Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hati goes on a trip

I just had a (very) quick trip to Boston.  Harriet was disappointed that she couldn't go with me, so she sent a representative...

Hati was very excited to get on the airplane with daddy to go to Boston.  What would they find?

In Boston, Hati and daddy went to stay with friends in a nice house. Hati had hummus and ruti and ate angur.

Hati also found good books to read.

When daddy called home to Harriet, Hati sat on Daddy's shoulder to listen to the conversation.

Later, Hati got to ride on the subway with Daddy.

They met some of daddy's friends and ate chocolate and berries to celebrate a paper they had published. Hati got to eat some too.

Then it was time to go back to their room and go to bed.

The next day, Hati went with Daddy to his office. Daddy had a very big computer.

He spent the whole morning talking to people. Sometimes it was interesting and other times Hati was very bored.

At lunch time, they went in a car to another office, where Daddy told people about his project, and Hati got to eat a cookie.

After that, it was time to go to the airport and go back to Iowa.

Finally, Hati and Daddy got back to Iowa. It was very late, and Hati fell asleep in the carseat, happy to be almost home.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Heart is the best power

Yesterday at the iGEM awards, I had another massive experience that took me completely by surprise.  This year, they introduced a new award, The Chairman's Award, which is picked by Randy Rettberg (the chair) as the team who best represents the spirit of the iGEM event: curiosity, hard work, intellectual honesty, etc.  When he headed up to give it, as the penultimate award before the top prizes, he told me: "Why don't you come up too... you know the team."

And so it was that I came to be onstage again, once again in front of that massive audience of 2500 genetic engineers from around the world, to shake hands with our wonderful scrappy underdog team from Sumbawa, Indonesia, and give a totally unprepared and off the cuff speech in praise of their outstanding efforts.

I talked about how I was proud and humbled by having them in our new measurement track.
I talked about how, when I spent time talking with them at their poster, they told me "We are new, but we have confidence because have great heart."
I talked about how they were doing real genetic engineering addressing real problems in their local community, at a university that was only one year old.
I talked about how they were worried they could not be a measurement team, because their cell phone cameras could not measure green fluorescence.  We told them a negative result was still a useful result, and they sent us beautiful documentation of the fact that their cell phone cameras measured all the samples the same.
I talked about how they had engaged the local community, teaching honey farmers to pipette and helping them understand synthetic biology and its potential value in their lives.
I talked about how they had gotten religious support for their genetic engineering from the local imam and the local priest.
I'm crying again just writing about it.

I hope that somebody was taking a video, because I'd like to share it with you.  More importantly, however, I want to stop talking, and let you see them explain their project in their own words:

Monday, November 03, 2014

To all my peeps at iGEM

I just gave a scientific talk before the largest audience that I have ever in my life addressed: 2500 synthetic biologists at the iGEM jamboree. In a five minute talk, I told everybody about the gigantic interlaboratory study that we ran this year, including a special shout-out to the team from Sumbawa, Indonesia, who did their measurements using cell-phone cameras because the nearest fluorescence-measurement equipment was 1000 km away.

And what did we get?  From 45 teams in 18 different countries, we got a worldwide baseline and some remarkably good consistency in measurement values:

Next step: write it up and plan for next year's study...