WORLD India and Indonesia collaborators, we would like to extend a big thank you. This is a very short list of people who have helped make this project happen so far, in chronological order of involvement in this project.

  • Prof. Melody Swartz (EPFL SV)
  • Prof. Didier Trono (EPFL SV)
  • Prof. William Pralong (EPFL SV)
  • Dr. Marc Dusseiller (hackteria)
  • Mr. Urs Gaudenz (hackteria)
  • Prof. Gisou van der Goot (EPFL SV)
  • Prof. Tamara Kohn (EPFL ENAC)
  • Prof. Jeffrey Hubbell (EPFL SV)
  • Ms. Ingrid Le Duc (EPFL CRAFT)
  • Dr. Siara Isaac (EPFL CRAFT)
  • Prof. Rizlan Bernier-Latmani (EPFL ENAC)
  • Prof. Melanie Blokesch (EPFL SV)
  • Prof. Jan van der Meer (UNIL)
  • Dr. Steven Weijs (EPFL ENAC)
  • Dr. Valentin Simeonov (EPFL ENAC)
  • Dr. Felippe de Alencastro (EPFL ENAC)
  • Dr. André Pexieder (EPFL SV)
  • Dr. Barbara Grisoni (EPFL SV)
  • Dr. Sabrina Leuenberger (EPFL SV)
  • Dr. Nina Buffi (EPFL STI)
  • Mr. José Artacho (EPFL SV)
  • Dr. Ralf Weise (hackteria)
  • Dr. Siham Beggah (UNIL)
  • Mr. Davide Merulla (UNIL)
  • Prof. Martial Geiser (HES-SO)
  • Dr. Frederic Truffer (HES-SO)
  • Dr. Jean Iwanovski (HES-SO)

This project is funded by the CO-DEV SEED grant.

*FITC dextran does not scatter light, as would an Arsenic GFP reporter bacteria.

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