HiveBio hosts Dr. Reitha Weeks and The Science Behind Lotions

On Saturday March 22nd HiveBio hosted a workshop on the science of lotions, led by Dr. Reitha Weeks, volunteer at Bellevue College Science and Math Institute (SAMI). WIN_20140322_151614 Students learned about what falls under the category of ‘cosmetics’ and the role that the FDA plays in regulating the cosmetics we use every day. Students learned about requirements for labeling on cosmetics containers and how to interpret what the product claims to do. Reitha also discussed the topics of safety testing and new technologies developed to replace the need for testing on animals. She described a lotion recipe by explaining the basic science behind what each of the ingredients does to make lotion the color and consistency that we are familiar with.

WIN_20140322_153156The hands-on element of this workshop brought the class from HiveBio’s boardroom into the lab where students used the information given in the initial class to make, and understand the process of making, lotions of their own. Once the lotion was made, it was outside to the fragrance station. Everyone added fragrances of choice to their lotion while enjoying the pleasant sunshine and tranquil Talaris  Center campus grounds.


Students returned to the boardroom, lotion in hand, to discover more about safety testing and the differences between the regulation of cosmetics and drugs. The workshop received great feedback with everyone having enjoyed the afternoon.

Photos and Correspondence by Sara Hayden

Candy & Science – What could be sweeter?

Looking for a fun and educational way to spend a rainy afternoon in Seattle? How about playing with candy and learning about its properties? Join Drs. Mariola Kulawiec and Lawrence Own for HiveBio’s Candy Electrophoresis class this Saturday at 3pm! Don’t let the big word fool you – we are using a common lab technique to separate out chemicals by color. Learn more about it and register at this link. Bring your own candy or artificially colored foods to test out, or use ours!

flier-candy-EP-webThis class is great for children, but anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult, and reminded not to eat the candy while inside the lab area!


Upcoming Classes: Chemistry & Biology of Cosmetics, Candy, and Microscopic Worms

HiveBio has some new and exciting classes coming up in the next few weeks. Registration is limited, so sign up now at the links below!

The Science Behind Lotions:  Hands-on lab and exploration of labels and regulations
Reitha Weeks, PhD
Saturday March 22 @ 2pm

What makes a lotion one’s “favorite?” Do you believe all of the manufacturer’s claims? Examine labels and learn the chemistry behind successful lotions. Learn about the FDA’s requirements for safety and labeling of cosmetics. Make lotion and take home samples with the fragrances of your choice.

Candy Crush Electrophoresis
Mariola Kulawiec, PhD and Lawrence Own, PhD
Saturday March 29 @ 3pm

Electrophoresis is a molecular tool that can be used to separate molecules by size. In this class, you will extract colors from candy and run them out on a gel. We’ll talk about what we learn about the colors and how this simple technique can be used in other applications.

C. elegans and Model Organisms
Hannah Chapin, PhD
Saturday April 12 @ 1pm

In this class we’ll explore how scientists use model organisms to study complex diseases. You’ll get hands-on experience with the nematode model organism C. elegans, learn about the connection between an animal’s genes and physical appearance, and hear about how these tools are used in the laboratory to shed light on health, disease, and aging.

These lab classes are perfect for beginners and scientists of all ages. Children under 18 welcome with a parent. Contact with questions.

How is the DIYBio Movement Changing Lives?

The DIYBio community is larger than you think! HiveBio is just one of many community lab spaces around the country and around the world which promote Do-It-Yourself science culture. “Biohacking” and biological tinkering in community labs and workplaces is leading to some life-saving discoveries. Read about a tattoo that functions as a biosensor and other hacker culture-inspired innovations in this Forbes article!

DRD4 Project Update, and the Basics of Gel Electrophoresis

The Dopamine Receptor D4 (DRD4) gene contains a segment 48 base pairs long, which repeats between 2 and 11 times, depending on the individual. This pattern in DNA is referred to as a VNTR (Variable Number Tandem Repeat). Studies have shown particular phenotypes, or traits, in people who have exactly 7 repeats of this DRD4 VNTR. Such people may exhibit characteristics such as a novelty seeking personality, susceptibility to ADHD, longevity, a nomadic lifestyle, and other traits.

Michal, Zeb, Noah and Georgia have been developing and troubleshooting a method in the HiveBio lab to determine the number of these repeats in the DRD4 gene of our research participants. They begin by taking a buccal (cheek) swab to gather cells, and then make various dilutions of the cell sample in a chemical buffer that exposes the DNA.


Developing the method for isolating DNA

Next they amplify the number of DNA strands in their sample by using a technique called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). The amount of DNA containing the DRD4 gene is so tiny compared to the total amount of DNA in our cell sample, that we need to make more copies of this part of the DNA in order to analyze it. In order to amplify our DNA, we add it to a molecular cocktail of all the ingredients needed to make more copies of the DNA segment of interest. This cocktail includes very specific molecules called “primers” that specify the region of the DNA to be amplified. Design of the primers is one of the first and most important steps for a research study of this nature. Once the DNA of interest is copied over billions of times using a machine called a thermocycler, we have enough to separate it out in a gel.

