Team:Northern BC/Safety

COVID-19 protocols

This year involved the navigation of new safety concerns while carrying out our project. COVID-19 restrictions in our region necessitated most of our team meetings to be held virtually, to prevent gatherings. In addition, meetings that were held in-person were socially distanced, and all team members wore masks.

Safe project design

When designing our project, safety was a major concern. Initially, we had envisioned for our biosensor to be used in an at-home kit. For this, various concerns had to be taken into consideration, such as how to limit the potential for bacterial contamination. As the vision for our project shifted to a benchtop system intended to be used in a laboratory, these safety concerns were also affected. We decided to use well characterized, non-pathogenic E. coli strains (DH5α and BL21) in the development of our system; this severely curtailed the potential for contamination. In addition, we based our system around parts that were synthetic and chimeric; the DNA sequences for these parts were generated by IDT.

Our system is meant to be used to measure the levels of vitamin D in a blood sample. However, given the serious safety considerations required with working with blood in the lab, we felt that a safer alternative would be to assess the sensitivity of our system with synthetic vitamin D solutions that simulated biological vitamin D levels. This would still allow us to produce a proof of concept for the system while maintaining safety.

Safety considerations in the lab

All members of the wet lab team received Biosafety I and II training, as well as UNBC Student Laboratory Safety Orientation with Introductory WHMIS. Wet lab work was carried out in Biosafety level 1 laboratories. All members of the wet lab team were provided with instructions on how to safely use various equipment in the lab (autoclave, large centrifuges, etc.), and appropriate supervision for the use of such equipment was provided.

Lab Image

Various people on campus were available to us for assistance with regards to safety. They included our PI, wet lab advisors, and the Chemical Safety Officer/Dispensing Chemist at UNBC, Conan Ma.