Saturday, 6 October 2012

We are at the European Jamboree at the V University Amsterdam! Great place and we have seen some great presentations so far.

We were the first up presenting, setting the bar for the following presentations. Thank you to the team for a great presentation! Now we have time now to watch presentations from the other entrances. Fingers crossed that the UK teams do well and get through to the finals!

The awards will be presented tomorrow, which can be watched live at (around) 8am onwards BST.

To keep you updated at the jamboree please follow our twitter @iGEMLeicester  .

Thank you,
Christopher Morton,
@European jamboree!

Sent from windows phone

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Today is the day of our public lecture!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Three New sponsors!

The University of Leicester iGEM Team are amazed to tell you about not just one, not two, but we have three new sponsors to the team! These have been over the course of the last 6 weeks however because we have been snowed under with deadlines, lab work, and wiki'ing its taken a while to get the post written.

The first of which has come in the form of reagents company Thermofisher Scientific which now includes Fermentas which we have been given some very useful reagents which we have been busy using in the lab. These include the Sau3A1 we have been using to create a DNA Library and the PCR cloning kit we have been using for the extraction of the 16S RNA sequences from our unknown CSE kit bacteria to try and find out which species we have growing on our selection media. Without these it would have been very expensive and difficult to get the reagents so we thank our new sponsor greatly! Also thanks to our supervisor Dr Dalgleish for managing to get the team the sponsorship.

We are proud to say that the second new sponsor is in fact the British Plastics Federation, EPS division. Who became our sponsor in August after Christopher arranged a visit from the chairman David Emes to the meet the team and discuss about the project. After a long talk over a coffee and a tour of the lab we got back to lab work. Later in the week we found out that they were going to give us £1,500 towards the entrance fee allowing the team to get into the Jamboree at the VU University Amsterdam. This was amazing news! As it was only the day before the visit we were getting extremely worried about paying for the entrance fee.

The third new sponsor and the most recent was in the form of three boxes of reagents from New England Biolabs with some lovely competent cells to express our biobricks in, as well as lots of DNA ladders, ligases, and PCR cloning kits which have been of great use in the last few days of lab work as we had used up all of the ThermoFisher stock. Unfortunately after some problems with our DNA we was unable to make a biobrick, however these cells will be of great use to next year's team as we have left the project at a point ready to make biobricks.

As we are now coming to the end of the project, all of our lab has been packed away, DNA has been put into storage and our main strains we have been working on have been frozen down to be kept for next year's team. All CSE kits we have had returned are currently in storage as well, happily growing on plates.
Don't forget, there is still time to get your hands on the E-Quiz, and fund us on Rockethub! However be quick as the deadline is approaching

Thank you for reading,

Christopher Morton
Project leader

Saturday, 8 September 2012

e-Quiz Goes Live!

We have now launched our online e-Quiz, helping to make the team accessible to everyone who has a computer and a internet connection. The e-Quiz allows you to take part in a fun quiz with various rounds, including history, science, riddles and many more (including an iGEM round, which teaches you a little about us and the project) - and of course you get the chance to win some fabulous prizes! At the moment the top price is an official University of Leicester iGEM Team t-shirt which all of the team wear with pride, with additional prizes for runners up to be confirmed (you can also get your hands on a t-shirt through our Rockethub by the way). The winner of the quiz will be the person who answers the most correct questions of all of the entrances so don't worry if you can't answer all of them. Also, the quiz isn't all science; there are some general knowledge questions as well to keep everybody involved.

How can I get my hands on one?
It's simple! Entrance is £1.50 and can be bought easily here on the blog, just click on the PayPal button at the top left of the page, or click on the link here if you are viewing this by Mobile Blogger and want to buy a single entrance: The e-Quiz is open to everyone, and the deadline for submitting your answers is 8th October 2012. If you do not have a PayPal or wish to buy using an alternate method don't hesitate to email the team at or talk to one of our team members in person.

Good Luck Everyone!

As this is an e-Quiz, there is a honesty clause of not using the internet for the answers (apart from on the iGEM and blog round), and to keep this fun and fair to everyone we have put in some riddles and questions to get you thinking.

