From November 9th to the 13th, the 2017 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) was held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. The 2017 University of Ottawa team was composed of 15 undergraduate students. The iGEM competition began in 2004 bringing together students from all over the world to compete at MIT to tackle real world issues with synthetic biology. Now, the competition attracts 310 teams from over 40 countries. Teams compete to meet rigorous judging criteria regarding three sub components: Wetlab Experimentation, Drylab Modelling, and Policy and Practices. Working together in multidisciplinary teams, students create genetically engineered systems using biobricks.
For this past competition, the uOttawa team worked in the Kaern Lab to create a sgRNA based gene regulatory network. By recognizing some of the limitations posed by traditional gene regulatory networks using transcription factors, the project sought to add a dimension of flexibility with modular transcription factors using sgRNA and dcas9. For part of the team’s Policy and Practice component, it coordinated outreach with local groups such as the uOttawa Adventures in Engineering and Science camp, along with the classroom visits with Let’s Talk Science. At the competition in Boston, the members of the uOttawa team presented to a panel of judges and audience members. The team celebrated the success of their efforts by winning a place in the Silver Medal bracket. The experience provided students a chance to initiate and guide their own research project while exploring the impact on the greater community.
Moving forward, the team is excited to invite passionate students from diverse backgrounds. If you are seeking to work in a student-lead research team, would like an opportunity to promote science outreach, and wish to represent uOttawa at the international level, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the team on Facebook.