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Human Practice

Snifferomyces - A Tuberculosis Screening Automaton

What is the use of technology, if it cannot contribute to improving human life? With this thought in mind, the TU Delft 2012 iGEM team, composed of students from the life sciences, bioinformatics, applied physics, aerospace, mechanical and chemical engineering disciplines decided to use the platform of synthetic biology, addressing a real challenge affecting millions of people .
Inspired by the sniffer rats trained to smell the presence of tuberculosis, the team decided to build an autonomous olfactory system to detect volatile compounds, by re-inventing man's oldest industrial microorganism, yeast, to provide for a non-invasive, rapid and cost-effective diagnosis system for tuberculosis.

The problem

Lack of diagnostic capacity has been a crucial barrier preventing an effective response to the challenges of Tuberculosis (TB). It is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. In 2010, 8.8 million people fell ill with TB and 1.4 million died from it. Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low -and middle- income countries where, standard TB diagnostic tools, that need to be used in a lab setting, pose major barriers for screening. This happens due to the costs and the time involved in the process.

(according to World Health Organization)

At the map below you can see the countries suffering from Tuberculosis. According to the dark green refers to many cases of TB, the light green to less and the white to a few cases.

Human practice

Our team focused on several part of the category called human practise. We were in a very good collaboration with a MSc student in Educational studies named Amalia Ephrat. During the brainstorm sessions the team helped her to observe collaborative learning activities.

We are also part of a documentary called Lab-Life, which is filmed by Frank Theys. In this documentary he follows the daily life of the scientific research project of our team. For this documentary an embedded humanist, Daan Schuurbiers was partly involved with our p roject. His professional view on social sciences helped our team a lot.

Furthermore, during the European jamboree TUDelft 2012 iGEM team will organize together with the Rathenau Institute a debate called Meeting of Young Minds. The subject of this debate will be the H5N1 virus and weather the research manuscript should have been published. This will be a very interesting debate with different experts, the team and of course the audience!

Collaborative learning

During the brainstorm sessions a MSc student in Educational studies, Amalia Ephrat had recorded the way this team came to their final topic Snifferomyces! The team helped her to study the collaborative learning activities between students with different international backgrounds within the learning context of the University

Who is Amalia Ephrat? – Our MSc students in Educational studies

Amalia Ephrat is a MSc student in Educational studies at Leiden, she did a short internship focused on collaborative learning activities between students with an international background within the learning context of the university.

When students of diverse backgrounds participate in a project where collaborative learning is important, the individual differences can pose a series of challenges to the group processes. This is a well- known challenge for many Dutch universities, which makes it a relevant topic for educational research to investigate the means for intervention and the effects of those interventions on collaborative learning processes and outcomes.

Her plan is to improve collaborative learning amongst students of different backgrounds, by designing research and conduct measurement during the brainstorming phase of the project. Research shall consist of qualitative exploratory methods using observational methods and interviews and quantitative research using several questionnaires, including collaborative skills, empathy and intercultural conflict management.

The main focus of her research is the collaborative process in the iGEM group and the efficacy of the interventions of the supervisors to support the collaborative process in a culturally diverse group of students.