Achala Basu

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                                 i Gem 2011

DAY 1, 24th may: The last i remember of science was saying good riddance to it a year ago after my final school examinations got over. Science never really was my cup of tea back when i was in school. The biggest happiness i got out of leaving school was leaving science and pursuing art. HA! who knew i would be spending the first summer vacation of college studying synthetic biology, genetics and DNA? What made me take it up? I'm not sure yet. On my way to class, my mind was still getting over relaxation period and i was having second doubts on taking part. But that seemed to have vanished soon enough after one hour of class with yashas. I never really thought synthetic biology or anything related to science was interesting, thanks to the monotonous teaching in school. But today was different. I actually managed to understand a lot today than i ever did in my entire schooling life. I never really thought how people got blue eyes or curly brown hair from their parents? or what caused these traits? was genes all about x's and y's? I finally understood the structure of DNA, something i'v never been able to figure out all my life. I'm still very confused with many things, but i'm hoping to learn soon.

DAY 2, 25th may: Our home work was to come up with different functional living organisms or bacteria(form or formless), After much thought all night, Me, Madhul, Manasa and Akshaya came up with 5 different kinds of living organisms. -A bacteria that can change eye colour in the form of eye drops. -A bacteria that can change facial expression in the form of gas. -A bacteria that can control the genetics of a living organisms off spring. -A bacteria that can regenerate cloth. -A bacteria that can clean and heal wounds instantly.

Though the research part of the homework was not fully finished, we worked more on the ideas after sharing them with the class.

Bio-bricks- Something i was totally clueless about, But i figured thats what we need to make by the end of this course to present for the competition.

We extracted our own DNA in class today, which was probably the most fun part of the day. Yashas kept telling us from the previous day that we would extract our DNA, and i was really intrigued on how we would do that. But who knew it would be a simple 3 step process. -Gargle salt water hard against your cheek and spit it out into a test tube. -Add pril dish wash to the salt water. -Add alcohol to the edges of the test tube.

And watch your DNA form on top of the test tube. It was pretty amazing actually. At first i couldn't figure out where it was, cause everything looking gooey. Then Aaron pointed out where it was. It looked insane. After that yashas asked us to do the craziest thing ever, we had to bury it anywhere around campus and give it a ritual. So i took mine to tress near the football ground and poured it in front of the center tree.As i ritual, i cried for it. Cause i was very happy at its formation (birth) and now its dead.

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DAY 3, 26th may:

Today felt a little lazy. We looked into biomedical laboratories and what equipment they require. We had to make our own equipment from scrap and junk. This in hindi is called "juggad". It seemed like a very exciting process. Sohil, Anvita and me decided to make the centrifuge. I had no idea what that even was util Anvita told me. We came up with a few ideas but we were very doubtful about the execution. But i'm sure we'l make it work. In the afternoon we learnt how to make a microscope from a web cam. And we experimented with it too. It was the coolest thing ever! All we had to do is flip the lens of the web cam and it magnifies. But the drawbacks were that the microscope wasn't stable. So with this process, we had to create a more practical microscope where the slides can be moved and the microscope is stable and there is enough light. Madhul came up with the idea of using this desktop light created by an NID student. The light was movable, and there was a base for the slides. Also the microscope could be inserted to the light area because there was a gap there.

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DAY 4, 27th may and the weekend:

Absenting myself from class on day 4 did not seem like a good idea, but circumstances made me do so. After sleeping for the first half of the day i found out what i had missed in class, Apparently Aaron had asked them these questions: Q: What is life according to you? Q: Do you think you have the rights to modify a living thing? Q: What is design according to you?

Well if i was there, this is probably how i would have answered the questions, A: Life according to me is very confusing, cause through out my childhood i was told that god created us, But as you grow up, reality steps in, and then theres the theory of Adam and Eve, and now its all about biology and genetics and other science related stuff. But i never really understood the theory of evolution. We might have even been created by fire water and earth. So life according to me is mysterious. A:If its a bacteria or plant or a worm then most definitely yes, It'l be interesting! But the thought of experimenting on big grown animals like hamsters and rats kind of freak me out. A:Design according to me is something that is functional and aesthetic. It serves a purpose.

