iGEM is a multifaceted program in which students can develop new skills. The different components of the competition not only make it a strong and thorough program but also allow students to be involved in education and outreach, new technologies, an international community, safe research practices, project design, and scientific responsibility.
Synthetic biology is a relatively new discipline that combines biological research with engineering principles. Each year, teams use the latest advancements in technology in their projects and add to the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. By creating new standard parts, iGEM teams help future teams and other synthetic biology researchers by increasing the amount of useful parts that can be obtained from the Registry. Teams are working in a cutting edge field, learning new techniques and becoming the experts of the future.
Students learn in a hands-on environment throughout the competition. They teach themselves and their peers by working together on a project that they are passionate about. Teams also reach out to their community, mentor new teams, and help spread the knowledge of synthetic biology and engineering to the next generation of students. Advisors and instructors also play a key role in iGEM as they help train and guide the team while also learning from their students.
Teamwork is not only within the team itself but also with their community and other iGEM teams. Many disciplines come together in iGEM. The competition might seem exclusive to biology or engineering disciplines, but teams will often have students from very diverse fields, with different perspectives and backgrounds to complement the project.
Safety and Security
The students in iGEM follow a high standard of safe and responsible biological engineering. They are responsible for living up to the trust placed in them to design, build, and share biological devices safely. Teams must think carefully about the impact of their project, who will use it, who will benefit from it, and how will they safely dispose of it.
The iGEM Competition is fostering the development of a new industry where synthetic biology is the underlying technological platform. More than 150 startups have developed from iGEM projects and more are expected in the upcoming years. Since teams innovate on a daily basis, they are able to find new solutions to existing problems in their community or the world.
All participants are responsible for working safely in the laboratory and for being aware and conscious of the impact their project can have in the world around them. Students must strive to be conscientious members of the synthetic biology community, fully aware of their actions and the trust placed in them
Science has the reputation of not being open; however, in iGEM, teams are encouraged to share and publish their project information so the public are informed about their work. They share their data and results through an online wiki website and through oral and poster presentations at the Giant Jamboree. Teams also share their new standard biological parts when they submit them to the Registry, which is available to the entire synthetic biology community. Teams also attribute their project correctly by citing previous work that inspired them and clearly stating who conducted the work throughout their project on their team wiki.
iGEM teams are part of a global network that spans over 30 countries and more than 16 years. The iGEM community is 40,000 strong and brings together likeminded people who wish to use synthetic biology to create a positive impact in the world. Previous participants are still part of the community who often help new teams with mentoring and judging the competition during the Giant Jamboree.
The iGEM Competition is where all of these facets come together. By providing motivation through the prizes and medals that are awarded at the Giant Jamboree, students will work hard to be part of the premier synthetic biology event.