Students create E.coli camera for international competition

October 10, 2013
Students create E.coli camera for international competition
The project, called ‘Paint By COLI’ involved modifying the genes of E.coli bacteria.

( —A team of students from the University of Exeter are making their final preparations before taking part in a prestigious international synthetic biology competition.

The multidisciplinary team of undergraduates will be competing against the very best of Europe at the annual international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) event.

The competition, which challenges student teams to design new synthetic biological systems and operate them in living cells using an engineering approach, takes place in Lyon from October 11-13.

If they are successful at the European Jamboree, the Exeter team will travel to Boston to take part in the worldwide finals, to be held at MIT later this year.

The 2013 team comprises of a diverse group of students from the Colleges of Life and Environmental Sciences (CLES) and Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences (CEMPS).

Their project, called 'Paint By COLI' and devised and led by the students themselves, has seen the team attempt to modify E.coli bacteria with light sensitive and pigment production genes, in order to produce a full colour biocamera.

Bio-Photography is the application of genetically engineered bacteria to act as the light sensor of a camera, replacing digital sensors or photographic film.

As the surface area of bacteria is on the order of microns, and so much smaller than a digital sensor, bio-cameras have the potential to produce images with far greater resolution than those offered by current digital photography.

This opportunity to work as an interdisciplinary group allowed the team to capitalise on the varied approaches to problem-solving taken by researchers from different fields.

With the support from The University of Exeter Annual Fund, CLES, CEMPS and academics from across the University, the group have been working on the competition over the summer. Local sixth-form students were invited to participate in the lab work through the Nuffield Research Placement Scheme, and the team held talks in the community to create awareness of the innovations in .

Exeter competitor Frances Entwistle said: "iGEM has given us an opportunity to take everything we've learnt at Exeter so far and show that we can take it one step further. The lab work taught me so much about working hard, responsibly and with a ; it's an experience I'll never forget and I'd thoroughly recommend it to all of my fellow students."

Dr Elizabeth Dridge, from Biosciences at the University of Exeter, helped coordinate the iGEM project and added: "It is a fantastic opportunity for students from different subject areas to learn from each other and work together on a self directed project. Interdisciplinary research is encouraged for researchers working at the University and it's great that we can offer this to our as well."

Explore further: Students devise novel way to detect urinary catheter infections

More information:

Related Stories

Bacteria as an environmental sensor

November 29, 2010

( -- A UT Dallas student team has harnessed common bacteria to quickly detect the presence of potentially hazardous petrochemicals in water or seafood.

Using bacteria batteries to make electricity

July 17, 2013

( —Their idea is state of the art: Ten Bielefeld students have set their sights on constructing a bio-battery. They want to make use of the bacteria Escherichia coli to convert glucose into energy. With this project, ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of robot love

November 25, 2015

There was to have been a conference in Malaysia last week called Love and Sex with Robots but it was cancelled. Malaysian police branded it "illegal" and "ridiculous". "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots," ...

Nevada researchers trying to turn roadside weed into biofuel

November 26, 2015

Three decades ago, a University of Nevada researcher who obtained one of the first U.S. Energy Department grants to study the potential to turn plants into biofuels became convinced that a roadside weed—curly top gumweed—was ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.