Christopher Morton
Project leader

Sunday, 19 August 2012

UK iGEM team meetup

Photo taken by Cambridge iGEM Team, Available at 
On Friday the 17th of August, four of our members attended the UK iGEM meet up, hosted at the Google Campus by the NRP-UEA iGEM Team. We would like to thank Emily's parents at this point for allowing the team to stay over at their house on the Thursday to make the journey that bit easier. The next day myself, Christopher and Will caught the train down to London to get to Google Campus where we met up with Reema, in time for the meet up where we saw Cambridge, Dundee, Edinburgh, Exeter, UEA, St Andrews, UCL and Westminster present their projects and, in a lot of cases, their results. It looks like we're going to have stiff competition when we get to Amsterdam!

The event was broadcast live on Google Hangout, showing presentations from the 9 UK teams about their projects and some of the results they have gathered so far. Our presentation focused mainly on the theories surrounding our project, although we did present a section on our Polystyrene Selection media, which we have been trying to perfect to make sure we are only isolating polystyrene degrading bacteria from the Citizen Science kits you've been sending back. Just a reminder, kits that have the starting 02# should now be ready to send back, so long as they have been in the ground for a minimum of 4 weeks.

As well as the iGEM teams' presentations there was a talk from Dr Tom Ellis, a synthetic biology lecturer who has been an advisor for iGEM teams including E.chromi; he gave us some great advice about iGEM, and told us a little about his research into the field.  There was also an unexpected talk from Dr Adam Rutherford, a TV and Radio presenter known for his series 'The Genetic Code' on BBC4, which was of real interest to the team, giving some tips for presenting synthetic biology and discussing the controversy around copyright in science.

All of the footage from the UK iGEM meet up is now accessable on the NRP-UEA iGEM Team's YouTube page at

Lots of photos are also posted on the event page at

Luke Thompson
Lab Leader

and Christopher Morton
Project Leader

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A quick update

It's been a while since we last posted, but we're still working hard at finding that elusive polystyrene degrading bacteria. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the Citizen Science kits that have been sent in so far. If you have bought a kit don't forget to leave it in the ground for 4-8 weeks then send it into us using your enclosed pre-paid return address envelope. There are still kits avalible to be bought but we are almost out so get yours soon by the paypal button or by emailing the team at These may not have time to be used by this year's UoL iGEM team, but will still provide valuable data for future years. Even though we've been in our lab for majority of our time, the fundraising aspect has still been going strong with a new sponsor in the lines (more information in another post soon). As well as that we have had design your own cake sales, with icing bacteria (with thanks to the Biological Sciences school office) outside of our building raising some money towards the cause at the University of Leicester open day's, as seen in the photo. We also have other ideas we are getting in motion for ways you can help the team and so watch this space.

We have also signed up for the UK iGEM Team conference, hosted by the UEA iGEM team at the Google campus London. This will be broadcast live so you'll get a chance to see some of the team there with more information about the event on there Wiki at

Thanks for reading

Christopher Morton
Project leader

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Search Begins

Thank you to our Citizen Scientists who have sent back their 01 samples! We are now analysing them to find that illusive polystyrene degrading bacteria. Currently we have a nice collection of cultures growing and within the next few days we will be searching these colonies.

Mohammed, Luke and Anthony putting the samples into agar.
If you have a 01 sample in your garden at home, please send it for analysis in as it is still very valuable. Don't forget to sign the health & safety form before sending it back to us.

Emily - Bioinformatician

Friday, 6 July 2012

A call to all Citizen Scientists!

Citizen scientists,  it's time for you to dig up your polystyrene strips and send them back to us! On Monday we will start to analyse your samples in the lab, searching for that illusive polystyrene degrading bacteria. Don't forget you could get your contribution recognised in a published research article – citizen scientists whose samples harbour polystyrene-eaters will be invited to be authors on the paper reporting the team’s findings.

If you have only recently purchased your kits or they have not been in the ground for more than 4 weeks, they can be left in the ground for longer; with the ideal time being between 4-8 weeks. Kits starting with 01# should be ready to send back.
Keep a look out for a blog post, emails and tweets in one to two months time asking for your samples to be sent in. Even though we may not get round to processing your samples this summer period. Further samples will be held in storage for future entrance to the competition and are still very valuable.

View CSE Kits in a larger map

Above is a map showing where all of our CSE kits have come from, if you click on a pin it will show you a photo of the place where the sample was buried.
We are looking forward to adding your sample to map and analysing it in the lab. Please remember to return your sample with the signed health and safety letter.

Thanks for reading,

Emily Halsey - Bioinformatician

Monday, 2 July 2012

iGEM team make successful pitch to Styropack, our new sponsors!