Noah, Georgia and Zeb set up the gel

Noah, Georgia and Zeb set up the gel for electrophoresis

HiveBio's first electrophoresis gel!

HiveBio’s first electrophoresis Gel, February 2014

Some might just see a bunch of tick marks on a clear gelatin-like substance, but to those savvy in molecular biology techniques, this “gel” shows the relative sizes of the DNA being examined. The DNA is stained with a blue dye so we can see how far it has run down the length of the gel. The gel is made in the same way you make Jell-O at home. You heat a powder, in this case agarose, in a certain volume of water, and then allow it to cool in a rectangular mold. In this case, the gel is made from a 2% solution, so 2 grams of agarose powder for every 100mL of water. We put a comb at the top so when the gel solidifies we have wells in which to load our DNA and keep our samples separate.

When solidified, the agarose produces a homogeneous gel matrix through which DNA can diffuse when an electrical gradient is applied. The side of the gel where we load the DNA is the negative end, and the far side is the positive end. DNA has an overall negative charge, and its rate of diffusion through the gel is dependent on the length of the DNA fragment, also referred to as its size. By looking at the relative distance the bands have traveled, we can estimate the size of the DNA fragments we’ve loaded. The smaller the pieces, the farther they will go in a shorter amount of time! Once the DNA had moved most of the way down the gel, as indicated by the blue loading dye, the team stopped the gel electrophoresis and took photos for analysis.


Lanes: 1. Ctrl Primer A 2. PrimerSet1, Participant 1, 3. PrimerSet2 Participant 1, 4. Neg Ctrl, 5. Ctrl Primer B 6. PrimerSet1 Participant 2 7. PrimerSet2 Participant 2 8. DNA ladder

Lanes 1 and 5 are the positive controls, samples of DNA amplified using the control primers. Lane 4 is the negative control, no DNA. Lanes 2 and 3 are DNA samples from participant 1, using primer set 1 and primer set 2 respectively. Lanes 6 and 7 are DNA samples from participant 2, using primer set 1 and primer set 2 respectively. Lane 8 is the DNA ladder, a standard set of DNA lengths.

Ideally, we should be able to determine the number of VNTRs by looking at the length of DNA in our gel as compared to the standard sizes in the ladder. However, not everything always goes according to plan! The wavy lines of the DNA ladder indicate that something is impeding its diffusion through the gel. The team will have to troubleshoot this to get a clearer and more accurate picture.

So how many DRD4 repeats do our two participants have? Stay tuned to find out…

If you are interested in learning more about the DRD4 Project at HiveBio or have questions about developing your own project to work on in the lab, please contact Zeb Haradon or Michal Galdzicki at

The Thermocycler used for this project is a GeneAmp9600 generously donated to HiveBio by Rob Carlson.

HiveBio Tuesday Night Science Discussion returns to Cafe Ladro Tues Feb 25, 7-9pm

Join us at Cafe Ladro in Fremont for HiveBio’s Tuesday Night Science Discussion Group. Enjoy coffee and pastries while chatting about all things science. Working on something in the lab and need ideas? Read an interesting article and want to discuss it? Bring your ideas and questions. The discussion format is casual so don’t be intimidated if you have no scientific background. All are welcome to attend. Continue reading

Learning about Protein Folding with FoldIt

Jeremy Mills, Ph.D. will be returning to HiveBio Community Lab to teach the second round of Introduction to Proteins with FoldIt. This class is designed to introduce beginners to the intricate world of proteins, and discuss their molecular structures and functions. Learning about proteins is fun and easy using FoldIt, a video game where the object is to orient the parts of the protein in an energetically favorable way, displayed visually using shapes and colors. Continue reading

Dr. Cortney Bouldin Leads Introductory Microscopy Class at HiveBio

On Saturday January 25th, HiveBio welcomed Cortney Bouldin Ph.D. to the community lab space where he presented an introductory course on Microscopy and Developmental Biology using zebrafish embryos and HiveBio’s DIY Microscopes.


Cort began with an introduction about the mechanics of microscopes and showed a diagram of how multiple lenses bend light to display images in compound microscopes. After a brief discussion of developmental biology and zebrafish embryos, Cort continued with the hands-on portion of the class.

The early stages of zebrafish development are remarkably similar to human development, which is why they are used as a model system for biological studies. Cort instructed students on how to pipette a small amount of 24 hour-old zebrafish embryos onto a microscope slide. Continue reading

HiveBio Students Get a Hands-On Lesson in Neurobiology

Bergen highlights various regions of the brain

This afternoon eight members of the community participated in HiveBio’s first run of the Sheep Brain Dissection class. Co-Founder Bergen McMurray led the class through a description of the different regions of the brain and explained how the different cell types connect and function within this amazingly complex system. Continue reading