University of Dundee

Dundee University Rector Brian Cox gives Dundee 2013 iGEM team his seal of approval

25 Jun 2013

Dundee University Rector, Brian Cox, paid an impromptu visit CLS to meet the 2013 Dundee University iGEM on Thursday, 20 June 2013 and was very impressed by their project to clean up local water reservoirs contaminated with toxic algal bloom.

This is the third year Dundee has been represented in the highly competitive, worldwide, International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition aimed at undergraduate university students. Our teams in previous years have fared very well, winning successive gold medals at the 2011 and 2012 European iGEM Jamboree. The 2011 and 2012 teams also went on to jointly win the CLS annual Brian Cox Award for Public Engagement earlier this year.

The 2013 Dundee inter-collegiate team comprises 10 undergraduate students: Kyle Harrison (applied computing), Nasir Ahmad (physics), Craig Johnston  (mathematics), Rachel Findlay (mathematical biology), as well as Christopher Earl, Philip Rodger, Ewa Grabowiecka, Kyle Buchan, John Allan and Alice Rowan from Life Sciences.

The team has devised a project entitled ‘Toxi-Mop’.

The competition requires students to use a kit of biological parts (issued by iGEM at the beginning of the summer) and to use these parts (and new parts of their own design) to build biological systems and operate them in living cells at laboratories in their own Universities.

The Dundee project, ‘Toxi-mop’, will use synthetic biology to engineer harmless laboratory strains of bacteria to ‘clean up’ water that has become contaminated with toxic algal blooms. This is particularly timely given the recent warm weather, which has led to algal blooms in Clatto Reservoir and in the boating pond at Camperdown Country Park. The team will also build a device (‘the Mop-topus’) that can be housed permanently at a lake or pond, which will continuously monitor the temperature, pH and light levels that can be used to predict the likelihood of future algal blooms.

The iGEM Foundation, which runs the competition, seeks to promote the advancement of science and education by developing an open community of students and practitioners in schools, laboratories, research institutes, and industry – in particular by involving students and the public in the development of the new field of synthetic biology.

Brian Cox was particularly impressed with the interdisciplinary nature of the team and that undergraduates will be working closely with researchers in world-class research laboratories to develop their ideas, skills and knowledge. He has pledged to help them in their quest to secure a gold medal at the European iGEM Jamboree in Lyon.


Image note:

Brian Cox and the iGEM team demonstrating a different kind of mop!


News Items on algal blooms in Dundee: