It’s been over a month since I last put a post up, but I swore that if I didn’t have time I would make sure I blogged something after the wiki-freeze. Actually it’s a bit misleading to imply I haven’t had any time, I took two weeks off on the advice of a Doctor, two Professors and My Mum (you don’t ignore advice like that). Boy am I glad I did – iGEM life has been mental when I’ve not been taking time off it. I’d be misleading you again if I didn’t mention that I loved it anyway.


The last two weeks I spent in the lab (I call them Jill and Melinda) were chaotic. In a whirlwind of determined fourth attempts, unexpected successes and camaraderie, we all became slightly peculiar. There was a day when it was imperative that we spoke like farmers, and another day when we giddily carried out nearly 100 minipreps. Alex C. began to prod me conspiratorially at regular intervals. I gained a slight touch of paranoia that our faithful little E. coli which we boiled up for proteins would return from the dead on a destructive path of vengeance. Freddie and I once lost it completely and giggled wildly at Ryan because he was sitting on a chair. Ryan then made it his artistic pursuit to sit on the chair in a fashion befitting a physicist (he put his hands on his stomach and looked thoughtful). We all got disproportionately excited about running an SDS-PAGE. It all seemed reasonable at the time.


The preparation for the wiki-freeze was a similar experience, but since it was mostly carried out on computers from different locations, the hysteria was expressed more through YouTube videos and memes, which Ryan does as a matter of course anyway (it occurs to me that Ryan does a lot of things as a matter of course). I hope Ryan spends most of today in bed – he got very little sleep while putting the wiki together. Tom probably shouldn’t get out of bed either, I think the left-til-last-minute stress may have been too much for him.


What do I do with myself now? I’m expected to settle into uni life again? What is this?! I can’t cope with the inconsistency: a day should consist of going to the lab and seeing how long you can stay and how much you can achieve before you automatically get locked into a separate corridor from your house keys. On the plus side, we go to Amsterdam in a weeks time so it isn’t over yet, and what’s more I have a third year project in which, I am told, I will be taught cloning and PCR…heh heh heh.



Mary B.



Tom suggested we spend time contemplating potential uses of polysaccharides, in a future where, having proved you could make any polysaccharide, people do. Here is my list:

-The principle component of unicorn horns, imbued with particular dazzlement.

-To make the flowing hair of the unicorn more shiny and wondrous.

-To harden the hoof of the unicorn like a diamond, that it may gallop forth and spread its beauty and joy across the earth!

-To elucidate the value of the Common Agricultural Policy for me.

-Anything that can help make a more lustrous unicorn.

All the other bioscientist iGEMers spend a lot of time imagining their future PhDs and asking me if I’m going to do one. My answer is Most Probably Not, unless it gives me the chance to make a unicorn.

Since unicorns don’t currently exist (to my immense chagrin) I don’t know what I can suggest which is of current use. Polysaccharides already do everything, so where am I expected to start? They cure cancer, give eternal (facial) youth, stop pathogenic diseases, ulcers, diarrhoea, are used as building materials, increase immunity, I’m pretty certain they can be used to increase food security, water purity, love and harmony between all peoples of the earth etcetera etcetera. There’s even a lady making jackets out of polysaccharides (she’s called Suzanne Lee, Google her. As a dressmaker myself, I think this is marvellous). She desperately wishes you could make that bacterial-spun cellulose a dab more hydrophobic. What a shame you can’t. YET.

Here is my suggestion, Tom: slightly more hydrophobic cellulose. Or a hydrophobic polysaccharide to put on cellulose. Or, actually, to rephrase that:

-What they currently do, but better, and not limited by bioavailability.

I totally believe, in spite of not coming up with a suggestion more brilliant than unicorns (although unicorns are brilliant) I have just given the smart-Alec answer which ensures my homework is done. Excellent.

Mary B.

New Waters

So iGEM begins for the first team submitted by The University of Exeter. We move into uncharted waters on a new vessel, ten novice sailors trying to learn the ropes, navigate and find their sea legs while the stalwart Tom Howard guides and steers us. There are probably many large sea monsters ahead – we shall prepare for battle upon the high seas!!! (I have a feeling they’re going to regret letting me start this blog, but then I see it as the wiki being for the science and the blog for the whimsy.)

I really have no idea how this project is going to pan out. It’s dead exciting.

Mary B.