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Lifechips Summer Bootcamp


NSF Funded IGERT-Lifechips program continued with the summer Bootcamp workshop that took place at the University of California, Irvine. This was an intensive short course that explained the basic Lifechips concepts and introducing a group of Lifechips fellows to various researches in micro-engineering and experimental biology. We had six students participated: Amanda Janesick from Cellular and Molecular Biology, Crystal Rapier from Biomedical Engineering, Karen Kelley from Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Vickie Hsuan from Cellular and Molecular Biology.

For the first week, the training took place on various resource centers on campus. The first day of week 1 training, students were introduced to the cleanroom of the Integrated Nanosystems Research Facility in the morning leading into noon. Students got a general tour of the facility and learned about the tools and access and the facility offers. It was important to the program that students become aware of the facility because this is where they can carry out their microfabrication works if they collaborate with other Engineers, Biologists, or other Scientists in the future, where they have to manufacture tiny devices and chips using some of the best tools of nanotechnology out there. To make this experience more worthwhile, students got some hands-on experience such as performing soft lithography where they pattern on silicon wafers and making a mold of their pattern with PDMS. They were taught the basic steps that are the foundations in microfabrication process. The second part of first day training, students received a training session by Dr. Lily Wu who is a lab manager of the Li/Bachman research group. She showed them fabrication of PDMS microdevices.

On continuing days of week 1 training, students participated in Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) training with Dr. John Porter from the Carl Zeiss Center at UCI where they showed them how to use the machines and take pictures of the samples, learned about Flow Cytometry and Imaging with Dr. Ed Nelson from the school of Medicine and his graduate students, and received training on basic Sensor/Actuator electronics design/construction with Dr. Arthur Zhang and a senior Lifechips fellow, Mark Merlo who come from the lab of Dr. G.P. Li, Lifechips program P.I and Dr. Mark Bachman. Moreover on this training with Dr. Zhang and Mark Merlo, the students were taught to build the front-end electronics to a sensor system by soldering components on a PCB and test the sensor board and debug if necessary. They also learned how to use a digital multi-meter, or an oscilloscope to test and debug the circuit.

The second week of training was arranged differently where we had both students and their advisors to participate. The breakdown of each training day was to have the advisors led the morning sessions where they gave a short presentation of their lab and possibly provided a tour of their labs and the students provided peer training to each other where they show their current project experiments.

The focal point was the peer training and it went as followed: 1) Amanda Janesick conducted peer training session on quantitative PCR using SYBR Green Detection and the goal was to achieve quantitative expression of a known retinoic acid receptor target gene (HoxA1) frog embryos treated with retinoic acid agonist and antagonist. 2) Vickie Hsuan started her training session with a brief review regarding various methods to identify undifferentiated human embryonic stem cells and she showed her peers the method of chromosome kayotyping with DAPI nuclear staining, i.e. chromosome spreading, that involves inducing cell proliferation and chromosome condensation, stopping cell division at a specific stage, and lysing the cells to count number of chromosome. 3) Crystal Rapier’s peer training session began with a presentation of some useful devices that designed by biomedical engineers for various research investigations and tools. For the hands-on experience, she showed the group how to cast, cure, cut, and separate PDMS from etched silicon wafers with patterns of microfluidic features. Crystal expresses that her peers seemed motivated by seeing the integration of biology, medicine, and engineering that the field of Biomedical Engineering has to offer. 4) For Karen Kelley’s peer training session, she taught her peers to how stain HeLa cells and prepare slides for immunofluorescence microscopy. Prior to training day, Karen cultured normal HeLa cells, mock-infected HeLa cells, and C. trachomatis infected HeLa cells. She fixed cover slips and stored them in a permeabilizing solution overnight. On training day, they stained the cover slips with antibodies specific for microtubules, centrosomes, golgi bodies, ER, and MOMP (Chlamydia-specific) and incubated the coer slips with a dye called Hoechst to stain to DNA. After the application of fluoroform-conjugated secondary antibodies, they were able to visualize the stained features within the cells. They then examine the features of the normal HeLa cells, mock-infected, and infected cells to see how the golgi and microtubule networks are altered during a Chlamydia infection. Karen then was able to answer questions about C. trachomatis and its life cycle.

Overall, this Bootcamp was a big success. Although it was only for two weeks, students got to immerse themselves in numerous training sessions with researchers and scientists and learn about the nanotechnology that could be great help in their future research and collaborations with other researchers in different fields.

Address Goals

Lifechips Bootcamp’s goal was to provide the students with opportunities to experience multi-and-cross-disciplinary research by learning about basic microfabrication tools and techniques from the cleanroom facility and research labs and expand their knowledge through participation in various research experiments. Also, the hands-on experience they gained through the mini research projects of their peers helped to open their vision, ideas, and discover potential directions of their own research.