• Question: Can to explain more about the molecules you make using the robots, especially the process?

    Asked by BlessingM to Kim on 11 May 2020.
    • Photo: Kim Liu

      Kim Liu answered on 11 May 2020: last edited 11 May 2020 10:51 am

      Hi! Thanks for this question; I’m excited to answer! Bear with me though, because it’s a bit of a long story haha! Please do comment down below/reply if you’d like me to clarify anything further ~


      You’ll may know that all of an organism’s components are determined by its DNA, which carries a cell’s genetic material. DNA is composed of a sequence of letters (A, C, G, T), and the sequence of these letters essentially act like words in a language which tell the cell how to piece together the biomolecules called proteins. Proteins are composed of building blocks called amino acids, and they have nice chemistry which allows them to be stuck together by a cellular machine called the ribosome. There are 20 naturally occurring amino acids, and together they form all the amazing proteins that make up a human being. For example, the DNA code CGA tells the ribosome to attach the amino acid called Arginine. If this is all familiar to you, I can give more details about this process later, but it will do for now 🙂


      In our group, we try to change or add to the cell’s natural machinery so that it puts in unnatural or artificial amino acids into proteins. We may want to change a protein so that it lights up under a microscope, for example, so we can see where it goes within a cell. We may even want to make the protein act differently, potentially as a treatment for disease. But to do this kind of manipulation requires artificial cellular machinery (such as artificial ribosomes), and that’s where my robot comes in. The robot is able to run many experiments at the same time (without making mistakes or getting tired!) and artificially evolve new machinery. It can grow bacteria and force them to evolve new abilities to perform our genetic manipulation that we desire.


      Hope this makes sense! Like I say – let’s continue the conversation below if you would like to 🙂