Photo 1

On Thursday 21st June, four members of the iGEM Leicester team, accompanied by Dr. Badge, attended the Styropack Innovations Conference in Ford, West Sussex. Christopher, William, Emily and Luke put together a presentation about the project to deliver to the conference, which included representatives from Synbra (Styropack’s parent company), Roundstone Nurseries, Jablite and B&Q. For the event we put on our best suits, which Dr Badge kindly ironed for us! (photo 1)

After a long and very cosy journey to Ford, we were greeted by the cheery Group Sales Manager, Mike Pocok. We then enjoyed a tour of Styropack’s polystyrene production factory after the obligatory health and safety briefing. Our tour was  lead by the site manager John Crossley who delivered lots of fascinating polystyrene facts, while fielding questions from curious students and company representatives.

Photo 2
First of all we were shown around the warehouse, with towers of polystyrene packaging. (photo 2) The production lines are located in the same building where we learnt about the manufacturing processes, including the many recycling initiatives. The process involves using pentane and steam to expand the raw product (nicknamed “sugar” due to its granular appearance). (photo 3) Heat is recovered from the waste water from the expansion process, which is used to heat the incoming water to the boiler. The waste water is also recycled, along with any waste polystyrene. We also learned how the Styropack Ford site recycle its EPS with waste that it cannot recycle on site being sent to Envirocare a EPS recycler in Grimsby. South Coast Skips which is based in the same industrial estate take all other waste and recycle it, reducing the transport of the waste products. At the Ford site 2000 tonnes of Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) is produced approximately each year.
Photo 3


After the tour we met up with Styropack and the other company representatives at the White Swan Hotel in Ford. The next item on the agenda was an incredibly informative and interesting presentation from Peter De Loose, Synbra Technical Sales Manager for BioFoam. The topic was an innovative method of creating material with near identical properties to polystyrene from natural resources, named BioFoam. The product is made from Poly-Lactic Acid (PLA) which can be produced from sugar cane, and so is sustainable compared to the oil derivatives used for EPS. Despite being biodegradable BioFoam can still be used in the construction industry because the biodegration processes are triggered by conditions (heat and water) only generated in industrial composters. This is an excellent example of how companies are looking for new and innovative ways to produce sustainable materials for the future.

Our presentation

The time had come for us to present our project. Nervously we waited our turn to present our parts while Dr. Badge introduced the iGEM competition. Christopher was first to speak, introducing our project idea and the impact that it could make in the disposal of expanded polystyrene. Up next was Luke, explaining that Pseudomonas bacteria have been found to degrade polystyrene in the soil. Next he spoke about the processes we will use to genetically modify the bacteria using a lab strain of E. coli to host the modified DNA. This flowed into William’s first part, speaking about the Citizen Science Experiment as a method for searching for the bacteria we need. Afterwards, the team’s Computer Scientist, Emily, delivered a small section about how computer simulation will be used in the project. Computer simulation is important to this project because the bacteria work at an incredibly slow rate, not within the time scale of the project. Therefore a simulation can used to show what may happen a year later or more further. Next it was the turn of our progress and achievements, presented by William. He spoke about our fundraising activities and the events we had attended raising awareness, with Dr. Badge rounding off the presentation.


Have you ever thought out making art with Polystyrene? Silo, a two-person team of designers have done just that. Oscar Wanless and Attua Aparicio make fabric moulds containing un-expanded polystyrene, and the moulds are then steamed to allow the raw material to expand and harden. The collection includes furniture and sculptures; it is worth a look

An exciting recycling initiative from B&Q in conjunction with Styropack was the next presentation. EPS recycling bins have been placed at B&Q head office to be collected by Styropack for recycling. The loop is complete by the collected EPS being used in the production of 'recycled-content' horticulture trays that will be sold in B&Q.

Picture 4
Since we were only a stone’s throw away from the sea, there was no excuse not to pay a visit to Climping beach for an ice-cream before travelling back to Leicester. ( Picture 4)

After returning to Leicester we were delighted to learn that Styropack wanted to become our latest sponsor – not only making a substantial financial contribution, but also assisting us with distribution of the Citizen Science kits through their national network of customers. All in all a fantastic result!

Photo of the members of the team who went to the Styropack Innovations Conference in Ford
From left to right, Emily Halsey, William Harrison, Dr Richard Badge, Luke Thompson, Christopher Morton
Photo taken by Colin Brooks, University of Leicester Cheif Photographer

Emily Halsey - Bioinformatician
Christopher Morton - Project leader

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Three quick updates

We have three important pieces of news to share with you! Each of them deserves a full post, but for now at least, here's a little information about each...

