With a medal-winning performance at the North American regional synthetic biology competition in Toronto earlier this month, a team of students at Brown and Stanford universities is headed to the World Championship Jamboree of the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition at MIT Nov. 1-4, 2013. Advised by Brown faculty members Gary Wessel and Lynn Rothschild, the cross-country collaboration worked on four projects with a theme of bio-synthetic communication: making silvery wires out of DNA strands, enhancing gene regulation messages between cells, reconstructing ancient genetic sequences, and creating a bio-sensor for detecting secretions of sugar. The team includes Nguyen Lee '16 (biomedical engineering) and Emily Toomey '15 (bioelectrical engineering).
The students have had an adventure along the way. They've not only bonded with camping trips in Big Sur and Yosemite National Park, but also they've been locked out of their NASA research space as a consequence of the government shutdown. Despite the ups and downs, students treasure the experience of working on science of their own creation, said team captain and recent Brown graduate Simon Vecchioni: "iGEM is an incredibly time-intensive project but at the same time is incredibly rewarding. What makes it unique from most other research projects is that it is driven greatly by the passion of the students." That passion will continue to fuel them at the finals in Cambridge, Mass. The iGEM competition is run by the International Genetically Engineered Machine Foundation.