14 Oct 2013
The Dundee iGEM team have been crowned European champions in a prestigious international competition designed to advance science and education.
The ten students from across the University won the iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) European Jamboree in Lyon and will now go forward to the World Final in Boston on 1st November. They also received an additional award for delivering the Best Presentation at the event, which featured around 60 other student teams from universities across Europe.
This is the third year Dundee has been represented in the highly competitive, worldwide, iGEM Competition aimed at undergraduate university students. Dundee won successive gold medals at the 2011 and 2012 Jamborees but this is the first time they have been named as overall winners.
The competition requires students to use a kit of biological parts (issued by iGEM at the beginning of the summer) and to use these (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 team has devised a project called 'Toxi-Mop' which uses synthetic biology to engineer harmless laboratory strains of bacteria to 'clean up' water that has become contaminated with toxic algal blooms. The local value of this became apparent in the summer when the warm weather led to algal blooms in Clatto Reservoir and in the boating pond at Camperdown Country Park.
The team has also built 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.
Staff advisor Professor Tracy Palmer congratulated the winning team, saying, “We are very proud of the students for their achievements. Their predecessors did exceptionally well winning Gold Medals in each of the past two years and now they have gone one better by being named as overall European champions.
“Their project is innovative and has a very important real-world application. This is an amazing achievement and I am sure they will be fine ambassadors for the University when they go forward to the global finals in Boston. Here’s hoping they can wow the judges once again and take the world crown.”
Professor Frank Sargent, Associate Dean for Research-Led Teaching, added, "Dundee students have proven themselves to be the best in Europe at this type of modern interdisciplinary science. It really helps to raise the profile of Dundee while at the same time inspiring students into research careers. These guys are the future of scientific research and innovation."
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 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.