First of all, Christopher, Will, Luke, Emily and Dr Badge are all currently on their way to Jablite/Styropack, a producer of polystyrene who share our concern for the environment. While there they will be taking a tour of the factory and giving a presentation on our project, and hopefully they will be able to help us out as a new sponsor with a blog post on event afterwards.

Speaking of new sponsors...QIAGEN are on board! QIAGEN are a sample and assay technology company, and they have kindly donated £200 worth of kits for our project. Thank you, QIAGEN! (A link to their website is near the bottom of the page, alongside our other sponsors.)

Project leader Christopher Morton (left) and vice project
leader Anthony Cox (right). Artwork provided by a face
painter in the Environment Team.

And finally, the University of Leicester BioBlitz event on Saturday was a great success! We didn't sell as many cakes as we had hoped (Chris optimistically bought 48 - we sold 5!), but we got a few citizen science experiment kits sold, discussed our project with lots of people, doodled on lots of balloons, played with bubbles, and generally had a very good time! A huge thanks to our friends from the Environment Team, and everyone else who helped out with the BioBlitz!
William Harrison and Christopher Morton at our stall.

Nathan Hanna (left) and Luke Thompson (peering over the



Anthony Cox - Vice Project Leader.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

University of Leicester BioBlitz!

Image provided by,
The University of Leicester Environment Team
The Environment team at the University of Leicester are holding a BioBlitz in the hope to identify as many of the species on the university land over a 24 hour period, focusing on identifying aquatic invertebrates and higher plant species, as well as insects, mosses, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds. A BioBlitz is a large scale event which hope to engage the public with Biodiversity, getting them directly involved in surveying the land to find out just how many species there are in the area, seeking, identifying and recording as many species as possible over a 24 hour period. The events will include interactive activities such as face painting and arts and crafts, and experts will be on hand to explain the identification techniques and other aspects of biodiversity.

The event will start at 17:00 on Friday the 15th of June with various activities on central campus leading into the 16th of June where events will be held at 7:00 at the Attenborough Arboretum, then from 10:00 -16:00 there will be activities at Blackthorn Manor (behind the sports facilities in the student village); where we will be having our very own iGEM stall with some cakes on sale for 60p (2 for £1), balloons and bubbles for the "children" (I'm sure Will will have at least twice as much fun as anybody else), and more information about our project. Not only that but this will be a great opportunity to get your hands on one of our Environmental Citizen Science Sampling Kits for £2.
There is also a Free bus provided from the Charles Wilson building to the blackthorn manor every 30 minutes from 10:00 to make it easier to attend.

For more information about the event please see the University of Leicester - BioBlitz site. We hope to see many of you there!

Thank you for reading,

Christopher Morton - Project leader

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

BioBlitz Event In Evington Park

On Saturday, the University of Leicester iGEM Team headed to Evington Park to join the BioBlitz event and tell the public about our project.
Anthony Cox and William Harrison.
Bioblitz events are a fantastic way for the community to get involved with the wildlife on their doorstep. The aim is to record as many different species as possible within a certain time frame and to encourage the public's interest and knowledge of local biodiversity. Scientists, students and the community come together in local green spaces for a great educational day out. This brings together people of all backgrounds, just like the Citizen Science aspect of our iGEM project.

Leicester City Council, in partnership with Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire County Council have hosted Bioblitz events in the city's parks. These are becoming an annual event, receiving the support of City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby through his 100 Day Actions.

Bioblitz Evington Park, Sunday 27th May
Despite the sunshine, the park was initially quite quiet from 10am, giving Nathan the opportunity to create a few informational posters (and play on the nearby childrens' playground). The crowd picked up a little later, allowing us to tell the public about our project, sell some of our citizen science experiment kits, and give away some of the pens kindly donated to us by our friends in the University of Leicester Environment Team (at least when we weren't busy chasing kits and leaflets that were blowing away - it was a very windy day!). Both the iGEM team and the Bioblitz visitors enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon soaking up the sunshine and learning about the wildlife all around us.

We will also be taking part in the University of Leicester Environment team BioBlitz event on the 15th-16th June (for more information please visit, with the aim to identify at least 500 different species on the university estates.

Also this will be one of the last chances to pick yourself up a UoL Citizen Science experiment kit in person, so don't delay!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

A Gift From Heathrow Scientific

A huge thanks to our sponsor Heathrow Scientific: Literally delivering the goods!

