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Warwick iGEM 2015: A cross faculty project

Undergraduate and newly graduated students from Warwick will be travelling to MIT, Boston, this September to compete in a global synthetic biology competition. The competition 'International Genetically Engineered Machine' or iGEM for short) involves designing useful genetic features and incorporating these into living micro-organisms in order to create solutions for real world issues.

The team will be supported with advice from academic and research staff, including Professor Alfonso Jaramillo and Professor John McCarthy, among others, at the School of Life Sciences. They will also receive training and advice from the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre and Imperial College London. The team will be travelling in September to present their work to the panel of judges at MIT.

The team is interdisciplinary, with students from distinct academic fields bringing different skills and expertise to the table. These departments involve Maths, Physics, Engineering and Life Sciences, with Biomedical, Biochemical and Biological Sciences represented. The breadth of disciplines involved assists the team to share skills from their areas of speciality to create the project, then work in the lab, and use mathematical models and predictions to predict and investigate the findings.

The Warwick team will construct a bioengineering tool that can enable the construction of organised structures using living cells as the construction material, they plan to trial the tool’s use by making a 2D image from the assembled cells in a pattern. If successful they will be the first team in the world to produce a coloured picture using cells.

They will also be conducting outreach programs in the local area, for instance doing presentations and lessons in secondary schools in Coventry, discussing the synthetic biology project as well as the role of young women and men in the scientific community.