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iGEM student competition

iGEM logo

The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is a synthetic biology competition aimed at students. Inaugurated in 2003, the iGEM hopes to raise awareness and enthusiasm about the relatively young field of biotechnology. The iGEM also attempts to set an “open-source” attitude towards biotechnology by making the results and methods of all their former participants freely available and encouraging future participants to expand on them.

Teams, usually from universities but also from high schools and community labs, sign up for the competition in spring. Throughout the following summer, the teams attempt to create a genetically modified organism with a novel purpose. Although the science is the main component of the competition, teams are also required to complete a number of other tasks relating to the ethics of their projects. Of course scientific projects do not fund themselves, finding sponsorship is therefore also a big part of the challenge.

At the end of the summer, all teams fly to Boston to present their findings at the International Jamboree. After presenting their work, in the forms of a website and poster, the best teams will receive awards and medals.

The university of Groningen started competing in 2008 and has been sending a team every year since. Unlike many other universities, Groningen has a laissez-faireattitude. Apart from 2 to 3 advisors and a laboratory, the team is left to compete on its own. This attitude seems effective as Groningen is on an uninterrupted Golden Medal streak.

The 2018 iGEM Team

The 2018 Groningen iGEM team is hoping to design a strain of Baker’s yeast that will take a giant step towards bio-plastics. Bio-plastics are plastics that are made from renewable materials ( as oppose to fossil fuels). The modified yeast will be capable of breaking down plant-derived cellulose. Cellulose is a material found in all food crops but is undigestible by humans. It is therefore often discarded as waste. The team’s strain will be able to sustain itself off of this waste. At the same time, it will be able to produce styrene. Styrene is a widely-used compound for plastics, most notably for ABS the plastic used for Lego Bricks. Styrene is currently made from fossil fuels at great environmental cost. Team Groningen hopes to show the world that synthetic biology has a better alternative. This year’s team is a motivated multi-disciplinary group. The group consists of chemists, computer scientists and, of course, biologists. To read more about the project and support the team, please visit their rugsteunt page listed below.

https://www.rugsteunt.nl/project/igem2018/donateurs

IGEM team
IGEM team
Last modified:28 August 2018 08.46 a.m.