I traveled to Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School in Honduras, Central America in June 2013 to teach a short Synthetic Biology class on design and testing of a copper biosensor in E.coli. The project was very appropriate to Honduras since several of their lakes are contaminated with copper runoff from fields due to the use of pesticides to fight coffee rust.
Lake Yojoa Honduras, contaminated with copper runoff
Copper biosensor design: high-copy plasmid with a tandem promoter setup using the rhamnose-activated promoter rhaP(BAD) followed by the copper activated CopA promoter. This setup functions as a combination of an AND and TRUE gate since copper alone WILL activate, but rhamnose alone will NOT. If both copper and rhamnose are added the signal output is higher than copper alone. The design also utilizes the bicistronic device BCD2 created by the BioFab group
Copper biosensor responding to copper on right plate and no copper on left plate.
The working copper biosensors responding to Cu2+ on the agar plates
A Group picture with several of the students at Zamorano and Professors Maria Mercedes Roca and Arie Sanders
Trying hard to see some bacterial growth on those plates with the students in the biotech lab
Getting ready for my cow milking experience
Fitting a milking apparatus on a cow is harder than it looks!
Eager and excited Zamorano students transforming E. coli with our copper biosensor