Tom and I went to the FBI-DIY Bio outreach conference in Walnut Creek last year. It was a really fun forum for learning about the various DIY bio artistic and scientific efforts all over the world. (We could not believe how many artists were calling themselves practitioners of DIY Bio) Incredibly, this was all funded (plane tickets, meals, and all) by the FBI. The cost was a brief slide presentation of your DIY bio activities.
We were there to announce the forming of a community laboratory in Baltimore, but what to call the thing? Lucky for us, there was a bio-security workshop that all the conference-goers participated in (some more reluctantly than others) The workshop presented a series of hypothetical situations involving a still-hypothetical-at-the-time community laboratory called BUGSS, so, naturally, we stole the name.
Journalists Hanno Charisius, Richard Friebe, and Sascha Karberg recount their version of the details of this adventure, admittedly with some ominous overtones, in a recent article in BBC FUTURE.
But what's this all about? Is it really that scary, or is there a strategy here that makes a lot of sense? Representatives of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate will be here to tell us all about it. Here are their words:
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate is charged with building a cohesive and coordinated approach to incidents involving nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical weapons—with an overriding focus on prevention. With the rapid development of technology, capabilities and information regarding the biological world, a proactive approach is being taken to address the misuse of biological agents as weapons of mass destruction. Supervisory Special Agent Nathan E. Head, Ph.D, from FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. will speak about the FBI’s efforts to address this important issue, along with representatives from the FBI’s Baltimore Field Division.”
Please come on over for a frank discussion of DIY Bio, community laboratories, and bio-security with the FBI, You might be surprised at what you hear. FREE to ALL!
Build-a-BUG 2: Yeast Spore Mating Type Detector Saturday February 23 noon to 4:00 pm
Learn the fundamentals of synthetic biology in eukaryotes! We will use BioBrick standard biological parts to engineer Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a classic model organism and the yeast commonly used in winemaking, baking, and brewing. This yeast can be induced to form spores, which are daughter cells with half the number of chromosomes. Similar to the sperm and egg cells of male and female animals, these spores can be one
of two mating types: a or α. An a spore can mate with an α spore to form a new yeast cell. The goal will be to build a yeast that when sporulated will yield mating type α spores that fluoresce red. This project has potential real-world biotechnology applications (e.g. streamlining the identification of spores for downstream mating experiments).
This is the second Build-A-BUG workshop in a series of five on yeast. You will continue to hone your basic lab techniques, including pipetting and centrifugation, while continuing either your own or somebody else's mating type detector project. This lab will involve restriction digests (cutting DNA), agarose gel electrophoresis (visualizing DNA), and gel extractions (recovering DNA fragments).
The five sessions are designed to give a good survey of synthetic biology techniques while doing an interesting project. While we encourage you to take all five sessions, each session can stand on its own. You do not need to commit to all five sessions to enjoy the experience. There are no prerequisites, except you must be over 18 years of age (still working on legal stuff to let younger people participate in this activity)
Also, we now have a repository wiki on Open Wet Ware that provides notes, background material, and results for these sessions.
The rest of the series will be on Saturdays 2/23, 3/9, 3/23, and 4/6; noon to 4 PM
Instructor: Dileep Monie
Cost: $40 per session (+ eventbrite fees)/ free for members Please register HERE
Cells are tiny chemical robots hacked together through billions of years of evolution. Usually, when you want to understand how a robot works, you read its source code. The closest thing cells have to source, however, is a kind of interpreted byte-code called DNA. Reading and understanding this code (which is sometimes brilliant, sometimes kludgey, and never commented) is a major task in modern biology.
Luckily, there is currently way more sequenced DNA than we know what to do with. Approximately 150 billion bases of DNA have been sequenced as of late 2012, and this volume is expected to double by 2014. This data, if printed and bound, would run to sixty thousand volumes: clearly, no human being could ever read even 1% of it, much less use it to discover new biological knowledge. Our only hope for dealing with this deluge is to develop artificial intelligence to help us do science, or even do it for us. This is already happening. How?
In this workshop we'll explore some fundamental techniques in computational genomics, focusing on the lowly _E. coli_ bacterium. We'll start from scratch: after a crash course in molecular biology, we'll download an _E. coli_ genome and begin to analyze it with our own code, so that everything we do can be replicated from the comfort of your own basement. We'll develop algorithms for finding genes and predicting their expression levels, and by the end of the session we'll have added some comments and documentation to the _E. coli_ code base. We'll be writing code in Python, and all source will be available during the session. Please BYO Laptop (if you have one)
Some knowledge of Python may be helpful, but there are no prerequisites, except interest. This session is meant to give the coder (or would-be coder) with little experience in bioinformatics a taste of what its about, in a fun way.
This happens on Friday, Feb 15th at 7:00 pm. We are asking for a donation, whatever you deem appropriate, so that BUGSS can continue to do this kind of thing. No this is not NPR. (I think they have a 501(C)(3). We're still working on ours) This is the BUGSS lab.
Your guide, Patrick O'Neill, is a graduate student in the Erill Lab at UMBC, where he applies machine learning and biophysics to the study of gene regulation in bacteria. He once crashed a supercomputer.
Please RSVP here.
BUGSS is a 501(C)3 charity. Please help keep BUGSS going!