The current community project is species typing in commercial meat. DNA is extracted from the meat sample and species-specific primers are used to amplify DNA in the sample via the polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR). Analysis of the PCR products shows which animal species were present in the meat. Previously our group produced fluorescent bacteria.
We have a member named Aaron, who is working on microfluidics. His current work revolves around designing and fabricating microfluidics that would give scientists and researchers more precise control and manipulation of fluids and reactions on a smaller scale. The advantage to this technology is that it saves space, preparation time, and money that can be applied to any research or laboratory setting. From a biology perspective, because the small dimensional features of microfluidics are comparable to the size of a single cell, it enables designs that mimic the functions of in-vivo cells. Some applications such as stem cell culturing and organ-on-a-chip can only be done using microfluidics.
DIY Algae Photobioreactor
A small aquarium pump, some tubing, plastic bottles and hot glue are all that’s needed to make a photobioreactor. Our set-up is on display because it’s green, it bubbles, and it looks cool. It also demonstrates that scientific experiments are not an exotic affair, that they are within reach. We are currently brainstorming ideas of what to do with the algal biomass.
Continuous oil harvesting system utilizing Botryococcus braunii
A major obstacle in the mass utilization of algae as sources of renewable fuel is the high cost of extracting the oil from inside the cells which results in destruction of the cell. To sidestep this obstacle, we would like to use Botryococcus braunii, an algae that lives in colonies and secretes oil into a communal pool which lies outside the cells. Our goal is to develop methods to extract the oil from the colonies with minimal damage to the cells, such that a continuous “milking” process is achieved. The first step is acquiring the Botryococcus braunii and cultivating it continuously in the lab, and then the fun part is experimenting with oil extraction techniques.