Each year, a team of undergraduate students from University of Warwick compete in ‘iGEM’, a world-wide synthetic biology competition. Now in it’s 14th year, the competition includes more than 5,600 participants from 42 countries.
The iGEM competition provides a unique opportunity for enthusiastic young students to combine their various skills within a team environment to tackle exciting challenges in synthetic biology.
iGEM is an international genetic engineering competition that fosters scientific research and education by creating a community of young student researchers, and by operating the Registry of Standard Biological parts – an open source repository of DNA parts freely accessible to the participating teams and labs. You can find out more on the iGEM website.
Teams are made up of undergraduate students from a number of disciplines – typically engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science and biology. Teams design their own project, implement it during the summer, and travel to Boston to present their results at the iGEM “Jamboree”.
Undergraduate students at the University of Warwick have participated in the iGEM competition for the past three years, winning two Gold medals and one Silver medal. In 2016 Warwick’s team were also nominated for best software tool.
Professor Alfonso Jaramillo leads the Warwick iGEM initiative, with support from WISB Post Doctoral Research Assistants and Principal Investigators.
We are currently recruiting undergraduate students for the 2017 iGEM competition. The application form can be found here. The deadline for submitting an application is 10th March 2017.
Photo Credit: iGEM Foundation and Justin Knight
The team aimed to build a detection system for infectious agents and environmental pollutants, by combining a diverse range of knowledge and skills in the team. Their work utilised CRISPR/Cas9 technology to sense bacterial RNA samples for Lyme disease and two heavy metal pollutants: mercury and lead.
The team received generous funding support from the BBSRC/WT/SEB fund for UK iGEM, GenScript, Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership and a number of groups within the University of Warwick: Chemistry, Engineering (Andrew Little Fund), School of Life Sciences, Physics, Faculty of Science and the Innovative Manufacturing Global Research Priorities programme.
For 2015, the Warwick iGEM project (called “Brixells”) sought to use bacterial cells as bricks, and zinc finger proteins as mortar, to build 2D patterns and 3D structures at the microscopic scale.
The project used experimental and computational modelling methods, and in addition to providing hands-on research experience for the students it also contributed newly characterised biological parts to the Parts Registry, which will be shared with labs worldwide during the next competitions.
The team was involved in a number of outreach activities at local schools, Birmingham museums, and also discussed their work live on local radio.
For 2014, the Warwick iGEM project (called “Replicon”) aimed to create a self-replicating RNA system for potential application in gene therapy.
The project involved mathematical and computational modeling plus the development and implementation of laboratory protocols for use with RNA systems.
The team undertook outreach activities, including hosting A-level students in the lab and also contributed 2 new parts to the iGEM registry.