Over the weekend, Madhul and I decided to work on the web cam for our microscope. It didn't quite go as we expected it to. After dismantling the web cam and inverting the lens, We superglued the backside of the lens to the webcam and shut it and screwed it back to its original form and connected it to the laptop for testing. We noticed that how many ever times we tried shifting the light position and changing the angle of the webcam, the image was blurry and we could hardly make out anything. We figured something was wrong there, so we opened it up again, and realized that the lens was superglued. I had no idea how to remove it. But madhul summoned nail polish remover. So with nail polish remover and a paper cutter and a lot of effort we managed to remove the lens. We noticed that the entire lens had been covered with a thick layer of white foam and when we cleaned it off, the lens seemed different. Like a layer of the lens was missing. We decided to let it be then. The next day when i was in Siddarthas place helping build the microscope, He told me that the lens was ruined and we couldn't use it anymore. That was pretty depressing. Our first try cost us the entire lens. But i was hoping Aaron and Yashas would help us out in this situation. And they did =)

DAY 5, 30th may:

We watched the movie "Gatacca" today. It was BRILLIANT! If i had seen this movie a few days before i gem started i would have probably slept through it. But as i understood a lot of things in that movie, like DNA testing,perfect coding done artificially for new born babies, The lab equipment, and many other things. The afternoon how ever we did not do much. We were asked to do a few readings from [] and from [1]. After reading we were asked to come up with our own creature by using biobricks, which has a function. So after A LOT of thinking, i decided to focus on my first idea, The idea i came up with for the first assignment. A living organism that can change the colour of the eye. So after research, i came up with this : When we insert biobrick BBa_K127002 into the persons eye, This part steadily generates GFP. When you use optical tweezer, by putting this part into your plasmid, you can catch your engineered E coli in your eyes. When we add the biobrick BBa_I739301 to the E coli from the eye, the Blue protien from the biobrick BBa_I739301 adds colour to the E coli. So when the Engineered E coli is inserted back into the eye in the form of eye drops, the eye colour automatically changes. Eyedrops.jpg

DAY 6, 31st may: The entire day we focussed on making our microscopes. Ours was half done, and only me and Madhul were there from our group to complete it. Biswajiths microscope looked brilliant. He made it out of Lego. And the execution was done wonderfully. I really liked it. Ours was made out of mechanics. And we already had a form made thanks to Siddartha. But Aaron wanted a few adjustments which would help the lens focus on the slide. So we worked on that. We had to mount it on a firm base, so after ransacking the work shop, We found a wooden slab to mount the microscope on. We set to work then. We went to the market, bought screws. Got back to college, drilled holes into the slab, fixed our structure, screwed the screws in and finally we were done.

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It sounds pretty easy here. But it was rough. We had to dismantle a few parts of the structure so that we could inserted the screws easily. Screwing the screws in wasn't easy wither. But towards the end we finally did it. and it looked good,and stable. We were using the light source i got from the US a long time back. It was a palm sized round light devise with LED lights in it. It fit the structure perfectly. I painted the base black a while back. Now it looks neat. All thats left is to insert the web cam, and our web cam is done =)

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DAY 8, 2nd June: Today was pretty much a very interesting day. The entire morning my group(Madhul,Manasa,Siddartha and i) worked on our microscope. It looked pretty good with the black wooden base and a proper mechanical structure. But a few errors were pointed out by Aaron, hence we worked on it again for another hour. We finally attached the inverted lens webcam and connected it to the laptop.

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It took a while to adjust the light and the lens to get a proper image of the bacteria. But we were finally able to get it. We tried out with a leaf first, then an any, then our bacteria. All the images were brilliant. We tested the microscope by adjusting the light in different positions and how the image looked like because of that.

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In the afternoon we watched a movie called Shivers. I cant say it is going to be one of my favorite movies. Though the movie had a pretty interesting story to it, the gory details put me off. One thing i liked a lot about the movie though was that even though it was a 1976 movie, The idea of developing science to such an extent was incredible. The movie shows how a scientist thought of replacing organs in the bodies with parasites. Parasites, which can take over the same function as that organ in the human body. But it didn't work out as he planned and hence the parasites took over the human body and lead it to nasty sexual desires. Aaron and his group apparently had worked on the same concept as the movie for one of their projects last year. They changed the mood patterns in ants and recorded how their entire life style. Same way The scientist in the movie had introduced the parasites into the humans lives. But Madhul raised a very interesting question today. She asked if changing these life style patterns in living things is a good thing or a bad thing. Because in the movie, it lead to mayhem but probably in the ant colony it lead to a good things cause there was no discrimination between the soldiers or the worker ants,or the worker ants and the queen. Which goes back to the question asked on day 4. Whether we have the right to modify lives of living things. This got me thinking a lot. And modifying life can have many different perceptions. I think there should be some laws on how we can modify life patterns in living organisms such that their lives aren't harmed or are caused discomfort.

Shivers 2.jpg