By: Shaharyar Lakhani
The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is now accepting applications for the 2020 cycle! The year-long in-depth program is in preparation for the annual synthetic biology competition where multidisciplinary teams are given a kit of biological parts, which they combine with parts of their own design to build new biological systems and operate them in living cells. These teams aim to use their creativity and innovation to help solve local problems using synthetic biology. This competition kicks off at the beginning of summer, and presentations of the new systems are held in the fall. The process will begin this December, where accepted students will generate an idea for their project. The upcoming spring semester entails a 1 credit hour course to give students the time and resources to brainstorm, develop their project, read background papers, contact people with expertise in the area, and to build upon their ideas.
This year’s batch of students on the UT iGEM team won a gold medal for the best measurement category at the iGEM Jamboree in Boston. They worked on a device that measures the amount of metabolic burden inside a cell. These burdens hinder the progress of synthetic biology because the cells don’t function like they are supposed to. The team’s “Burdenometer” measured the burden associated with 330 parts (including promoters, coding regions, terminators, ribosome binding sites, etc.) from iGEM distribution kits and found parts that could be replaced with a more stable construct. “However,” the team stated, “we are not just limited to these 330 parts; with this innovation, synthetic biologists can determine the burden of any genetic part that interests them!”
The deadline to apply to the UT iGEM team for the 2020 cycle is December 1st, 2019. Don’t miss out on this opportunity! (Apply here)