What is iGEM? Well, we interviewed the leaders and members to find out (Part 1 of 2)

The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to education and competition, the advancement of synthetic biology, and the development of an open community and collaboration.

iGEM, according to this year’s team leaders, Amanda Pellnäs and Larsen Vornholz, is the world’s biggest competition in synthetic biology where students from all over the world gather to compete in a subject of their choice. The process peaks with a big jamboree in November, hosted by MIT in Boston. The popularity of the competition has been exponentially growing since 2003, when it was established, and, last year, more than 300 teams competed against each other.

Team Composition

Many disciplines come together in iGEM. The competition might seem exclusive to biology or engineering disciplines, but teams will often have students from very diverse fields to complement the project. A few examples are: computer science, art and design, physics, marketing, law, mathematics, entrepreneurship and social sciences.

The 2017 iGEM Stockholm team is comprised by students from KI, KTH and Konstfack, and 2 graduates, like Sina Amoor Pour,  who is the head of the bio lab part of the non-profit organisation “Stockholm Makerspace”. The members all come from 10 different disciplines, over 13 nationalities, equally male-female and are equally Bachelors-Masters. Amanda and Larsen say that they opted for cultural and educational background diversity, as well as gender equality and chose the members so that the team would be to be multi-disciplinary and diverse, but it also happened naturally. Everyone has their own set of skills, but also each one has something unique, but they all complement each other.

The distribution of work goes as follows:
Media team head: Jutta Roth (responsible for the communication and the team’s media)
Research team head: Shivashree Dhanaraj (responsible for the lab work conducted)
Finance team head: Sonia Acosta Luis (responsible for issues related with funding)

According to the team members, there is a well-defined structure among the team: there are delegated heads, deputies, secretaries… Everyone learns a little bit of everything, and the different members of different teams educate each other, as iGEM is, after all, a student-driven research project.

Paula Salme Sandrak
From left to right: Shivashree Dhanaraj, Sonia Acosta Luis, Amanda Pellnäs, Larsen Vornholz, Sina Amoor Pour (Credits: Paula Salme Sandrak).

So, what is happening now? The team is brainstorming: is this year’s topic going to be about diagnostics, therapeutics, food and nutrition, environmental issues? The members and leaders keep open minds. I guess we have to wait and see!

Would you be interested in applying for next year’s iGEM team? Thankfully, the leaders gave us a timeline: for now you can follow the iGEM media, and wait for the next application round, which will probably be in September – December 2017! Be aware, there might be extra presentations in classes, posters around the campus, or a Newsletter in your student e-mail.

The research is conducted mainly during the summer, so you should be prepared to devote lots of your time. The ideal applicant should be interested in synthetic biology and highly motivated, with innovative and teamwork skills, say Amanda and Larsen.

Skills developed and put into practice in iGEM

  • Project planning and administration
  • Resource and team management
  • Fundraising
  • Team work
  • Problem based knowledge
  • International networking
  • Entrepreneurial thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Responsible science and engineering
  • Safe lab work and project design
  • Presentation skills
  • Scientific communication

Apart from the hard work, we mustn’t forget having fun, the leaders say. That’s why the iGEM team also have team events where they do cool activities together that are less science related!

If you are interested, read Paula’s blog, that is coming up soon, with more information about iGEM. Also, follow the iGEM team’s social media (There will be a big launch soon!!). Chances are you will see the announcements all over KI!

Good luck to iGEM Stockholm 2017! We support you guys, bring home the gold once again!!!!!!!


‘Till the next time!

KI Instagram Ambassador: follow @kistudents

How to find me (personal media):
– email: christina.neofytou@stud.ki.se
– LinkedIn: Christina Neofytou
– Instagram: @christie_inabow

Interview: Neofytou Christina
Picture credits: Paula Salme Sandrak

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