Safe Lab Work
Safety is the most important thing while working in a lab. This is what we focus on in our lab. Our lab works under Biosafety Level 1. We chose this because our team operates in an active classroom, meaning that many safety measures must be in place in order to protect student safety. For our project, we chose the bacteria E. coli K-12 because it is one of the least harmful bacteria available and also has the least amount of side effects. Each iGEM member learns safety and lab procedures and how to work with dangerous chemicals and bacteria from Anne Byford, our supervisor, and Anika Vercauteren, a student leader. They also teach us how to use the eyewash station and chemical shower. Our supervisors answer all questions and look at our experiments and procedures. Before leaving the lab, every member washes their hands with warm soap and water. Food and drink are not allowed inside the lab. New iGEM members are closely supervised by either Anne Byford or one of the leaders until they have correctly learned the procedures. This is done through a quiz that all members must pass every year. We disinfect all containers, tubes, and tips with either 10% bleach or 15 minutes in a pressure cooker at 15 psi. We also disinfect every type of bacteria with 10% bleach before we dispose of them. When not in use, the laboratory stays locked. Tips, gloves, and centrifuge tubes are properly disposed of. To keep the classroom safe, we bleach all tables with 10% bleach at the end of each day.
Due to the unfortunate events of the past year, we were only able to get through the training part of the lab work. So, we avoided many dangers without even having to try.
A few years ago, our team started to work on a kill switch in case E. coli escaped the lab. It uses an arabinose induced promoter which, when turned off, will cause the cell to create the toxin colicin, thus causing the cell to kill itself shortly afterward. We chose arabinose because it does not appear in nature and can be controlled relatively easily in the lab. Arabinose acts as an environmental cue, and when it leaves the lab, it should kill itself more quickly than other kill switches like those activated by light. Although the project is not complete, we hope to finish it in the future.