The Aboa 2021 team consisted of eight student team members jointly covering five different majors in three different faculties at the University of Turku. Our team was so small that forming subteams for every project area was not feasible. Instead, each team member had their own areas of responsibility during the project year and everyone helped each other as much as they could. The team also included a PI and an instructor. On this page we’ll dig a little bit deeper into each team member’s role within the The Lac Case -project.
Malin Eriksson’s priceless role as our student team leader and Head of Wet Lab encompassed many aspects of the project. She designed all our wet lab parts and ran the lab, which involved things such as writing protocols, lab instruction, acquisition of all lab materials, troubleshooting and data analysis. She also provided ideas for the proposed implementation and biocontainment solutions.
Malin was our closest contact to our PI and she made sure that all deadlines were met and our deliverables were top quality. She was also enthusiastically promoting iGEM and our project to the various new students as well as other people at our university. She was both initiating and coordinating our partnership with the team UChicago as well as discussing with some of the companies we had a collaboration with. In addition, she was involved with our collaboration activities, perhaps most notably making our team a part of the phototroph community in which she for example attended all meetups and wrote a part of a handbook chapter. She also translated team Bielefeld-CeBiTec’s education materials to Swedish and attended game nights hosted by team Stuttgart. Moreover, Malin participated in applying for funding, helped with creating education materials, organizing and participating in school visits, as well as contributed considerably to the contents of the wiki.
Laura Hamdi helped as much as was needed in many smaller businesses, sometimes offering to buy lab equipment or design a script for a video, other times just simply offering a shoulder to cry on. In addition to helping a friend in need, giving opinions and simply just listening, she’s had the main responsibility over Human Practices efforts. She’s been making educational material for children and youngsters, but also coordinating and organizing media and expert collaborations. Laura has also been actively present in partnership meetings during the project and her output can be seen on wiki’s layout. It must also be mentioned that Laura has worked as a secretary in most of the meetings Aboa has had over the course of the project and she’s also written quite many of the texts visible in wiki.
Waltteri Hatulainen’s main responsibility during our project was making sure that our videos, both the Project Promotion Video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8Sb6X2NXUQ) and the Team Presentation Video (link will be added later) were as high quality as possible. He planned, shot and edited most of the video material for the project. He also made sure that we had the best possible team pictures taken of us. In addition to this, he participated in some wet lab activities particularly during the enzyme purification steps.
Juuli Hietarinne was our head of wiki and head of visual design. Therefore, she planned the wiki layout and made sure that all required things are in our wiki - not to forget her writing efforts for multiple wiki texts and uploading all pictures to the server. As a head of visual design, she also created some flyers and posters as well as gathered our guidebook to future iGEM teams and created a postcard for Team Düsseldorf’s postcard project. Our mascots, Cyano-Sanna and Eino Coli, are also created by her. In addition, she helped a lot with Human Practices related things, for example in the ideation, planning and implementation of education materials. When it comes to Integrated Human Practices, Juuli contacted pharmacy experts and biologists and interviewed them. She also did some collaboration activities, for example the emoji challenge, translation of Team Bielefeld-CeBiTec’s education materials and filling in the different surveys. Additionally, she has applied for funding and participated in school visits.
Milja Lempinen, as our IT wizard, updated our website and ensured that our wiki would work as we wanted to. She was in charge of uploading all our materials to wiki. In addition, she contributed to one collaboration activity by translating a few science-related questions and answers to Finnish. Not to forget, she also contacted one pharmacy to gain answers for the survey we had put out earlier but didn’t receive many answers to.
Julia Pyysalo was mostly in charge of our social media and executed most of the hands-on work in the wet lab. She was also in contact with companies that we partnered with. During the spring she actively attended our team meetings as well as meetings with the teams we collaborated and partnered with. She took part in some high school visits and told the students about biotechnology studies.
Jenni Vuorio was a team necessity as head of finance making sure that all bank transactions were dealt with and documented appropriately. This enabled us to for example order all required reagents and products for the wet lab as well as receive company sponsor payments. She was also key to opening up our website and took care of all matters related to our registered association Gem Turku ry.
Tiia Ylikangas was the team leader for the Aboa 2020 team, which unfortunately never competed due to complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Her work then with acquiring funding for the project ended up being crucial for this year’s team, in which she also gave insight on the topic choice and researched HPLC protocols as a measurement alternative and extension. Tiia also starred as the main character in our project promotion video with honours.
Our project would not have been the same without our PI Pauli Kallio. He gave us invaluable feedback in the ideation process and gave his opinion about the topic we decided to continue with. Pauli helped us to get a lab to work in as well as proofread our deliverables, such as the safety form and the abstract, before we submitted them. In the beginning of this iGEM year, he taught us to realize the weaknesses of the team and facilitated the recruitment of people with necessary skills. In general, he offered us valuable support and encouragement throughout the entire project year.
