University of Dundee

iGEM Summer Project


The international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition is the World’s premier synthetic biology competition. Here, multi-disciplinary teams of undergraduates pit their wits, intelligence and innovative skills against each other. The competition takes place every summer and more than 200 Universities from all over the World take part.

Synthetic Biology is a modern, forward-looking field with its roots in molecular genetics that aims to allow the design of new biological systems. It is a multidisciplinary field that involves fundamental science such as chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics, coupled with the principles of engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, and computer science. Whole systems biology and modelling approaches are also intimately linked with Synthetic Biology.

An iGEM summer project is one of the most involved, labour intensive, but most rewarding science projects a student can be involved in. Teams of around 10 students must work together not only to produce a novel piece of science but must also consider societal, political and safety aspects of their work.


Dundee iGEM

The University of Dundee has entered teams into the 2011 , 20122013, 2014 and 2015 iGEM competitions. The iGEM team is led by Frank Sargent (School of Life Sciences), Dyce Davidson (School of Mathematics) and Tracy Palmer (School of Life Sciences). The project wikis for the 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 teams are permanently available, so please have a look to see what sorts of projects we have completed in the recent past. The iGEM team is housed within the School of Research, School of Life Sciences.

A good iGEM team needs a broad spectrum of students with a broad spectrum of skills. The team needs biologists, computer scientists, mathematicians, designers, artists, engineers, social policy makers, chemists, medics, dentists, vets, lawyers, philosophers, architects …. but above all imaginative, enthusiastic, intelligent and hard-working people. Participation in iGEM is competitive. Unfortunately, not everyone can take part as space and funding is limited - so only the keenest, best, and above all most interesting students can make the team.

Quotes from previous team members:

“iGEM was the best thing I ever did at Dundee University” Natasha, 2011 Team

“We were on fire all summer” Rachelle, 2011 Team

“Intense” Rich, 2011 Team


Eligibility & Skills

Ideally, students should be in their penultimate year of undergraduate study (Year 2 in England & Wales, or Level 3 in Scotland). These students are eligible to be included on the annual application to external funding bodies for stipend support. In exceptional circumstances, less experienced or Final Year students will be considered as one or two special stipends may be available. The final team will be chosen after an interview process and students should be aware that they are not simply selected on the basis of their grade point averages.



The iGEM competition runs in the summer months, typically covering the entire summer vacation period. Students are expected to spend 10 weeks on their project (for example in 2015 the project ran from 8 June – 14 August). There are also several brainstorming and team-bonding sessions held throughout Semester 2 in the run up to the summer.  The results of the project are recorded on various wiki sites, from where they are judged in October by an international panel of Professors. The students then present their projects at the Jamboree in October/November in Boston, USA.

Flights and accommodation for the jamborees are covered by the team sponsors.


Apply to join the Dundee iGEM Team

Informal enquiries can be made to Frank Sargent at any time ( Frank will also provide you with an application form.  The deadline for applications is 17.00 on Friday 15th January.