Knowledge Dissemination

Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute Annual General Meeting

Our team participated in the poster session at the Annual General Meeting for the Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI) based at the University of Lethbridge. ARRTI was established in 2011 and is the first RNA research focused center in Alberta, Canada. The institute promotes RNA research, teaching and training in collaboration with government institutes in Lethbridge and beyond. During the poster session, we were able to get initial feedback from members of the science community outside of iGEM including professors, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, undergraduate students, and high school students. They highlighted areas of our project that might cause potential problems and provided suggestions for improvements. The poster session gave us an opportunity to practice public speaking and present our work.

aGEM Competition

Our team attended the Alberta genetically engineered machine (aGEM) competition hosted by the Alberta Innovates MindFuel and GeekStarter programs. We competed against other iGEM teams from Alberta, including the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. The competition provided us with feedback about our project from experienced iGEM judges, as well as an opportunity to practice our presentation skills. We were acknowledged for our biosecurity work and awarded Best Stewardship, in addition to receiving a $4000 travel award. The competition allowed us to see the great work done by other teams and provided important feedback about our project before attending the Jamboree.

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry 11th Annual Chinook Symposium Chinook

This year the team had the chance to be a part of the 11th annual Chinook Symposium that is hosted by the University of lethbridge’s Chemistry/Biochemistry Department. We had the chance to present our project during this judging competition and make our Univeristy aware of this years project. Participants of this symposium include research students in undergraduate and graduate levels. We had great responses our fellow students that were observing and participating in the event. As well, we had the chance to discuss our project with faculty members. We received amazing feedback from both groups and enjoyed discussing possible future applications of the Nextvivo system and our specific project design. This event was a great chance to practise our public speaking and presenting our project in detail to fellow scientists.


5th Annual Brick-by-Brick Charity Dinner and Silent Auction

Brick-by-Brick has been hosted by the Lethbridge iGEM team since 2010 to raise awareness for local charities. Our most recent event raised $2800 for the Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge; a non-profit charitable organization that acts as a bridge between community donors and those in need. Brick-by-Brick provides the team with an opportunity to give back to the community while also sharing our work with the public.

University of Lethbridge iGEM: 10th Anniversary

This year marks the 10th year that the University of Lethbridge has participated in the iGEM competition. This is a big achievement of our team, being that we are one of the smaller Universities competing from Canada this year. Since the founding of the team in 2007, the University of Lethbridge iGEM team has pursued projects that face issues such as the byproducts in Oil sands tailing ponds and neurodegeneration in humans; now taking on ambitious and all-encompassing projects such as Next vivo. We took this year to look back at our past projects and commend our team alumni by inviting them to talk to our team about their experiences with iGEM. These members include Adam Christiansen, a collegiate member from 2015, who is currently pursuing his degree in software engineering. He has described his experience as very beneficial and his inspiration for entering his degree. He also said he still networks with team collaborators from Florida State University, a team we still have close ties with. Whether it be the past or present, the University of Lethbridge has used synthetic biology to tackle important projects to benefit society.

University of Lethbridge Shine On Summer Festival

The opportunity to engage the public on both the high school and collegiate iGEM projects at the shine on festival was wonderful. Not only did the public seem interested in our work but also the support from the community was high. We had a great time interacting with people of all ages, teaching them about synthetic biology and the basics of our projects. The people we talked to seemed to accept our projects well considering the issues concerning genetic engineering. We took this as an opportunity to also address this problem, especially since next vivo tries to tackle this problem in both federal regulations and an education setting. The event also gave us the chance to network with Amino Biolabs who agreed to help us with our event, whereby giving out demonstrations of their own machines.

Gairdner Award Winner, Dr. Lewis Kay

We had the wonderful opportunity to share our history as an iGEM team with one of this year’s Gairdner Award recipients, Dr. Lewis Kay (professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Chemistry, University of Toronto; senior scientist, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto). The Canada Gairdner Awards acknowledge the best scientific minds and are internationally respected. Dr. Kay was recognized by the foundation for his profound work in modern NMR spectroscopy. Members of our team discussed with Dr. Kay projects from the past ten years, including the focus of this year’s team.


For education, we incorporated it as an application of our cell-free system. We included educators as one of our main user groups (novices). We spoke with educators from a variety of grade levels to inform what system would best their needs for teaching scientific concepts and what qualities we would need to include in our final design.

Novices Summary Table

Need simplified protocols and kits that are easy-to-use
Standardized parts for learning one system
Modularity for simple experiments
Promote good safety practices

From these interviews we designed an education kit schematic and education modules that align with the Alberta Biology 30 curriculum. We developed teacher and student versions of a transcription and translation experiment that relies on physical indicators. We decided to make separate teacher and student versions of the experiment based on our research and suggestions from Justin Pahara and Julie Legault. After our conversation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, we also developed a biosafety module to inform students about microorganisms and safety practices they should use if they were to work in a laboratory setting. The content in these modules were developed with input from members of the Lethbridge High School iGEM Team, team member Keith Aiken who is in the faculty of education, and Patrick Shackleford, a biology 30 teacher at Winston Churchill High School.

Next vivo Education Kit Schematic:

Check out the full modules below!

Student's Guide Teacher's Guide Biosafety Module
Hobbyist Expert

Within education, professional development (PD) days are defined as a variety of specialized training sessions to help administrators and teachers improve their ability to teach [1]. To better integrate synthetic biology concepts within the existing Alberta curriculum, the teachers we spoke with suggested that PD days would be an effective way to ensure that teachers understand the concepts to effectively teach students. Our team paired up with SynBridge, a makerspace located in the University of Lethbridge, to begin the process of hosting these workshops. Our team will work on designing the workshops to be held on PD days, with SynBridge providing the space to host them and acting as a resource for teachers after our iGEM season has ended.

We met with Emily Wilton, the coordinator for SynBridge, to discuss how we would work on the design of the Professional Development Day workshops. Emily told us that they would like to provide the workshops free of charge or at a subsidized rate for the schools, which help to accommodate the limited teaching budgets. We would also work on the design of experiments to teach, while keeping in contact with teachers to ensure they would meet the curriculum needs.

When we discussed our plans with the Winston Churchill Science Department, the best direction to have the PD days instilled was discussed. They suggested forming a collaborative community. In Alberta, a collaborative community is defined as a group of teachers being able to focus on any one school-related topic and is open for any teacher to join. Moving forward in this direction, this would also allow these PD days to be open to the whole school district in Lethbridge.

The teachers are planning on visiting SynBridge facilities on April 9th and plan on using this visit to move forward with the development of more synthetic biology initiatives in their curriculum. We plan on this being a long-term goal to be continued on after our season has ended.

Media Releases


  • [1] Liberty Concepts. Professional Development Definition, 2013. Retrieved August 23, 2017, from