I know what you did last summer! KU Leuven iGEM Team 2017 has gone through some ups and downs, but that didn't stop them from being creative and to explore the world of science. Other than that, a lot of fun activities were planned. To know more about their adventure, feel free to go down the memory lane with us.
21 - 27 Feb
This is the meeting where the team spirit was established and missing pieces of our adventure to success were collected. For example, who is going to be our PI? How do we get sponsors? Who will be our leader to guide us all the way through to the end of the project? Every team member was assigned a subcategory, which they will complete with passion and dedication. A very subtle move towards possible project ideas was made during this meeting.
27 Feb - 7 Mar
This week, we discussed the many proposals about project ideas along with some professors. There were some remarkable ideas on the table: Development of an ecosystem in a space station, DNA fitting to predict an individual’s health, weight and nutrition, introduction of a filter over intestinal villus for better uptake of gluten in Coeliac patients, and more.
We also completed our team registration and team leaders were chosen for the subcategories. Nothing could stop us from entering this!
7 - 13 Mar
The voting deadline for project ideas was nearing. In the meeting, a lot of brainstorming happened and a lot of new ideas were added to the list. The layout for a sponsor brochure was also created. We reminisced about our childhood and our first contact with science for inspiration on how we might educate the local children. During the meeting, one of the students who is an avid traveler booked flight tickets.
Boston, HERE WE COME!
14 - 21 Mar
A visit from two familiar figures
This week, we had a very special meeting. Two ex-iGEM members came over and gave us advice about their struggles and experiences in their iGEM team in 2015. A lot of stories were shared and the trust of KU Leuven was handed over to the current iGEM team as every member got an account and joined the KU_Leuven team on igem.org. There is also a rumor going around, which tells us that six professors are going to visit us within two weeks!
21 - 27 Mar
The first activity of the iGEM Team 2017 was planned, which is having dinner together in the following week. This week,an electrophysiology professor came to visit the KUL iGEM Team, which is a great honor. A lot of ideas were exchanged and it gave us a better insight into our potential project. The requirements for multiple projects are being checked and the final touches to the sponsor brochure was done. Sponsors were reaching out to the KUL iGEM Team and mutually beneficial agreements have been made.
28 Mar - 17 Apr
3 Projects and 3 Teams
This week, which is also the last week before spring break, the team was divided into three groups, each working on a potential project. Multiple methods and perspectives were discussed, pushing our creativity to the limit. We planned two meetings with potential sponsors which wrapped up the first part of preparations before spring break hit in.
Arrival of the DNA kit
While it is still half a year to the Giant Jamboree, the team was already been looking for accommodations in Boston. Visas were applied for, rooms were booked and our summer schedule slowly materialized much like the sunshine in Belgium. As our final chosen project slowly got its shape, students explored their inner creativity and set up a potential draft for their logo. Our DNA distribution kit from iGEM has arrived and we were so excited!
KUL iGEM goes VIB
The KULeuven iGEM Team 2017 got the opportunity to spread a word about iGEM on the VIB conference with over 700 attendees! Two courageous teammates did a presentation and it was a nerve-wracking day for them. The KULeuven Team was there to support them and they nailed it! Congratulations and thank you to Pieter-Jan and Jana for the great presentation!
10 - 26 June
iGEM vs Exams
Despite the fact that the students are in the midst of the exams, impromptu meetings were planned to iron out the last details about the project. We set the summer schedule and chose a logo. We even squeezed in some fascinating scientific articles during our exam study breaks.
KUL iGEM goes Wageningen
The KULeuven iGEM team got an invitation from the iGEM Wageningen team for the iGEM Benelux meet up! Teams from Groningen, Delft and Louvain joined in and the KU Leuven Team attended many interesting presentations and even went home with a package of knowledge, inspiration and new ideas. Thank you to Wageningen for having us and the team from Groningen for inspiring us with your 3D phage model!
As we all know, Monday is the beginning of a great week, but also one of the hardest mornings to get out of bed. Luckily, Liesbeth, one of the teammates, is like a ray of sunshine. That morning she provided the team with fresh and tasty pastries, along with a pretty smile.
