Biohacking frequently-asked questions
For press and journalists
Q: How can I talk to the person in charge of the space?
A: We have a formal management structure for legal (and convenience) reasons, but it doesn’t set direction. If you come along to the Wednesday meet-up, any members you meet should be able to give you a good perspective and overview of the space and current projects.
Q: Why was the biohackspace founded?
A: The biohackspace grew from the desires of a few members to explore the possibilities of molecular and microbiology in a hackspace -- 'hacking' (building ourselves from scratch, or modifying or fixing existing) our own equipment and coming up with our own processes.
Since then we became licensed for CL1 genetic modification and have extended the same question to synthetic biology.
Our goal is to allow those who may not have access to a lab to learn the fundamentals of modern microbiological techniques, and to enable those who do work at a lab to improve their skills and knowledge by working on things which they wouldn't perhaps have time for in their usual labs.
Q: How does membership work?
A: We use space kindly supplied by the London Hackspace and thus don't pay rent. We do have to buy our own equipment and consumables (that is, reagents and disposable plastics such as pipette tips) and for this we charge a very small membership fee, currently £10 a month.
Members must be inducted to be able to enter the space. This is a legal requirement for Containment Level 1 and above labs, such as the biohackspace. The induction teaches new members how to use the lab safely: safe use of equipment, safe handling of microbiological agents and of chemicals, and safe disposal techniques.
Q: What does your membership look like?
A: We have around 40 members, from many different backgrounds: professional biologists, computer scientists, designers, and artists.
Q: What sort of projects are you working on?
A: We don't generally have overall lab projects. People tend to work on their own experiments, or form small groups. Recent experiments include blood typing, genetic modification of bacteria with some of the biobricks from the IGEM kit, a small dinoflagellate aquarium, genetic testing for some "fun" traits (such as ability to taste certain bitter tastes), and an impromptu tardigrade viewing.
For new members
Q: When do you meet? What's the best way to get get started?
A: Our members often meet on Wednesdays at 7.30 pm in the biolab. This is mostly a social meeting for chatting about ideas, organising the lab / clearing out old experiments, and installing new equipment.
Q: Do I need to join the Hackspace or Biohackspace before I attend a meeting?
A: No, you're welcome to visit us first to see if the space suits you.
Q: How can I join the space?
A: You will need to be inducted to use the lab. Inductions are performed on some Wednesdays by the generosity of existing members. Join the slack channel and drop a message into the #safety-inductions room. Inductions do no cost any money. They take about an hour.
Before your induction, you must be both a member of the hackspace (minimum of £5 per month as of Jan 2017) and to have already paid a minimum of £10 (per month) into the biolab bank account. More details are here: https://biohackspace.org/join/ The purpose of the induction is how not to break yourself, others or the equipment and how to stay on the right side of the law. Learning how to actually do anything in the biolab takes a lot longer.
Q: I am looking for work experience or internship opportunities. Does the Biohackspace offer any?
A: As the biolab is a volunteer run space we can't unfortunately offer any formal work experience opportunities. We are a community lab primarily used part-time by people with an interest in synthetic and molecular biology. We take a very small membership fee which goes directly towards lab consumables, and we don’t have any funding or staff.
In particular, the lab is empty most of the working day!
That said, you are of course very welcome to visit us on one of our open evenings (every Wednesday, from 7:30pm) if you’d like to meet some of our members and see the space.
Q: I'd like to join, but I'm not sure what to work on. Can I join an ongoing project?
A: It depends on what's going on at the time. Come along to the Wednesday sessions or send out a message in slack on #general to see if anyone else is interested or already working on what you're interested in.
Q: I have another question which isn't covered here.
A: Join our slack channel: https://biohackspace.org/slack/ and drop a message into #general room with the tag #hello-a-different-question.