The cell reactor is a chamber that allows biologists to culture cells in a controlled environment, and capture images periodically throughout the lifetime of the cell.
As a class project, seven undergraduates (myself included) came together to design and implement a cell reactor that is capable of thermal, CO2, and humidity control. Technical aspects of this project were not mentioned in the project guidelines, and our team had the chance to design every part of this reactor. A team of this size requires a large amount of coordination, planning, and cooperation. To maximize efficiency, each member of the team conducted individual research on a separate aspect of the chamber, and taught the rest of the group what they had learned. Specifically, I was in charge of performing environmental control of the chamber, which was accomplished with a PID controller (thermal), pre-manufactured chemical mixture (CO2), and a strategically placed reservoir (humidity). My team was able to successfully build a reliable chamber within time limits, demonstrating our ability to work together and cope with the strict timeline requirements that comes with any project. Our reactor was fully functioning, demonstrating success in controlling the environment and keeping the cells alive for over 48 hours. Even though this was a class project, we approached this challenge with the mindset of developing a marketable product, as if we were outside of academia. We paid detailed attention to the the form, function, and cost of the chamber, which are all carefully documented. The documentation is presented in a detailed, yet easy to read report (available upon request). This project demonstrates my ability to work in a team, design, and produce high quality prototypes and documents within a short amount of time.
Some technical skills I acquired over the course of this project include cell culture, machine fabrication, and gaining familiarity with PID controllers.
The end product resembles Tony Stark’s arc reactor framed in a glass chamber. It looks professional and pleasing to the eye, and was fully functional. It can be placed on an upright microscope stage to be periodically imaged.
The end product, as it sits on a microscope stage
The 3T3 cells we cultured, as seen through the microscope camera