UW iGEM: Engineering Biological Systems
Who Are We?UW iGEM is a multidisciplinary group of students who run a synthetic biology laboratory and conduct independent research with the help of graduate students and acclaimed University of Washington professors. The UW iGEM Team gives potential scientists, physicians, and engineers a chance to apply their academic knowledge to solve real-life problems. Since 2007, our team has provided undergraduates with a unique and exciting opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and take responsibility for their own engineering projects.
Through synthetic biology, we harness the power of living systems, modifying small organisms like yeast and bacteria to perform tasks that can improve nearly every area of life, including agriculture, medicine, and the environment. Every year, our team works with UW synthetic biologists and members of the community to design and complete a novel research project. This involves combing scientific literature, creating computational models, building the necessary genetic components, and testing the completed systems. Each September, we present our findings at the iGEM World Championship Jamboree, an international competition held in Boston where student scientists can share their projects and experiences with one another.
Our team has a history of excellence, bringing home first place 2011, and earning a gold medal in 2014. Some of our previous projects include optimizing enzymes to ameliorate Celiac's Disease, creating bacteria that synthesize diesel, and building biological systems to kill anthrax.
This year, we're building a diagnostic device that houses genetically-modified yeast capable of detecting small molecules. Eventually, we hope to make this system generalizable to a variety of molecules including hormones and toxins. This is the first step towards an easy-to-use test kit that you could be using in your home in a just a few years. It could be used locally to screen for shellfish toxins in your Puget Sound oysters, or globally to test for drinkable water in low-resource areas.
ResearchOur long-term goal is to improve the safety of local food products by giving the consumer the ability to test for harmful substances in the products they buy. We feel that there are many problems in public and environmental health, both in the Northwest and in the world, that would benefit from a coupling of synthetic biology and paper-based diagnostics. Thus, we are working to develop a diagnostic tool in which genetically-modified baker's yeast is grown on a paper device and is able to produce an easy-to-read color output in the presence of a target molecule. Because this technology is so novel, we first plan to build a proof-of-concept system using a genetic pathway for detecting the plant hormone auxin. To develop this, we will have to overcome many challenges. We must:
- Build a genetic circuit that induces a color in yeast when auxin (a plant hormone) is present.
- Create a paper microfluidic diagnostic device that can hold our genetically-modified baker's yeast.
- Show that the microfluidic device can reliably detect the presence and concentration of auxin.
Though we have supplies left over from last year's experiments, we will need to replace expired media and buy supplies unique to this year's project. Cloning genetic circuits will require laboratory-grade E. coli and yeast. It will also require cell culture media, DNA purification kits, enzymes, and other reagents. Creating a microfluidic device will require multiple prototypes, all of which must be constructed using nitrocellulose, wax, and other materials. Furthermore, analysis of our results will require DNA sequencing, flow cytometry, and other services. All of the above will need to be bought from commercial suppliers or other labs. Synthetic biology is expensive, and your contribution would greatly improve our ability to design and test our constructs.
OutreachiGEM is as much about spreading synthetic biology as it is about practicing it. Every year, we educate K-12 students in synthetic biology, promoting interest in the biological sciences and sharing our love for research with younger members of the community. We've hosted exhibits at the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair in Bremerton, the Shoreline STEM Festival, the Edmonds STEM Expo, Sanislo and Bennett Elementary Science Fairs, and UW's Engineering Discovery Days; at each of these, we engaged students in a "Crime Scene Investigation" activity that allowed them to perform experiments such as DNA extraction and a pH test to help us solve a mystery. Our activity was very well-received and allowed us to inform both students and parents about our work in synthetic biology. We plan to continue educating students through other outreach events this summer.
CompetitionThe iGEM World Jamboree occurs in late September. Undergraduate, overgraduate, and community teams from across the globe will travel to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston to present their projects to both their peers and a panel of judges. The judges decide on winners in each iGEM track, and choose an overall winner during the last day of competition. The competition is an incredible opportunity for our team to interact with like-minded scientists, share our research with the world through oral and poster presentations, and make strong and lasting friendships.
FundraisingIGEM is a wonderful opportunity for student scientists, but it wouldn't be possible without help from others. If you're interested in supporting our team, donations are always welcome. For more information about our team, please check out our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Thank you for your support!
Please keep spreading the word through email, Twitter, Facebook, and blogging. If we keep up this momentum, we can hit our goal of $10,000.
nick and olive cannistra
18 supporters have chosen not to be listed for "UW iGEM: Engineering Biological Systems".
Make an Impact
A gift of this amount is enough to buy 100 disposable pipette tips! We use these for mixing small volumes of chemicals in much of our work, and can't live without them!
This is enough to buy all the supplies necessary to do our "CSI: Seattle" outreach event at a local elementary or middle school. Kids use various synthetic biology techniques to help us solve a "crime."
This is enough to pay for gene sequencing of our DNA parts!
This is enough to pay for software licensing for our computational modeling team!
This is enough to cover a 2-person hotel room for a night at the iGEM Giant Jamboree Boston!
This covers 1 airplane ticket to Boston!!!!
This is enough to pay for one set of cloning reactions, from obtaining DNA to growing modified yeast. The foundation of our science!
Mover and shaker
This is enough to cover the cost of one student's registration for the World iGEM competition in Boston.
This is enough to pay for all travel and registration expenses for one student to attend the World Competition in Boston!
The Golden Biobrick
This is enough to pay for our team to register at the competition. Through this, we will be able to present our research to the world through an oral and a poster presentation! Here's hoping for first prize!