Sheffield students win gold in America with real-world project

  • Students from the faculties of Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield have won gold at the iGEM competition which encourages students to design a solution to a real-world problem
  • Sheffield students were awarded gold for achieving top marks at the international competition in America with their project which examines bacterial growth

iGEM team

Students from the University of Sheffield have won gold at the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) in Boston after their project, a plate reader which measures bacterial growth, impressed judges.

The iGEM competition is an international competition in which over 300 teams  from across the globe compete to solve a real-world problem using synthetic biology, engineering and entrepreneurship. Teams are comprised of students from across the world, led by PhD supervisors and academic advisors.

The Sheffield team was made up of eight students from the faculties of Science and Engineering, studying: Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Biomedical Science, Bioengineering, Automatic Control and Systems Engineering and Computer Sciences. Their project, a low cost plate reader created largely by a 3D printer, detects how many bacteria are within a solution by detecting the light that is able to pass through the bacterial suspension. The less light that passes through the solution, the more bacterial growth there has been.

The gold winning team came up with this effective yet low cost method of detecting bacterial growth after researching current plate reader technology. They found that measuring changes of optical density within a solution would be the best method of determining bacterial growth.

The award winning project was produced using technology such as 3D printing and LED lights to keep costs down and cost just £100 to produce. Other lab plate readers can cost up to £10,000 to produce.

The team’s project could change the way bacteria are measured in the future, using much simpler and more cost effective methods. In order to make the project accessible for all, the team have made their instructions on how to build the device readily available on the internet so everyone will have access to an effective method of examining bacterial growth.

Professor Robert Poole from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology said: “All of us in the department at the University of Sheffield are delighted that our students have won gold at the iGEM competition in Boston. It’s fantastic to know that all of their incredible hard work paid off.

"Competing in this completion was hugely exciting for all involved and we are all proud and delighted to have put science and engineering at the University of Sheffield on the map.”