To fulfill the silver medal requirement, we collaborated with the Texas Tech and Rice iGEM teams. We reached out to discuss ways in which all parties involved could cooperate and assist each other in order to enhance each team project.
In the spirit of collaboration, the UT Austin team reached out to both Rice and Texas Tech to formally invite both teams to participate in the University of Texas 2017 Fall Research Undergraduate Symposium. Upon this invitation, each team began electronically communicating with one another in order to brainstorm ways in which collaboration could benefit and improve each of the team projects.
On September 23, 2017, iGEM teams from Texas Tech University, Rice University, and the University of Texas met at the Undergraduate Research Symposium in Austin, Texas. Here, each team formally presented their projects to an audience and panel of judges as part of the program. Andrew Ly, Milki Negeri, and Andrea Martinez presented on behalf of the University of Texas, while Catherine Dunway and Darron Tharp presented for Rice University and Texas Tech University, respectively. After the symposium presentations concluded, all teams met to discuss specific collaboration details and provide feedback to one another. As a relatively new team, Texas Tech received extensive constructive criticism from us because we have more overall experience participating in the iGEM competition and completing the requirements. Texas Tech presented a draft of the initial PowerPoint presentation they were planning to showcase at the iGEM Jamboree. Darron Tharp, newcomer to the Texas Tech team and the iGEM competition, was the main presenter. Tharp showcased the research slides in their entirety, and afterwards, we critiqued each slide to help improve content, formatting, and presentation technique utilized. Texas Tech asked several questions about the jamboree itself that we clarified to the best of our ability. This series of feedback with the presentation was repeated with team Rice. After we critiqued Rice's and Tech's presentations and vice versa, the joint effort was continued by discussing a more direct means of collaborating.
At the meetup, a GroupMe chat was created with the student leaders from all teams. This was the main source of communication throughout the weeks ahead. We collaborated with Rice for our modeling. Eve Sharpee, from the UT Austin team, discussed different ways we could improve our modeling mechanisms on our presentation with Jack Terrell, head of modeling from Rice. He answered our questions and provided guidance in creating the graphics that would be used for modeling in the iGEM Jamboree presentation and wiki page. We have very little experience modeling and using SimBiology, so Rice was very helpful in this regard.
Texas Tech is most familiar with chemical transformations and has less experience with electroporation, so we thought it would be mutually beneficial for our teams if Tech attempted Lactobacillus plantarum electroporation transformations. We provided glycerol stocks of cells, 2mm cuvettes and MRS agar powder in order to make this happen. Rachel Johnson corresponded with Brandon Palomo to offer advice on how to successfully electroporate. Quick recovery of electroporated cells, adjusting resistance and voltage on the machine and proper concentrations of plasmid and cell stocks were discussed as well as various pieces of advice that UT Austin has primarily learned through experience and routine use of electroporation. In addition to Tech working on new techniques with guidance from UT Austin, this greatly helped UT Austin transform Lactobacillus plantarum. Texas Tech provided assistance to us by attempting to transform Lactobacillus plantarum with a variation of the Speer (1) protocol we had previously worked with as a way to troubleshoot issues encountered during our initial transformation attempts. We felt it would be helpful for another team to work with the protocol and identify if the procedure was too ambiguous or if there was only an issue with how we performed the procedure. Texas Tech was unable to transform using the Speer protocol, leading us to adapt and work with a new protocol that ultimately led to successful transformation of Lactobacillus plantarum with pMSP3535.
Overall, team UT Austin helped successfully facilitate a collaboration between Rice and Texas Tech, through a university-hosted research symposium, which allowed for individual and team presentation critiques and improvements. By providing the necessary materials and protocols for conducting a transformation via electroporation, team UT Austin gave Texas Tech the opportunity to learn and utilize a new technique to broaden possible laboratory skills for future use. Finally, team UT Austin provided guidance and mentorship to second-year team, Texas Tech, by clarifying any questions regarding presentations, wiki development, experimental focus and fulfilling medal requirements .
-Brandon Palomo, Team Leader Lubbock TTU iGEM Team Teams in attendance at the University of Texas at Austin Undergraduate Research Symposium:
The guidance and mentorship provided by the UT iGEM team has been an invaluable asset to our success and growth as a new iGEM team. Their knowledge and veteran experience with iGEM has given our team insight into the challenges associated with the competition... Their feedback has assisted our team with adjusting strategies concerning the oral presentation, wiki page development, experimental focus, and judging criteria completion. Their patience and genuine support has been greatly appreciated and we hope to continue this collaboration for years to come.
-Brandon Palomo, Team Leader Lubbock TTU iGEM Team
Teams in attendance at the University of Texas at Austin Undergraduate Research Symposium:
Collaboration efforts by the Rice University iGEM team can be found here: Team:Rice/Collaborations
Collaboration efforts by the Texas Tech University iGEM team can be found here: Team:LUBBOCK_TTU/Collaborations