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Amandeep Tells Us About 2016 iGEM Competition

25 November 2016

Amandeep Varia iGEM 2016

Welcome back to Amandeep (2nd from Right in the photo): 3 Nomination and a Gold Medal at iGEM! The international genetically engineered machines (iGEM) competition is run every year and has teams from schools and universities all over the world compete at a conference in Boston, MA. The UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering has supported UCL teams for the past three years, regularly winning citations for the work they carry out over the summer in collaboration with academics and PhD Students.

Amandeep has recently returned from The United States and a very successful trip so we took some time to ask her about the competition.

You won a gold medal and three nominations, tell us about it.

There were 300 teams entering and we were one of 112 who got a gold medal, we were shortlisted for best new composite part, best entrepreneurship project and best therapeutics project which I’m so proud of! It was such a surprise to get nominated in that category.

What was it like going to Boston?

We got to spend some time with our competitors from London such as Westminster, Imperial were next to us in the hotel and they only just beat us so there was a fun but competitive atmosphere. There was kids team and they were so pleased to get a silver –well done Alverno iGEM!

What has the support been like for your team?

The UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering puts a lot of time and resources into iGEM – we’re really grateful to the academics and PhD students who gave their time to help us. The oxidative stress solution was core for us getting the best new composite nomination – this was a huge help from the Synthetic Biology team.

What have been the best and worst bits?

The best part of all is when the presentation is over because then you can relax and take some time to explore Boston and enjoy the city. It’s cold and similar to London, yet different. We went to see MIT and Harvard, which was a long walk and we were shattered by the end but it was worth it! 

It was tough managing team dynamics. Sometimes it can be hard to get everyone to buy into the amount of work required all the way though the project

The worst part was probably the night before the presentation because we were so close to the deadline we were up until midnight practising ready to give it 8am the next day. Looking back we wish we’d had a chance to rehearse responses to the questions we had and it was very tiring. We also had the printer go wrong the day before we went out so we nearly didn’t have a poster!

What advice would you give someone embarking on iGEM next year?

Plan what you want to do from day 1, including labs – if we’d planned labs and said you’re going here to do that at that time etc we would have made much more progress. I put my heart and soul into human practises and we didn’t get a nomination despite doing some really good, so if you’re really going to go for it prioritise it for the start. Be totally focused on your goal. Identify your goals from the first moment that will help you focus on the next steps as you go along.

What next?

We’ve been invited to The Institute of Technology and Engineering (IET) for a major conference on synthetic biology “Engineering Biology” at IET HQ in December. The winner of the iGEM poster competition gets a £5k award so we’re going to go for that.

iGEM Biosynthage 2016