As an exclusively computational project, our safety concerns were a little different this year. While we didn't have to worry about open flames or pathogenic organisms, there were still important safety issues dealing with cybersecurity that we needed to consider. In order to protect our data, we kept it in a secure Box cloud drive that is integrated into UT's protected file management system. Additionally we used two-factor authentication when connecting to the Texas Advanced Computing Center(TACC) in order to collect high throughput data in a secure fashion.
EBRC Malice Analysis Workshop
In addition to managing cybersecurity, our team wanted to investigate any potential dual-use problems posed by our research. We participated in a Malice Analysis workshop put on by the Engineering Biology Research Consortium(EBRC), a non-profit partnership between public and private scientific institutions that aims to build community, drive public policy, and provide resources for engineering biology research. During this workshop, we collaborated with other scientists and learned a framework for assessing the dual-use risk of our research at the hands of bad actors. We learned that while there are likely not many risks of malicious use of T7 phage, the gene expression model that we utilized could make it much easier to engineer more dangerous viruses. This highlighted the importance of not just assessing the risks of misuse of research products that we create, but also the tools we use to create them.