Manchester’s MadLab’s new hackspace and the gamesmaker (topical I know) was their DIY Bio group led by Asa Calow, a computer scientist by day, an amateur biologist by night. The session was titled Self-cloning Bacteria (AKA genetic modification for beginners) and it basically involved genetically modifying E. coli and if successful, it would turn bits of the agar plate blue.
“What on earth is DIY Bio?” I hear you cry so let me tell you a bit about it. It’s a movement that originated in the US and it’s a form of citizen science i.e. science carried out by amateur scientists or in some cases, non-scientists. Do It Yourself Biology has been made possible by the reduction in costs of lab equipment in the last decade and its origins is very much in line with hacker culture (not the malevolent hacker that the media has portrayed, but more the geeky finding-out- how-stuff-works-under-the-cover hacker). DIY Bio is about anyone and everyone practising biology outwith a professional laboratory whether it’s in a garage or hackspace (communal workshop space). Why would people do this? It could be for fun, as a hobby, for the pursuit of scientific knowledge or a chance for people to pursue biology outwith academic or professional institutions. For more information about the movement, check out www.diybio.org