Pieter-Jan, one of the students of the team, was completed buried under the boxes. We were stocked with a variety of equipment, thanks to our sponsors.
A few students from the team are being taught with Patch Clamping. Their curiosity and excitement is written all over their faces as they discover ion channels on their first day in the electrophysiology lab.
The Return of GOT
It’s mid-July, fans have been eagerly waiting for this since the last episode aired on March 2016, but the moment has finally come, WINTER IS HERE! GOT season 7 has finally returned, blessing us with and extra 7 episodes that have long awaited! For seven weeks, our week would start by entering the lab on Monday, working till 12, having lunch, and then gathering around in our conference room to watch the new GOT episode. It was extremely fun to indulge in an activity that didn’t require thinking about cells and microscopes. However, that ritual soon came to end with the last episode of the season. However, we vowed to meet up when the new season premieres and watch the first episode all together, for good time’s sake!
We're working out!
Everyone one is familiar with the old expression, “A healthy mind resides in a healthy body”. Since we wanted to make sure that our bodies were as sharp as possible, we had to ensure that our bodies were in shape too. Since all our summer days were spent inside either working in the lab or researching, we decided that we had to go outside and perform some physical activities. From there, we started organizing weekly sessions designated to sports. We played football, beach volleyball, and even tried playing ultimate frisbee a number of times! These sports sessions were not just a great simulation for the body, but also helped increase the team chemistry, unifying the team and helping the bond grow stronger. Needless to say, we left all arguments on the court.
Last Month of Summer - Patient Meetings
All throughout August, we went on to meet patients that have received organ transplants and patients suffering from severe epilepsy. After getting approval from the ethical committee in Belgium, we went on to schedule the meetings and actually sat down with the patients to ask them and get feedback on whether or not what we were developing would be of any help to them. At the end of the day, what good is our device if we it wouldn’t be of use to those in need?
Creating a new technology is something fascinating and an achievement in itself. However, isn’t enough to just create a technology that is cool, this technology has to be relevant, it has to solve an issue on going with the world! In our case, we were looking into using our invention to treat certain patients, so we wanted to in fact make sure that our product will help those we are targeting. One of the most memorable patient visits was to Leen. Leen is a 43-year-old woman that suffers from severe epilepsy, a disease that we investigated through the course of our project. What was so special about Leen was the treatment and the lovely environment at her household. Normally, patient meetings are quite depressing in a way, the mood during the meetings aren’t the happiest so to say. However, with Leen, her parents welcomed us with open arms, and were extremely enthusiastic about our work! Leen also was a delight to be around, we talked and enjoyed an amazing lunch arranged by her parents! Not just did we leave with confirmation that our product would indeed help those in need, but we left with extra motivation to work harder!
Two months away - Presentation Time
It’s the beginning of September, and we’re now 2 months away from the Jamboree, all this hard work and long hours are now shaping into a reality. It was time to start thinking about the presentation in Boston. Presenting to a class with a professor sure sounds scary and gives most people the chills, now imagine presenting to a room with 200-300 people! We didn’t waste any time planning the presentation, we watched previous iGEM presentations, and noted down what was good and bad about said presentation. From there, we had an idea of how our presentation would look like, we wanted it to be scientific, intuitive, fun; to sum it all up, we wanted it to represent our team spirit.
First Meeting post Summer
Summer vacation is over, but that doesn’t mean that the iGEM work is done though! After 3 months of vicious and relentless work, it was time to take a minute and look at the big picture. We met to for 4 hours that evening to evaluate what we have completed so far, and to plan the upcoming last month. The spirits were all positive and high as we saw how far we have achieved, the work we put in has really paid off! We were about 1 month and a half from the Jamboree, so we planned the following month based on the uncompleted tasks. It’s now or never at this point!
It’s October 7th we’re exactly 1 month away from Boston! Four months we have been thinking about hosting an event, at one of KU Leuven’s facilities. Earlier in July, we thought of the European Practice Jamboree, an event where we could bring together teams from all over Europe to try and mimic the real Jamboree taking place in Boston. So, we started contacting teams and organizing the event! Saturday, October 7th arrived, and the event was a major success. Keynote speakers included the Vice Rector of Sciences and Technology (KU Leuven), Prof. Jos Vander Sloten and our own PI Prof. Johan Swinnen. The event also included presentations and feedback by all the participating teams, and poster viewing session. Every team left with more information on how to make their presentation perfect.
On the 17th of October Kinderuniversiteit asked us to organize 2 workshops of 30 minutes for approximately 300 kids, aged from 8 till 13. We sat together and brainstormed fun ideas of scientific experiments we could perform for these children. These experiments had to be fun and educational at the same time, that is why we wanted to use the human body as central part. During two workshops we showed that the human body is the easiest way to perform scientific experiments, which they could repeat at home and impress their friends and family. In this way every kid can be a scientist at home, with these experiments we hoped to get them excited about science and get them engaged in the future. How did we do this? We started with showing some cool features and life hacks of the human body, like the patellar reflex and the center of gravity difference between boys and girls. Once we got their attention we explained why all of this is happening, you had to see their amazed faces. I should add that we were very surprised by the knowledge these kids already obtained, they knew things we just learned in university. But by showing this knowledge in practice and show them how fun science can be we got lots of happy faces and raised hands to ask more and more questions. Both workshops only lasted for 30 minutes but it felt like 30 hours of intensive labor, afterwards we were so tired but also so grateful of the enthusiasm of these children. These kids are the future of our country and to see them so full energy and knowledge regarding science filled our hearts with joy. This has been an amazing experience and left us amazed regarding these kids, we couldn’t be more thankful for getting this opportunity to engage with these children and spread the science-bug.
The date is the 23rd of October 2017. We are now two weeks away from Boston! At this point, we’re focusing on our presentation, countless hours have been put into the preparation of the presentation and the powerpoint! However, we couldn’t give an objective and fair opinion regarding the presentation, after all, we were the ones that worked on it! We invited our personal instructors, a number of professors, and members of last year’s iGEM edition to come observe, analyze, and give us their feedback. All presenters were nervous, as this was the moment of truth when it comes to checking whether or not our efforts were up to standards! We pushed through the stress and got the presentation done! We received extremely helpful feedback from the audience. The professors weighed in with what they liked/disliked about the presentation. Secondly, the previous iGEM members gave us extremely helpful critique based on their experience from last year’s presentation. They gave us tips and tricks to focus on while presenting in Boston. All in all, it was an extremely good idea to prepare a mock presentation. The feedback we received really helps us take our presentation to the next level.
Tips for Post Graduates?
As prestigious as iGEM is, it would make sense that enrolling in such a competition would be quite costly, and we’re not talking about time and effort, but we’re talking money. Money for lab equipment, enrolling in the competition, flight tickets, and accommodation expenses in Boston. All these are expenses that required a whole lot of money. What do we do, well the answer is simple, SPONSORS! In a record time we were able to gather enough money to ensure we would be covered throughout the iGEM journey. It wasn’t until October when news broke to some professor about how much money we were able to collect in such a short of time. We were contacted by a professor to give a presentation to postgraduate students regarding how to raise money! Getting this email meant a lot to us, first off, we are just master students asked to give a presentation to post graduates, how cool is that? We did indeed meet them and give them tips and tricks that we used in our journey to collect that amount of money! Needless to say we felt very proud!
t’s November 1st, yes, we are 1 week away from the Jiant Gamboree in Boston and yes the ziki freezez in almost a couple of hours! 12 students are currently working like headless chicken, everyone is fighting against sleep and fatigue to complete the last texts and proofread already existing ones! All the hardowrk we have put in the last months is all boiling down to these last hours, and we xouldnt be any more proud of our WIKI and what we have achieved! Just a week from now and we will be in Boston, turning our dream into a reality, BOSTON HERE WE COME, BE PREPARED FOR HEKCITE!