Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Greenland Biodesign Projects 2015

The Greenland Biodesign team at the UTC have undergone a management restructuring over the summer (you can read all about this shortly in a forthcoming post from their communications director), and, following an initial meeting with team members, below, you will find a summary of the research projects for the coming year that will form a collaboration with my own research lab at the University of Sheffield. Before I outline the projects though, here is a little background to how the research project idea and Greenland Biodesign came about.

The Greenland group was initially set up during the opening year of the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC in order to provide an outlet for students who wanted to take their own interests in Science a little bit further. The team initially comprised Y12 students from both A Level and BTEC courses, and was aimed at combining all the features associated with a "Translational Biotechnology" research team. This provided an environment for bringing students whose aptitude was more experimental, with students who wanted to develop their communication and leadership skills, and of course with students who simply love Science and see themselves as Liverpool's next Nobel Laureates! 

With the help of George Rule, a physics graduate working in the Studio school at the time, and a number of other staff; students in the Greenland group proved instrumental in getting the Innovation Lab experience off the ground in that first year. I should perhaps say why Greenland! Briefly, the Life Sciences UTC in Liverpool occupies a refurbished Victorian sugar warehouse. The original site was however, part of Liverpool's highly successful, but relatively short-lived romance with Arctic whaling. The arrival of the son of a Yorkshire whaling pioneer, William Scoresby, (William Scoresby Jr.), triggered the development of Liverpool's whaling industry. The Merseyside built Baffin set sail for Greenland at the beginning of the 19th century and Scoresby's journey is described in his book "An Account of the Arctic Regions and Northern Whale Fishery", published in 1820). However, his motivation wasn't purely economical; he also mapped part of the Greenland Coast (sometimes referred to as the Liverpool Coast) and later in life became a prominent educationalist. I think the connection works well for this adventure too! Chris Routledge has a nice web site devoted to Scoresby and whaling (as well as some other nice local interest topics and images, if you are interested). And of course everyone should read Herman Melville's Moby Dick.

Moving on to the projects (at last I hear you say?), I wanted to build on my experiences with students over the last two years and provide a new model for research engagement, now that I am back in my old job at Sheffield. Naturally, my own research interests are limited and single handedly, I can't hope to provide projects that will interest every student. However here are the topics that emerged from the meeting a couple of weeks ago. Dr Dyer and I will manage the logistics and I will be putting you in touch with undergraduates, postgraduates and academic colleagues at Sheffield as the projects develop. This will help us move towards a publishable outcome, as we have done over the previous year, as well as build your research experience. All projects will be led by me from Sheffield, but may often include additional input from academic and/or commercial collaborators (as indicated). My involvement usually ranges from extreme enthusiasm and unreasonable expectation to helping to find someone who knows what they are talking about!

The Projects

1. Development of applications using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (Suitable for Chemists, Biochemists, Geneticists, Computer Scientists)

2. Rapid extraction of genomic DNA and its amplification from a wide range of organisms (in conjunction with Bioline, London). [Suitable for Chemists, Biochemists, Geneticists]

3. Optimising random mutagenesis using a novel error prone hyperthermophilic DNA Polymerase (in conjunction with ATY Biotech, California). [Suitable for Chemists, Biochemists, Geneticists, Computer Scientists]

4. Analysing raw genome sequence data from the meal worm, Tenebrio molitor (in collaboration with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine). [Suitable for Chemists, Biochemists, Geneticists, Computer Scientists]

4. Comparison of the meal worm and the wax worm as model organisms in teh development of new antibiotics (in collaboration with the John Innes Centre at Norwich) [Suitable for Biologists, Biochemists, Geneticists, Computer Scientists]

5. Proteomics of mealworm during development and metamorphosis (in collaboration with the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Sheffield) [Suitable for Chemists, Biochemists, Physicists, Computer Scientists]

6. Development of innovative, low cost, laboratory classes for the REAL programme (Research Enhance Active Learning), for implementation Schools and Universities [Suitable for all students]

7. Applications of 3D printing in Molecular Biology: developing new instruments and solutions for experimental research [Suitable for all students]

8. Comparative annotation of the meal worm genome.

9. Using RasMol and PyMol for the interpretation of mutational data on DNA methyltransferases (epigenetics), Chloramphenicol resistance enzymes (antibiotics) and the Krebs Cycle enzymes Pyruvate Dehydrogenase and 2-oxoglutartae dehydrogense. [Suitable for Chemists, Physicists, Mathematicians, Computer Scientists and Biochemists]

 10. Open projects. Students are invited to submit their own ideas and Dr Dyer and I will attempt to accommodate the ideas, possibly through collaborative partnerships. [Suitable for all students].

Dr. Dyer will provide you all with further details on how to sign up for these projects and as soon as you have been allocated a project, there will be a meeting at which resources will be allocated. However in the meantime, I would like you to use the information (and key words) in the titles to find out more yourselves. Below here, there is a comment box, if you have any questions at all relating to the topics, please enter your questions/comments and either me or Dr. Dyer or I will do our best to respond.

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