Our instructor, Hariharan Dandapani, offered us valuable help in the laboratory. He assisted us especially with enzyme assay related issues such as providing troubleshooting guidance and operating the plate reader. He was also available when we needed a second opinion, and listened patiently to our Head of Wet Lab when times were tough.
Our Aboa 2021 team would not have made it as far as it did without the help and support of many external parties throughout the project.
In addition, we want to thank the following people and parties:
From University of Turku:
- Kalle-Antti Suominen
- Jarmo Käpylä (for advice on cell lysis and protein purification techniques)
- Anu Salmela (for advice and lab assistance during cell lysis and protein purification steps)
- Juha Kurkela (for help with operating the plate reader during enzyme activity measurements)
- Pekka Patrikainen (for double-checking our DNA constructs before ordering the genes and for support with project design)
- Lotta Junnila and Elina Laiho (for advising us on how to create and publish a press release)
- Nina Brander (for allowing us to visit TSYK)
- Tiia Viljakainen and Noora Hoskonen (for allowing us to visit Nokia Upper Secondary School)
- Jussi Aho (for allowing us to visit Salo Upper Secondary School)
- STEAM Turku (for offering us contact informations to start the process of getting credits for iGEM work in the future, also for giving tips on education materials)
- Suvi Haapanen and Lilja Palsila (for letting us attend the Study in Turku fair)
- Paino-Kaarina Oy (for printing our posters and flyers)
- Sanna Launiainen (for drawing illustrations for our children’s education material and wiki)
- Team Aalto-Helsinki (for presentation coaching, peer support and permission to use their material as inspiration on our handbook)
- NiC Judges (for presentation coaching)
- iGEM Global Slack community (for various things)
- iGEM Phototroph community (for providing an inspiring workspace)
- Ritva Setälä (for interviewing us for Turun Sanomat)
- Reeti Jalasmäki and Teemu Perhiö (Reeti for writing an article about us in Tylkkäri, Teemu for taking pictures for the article)
Companies and organizations:
- University of Turku (for paying our attendance fee and providing laboratory facilities to work in)
- Turun Seudun Puhdistamo Oy - Jarkko Laanti and Jouko Tuomi (for expert consultation)
- Tekniikan akateemiset TEK (for sponsoring our team clothes)
- City-Lab (for offering us invaluable help with getting products for lab activities)
- John Nurminen Foundation (for publishing an introduction of our project on their website)
- PerkinElmer (for consultation on measuring diclofenac)
- Local pharmacies (for answering our survey)
- IDT (for free gene synthesis orders)
- Benchling (for digital laboratory notebook)
- Ruohonjuuri OY (for offering us a grant)
- Matti Vapa (for originally creating our website aboaturku.fi and giving us full control over it this year)
- Jenni Prokkola (for biology expert consultation)
- Hannele Fredriksson (for touring us in Kakolanmäki wastewater treatment plant and giving valuable answers to our questions)
And finally, we would also like to show our gratitude towards our parents, friends and closest ones for their unconditional support throughout this iGEM year. We’ve had some ups and downs but luckily we’ve had you to share our successes with but also to lean on when things have been more rough.
Team training and Project start
As mentioned previously throughout the wiki, the situation of our team was difficult for multiple reasons. When it comes to the credits and support from our university, there is still much to improve. Only one of our team members could get credits from her work in the iGEM project. This is mainly due to the fact that iGEM is not very well-known here in Turku and thus there aren't yet many structures contributing to the project from the university’s side. One big problem is that our university doesn’t provide a joint iGEM course between all necessary departments which would make it easier for the students to exchange their work hours for credits.
This is however beginning to change as we’ve started to contact the administrative people in the head of our departments and faculties. They’ve received our message openly about making it a little easier for the future Aboa teams. We are hoping for things to change in the near future but obviously we need to realize these things don’t happen overnight. However, we thank the people in our university who’ve listened to us so far and who will be attending the process of making iGEM more stable in Turku in the future.
On the other hand, our university does teach some synthetic biology courses, for example the course of microbial metabolic engineering which is fully focused on synthetic biology. Other than that, the topics of synthetic biology are also mentioned in many other courses.
When it comes to our project timeline, some of our team members were already part of Aboa 2020, which couldn’t get to the competition due to an ongoing pandemic. Consequently, some of the team members started fundraising, the recruitment process and the ideation process already at the end of 2020. We started our brainstorming efforts properly as a new team in February, and continued them all the way to May. In the lab we started only at the end of June due to difficulties with reagents and facilities. We did the last experiments in September after which we started focusing on wiki writing.