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 Community Lab Proposal 
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Joined: Fri Oct 08, 2010 6:08 am
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Post Community Lab Proposal
Suggestions, anyone?
Project Proposal: BLASToCyst Biolab
Biology is a rapidly growing field. Scientists are trying to involve young people more in exciting new fields such as synthetic biology and molecular genetics, as these are topics of great controversy. As young people try to find out more about these topics, they are interested in trying these exhilarating new fields. These projects are not very difficult for an amateur to pull off, with some help from supervisors. However, they often require some technology, such as PCR thermocyclers and gel boxes. This technology is expensive and requires some expertise to use. BLASToCyst Biolab will be a community lab for citizen science where anyone can come in and use the equipment for their own projects. The center can also be used to host classes, increase awareness about hot topics like genetic testing and cloning, and for “team” projects. Students who are interested in a lab technique that they are going to do in later high school or university courses can come and experiment with the technique. Advisors will also be on hand to help run the equipment and to increase knowledge and concepts in the young scientists who will be using the biolab. When thinking of the future and how many new genetics related diseases are being discovered, it is essential to raise a generation of young scientists who have the knowledge base to tackle these diseases. This project will require funding for the actual center and the lab equipment which will include a PCR thermocycler, gel boxes, micropipettes, vials, a centrifuge, and other assorted equipment.


Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:25 pm
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
I love the idea. I live in the Washington, DC, area. Just north of the city is the main campus of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Food and Drug Administration. It might be possible to do something like what you're talking about by getting surplus equipment from some of these places.
Cheers,
Norman


Wed May 25, 2011 6:00 pm
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Location: Sweden
Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
I'm expecting universities to open their labs to student clubs. Once there is a working copyable model for that students will have access to a local lab in most cities.

-Splicer

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Wed May 25, 2011 9:41 pm
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
That's interesting. Why do you expect that to happen? My experience with universities is that they are somewhat cautious about opening their labs.


Wed May 25, 2011 10:37 pm
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
About the BLASToCyst Biolab, I know that pharmaceutical companies and makers of equipment for pharmaceutical industry donate their old (but still functional) equipment to universitets. If it is for educational purposes I guess they would be willing to donate some equpiment.

But I think the biggest issues will be money and to get people involved in the project. And maybe also location.

Splicer: When are you expecting universities to open their labs?

I don't want to sit around for 10 years to get access to a lab :)


Wed May 25, 2011 10:47 pm
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
Biotiny: Within the next three years? I think it will be very soon, but I don't want to make a Kurzweil... hehe

normanjack: Yes they are cautious, because the idea is new and there isn't a clear legislation for it yet. This is in part because of the terrorist scare that's been going on for a decade.

The short explanation as to why university labs will open to student clubs is national interest. You need educated people to start new industry. During the early days of the IT-revolution student clubs had access to high school/university mainframes when people thought hackers could launch nukes.

Biotech is an industrial revolution, there are many able countries who'd like to step up to be the leading industrial nation. The US, China, Europe, India, Singapore, Japan and so on.

The US benefited from being the leader of the IT revolution. The UK from being the leader of the industrial revolution. Govs know this.

Maybe the activities will be supervised and monitored at first, maybe they will be limited to using BioBricks or some of the secure chassis that are in the works. It will begin somewhere in some form, the model will be copied by other universities and it will change over time.

-Splicer

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Wed May 25, 2011 11:26 pm
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
University labs already employ undergrad researchers and interns. This has been going on for years. I started in a lab as a Freshman, had my own research project my senior year.

However, the idea, that a Professor will simply open their lab to "clubs" is laughable. It takes money to maintain a lab. Getting funding is brutal and is made possible only by publishing results. This requires dedicated researchers focusing their efforts on the objectives set out in a grant. A PI is not going to relinquish control or resources they pay for to anyone to do whatever they like with.


Thu May 26, 2011 3:08 am
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
Yeah, unfortunately, I totally have to agree with chadn737. Unfortunately, universities are not going to let clubs in anytime soon. However, I have heard some biopunk stories about a teenager who was able to carry out his biohacking project at a university lab. He got in with some iGEM advisors at the university, and they let him use their supplies. iGEM and the likes are definitely bridges between biohackers and the university institutions.

I think it would be cool to hold a Maker Faire styled fair for BLASToCYST BioLabs, featuring biohackers who hack hardware to make homegrown lab technologies. I mean really, we can make a lot of automated lab equipment using Arduino microcontrollers, i.e. for thermocyclers, magnetic mixers, ghetto spectrophotometers and the like. Then we could use a lot of the inventions from the Fair and try to standardize the automation.

@normanjack: The lobster shell disease dissertation sounds really cool! Could you explain more? Also, agreed about the White Nose Disease in bats...seems mysterious.


