University of Dundee

iGEM Gold for Dundee Life Sciences Students

05 Oct 2011

The Team from the University of Dundee have won a gold medal at the iGEM European finals in Amsterdam in the University’s first ever entry to the competition.

Dundee are one of only two other UK teams (the other being Edinburgh) given official runner-up spots and therefore automatic progression to the Grand Final to be held at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts this November. The overall European champions were Imperial College London.

The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is the premiere undergraduate Synthetic Biology competition. Student teams are given a molecular toolkit at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Working at their own Universities over the summer, they use these parts, and new parts of their own design, to build novel biological devices.

The Dundee iGEM team comprised students and instructors from across two University colleges, as well as The James Hutton Institute, and was led by Professor Frank Sargent of the College of Life Sciences, Division of Molecular Microbiology. Frank said, “The students have all been brilliant this summer and to win a gold medal in our inaugural competition is fantastic. I’d like to thank the many colleges, institutions and companies who have sponsored us over the summer, but in particular the Schools of Learning & Teaching and Research in the College of Life Sciences, who have really come together to make this project a reality. Engaging undergraduates in research is something Dundee is increasingly seeking to excel at.”

The Dundee iGEM team was made up of 10 students including seven from the College of Life Sciences, two from the School of Computing, and one from the School of Mathematics. Richard Owen, a biochemistry student, said “The team really performed brilliantly en masse”, while Rachelle Binny, a mathematical biology student, said “We’ve all enjoyed the summer so much – I’m totally inspired and can’t wait to compete in the finals in the USA”.

iGEM began in January of 2003 with a month-long course at MIT. This design course grew to a summer competition with 5 teams in 2004, growing to a massive 165 international teams in 2011. Projects range from a rainbow of pigmented bacteria, to banana and wintergreen smelling bacteria, an arsenic biosensor, Bactoblood, and buoyant bacteria. This is the University of Dundee’s first team to enter the competition and the team’s main sponsors outside the University were The Wellcome Trust, SULSA, and The James Hutton Institute.

The complete Dundee team was:

Kasia Kozyrska (BSc Hons First Class; Molecular Genetics, now a PhD student in Oxford)

Brian Ortmann (BSc Hons First Class; Biomedical Sciences, now a PhD student in CLS)

Rachelle Binny (now 4th Year Mathematical Biology)

Jane MacCallum (now 4th Year Molecular Genetics)

Dave Gibson (now 4th Year Applied Computing)

Lucia Licandro Lado (now 4th Year Microbiology)

Natasha Christodoulides (now 4th Year Biomedical Sciences)

Emelie Johansson (now 4th Year Biomedical Sciences)

Rachel Montague (now 4th Year Applied Computing)

Richard Owen (now 4th Year Biochemistry)