We know that science is not in its own separate realm, but takes place within the global community. Human practices aims to evaluate how the world affects our project and how we affect the work with our work. We accomplished this in two ways. By talking to experts we ensured that we were doing valuable, sound, and novel work that could meaningfully contribute to the field of synthetic biology. We also looked into the ways in which we communicate our project. We evaluated any potential bias towards synthetic biology in general and the specific terminology used in our project through our Implicit Association Task (IAT). We also created a online game Snake35 as a fun interactive tool to help stakeholders of all ages to understand our project.
Unlike many other tracks in iGEM, foundational advance projects do not have specific, tangible applications which can make communication our ideas to the public and stakeholders more challenging. We quickly realized that the development of communication tools was essential when discussing our project with any stakeholders. That’s why we developed the game Snake35 as a fun interactive way for stakeholders of all ages to understand our project. A more detailed description of Snake35 can be found on our Integrated Human Practices Page and also played Here.
Implicit Association Task
We also created an Implicit Association Task (IAT) to detect implicit (unconscious) biases towards synthetic biology and our project. Based on these results, we could sometimes described our project using different words that still convey our ideas but elicited less bias. In other cases where had to use a specific technical term, we ensured we carefully explained these ideas to hopefully reduce bias and improve the reception of our work. Results and analysis of the IAT experiment are shown in the Integrated Human Practices page.
To gather an insightful perspective on how we might execute our project and understand the impact and future application of what our project, we knew that we needed to consult experts in the field. We have summarized the results of these conversations below.
Dr. Todd Holyoak Professor Holyoak's group’s interests lie in the areas of enzyme structure, mechanism, inhibition, and allostery. Our project this year focused on the role that conformational plasticity affects enzymatic function and how these dynamic aspects of enzyme structure can be exploited in the regulation of enzymes. Dr. Holyoak introduced our team to the idea of macromolecular crowding; the localization or increased concentration allows for an increase in enzymatic flux. He also introduced the concept of substrate channeling to us which allows for enzymes to pass chemicals to each other and work together to achieve each other's proper function. Dr. Holyoak stressed that these concepts are well studied and have a high chance of a positive execution. This gave us the confidence early on into our project that we have a good chance to create something important and impactful to the world.
Dr. Moira Glerum Dr. Glerum is fascinated about understanding the molecular bases for inherited diseases of mitochondria. Both her lab and our team uses yeast as a model organism.. Her studies have identified previously unknown proteins required to generate functional mitochondria and allowed us to improve our understanding of the roles of these proteins in human disease. Dr. Glerum gave us pivotal and essential information when troubleshooting our fluorimetry and FRET experiments. Also, Dr. Glerum and her research expertise, helped us brainstorm potential applications of our foundation advance project including use as a research or diagnostic tool, as well as using our project as a scaffold for protein inside a bioreactor. More information on these applications can be found in the Integrated Human Practices page.
Dr. Michael Palmer Dr. Palmer’s research focuses on the interaction of peptides and proteins within biological membranes. Dr. Palmer was integral in explaining how to work a fluorimeter and how to interpret our fluorimetry data. Another potential application Dr. Palmer suggested to us was use in the preparation of vaccines. This application can be found in more detail on the Integrated Human Practices page. Dr. Palmer also warned us about potential in vivo applications of our project as macrophages and other immune cells may target aggregates. This advice was crucial in redirecting where our project needed to go and how to get back on track in terms of the design of our experiment and potential future applications.