Left to right: Anthony Cox, Luke Thompson, Christopher Morton,
and Mark Shelton.

We're all getting really excited as the iGEM lab at the University of Leicester is starting to take shape - this week we have received around £2000 worth of scientific equipment from our valued sponsors, Heathrow Scientific!

Dr Badge, Christopher, Luke and I met up with the company's Global Sales Director, Mark Shelton, in a University car park to receive the delivery: a trolley load of ex-display laboratory equipment. We had time to chat with Mark about the project and for him to take us through the collection of equipment and consumable items.

Luke Thompson, with a selection of the Equipment

The boxes of equipment included (amongst many other things) a cute mini-centrifuge, a very fancy orbital shaker, a Rota-Filler 3000 (a type of pipette filler for larger volumes) and a wide assortment of containers, dispensers and tube racks. The  racks included an adjustable universal test tube rack that you could turn upside down for easy emptying of liquids, which got Chris particularly excited!            

Alongside Bioline, IDT and Promega, Heathrow Scientific are a much appreciated sponsor of our project, and have come through with tangible support as we begin the process of getting the Leicester iGEM lab up and running.

Of course we will ensure that the new equipment will be put to good use over the summer and we'll be documenting how important this equipment is to the iGEM project on the wiki... perhaps we should have a competition to come up names for the kit?

It is fantastic that, despite the dire economic situation, companies like Heathrow Scientific are still able to come up with creative ways to support great ideas like iGEM, and their contribution is hugely significant.

Links to all of our sponsors websites can be found at the bottom of the home page of the blog.

Anthony Cox - Vice Project Leader

with help from
Christopher Morton - Project leader

Monday, 21 May 2012

In the Media

Within the last few days, the team has appeared several times in the media. Most notably, we appeared on the BBC website yesterday (20th May): after Our Project leader Christopher Morton appeared on the Ben Jackson Show on BBC Radio Leicester (available on iPlayer until the 25th of may).

Today (21st May) we've appeared in Packaging News:

We also appeared in a University of Leicester press release on the 18th May (which can be read here:, so don't be surprised to see us crop up elsewhere shortly!

More can be found out about our citizen science experiment on the citizen science page. The kit can be bought here on the blog by the PayPal button to your left, however this is limited to the United Kingdom only. You can also email the team at for any questions or for alternate methods to buy a experiment kit.

Thank you,
Luke Thompson
Lab Leader

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Big tidy up!

On Wednesday the 16th of May, Dr Badge and I took part in the National Keep Britain Tidy campaign ‘The Big Tidy Up’ at the University of Leicester. Armed with a "Streetmaster" TM litter picker, gloves, recycling bags and hi vis jackets, we joined the Environment team and Contact volunteers to make Victoria Park (adjacent to the University) litter free!

From left to right, Dr Richard Badge and Christopher Morton.

Surprisingly there wasn't much litter about on this day with only 10 bags from the 10 volunteers  being collected from the whole of the park - it seems the City Council employees who look after the park are doing a great job! However we did still find a fair amount of polystyrene waste in the hedgerows and on the park. Its sobering to think that without our lunchtime litter picking, this polystyrene potentially could have outlived us, due to its chemically stable structure!

Although we didn't collect that much litter on the day , there is still a massive volume of polystyrene in our landfills and around the countryside of the United Kingdom. These locations, and even your back garden or allotment could potentially harbour the elusive polystyrene degrading microbe we are looking for for the iGEM project. This is why we need the public to help by undertaking our Citizen Science Experiment. The person to find the most active microbe using polystyrene as its sole carbon source will get the opportunity to have their name published on a research paper at the end of the project, as well as official University of Leicester iGEM team "Citizen Scientist" t-shirts.

To get involved in the experiment, you can buy a sampling kit here on the blog for a contribution of £2.00 + 50pence postage through the PayPay button to your left. Or you can email the team at for alternate methods to get your hands on a kit. Check out the Citizen Science Experiment tab for more information or you can always drop us an email with any questions.

Good luck!
Christopher Morton - Project leader.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Citizen Science Experiment kits are now available

It may be May day bank holiday here in the UK, but we've still been busy! which is why I'm pleased to announce the launch of our "Buy Now" Citizen Science button, which means the project is out of Beta and all you lovely people reading this blog can now have the opportunity to get one of our University of Leicester environmental sampling pack, even if you are not able to meet one of our team. The cost of the kits and processing will be offset by a contribution of £2 when bought from one of the team members. You can however now purchase here on our Blog through the PayPal button on the left for a extra 50pence postage to send the kit to your address. For more information about the experiment, and an instructional video please visit the citizen Science Experiment Tab along the top bar.

