As any other iGEM team we have come a long way from the very idea of participating in the competition to the final stage of it – attending the Giant Jamboree. We have had a lot of fun working on our project and learnt a lot about being a team. This has been good experience for us that has proven: no matter how perfect the idea is and how many resources you have – you have little chances to succeed if you are not in the team! Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno!
So, every member of our team has contributed to our project to the best of his or her knowledge and skills, namely:
General support and administrative issues
Our team’s ‘mother’ whose bright mind ‘gave birth’ to the idea of participating in the competition is Elena Krasilnikova. And being a very careful and supportive mother, she decided to do her best to put the idea into life. Together with our team’s ‘father’ Denis Rebrikov (our Primary PI) she started from building a team looking for potential team members – most talented and active of course. When the team was finally in place it needed spaces for its meeting activities and wet labs which required agreements with relevant institutions, and the team is very grateful to Elena Krasilnikova and Denis Rebrikov for having been so kind to take care of this matter. Being just students taking our first steps in the ‘big science’ of synthetic biology we never lose our chance to seek advice from our senior colleagues, and again it was Elena Krasilnikova and Denis Rebrikov who assisted the team in finding our team’s advisers and instructors. One of such external instructors is Kristina Oblomova, our group dynamics coacher from SHAG (non-commercial organization supporting public educational programs) who contributed greatly to our team’s understanding that the whole is really greater than the sum of its parts. And the last but not least part of administrative issues we have faced on our way to the Giant Jamboree is logistics, and from this side our team’s back has been covered by Elena Krasilnikova and Ekaterina Nosok.
Project support and advice:
The most challenging and interesting part of our project was probably deciding on the area of our research. After a long discussion and consideration which was mostly driven by Denis Rebrikov, Alexei Shevelev (our Secondary PI), Anastasiya Rasskazova and Anastasiya Oguienko the project idea was finally created and the theoretical design of our project was developed, after which a substantial literature review was required which was successfully done by Xenia Samundzhyan, Symon Serzhantov, Anastasiya Rasskazova and Anastasiya Oguienko.
Fundraising support and advice:
As in any research project, fundraising activities were an essential part of our team’s work that required major efforts: calculating the project budget, searching for potential sponsors, communicating with them via official letters and phone talks, arranging iGEM and project presentation meetings with sponsors and maintaining all the supporting documentation. Elena Krasilnikova, Ekaterina Nosok and Elena Ivanova have done a great job!
Of course, we paid great attention to safety in the lab. As our academic guru Denis Rebrikov says - safety first! So we thoroughly listened to his safety instructions and intently watched the demonstrations of working methods as well as the training on keeping our laboratory journal held by Anastasiia Rasskazova. Being a Community Lab team, our team consists not only of undergraduate students but of high school students too. Predictably, in the very beginning not all of us had clear understanding of working in the laboratory. But all of us were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to learn as much as we could, so we shared all the work dividing the methods among team members and soon went over to achieving our goal.
Pulling their weight, our high schoolers Symon Serzhantov, Dmitrii Rebrikov, and Tatiana Sinitsyna completed the first part of the work – transformation of E. coli. To prepare plasmids for further manipulations Anastasiia Rasskazova, Anastasiya Oguienko, Elena Ivanova, and Dmitrii Rebrikov performed purification of plasmids. A piece of cake at first sight but actually a necessary and important part of work which needs responsible approach is electrophoresis which was performed by Anastasiya Oguienko, Xenia Samundzhyan, and Symon Serzhantov. Restriction, another stage which is no less important, was completed by Anastasiia Rasskazova, Elena Ivanova, Tatiana Sinitsyna, and Dmitrii Rebrikov. The next stage was a polymerase chain reaction, for the purpose of which Anastasiya Oguienko, Elena Ivanova and Tatiana Sinitsyna methodically calculated the amount of components and prepared the PCR mixture, and Dmitrii Rebrikov did his best to set our PCR machine. Ligation was accurately made by Anastasiia Rasskazova, Anastasiya Oguienko and Dmitrii Rebrikov. The cloning of BioBricks was perfectly done by Anastasiya Oguienko and Dmitrii Rebrikov.
Difficult technique support:
Many thanks to Anna Shibayeva who stepped into the breach and helped us with yeast transformation and Maxim Perfilov who kindly consulted us on selecting enzymes. Besides, Anastasiya Oguienko and Dmitrii Rebrikov gained mathematical experts' support and provided us with our math model.
Our wiki was mostly created and edited by Ekaterina Nosok and Dmitrii Rebrikov. The amazing infographics for our wiki and social networks was provided by Anastasiya Oguienko and Yuriy Bolkonskiy.
Human practices support:
Human practices are an integral part of any iGEM project as anything we do we do for people first of all, so we must understand whether and how the results will be accepted by them and what we should do to make our product really attractive for those for whom it’s meant. Another important part of human practices as we see it is popularizing the ideas of synthetic biology and iGEM among those who are not in-the-know yet.
For the purpose of the latter we have conducted a survey which was developed by Anastasiya Oguienko and Anastasiia Rasskazova. The results obtained were scrupulously processed by Ekaterina Nosok. Our social networks that were a part of PR component of the project and that we used to share our news and progress were maintained by Xenia Samundzhyan (VKontakte and Facebook), Elena Ivanova (VKontakte and Instagram), and Tatiana Sinitsyna (Twitter). Going further in our public engagement and education activities, our high schoolers Xenia Samundzhyan and Tatiana Sinitsyna gave presentations on iGEM and our project at schools that were prepared under the guidance of Elena Krasilnikova and Anastasiya Oguienko; besides our team members Xenia Samundzhyan, Tatiana Sinitsyna, Elena Ivanova, Symon Serzhantov and Dmitrii Rebrikov) starred in a series of tutorial videos on synthetic biology methods that were directed by Denis Rebrikov. In our public engagement we didn’t only ‘engage’ our peers but also reached out to our senior colleagues. Thus, Elena Krasilnikova gave a convincing presentation at the Agency for Strategic Initiatives for representatives of higher educational institutions. Our sponsor BIOCAD kindly lent us a helping hand when we were seeking for support and advice. The presentation for the company was perfectly made by Elena Krasilnikova, Anastasiya Oguienko, and Elena Ivanova. Moreover, Elena Krasilnikova, Ekaterina Nosok, and Maria Petrova (Biocad) arranged a welcoming excursion to BIOCAD’s laboratory. Besides, Elena Krasilnikova and Ekaterina Nosok arranged a meeting with TASS (the biggest national informational agency) for our team to present iGEM and our project and managed to agree on a press conference after we were back from the Giant Jamboree.
For the purpose of obtaining professional opinions on our project and its future a series of expert interviews were taken. Anastasiia Rasskazova discussed the environmental aspect of our project with our external advisor; Elena Krasilnikova, Ekaterina Nosok, Anastasiya Oguienko and Anastasiia Rasskazova contributed to obtaining and processing hog farmers’ feedback on the product developed.
Being on the home straight, our team proceeded to the presentation coaching stage. Anastasiya Oguienko, sinking her teeth into final arrangements, was in charge of our presentation and poster design. Denis Rebrikov, Anastasiia Rasskazova and Anastasiya Oguienko scrupulously worked on the speech for the Jamboree. And the last but not least, Elena Krasilnikova helped us with ordering our handmade souvenirs with our team’s symbol.