Yashas, who leads the (Art)ScienceBLR crew in Bangalore, India came through Europe this summer to visit EPFL. We invited him to the post-semester student BBQ on Sunday, which was a surprise for the students. The weather was quite warm, and the lake was refreshing. It was a nice chance for us to reflect on the experience this past semester outside of the usual context.

The following day, we had arranged some meetings at EPFL.

Prof. Pralong joined us in the discussion for the future of this project. Specifically, we discussed for the manifestation of the BIO-DESIGN for the REAL WORLD project at EPFL, where the project with 3-year vision (at least!) was implemented as a 3rd year Bachelor’s course this past spring.

  • how the course should/could be tailored as an educational experience for the students at EPFL
  • how to integrate this into the curriculum to have year-round student participation
  • how it fits into the overall teaching aims of EPFL.
  • how we would like to open this project to beyond the School of Life Sciences

What exactly we would like to see in the project, and how to integrate students and the water sensing and the River Project in the upcoming Lifepatch activities in Yogyakarta in April 2014.

We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of social media and online media as a pedagogic tool, to promote more unmediated (by mentors) student-to-student and student-to-citizen scientist interactions. The Lausanne-Bangalore interactions by skype were quite regular, but for communications with Yogyakarta, perhaps other social media like facebook, or google+ maybe more appropriate. Language barriers with Yogyakarta may be alleviated with translators (as bad as google translate can be).

Outlining best practice in international collaborations, in addition to all other aims, would be a great outcome of this project.

This was followed by a visit to Prof. van der Meer’s laboratory at UNIL, where we were joined by Dr. Marc Dusseiller also from the hackteria network.

Between the extensive experience of Prof. van der Meer, with implementing through collaborators, arsenic detection in Vietnam, and taking other reporter bacteria in a container lab in the North Sea, and Marc and Yashas’ extensive work in open biological science and education, we had some interesting exchanges.

We discussed the future of the project with respect to the arsenic reporter bacteria, and where (Art)ScienceBLR would like to take this project. We will be following up on mobile labs and arsenic reporter detection, with the idea that a modular mobile labs as well as reporter bacteria can be applied to other water contaminants in the future.

Prof. van der Meer and Davide have expressed concern about their public perception and reaction towards GMOs. The nuance between a bioreporter for detection of contaminants and a GMO (as in crops and food) in the eyes of the public seems to be different. This was also an opportunity for us to hear what it means for artists to work with synthetic biology and GMOs, and whether there is a place for an open-approach, involving art and design students working with biotechnology. The discussions on GMOs is also an integral part of this research project. We are going under the hypothesis that a hands-on community workshop to biosensors in the field would be a step towards a deeper conversation on GMOs, and a way to expand the number of informed decision makers in the partner countries.

All in all, it was nice to obtain some constructive and positive feedback. The presence of Yashas and Marc in the meetings made them a rich experience.

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