Duke Undergraduate International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team (2018-2019)

Background

Rapid advances in synthetic and systems biology, metabolic and enzyme engineering and nanotechnology are having profound impacts on biotechnology and related engineering fields. The Duke Undergraduate International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team was founded to stimulate and nurture students’ interest in science and engineering and prepare them to be future leaders in these emerging fields. iGEM is dedicated to advancing the state of synthetic biology both in and out of the lab.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project team will select a contemporary societal problem, including challenges to human health and disease, global health, sustainability and bioenergy, then propose and build a synthetic biological solution composed of a genetically engineered microbial machine. The team will use advanced synthetic biology and metabolic engineering methodologies in their proposed solutions.

In addition to the technical aspects, the project will incorporate a substantial policy component that encourages team members to think creatively about the societal landscape of synthetic biology and develop innovative tools to improve access and education. Toward this aim, the team will interface with professors in public policy and ethics to explore synthetic biology’s legal, ethical and economic impact.

All iGEM projects have several key components: implementing the design-build-test cycle for synthetic biology in the lab, evaluating the ethical and societal impacts of the project, engaging in education and dissemination through an iGEM website, conducting local high school student outreach and participating in the annual International iGEM competition in Boston.

Anticipated Outcomes

Genetically engineered machine designed, built and tested; set of BioBricks (standardized, modular DNA segments) submitted to an international repository accessible by universities and independent labs; informational website; assessment of societal impacts of project

Student Opportunities

This project will begin in the spring of 2018. The previous year’s team will educate new team members on the scientific foundations, economic and societal impacts and ethical and legal concerns of synthetic biology. New team members will also be educated on genetic engineering techniques and wet lab skills to be ready to jump into the project over the summer. In addition, a summer synthetic biologyboot-camp for local high school students is anticipated, with participation and leadership from the iGEM team.

In the lab, students will design and implement a genetically engineered machine in living cells. Completion of the initial design will be targeted for May 2018. Building and testing the genetic designs will be a primary focus of the summer. Students supported by stipends will have the opportunity to commit to an intense summer team-based research experience. The project will be completed and presented at the iGEM international competition in early fall 2018.

The innovative and hands-on multidisciplinary engineering experience provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to explore new ideas and conduct research at the cutting-edge of today’s rapidly evolving science and engineering fields.

This team will ideally consist of 10-12 undergraduate students and 2-3 graduate student mentors from Pratt and Trinity. A wide variety of disciplines are sought, such as biomedical engineering, chemistry, biology, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, computer science and global health. Undergraduates will consult with graduate and faculty mentors to design the project and perform all experiments.

Duke iGEM interfaces closely with high school students from the North Carolina School of Science and Math, Durham Academy, Enlo High School and Gaston Day School, which provides mentoring and leadership opportunities for all team members.

Timing

Spring 2018 – Fall 2018  

  • Spring 2018: Planning and training for the new project; previous year’s team will educate new team members on scientific foundations, economic and societal impacts and ethical and legal concerns of synthetic biology; new team members will also be educated on genetic engineering techniques and wet lab skills
  • Summer 2018: Project implementation
  • Fall 2018: Presentation at iGEM international competition in Boston

Crediting

Independent study credit available for spring and fall semesters; summer funding

See earlier related team, Duke Undergraduate International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team (2017-2018).

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Charles Gersbach, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering*
Michael Lynch, Pratt School of Engineering-Biomedical Engineering*

Community Team Members

North Carolina School of Science and Math
Durham Academy
Enlo High School
Gaston Day School, Charlotte, NC

* denotes team leader

Status

Active, New