Brick by Brick benefit dinner for MS Society

Exchanging lab coats for formal attire, the University of Lethbridge's iGEM team is stepping out of its comfort zone to connect with the southern Alberta community that has supported them from the outset.

The inaugural Brick by Brick Charity Dinner is Friday, Nov. 18 in the Students' Union Ballroom. Benefitting the MS Society, Lethbridge & District Chapter, the event will not only raise funds for the fight against multiple sclerosis, it will help to enhance awareness and understanding of the disease through guest speakers Susan Schneider and Dr. Gerlinde Metz.

"This is something we've wanted to do for a few years now and have finally been able to put together because of the size of our team," says iGEM member Lisza Bruder.

The Pincher Creek native is in her third year with iGEM and in the first year of her master's of biochemistry studies with Dr. Steve Mosimann. The multidisciplinary iGEM team, with support from the Synthetic Biology Club and led by Dr. HJ Wieden, has swelled to 22 members, making the establishment of a charity dinner a less daunting task.

"We felt this was a way to give back to the community that has supported us from when we started in 2007."

The iGEM group (an acronym for International Genetically Engineered Machines) already makes a significant contribution to society, albeit in a more indirect manner. Their work involves the design of a petrochemical-eating bacteria, which they proved could be used to help clean up water in oil sands tailings ponds.

The dinner project is a little more public and more direct.

"It's very difficult at times to go and talk with someone about your research and explain to them what it means," says Bruder. "We even sometimes don't see the connect between what we are doing in the lab and how it applies down the line."

To that end, U of L neuroscience professor Metz will speak to her studies as a part of the endMS project.

"Having an MS researcher from our University speak to the community has a huge impact," says Ann Stewart, the MS Society chapter executive director. "It demonstrates the use of donor funds as well as raises the awareness of the types of research being done to find a cause and cure for MS."

Multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological disease of young adults in Canada and currently affects over 11,000 Albertans.

In addition to Metz's address, Susan Schneider, a local resident who is living with MS, will speak to her personal experience with the disease, while Dory Rossiter will serve as the evening's emcee.

Stewart says it is important that our community's youth take up the charge for these initiatives.

"We are delighted to partner with the iGEM team," she says. "University students are an integral part of our community and it is always refreshing to be involved in their activities."

Tickets for the Brick by Brick Charity Dinner are priced at $50 each or $350 for a table of eight. They are available by calling 403-328-7002 or via e-mail at

This story first appeared in the Legend. For a look at the November issue of the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.