Unfortunately this experiment is UK only due to time and postage constraints.
If you experience any problems with the PayPal button, need a helping hand, want to buy multiple kits to increase your chances of finding the microbe, or wish to buy using a alternate method please don't hesitate to email us at

Also, we are pleased to announce we are now tweeting,!/iGEMLeicester .
The main use of this will be let people gain an insight into the more informal goings on of the life of the University of Leicester iGEM team, keeping people up to date with the behind the scenes. As well as tweeting about fundraising events as they are happening.

Hope you all enjoy your Bank Holiday,
Christopher Morton - Project leader. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Good News Everyone

This week we had great news from our corporate sponsor Heathrow Scientific! Mark Shelton, the company's Global Sales Director, will be coming to Leicester in a few weeks to delivery a van load of ex-display laboratory equipment, and to meet the iGEM team (photos to follow!). It is fantastic that, despite the dire economic situation, companies are still able to come up with creative ways to support great ideas like iGEM. Of course we'll be documenting how important this equipment is to the iGEM project on the wiki... perhaps we should have a competition to come up names for the kit. 

In other news we're really going to have to get the iGEM lab organised - the iGEM mothership lab will be shipping the 2012 "distribution kits" in the next two weeks! These kits are the microwell plates containing the standard DNA parts for teams to use in the project - the parts are fairly stable for shipping but need to be kept safe - each well contains only enough plasmid DNA to transform into bacterial cells, so we'll have to make sure that our microbiological technique is up to scratch before we start.

Post by Dr Richard Badge

Thursday, 12 April 2012

In The Headlines

We're in the news! University of Leicester press office released an article on the 12th of April about our iGEM entrance, including quotes from myself and our supervisor Dr Badge who we thank for organizing the article with the press office.
As well as that, the University of Leicester iGEM team appeared in the Leicester Mercury on the 16th of April with an article about the project, available at 

Please feel free to read these news articles, as well as look around the blog for more information.
Update will follow soon on the sponsored walk page. Some of our videos from the walk requests have already been posted on our YouTube page, alongside our Citizen Science instructional video:

Also, don't forget to check out the Citizen Science experiment page. Thank you to those people who have already bought a kit and e-mailed with their photo, purchasing of the kit online, through the blog will be available after the Easter break, but in the meantime you can register your interest by e-mailing the team at

Thank you for reading,
Christopher Morton - Project leader

Friday, 6 April 2012

It's Easter weekend, and looks like the Easter bunny also brought gifts for our iGEM team in the form of sponsors! With Promega, Bioline and Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT) all sponsoring of The University of Leicester iGEM team. Their logos now appear at the bottom of our page, and feel free to click on the photo to take you to their web page where you can find out more.

We are also hoping to soon start our Citizen Science project, with a page and buy now button being up on the blog shortly with information on how you can help out

Thank you, and Happy Easter from all of the Team.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

As Luke reported on Monday, the project has hit a bump in the road - namely, our applications for summer stipends from the Wellcome Trust were declined.
However, the project is still going to go full steam ahead! We have manged to find other stipends for some of our members, and the rest of us are going to find other ways to fund our living, even if it means cutting back on a few luxuries (beer, hair conditioner, light...)  in order to continue with the project. We are still looking into other funding sources however, so any donations or advice is very welcome. We currently have 7 members on our iGEM team roster (although a couple of them are stipend dependent), and are considering taking on a few more students, so don't hesitate to contact if you are interested in finding out more about how to become a member (email

Anthony Cox - Vice Project Leader

More good news!
Our application for the University of Leicester iGEM team has been accepted by the iGEM Headquarters meaning that our metaphorical boat is in the water! See for our entrance page. Our registration fee has been paid, and we thank all of our current sponsors for helping with that, including a very generous donation from Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys and further donations from the University of Leicester Genetics Department. I know it's early to thank people, but none of this would be possible without our main supervisor Dr Richard Badge for all of his help, organisation and guidance with the registration and project in general.

Christopher Morton - Project Leader

From left to right, William Harrison, Nathan Hanna, Anthony Cox, Christopher Morton, Luke Thompson, Grace Hodson, Neil Nathwani, Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys and Philip Higgs.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Some unfortunate news to report...