Thu May 26, 2011 5:31 am
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
chadn737 wrote:
However, the idea, that a Professor will simply open their lab to "clubs" is laughable. It takes money to maintain a lab. Getting funding is brutal and is made possible only by publishing results. This requires dedicated researchers focusing their efforts on the objectives set out in a grant. A PI is not going to relinquish control or resources they pay for to anyone to do whatever they like with.

There are teaching labs in addition to research labs, the ones that fit 20 people and use equipment sometimes handed down from research labs or borrowed for the day. Clubs will also be sponsored by universities with spaces and budgets to keep their own labs.


chadn737 wrote:
Yeah, unfortunately, I totally have to agree with chadn737. Unfortunately, universities are not going to let clubs in anytime soon. However, I have heard some biopunk stories about a teenager who was able to carry out his biohacking project at a university lab. He got in with some iGEM advisors at the university, and they let him use their supplies. iGEM and the likes are definitely bridges between biohackers and the university institutions.

This guy did something similar a few days back:
http://www.livescience.com/14138-teen-cystic-fibrosis-drug-cocktail-contest.html


-Splicer

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Thu May 26, 2011 6:41 am
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
True. But those are for university students and/or high school students. Trusting high school students with lab equipment is crazy, to be honest.

The link is broken, by the way.


Thu May 26, 2011 6:46 am
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
chimeraboy wrote:
True. But those are for university students and/or high school students. Trusting high school students with lab equipment is crazy, to be honest.

The link is broken, by the way.


noticed the link, just fixed it... thanks.

There is a long history of university and highschool clubs being trusted. And a university club can quickly have access to everything a hackerspace can. And it's basically the same people.

In the bigger picture I think the makers keep forgetting that this is an industrial revolution we're talking about. It's about societies changing direction into the biotech world.

-Splicer

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Thu May 26, 2011 6:55 am
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
First time I heard splicer mention this I was skeptic too, but the idea has grown on me. Now it really seems possible. I think that if there had been more Drew Endys in this world this would already have happend. But most of us here seem to be in academia and if we don't take the initiatives then who will?


Thu May 26, 2011 10:59 pm
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
Agreed with all points. As I told before, I know a few biohackers who were just allowed into universities. As for my own biohacking project, which attempts to make a carbon monoxide biosensor using hemoglobin associated proteins, I got a lot of help from advisors at the university when I needed something.

However, I think making a hackerspace for biology gives more good publicity, especially if it is marketed more as "people who enjoy learning biology so much, they are taking it to the next logical step".


Fri May 27, 2011 12:12 am
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
Yes, exactly! One of the problems with associating with a university is that they can become proprietary. Maintaining independence might be important to some biohackers, and there's always a chance that a university could decide that they own the intellectual property that was born in their space.


Fri May 27, 2011 1:26 am
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Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:18 am
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Post Re: Community Lab Proposal
Splicer wrote:
chadn737 wrote:
However, the idea, that a Professor will simply open their lab to "clubs" is laughable. It takes money to maintain a lab. Getting funding is brutal and is made possible only by publishing results. This requires dedicated researchers focusing their efforts on the objectives set out in a grant. A PI is not going to relinquish control or resources they pay for to anyone to do whatever they like with.

There are teaching labs in addition to research labs, the ones that fit 20 people and use equipment sometimes handed down from research labs or borrowed for the day. Clubs will also be sponsored by universities with spaces and budgets to keep their own labs.


chadn737 wrote:
Yeah, unfortunately, I totally have to agree with chadn737. Unfortunately, universities are not going to let clubs in anytime soon. However, I have heard some biopunk stories about a teenager who was able to carry out his biohacking project at a university lab. He got in with some iGEM advisors at the university, and they let him use their supplies. iGEM and the likes are definitely bridges between biohackers and the university institutions.

This guy did something similar a few days back:
http://www.livescience.com/14138-teen-cystic-fibrosis-drug-cocktail-contest.html


-Splicer


Interesting story, however, it should be noted that the HS student is working under the direct supervision of a PI. There is nothing new about this. My lab regularly hosts student researchers over the summer months, undergrads during the year. This has gone on for years, decades even and is not in anyway a new development.

However, in every circumstance, the student works under direct supervision of the PI and on projects related to the research of the PI. As in the example you linked to.

Teaching labs are designed for lab course components of the lecture courses. I'm not sure you realize this, but Universities have huge liabilities when it comes to these labs. They are not simply open to the public for use.

Certainly it is possible for a "club" to do something along these line, but it would be required to have a professor to sponser it and likely supervise it. The maintaining a wet lab is not cheap either. A tube of only a few microliters of enzyme can run up to a hundred dollars.

Sorry if I am so skeptical, but I am. There is immense liability and cost factors that I think few Universities and few PIs will be willing to deal with. And I'll be skeptical until I see it actually happen.


Fri May 27, 2011 1:34 am
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