Ed's Big Plans

Computing for Science and Awesome

OGem – Ontario iGem Mini-Conference

without comments

Teams from the Southern Ontario University iGem teams came together on May 29th for a miniature conference at the University of Waterloo. We had members from Guelph, Toronto, Mississauga (U of T’s West Campus), Queen’s and Ottawa. The basic trend of the show was finding the fun and profit from synthetic biology. I could only stay for the morning and early afternoon segment– but I really would have loved to stay for dinner.

Dave Johnston — our very own team leader from last year at Guelph showed up with Brendan. It was kind of neat to see them again, and more so since they didn’t know I had betrayed them and joined the Waterloo team this year (amicably of course).

Meeting with like-minded individuals is a bit of a relief. It is good to need to argue, convince and learn from others in science– and out of science… but when it comes to something as difficult for outsiders to enjoy as synthetic biology, sometimes it’s a nice break to just discuss the facets within the discipline, rather than abstractly and vaguely defending it against misunderstandings. Actually, one of the standing objectives we discussed was improving public image.

Along with the theme of the fun and profit of the beast came the odd realization that what we’re studying now is likely to become obsolete within the decade– however, with that risk comes the potential for each of us attending to contribute something truly worthwhile in short notice.

One key idea that stuck with me was the development and deployment of nanometre-scale sensors to detect the changes of magnetic flux while molecules are moved within a single cell. I’d imagine that one would need to be well versed with trigonometry and calculus to write software to solve the diffraction patterns of the fields in real time. It might look something like a dynamic/real-time x-ray crystallographic analysis. Another key idea is the 1Mbp/1hr/$100 device. If DNA can be printed at the rate of one million base pairs for each hour at the price of a hundred bucks– it wouldn’t matter what currency that’s in, it would win.

Culture was something else I noticed about the group. There was the ever present odd scientist humour. We managed to have running jokes about the phrase “Killer App”, as soon as it was accidentally introduced to refer to engineered microbes.

All in all, it was a good conference.

Something that I’ll need to follow up on is the idea of doing a group / mass booking for a tour bus from Southern Ontario down to Boston come iGem conference time. This along with a group / mass hotel booking would solve a lot the travel and accomodation fragmentation everyone experienced last year.

Eddie Ma

June 1st, 2009 at 1:01 am