Hello to everyone reading our blog. We received some unfortunate news today, being that we were unsuccessful in our stipend application to cover our living expenses from the Wellcome Trust, which could potentially derail the project.
We want to carry on with this project though, due to the potential massive environmental advantages that could be gained. It's just that now we need an alternative source of funding to cover living expenses to allow us to take part in the iGEM competition, which we are currently looking into. If anyone knows of an alternative place we could apply for stipends and/or funding for this project, it would be great if you could let us know by commenting on the blog or emailing us at

Many thanks,
Luke Thompson - Lab leader

Thursday, 22 March 2012

UoLeicester iGEM in partnership with GENIE

As you have probably seen on the side and at the bottom of our blog, we are now working in partnership with the University of Leicester's Genetics Education Networking for Innovation & Excellence (GENIE, the UK's only Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Genetics. This development was announced on their news page at ,  giving a great opportunity for our project to gain valuable support and exposure through GENIEs outreach program; but also for GENIE to use the awesome ideas of iGEM to promote interest in genetics research amongst school children, students and the general public.

More updates on the sponsored walk to follow shortly, as well as news of our next event which is likely to be a Citizen Science Experiment, with details and how to get involved to be available soon  - Watch This Space - 

Christopher Morton - Project leader  

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

After the walk,

This is only a quick update, however we will be updating on the walk soon.

The sponsored walk was a success! After a total of around £650 pledged (still climbing as totals come in) we aimed to set off at around 9am from the Adrian building on the University of Leicester Campus and walk towards the river soar and on wards to Loughborough. There we're a few hiccups along the way which we will tell all about when the photos go up, but other than that it was a great day! Weather held out, and a good 99% of all challenges we're completed. Also a massive thank you from all of the team to everyone for every single penny sponsored

Christopher Morton - project leader 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Sponsored walk update - two days to go!

Just a quick update on our sponsored walk - we currently have about £300 pledged for the walk (which will get us as far as Barrow, and isn't far from our next target of £400 to get us to Loughborough). To claim all of this, we have to not only walk twelve miles, but our great leader Chris has to carry one of us some distance, we will be doing a "Ministry of Silly Walks" race, and I myself must spend about a mile of it in morphsuit and Stetson. I believe Will is also doing the walk in a lycra all-in-one from his rowing club, although I am not sure whether this is because of a donation or due to personal preference.

Also, we shall all be donning our beautiful new t-shirts for the event! After much debate, we finally agreed on a logo and a design that we all liked, and the t-shirts arrived today. Here's a picture of Luke wearing his...

More to come.

Anthony Cox, Vice Project Leader.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Facebook, Sponsored Events, and the Project - a Quick Update

Thought we'd provide a quick update on events, as things have been moving at a fast pace over the last few days. In the beginning, we assumed that after the application for our stipend we would pretty much have nothing more to do (except of course the mountain of work that is our second semester modules) between now and summer than research and perfect our actual project. Currently, however, the project plan can be summarised as follows: find the genes encoding the proteins responsible for the polystyrene degradation, clone them out and stick them into an expression vector which we can induce to make a high concentration of the aforementioned proteins.

Of course, we know full well that there is a lot more to it than that, and that we have much more research to do and many kinks to iron out before summer. Indeed, there will potentially be many unforseeable obstacles that we will simply have to tackle as we encounter them, but that's another story. For now, however, there is our project (we do have a few more details, both in previous posts and our own notes/minds, and they will be collected into a seperate page on the blog shortly - watch this space).

So why is our project idea not yet as perfect as we would like? Well, it's not through lack of effort. The problem is that the direction of much of our effort happens to be elsewhere - namely, fundraising. The stipend we receive, if we receive it, will cover us for living expenses over summer. However, there are other considerations; resources, flights and accomodation for the jamboree(s), attendance at the jamboree(s) and - most pressing of all - $2000 (just under £1500) for registration by the end of March. We have had meetings (both amongst ourselves and with our supervisors), hijacked other meetings, produced leaflets (which Dr. Badge kindly agreed to hand out at a lecture on Dolly the sheep earlier this evening), waved collection tins at people, and organised various fundraising events, including a sponsored walk of potentially 25 miles (and, potentially, in costume - if it raises enough I will be wearing a bright red full body lycra "Morphsuit" and a Stetson) (there's a donation button on the right hand side of the page) and an online quiz (again, watch this space).

