Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MODEL-IN semi-annual meeting

Our group is part of a consortium that is funded by the European Union for a joint project on transcriptional regulation in inflammatory response. The title of the project is MODEL-IN, and you can learn more about it in its website.

As part of the project, we hold meetings roughly every six months. This is a great way to catch up on the progress in each group and also to get better working relationships. Most of the meetings were in the UK, and one was in Rome. This time the meeting was organized in Israel, which was a great opportunity to get project members to see Jerusalem.

We spent two intensive days in meetings going over scientific results.

On the afternoon of the second day we went for a tour around Jerusalem. This was a beautiful spring day (spring started early this year) and we got nice views of the old city and its interior.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Robotic NanoString Experiment

Today was finished our first large scale experiment using our robotic platform. 

Assaf programmed the robot to grow 90+ strains of yeast over two days to reach optimal conditions (as I previously described), then the robot stimulated them and harvested cells at 9 time points. Each harvesting step involved taking small amount of cells from the plate they were growing them and plunging them into a plate of cold liquid methanol. This immediately freezes the cells and "stops" them cold (literally).

Next, Assaf used the protocol he and Ayelet devised for extracting RNA from yeast cells, to process these 9 x 96well plates. These will be shipped to Ollie's lab for running the NanoString assay to measure exact RNA quantities.

This was the first time we had an actual experiment running from start to finish. Although we "debugged" various parts before, putting all of them together uncovered all types of problems. Assaf had to restart the growth several time before we had the whole thing running. But now we are smarter and know how to get things right the next time.

After few days of heavy robot use, Assaf collected all the plasticware he used. Here is a picture of triumphant Assaf at the end of the process.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Robotic Facility Kickoff

You may recall that we had an event to celebrate the opening of the first half of our lab. Now that the renovation is almost over (only missing few furnitures), we decided to have a more official kickoff. The idea was to say "Thank You" to all the people who helped us build this lab out of nothing.

The last week, Ayelet, Assaf and Avital (also known as "AAA Robotics") worked hard on setting up a demo of the capabilities of the robotic facility. The last two days, I recruited Tommy (who is still waiting for his J1 visa renewal) to help make a movie of this demo. Tommy turned out to to be a capable photographer and has the option of alternative career in the movie business. 

Yesterday afternoon, Naomi and I went to buy cheese, cherry tomatos and strawberries for the event. As usual, the selection of cheeses at our favorite fromagerie was tough, but we managed to negotiate it. This morning, Ayelet bought fresh bread from our favorite baker. We set up tables in the corridor leading to our lab, with sparkling wine, bread, cheese, and red tomatos and strawberries.

Since all the rooms are already in use, we had the event in the small meeting room/kitchen next to our lab. This meant very select company (we had space for 24 chairs). It was very emotional as it was a chance to thank so many people at once.

Moments before the 9:00am, we did a quick test of the demo, and Ayelet decided we needed another plate with YPD (media), so I rushed to do the job.

During the event I gave a short talk about the science we do, and then had a movie about the robot. 

We then moved to the corridor and had a toast. Sadly, the University President had to rush out before the toast. 

We then had real-life tours of the facility while other used the opportunity to chit-chat and catch up. Sometime even serious scientific discussions.

Photography at the event was courtesy of Roy.