2014 Course Description


The final goal of this hands-on semester project is to build a working prototype of a water quality sensor and test it in the field.

This sensor will address at least one real world concern about contamination of water. This semester, Spring 2014, we continue to focus on:

Specifically, the following projects are available:

  1. GMO and the law –gel encapsulation or other mode of containment and preservation of genetically modified bacteria for use in the field.
  2. Development of water analysis mobile labs in collaboration with (art)scienceBLR/ Portable temperature controlled incubator development
  3. Arsenic bioreporter detection prototype generation 2 for improved sensitivity of eGFP detection and turbidity measurements.
  4. Coliform bacteria detection Prototype generation 2
  5. Work-up of water samples from Bangalore using the bacterial arsenic reporter and corresponding mapping of the results with Bangalore partners.

In the spirit of open data and citizen science, open-source technologies will be used whenever possible. As a consequence, a large part of the project will be to document the build process and make it available itself as open-source.

Who is it for?

•Any 3rd year bachelor (or equivalent) student interested in hands-on problem solving in life science, design, and their applications in the real world –

•Masters students are welcome to apply


What will you get out of this course?

You will…

•Be familiar with the range and design pros-and-cons of biological, chemical, and electronic sensors for deployment in the field

•Be able to articulate and implement a process flow to design a field-ready prototype for testing water quality of concern in partner sites: E. coli, or arsenic

•Understand and address the main challenges in materials and process selection, and device design and prototyping for field testing

•Able to field test, and derive conclusions and future improvements

•Imagine applications of the prototypes in water problems described by researchers and other practitioners

•Able to document the entire R&D process and contribute content to open source DIY (do-it-yourself) communities via the course wiki and blog

•Able to communicate across disciplines and cultures with peers at EPFL and at partner sites


What are the course requirements?

It is useful but not mandatory to have some background or interest in one of the following: biology, molecular biology, environmental biology/chemistry, electronics, programming, data-aggregation, mapping, project documentation (lab notebook keeping, photo, video documentation).


How do I register?

Application Procedure

Please note that as a pilot semester project, we can only take 6 students.

Please write Sachiko Hirosue with the following information by 15 Jan 2014.

email subject line: enrollment for BIO-DESIGN for the REAL WORLD

Please include:

–Your name

–Your year of study (3rd year Bachelor, ....)

–Your field of study, your Department and Institution

–Relevant courses you have taken, experiences you have had


–Why do you want to take this course? (1000 characters, including spaces)

–Let us know what you enjoy doing outside of coursework that may relate to this coursework. What is the last thing you have worked on? Why, when, what, how? (2000 characters, including spaces)


Depending on the number of people, we would like to contact you and discuss your interest. We will define the teams by 20 Jan 2014.


Course Credits

The semester project under the SV curriculum is worth 5 ECTS. Students outside of SV should contact their respective section person in charge to determine whether they can take this course for credit as well.