Alex van der Wateren is interviewing Biomakespace members to showcase who you can find in our communal lab. Today, we meet Arin Wongprommoon!
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Arin, I am 21 years old and currently studying Biochemistry: I am doing NatSCi and am in my 3rd year here in Cambridge.
I have an interest in science since I was young--I think this applies to many of us! What really got me into science is that it explains nature around us. Because of this interest I took part in the National Biology Olympiad in Thailand. During the training sessions I attended lectures on a wide range of university-level biology topics and learned a range of wet-lab methods.
I have some early experience performing standard lab protocols from the National Biology Olympiad, and a summer project I conducted with a researcher back in Bangkok in 2016. I enjoyed seeing how these protocols are put together in the context of a project, and how they can potentially lead to new discoveries. For me, the natural progression from this was studying science at university and lab-based internships.
I am quite interested in sets of rules such as the sequence of components in DNA (like promoters). What I would really like to do is to find the general rules of biological systems. If you know more about a system, then you can modify it. I am therefore interested in synthetic biology and systems biology. Synthetic biology deals directly with modifying these systems, while systems biology provides the computational power to analyse large sets of data to help us uncover the general rules.
Eventually I would like to go back to Thailand and bring my skills and knowledge home to share with others. This could be in the form of science communication or by leading workshops, for instance. I would really like to help people back home understand science better.
Q: How did you find out about Biomakespace, and why did you join?
Mainly through SynBioSoc, the Cambridge University Synthetic Biology Society [formerly abbreviated to CUSBS]. I joined in the first year of my course because of their 3D printer but I ended up not using it that much! The society conducted their workshops at Biomakespace, so that’s how I found out about the space. As I got more involved, I took on the role of bio-project manager in June 2018. In contrast to using existing science departments at the university, Biomakespace gives a relatively higher degree of freedom to conduct our own projects so I joined the space to take advantage of all the facilities.
Q: What do you hope to gain from being a member?
I have a particular project I am working on with SynBioSoc: we are trying to engineer bacterial populations to interact using physical interactions and ecological interactions. On the physical interaction side, we are interested in engineering bacteria to express a nanobodies--an adhesion molecule derived from an antibody--so that we can investigate the shapes that the bacterial colonies form. With the other branch of the project, we are simulating ecological interactions such as predation as well as commensalism (the association between two organisms to the benefit of one, but not the benefit nor detriment of the other). This will be achieved using auxotrophs: bacterial strains that cannot make a specific amino acid so must rely on another strain to survive. Eventually we will tie these branches together to investigate how physical interactions affect ecological interactions by engineering bacteria that exhibit properties related to both.
Biomakespace provides us with the location, the reagents, and equipment. The space is relatively well equipped and well managed, especially considering that it relies heavily on donations!
Q: Do you have any skills, knowledge, or expertise to contribute to the community?
I was involved in testing some of the equipment at Biomakespace. They recently bought a biosafety hood and I managed to test it: I found some small issues that were fixed later. I did the same for our ice machine. There is also a cryostat at the space and I have some experience with this equipment (through making sections of fruit flies). It’s been sitting idle for ages but I hope to get it to work so I can teach others how to use it.
We’re considering using the confocal microscope for our project, so I’m talking to the laser safety officer of the space for the risk assessment so we can get everything in place to start the project.
I also have some experience with Python programming to manipulate models and run simulations, and I know a little bit of R so I can share this knowledge with people who are new to programming.
Q: How has your experience been so far?
It’s been great, really great! There are a lot of facilities, the committee is nice, and the other members are great too. I feel like I am part of a community, not just a lab. There are so many members, and we have a community channel through which we can communicate. It feels like you are part of something bigger, which I really enjoy.
There have been some challenges, such as equipment that needs some maintenance. However, we get the chance to fix these things ourselves, which is quite a unique experience that makes you learn more than you would by working in a serviced lab.