UCL News


UCL student team tackling plastic pollution in the Pacific

23 July 2012

This summer, a team of UCL students has been working on a project that will be entered in the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition.

iGEM plastic republic

iGEM is a synthetic biology competition aimed at undergraduates worldwide. 

The UCL team is made up of students of all disciplines, ranging from computer scientists, to biochemical engineers and biomedical scientists.

The competition requires that students construct 'biological machines' to tackle a global environmental or health problem. 

The UCL iGEM team are working on a project that envisions new ways of tackling the problem of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. The small size of the plastic particles makes them extremely difficult to remove, so the iGEM team are looking to engineer bacteria that can degrade the plastic.

An alternative solution to the problem is to engineer a different kind of bacteria, which would make the plastic sticky and bring it together into larger pieces, which are easier to collect. This could then be converted into artificial islands.

Martina Sebastian, a second year biochemical engineering student, explained: "There is a lot of work that goes into the project, which cannot be done without your teammates. It is exciting to see how the collaboration between different disciplines can enrich the project."

Fellow team member Yeping Lu, a second year biomedical student, added: "iGEM is an interesting blend of science and creativity."

Entrants are not only judged on the success of their end product, but also on categories such as poster campaigns and engaging public interest. 

The UCL iGEM team will be holding several events over the summer, which will be open to all members of the public.

To learn more about these events, about the project and the competition, please visit the links below.

Images from top: A scene from the iGEM campaign video; Members of the iGEM team in the laboratory

Related links:

UCL iGEM website
iGEM Twitter
iGEM Facebook
iGEM Blog
Sponsor the team