Local briefs – December 8

A former Red Deer College science student has won top honours at a genetics competition in Massachusetts.

Science students honoured

A former Red Deer College science student has won top honours at a genetics competition in Massachusetts.

Oscar Cortes recently returned from the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition where his team from the University of Alberta received the gold medal in Best Foundation Advance, one of a number of categories.

Cortes took genetics at RDC and is now a fourth-year student at the U of A. He has competed in various contests held at a number of prestigious schools, including the iGEM at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

This competition is considered to be the premiere undergraduate Synthetic Biology competition.

It attracted more than 112 teams, 42 expert judges and 1,300 to 1,700 participants from around the world.

The accomplishments of these student teams during one summer are often impressive and may lead to important advances in medicine, energy, and the environment.

Teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer to work with.

They use these, along with new parts of their own design, to build biological systems and operate them in living cells.

The Alberta team constructed an artificial E. coli chromosome and inserted it into living E. coli cells.

Twenty-six teams, including MIT and Harvard, competed for gold in the Best Foundation Advance category.

Cortes said he feels thankful for the win they brought home.

And he also credited his schooling at RDC.

“RDC gave me the foundation necessary to get where I am now,” Cortes said.


Investigation at well site continues

Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board says it will take a number of weeks before the investigation into a well site fire near Rimbey is completed.

Board spokesman Davis Sheremata said investigators will talk to the companies involved, review records and inspect equipment as part of their probe of the Dec. 2 well site fire about six km northwest of Rimbey.

The site is operated by Calgary’s Bonavista Energy Trust, but another oilfield service company was doing work at the location when the accident happened.

There was construction work and well testing going on at the same time when the flash fire was ignited about noon.

It is believed that natural gas vapours were touched off, causing the fire in a 250-barrel storage tank.

The fire, which sent flames shooting into the air, burned for about six hours before being extinguished.

Harold Gold, a regulatory and compliance technologist with Bonavista, said they are still working to determine exactly what happened.

A report must be submitted to the ERCB in January, but the company expects to wrap up its review of the incident before that.

Once the cause is nailed down, the company will look at the incident to see if steps can be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

No one was injured in the fire and there was no hydrogen sulphide in the natural gas. The only damage was to the storage tank.

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