Engineering students scoop top project prize

​​​​Sheffield students have won the best project in their category at The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation competition.

Engineering students

An interdisciplinary 8 member student team from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield successfully showcased their project OPENLUX at the annual 2019 iGEM - winning gold for 'Best Project in Track' in their respective category. The competition was the synthetic biology industry’s largest innovation event, hosted by the iGEM Foundation in Boston, US. 

The iGEM competition is an annual, world wide, synthetic biology event aimed at undergraduate university students, as well as high school and graduate students. Multidisciplinary teams work all summer long to build genetically engineered systems using standard biological parts called BioBricks. iGEM teams work inside and outside the lab, creating sophisticated projects that strive to create a positive contribution to their communities and the world.  iGEM combines biology, engineering, and entrepreneurship to contribute to the field of synthetic biology and tackle problems in areas, such as diagnostics, environment and manufacturing. Each year, the competition brings together more than 6,000 University participants from across the globe from 112 countries. 

The team's OPENLUX is a learning kit for high school students that combines engineering, coding, and biology. The still most used chassis in synthetic biology is bacteriam, this means a lot of growth curves to confirm the viability of newly constructed strains that carry new plasmids that make them produce foreign proteins. This also means testing different enzyme reactions. The goal of OPENLUX was to address the high cost of this testing and bring an absorbance-only microplate reader to more teams across the world. 

The cross-Faculty team was comprised of 8 students; 3 from Molecular Biology & Biotech (MBB), 2 from Bioengineering (IPE), 1 from Computer Science, 1 from Chemical & Biological Engineering (CBE), and 1 from Automatic Controls and Systems (ACSE).

Chemical and Biological Engineering student Arman Gharleghi said;

“All of iGEM can be summed up in one word, surreal. I went into it to get a better idea of where my academic interests lie for my further studies. I got that and a lot more. We all had to learn new skills needed to progress the project. Every day it would be thrilling and scary when I realized what more I have to read, make, or model. Having freedom over what we were researching and building was an amazing opportunity to learn."

"Many meetings, presentations, and team bonding later we went to Boston for a once in a lifetime experience at the Giant Jamboree, where, as I thought it couldn’t have been any better, we won Best Project in our track with our hardware project along with a Gold medal.”