Monday, July 18

In collaboration with Exeter, the team will be growing up last summer’s killswitch genetic construct under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. To begin the week, they set up Dr. Rickus’s anaerobic chamber, which is a large, clear box with thick black gloves attached to reach into it–very mad science-y (example below). This week, culture growth will begin after air tanks to sustain the anaerobic culture arrive.

Anaerobic Growth Chamber

Example of an anaerobic chamber; image courtesy of

Tuesday, July 19

Mid-week discussion centered around using the sol-gel method to suspend E. coli in silica beads with which to fill containers external to the main containment area of the bioreactor. The bacteria will be immobilized within the matrix of silica fibers while phosphorus is still able to pass through, making this solution ideal for easy input and retrieval of E. coli from the bioreactor system. See the diagram below for an explanation of the method.


Infographic depicting the sol-gel procedure to form aerogel; image courtesy of

Wednesday, July 20

Wednesday’s focus was the development of a protocol for the quantification of phosphorus both intracellularly and extracellularly. It involved the creation of a guide for phosphorus on the Experiment page, so if you want to become familiar with the differences between total phosphorus, orthophosphate, and polyphosphate, feel free to check it out.

Thursday, July 21

The lab hosted Peter Oladipupo, a Mandela Washington Fellow, answering questions regarding the project as it relates to the generation of energy. It was enjoyable to hear his perspective and show him the progress being made. The day also brought continued research into the development of a model to both inform experimental decisions and make future predictions.

Friday, July 22

During the week, the team found out that IDT was unable to synthesize another nanowire gene, cancelling the order and decisively tabling the wet lab work for the nanowire side of the project for this competition cycle. So, full steam ahead with phosphorus. Nanowires will be revisited during the school year–strong side project potential!

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