As you may know, there are multiple design teams on the Missouri S&T campus. However, you may not know about our iGEM team. iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine, and two representatives from our team are heading to Boston, MA this week to present the team’s project and compete against other schools.
Here at S&T, our iGEM team consists of mostly biological science majors, with a few chemical engineering, biochemistry, and computer science. iGEM works all year to develop a project worth presenting, and doing research with faculty on campus. This year, iGEM’s design project is based off of the world of Harry Potter. The team worked with a common theme in order to help people who don’t know much about synthetic biology learn more and ignore the stigma around genetic engineering. With the use of wet labs, the team focused on designing five different bacterial strains, four of which represent each individual house of Hogwarts. The fifth strain of bacteria was used as an activator strain to signal to the remaining four strains to turn a certain color. Once the different strains of bacteria were developed, they were used to compete in a “House Cup”. In order to make this happen, the bacteria had to be put on a plate, and then introduced to the activator bacteria. As a result, the four colored bacteria had to fight to gain the most fluorescence, creating a colored design on the dish.
By using Hogwarts as an example for synthetic biology, it allows more people to connect with and understand the topic. Typically when people hear “synthetic biology”, they think of things such as designer babies or the removal of genetic diseases. Those topics are just a small part of what synthetic biology can actually accomplish. The potential for synthetic biology is immense, but it is often viewed in a negative way. In order to gain an understanding of what the general demographic knows and believes about genetic engineering, the iGEM PR team created and sent out a survey to diverse groups of people. The team results showed that 63% of those surveyed did not know that synthetic biology is. In terms of genetically engineered crops, 75% of people find it completely acceptable, but only 26% of people believe that human cosmetic genetic modification is acceptable. Another interesting fact: non-religious people were 8% more likely to find genetic engineering acceptable, rather than those who are dedicated to a religion.
Missouri Miners iGEM team will be sending two representatives to Boston, MA on October 31st to compete against other iGEM teams and to present our project. Throughout the duration of their trip, the team members will be presenting their Hogwarts project and survey data, while also being judged on their Wiki page and physical lab results. The team will be in Boston from October 31st-November 4th. Missouri Miners will be competing against groups from across the globe, and hopefully bringing home multiple medals and awards!
If you are interested in learning more about the iGEM team here at S&T, take a look at OrgSync or the Missouri Miner iGEM 2019 wiki! The team is always interested in gaining more members, and would love to have you become a part of their team. Go Miners!