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Duke Undergraduate International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Team (2017-2018)


Durham, North Carolina



Project Objectives

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 works to advance the state of synthetic biology both in and out of the lab.

The past year's team worked on a project to produce advanced chemotherapeutic drugs with engineered microbial cells, including taxol and next-generation derivatives. The team won additional grant funds from Genscript to pursue certain aspects of this project, earned a silver medal at the 2016 iGEM Competition, is likely to produce a publication, performed an evaluation of the potential societal impact of the proposed genetically engineered machine and produced a final detailed report on the significance of this approach as well as remaining challenges to the effective delivery of chemotherapy treatments in current healthcare systems.

The 2017-2018 Bass Connections iGEM team will form additional projects to address further challenges in the areas of human health and disease and global health. Team members will use advanced synthetic biology and metabolic engineering methodologies in their proposed solutions. The technical aspects of the project will be complemented by policy components that encourage 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.

iGEM projects have several key components:
1.Implementation of the Design Build Test Cycle for synthetic biology in the lab
2.Evaluation of the ethical and societal impacts of the project
3.Education and dissemination through an iGEM website
4.Local high school student outreach and team representation at the international iGEM competition held annually in the fall in Boston.

iGEM is a uniquely collaborative research experience: though advised by faculty and graduate students, it is ultimately the team of undergraduates who design the project and carry out its implementation. In addition, Duke iGEM interfaces closely with high school students from the North Carolina School of Science and Math and the Durham Academy, as well as additional local high schools with high school iGEM teams, which provides mentoring and leadership opportunities for all team members.

Project Opportunities

Students with backgrounds in biomedical engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, computer science, statistical science, public policy and economics are especially sought. The team will include 10 to 12 undergraduates and two to three graduate student mentors. Undergraduates will consult with graduate and faculty mentors to design the project and perform all experiments, gaining an excellent experience in independent research.

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

Project Application Deadline


Project Placements Available


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