The biggest problem, in my opinion, is the fact that we cannot yet set up our nice professional Wiki page; reason being, the page is provided by iGEM after we register. The reason this is problematic is because we would like to write to a number of businesses to offer them the opportunity to sponsor us, but we don't want to do that without the Wiki, which of course we will need the $2000 to obtain.

So in summary, any donation you are willing to make will be gratefully received. Also, sharing the blog with others is a great way to help us get the message out there, and our official Facebook page, set up just today, is a good way keep up to date with events and raise our online profile. More information about the walk can be found at the top of the page, and there is also a link to the Facebook page on the left.

Anthony Cox - Vice Project Leader.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The project

The project
- Background

After countless ideas, decision, research and discussions about the pros and con's of various ideas, we whittled the list down to a few Key ideas, involving detection of prions (a form of infectious misfolded protein), production of bio fuel such as hydrogen gas from waste products, and polystyrene degradation. After talking to our supervisor, Dr Badge, who also brought a few of his own ideas to the table, we decided to go with designing a bacteria to degrade polystyrene. However until that point, we were unaware of any known bacteria that used polystyrene as its sole carbon source. This set us on the laborious task of trying to find mechanisms of degrading the individual parts of the molecule. Breaking it down in to pieces that the normal bacterial mechanics could use, for instance the fatty acid degradation pathway. As well as methods to take in the molecule and deal with the benzene ring. This process resulted in a bundle of pieces of paper and lots of worn out pens next to text books, but leaving us with a hypothetical pathway with lots of "well hopefully that could do that, it looks like it should" statements thrown in. Nevertheless, Wikipedia isn't always correct. After a somewhat lucky Google Search we found a article from the African Journal of Microbiology Research, whereby it listed 4 very slow growth strains of Bacteria which had been isolated and sequenced, giving us a much better start and project idea.
This lucky search along with a few other papers we then looked at, changed around the project and made it into a much more feasible idea. However your probably thinking now, "well there is a bacteria that can do it, why do you need to do anything with it?" This bacteria has out competed its competitors as it can utilize the carbon source being polystyrene while the others have not. Making it a evolutionary winner as such even with such a slow growth rate. Consequently as it is so slow, it would never be a feasible method for removing or utilizing polystyrene for any industrial purposes as it would take far far too long. Which is why we came up with our revised project.
More to follow Shortly.

Christopher Morton - Project Leader

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Where it all began

First news about this opportunity was on the 2nd of January from a fellow undergraduate at the university, Anthony Cox, and from here there was a avalanche of ideas, questions, what if's and could we's. This all started from one little Facebook message with a link to the International Genetic Engineered Machine competition (iGEM for short), which now with all fingers crossed will be the sole aim for Summer 2012 to be completing this mission. The mountain which we needed to climb was that of a very quickly approaching deadline on the 20th of Jan for wellcome trust stipend funding, with at the same all of the parties involved having at least 2 if not 3 exams during that final week. Upon first hearing of the summer placement idea i was skeptical of it getting off the ground, however it leaped up and decided it would start to gallop through the efforts of the first 5 confirmed members of the team, being Anthony Cox, Nathan Hanna, Luke Thompson, William Harrison and Myself.
Our first challenge was to find the much needed 2 supervisors in order to have a hope of starting a team. This was achieved by a very lucky email to Anthony's Personal Tutor at the University Dr. Badge, who coincidentally had previously been wanting to enter a team and was extremely enthusiastic already , almost by fate we secured our first. Nevertheless we needed a second, so more emails we're sent to contacts in the university, eventually hearing back from Dr Badge that we had secured another supervisor from the genetics department.
          Nevertheless we still had other fish to fry, the largest of those being trying to come up with feasible ideas for a project. After exploring the countless avenues of fuel production, animal feed-stock production, bio-degradation, improving the readability of bio-sensors, 3rd world bio-sensors and bio-sensors to detect prions (A form of protein in a misfolded form making it infectious), we came up with a list of many different ideas each researched to a basic level. At the same time as we were doing this, we were also sending emails to fellow friends at the university on the biological sciences course's, as well as other disciplines and managed to recruit other fellow undergraduates to fill the remaining 5 places on the team. Which on its own was quite a feat with many solely concentrating on revising for the 1st semester of 2nd year exams, which i can assure you, needed revising for. However through combined efforts of the first 5 confirmed, we somehow managed to pull it all off and presented our ideas to our supervisor directly after the first exam, he also having ideas of his own. From this meeting the now main idea was finalized and we proceeded to fill out the form for the Wellcome trust stipend.

Christopher Morton - Project Leader.