When does registration for iGEM 2007 start?
A registration page will be available later this summer. If you require additional information to prepare for the 2007 competition, please e-mail the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is iGEM about?
A summary of the iGEM program can be found here.
Basically, the iGEM competition and the Registry of Standard Biological Parts (aka 'the Registry')are practically testing the idea that biological engineering can be made reliable through the use of freely-shared, standardized, and well-documented parts called biobricks. Biobricks have special features that allow for iterative assembly of longer "composite parts", leading to larger devices or systems.
iGEM teams are challenged to create working devices by designing and assembling a) parts that already exist in the Registry and b) their own parts that conform to the biobrick standard. New parts must be documented in the Registry database and physically sent to the registry. This allows future biological engineers to build on the creativity, expertise, and experience of the people and groups that came before them.
What are teams actually competing to do?
The goal of iGEM is currently to develop the "coolest" system. What your team chooses to do will depend a lot on what they perceive to be cool and also what they think they might actually be able to pull together. Innovation is encouraged. Jaw-dropping creativity, originality, and functionality will certainly be factors in the Judge's decisions of relatively coolness.
There has been some discussion of adding another category to iGEM that would see teams compete towards the same goal (e.g. making the best functioning counter).
What is the iGEM schedule?
The program formally begins in May with the Teach the Teachers Workshop and closes with the Jamboree in November. The exact start and stop dates are variable depending on the team or institution requirements. Some teams begin to organize as early as March, while UK teams typically start as late as June.
What are the qualifications for entry?
Currently, there are two categories of competition.
The first category requires institution to assemble a formal iGEM team and to meet minimum participation standards. Aspects of the competition will be judged and prizes awarded. In order to be considered for the structured competition, teams must:
- Be supervised by a qualified principal investigator
- Be a mostly undergraduate team, although graduate students are permitted
- Be based at an accredited college or university, with access to laboratory facilities
- Send a representative to the iGEM Teachers Conference in May 6, 2006, at MIT. (EU date TBD)
- Post regular updates of strategies and progress of their projects on the iGEM wiki
- Freely share all materials developed for the competition (data, physical DNA)
- Coordinate and support travel for team members to attend the iGEM Jamboree at MIT
- Make a verbal presentation of length 20 minutes at the Jamboree
- Deposit your project description on the iGEM Wiki and your parts in the Registry before the Jamboree
- Prepare a poster presentation for the Jamboree
- Have fun!
Unstructured Competition, aka "Freestyle"
There are no rules or requirements, although you are welcome to contact the organizers if you have questions or concerns. Or not. You decide.
What does MIT provide iGEM teams?
MIT coordinates the iGEM competition, provides space and facilities for the conference and jamboree, maintains tools and databases used to create projects, provides Biobrick construct assemblies to teams, and organizes widespread publicity. In 2006, an ambassador program was established to provide additional support for teams.
How should teams be structured?
We recommend a 50-50 guideline: 50% male, 50% female, 50% biological background, 50% non-biological, and so on. We now require that teams be primarily undergraduates, although graduate students are also permitted. At the institution's discretion, so are other students, including those may not be directly associated with your institution, like those from nearby high schools or community colleges. While iGEM student guidelines are not fixed in stone, we have learned that the experience is enriched by collecting a wide range of aptitudes, experiences, and skills for your team. We suggest advertising for team members, since this is likely to generate a large and diverse pool of applicants.
How much does it cost to participate?
This can vary widely by institution.
- salaries for instructors, if any
- stipends to students, if any
- reagents and supplies – variable depending on project
- DNA synthesis costs - assume about $4000
- travel support for the Teachers Conference and Jamboree – dependent on physical proximity to MIT
- miscellaneous expenses
I am not affiliated with a university or college. Can I still participate?
Yes. If you are located near a participating institution, you could contact the team organizer and apply for a position on the team. Even if the team cannot accept you as a full time member, they may still permit an internship or volunteership of some kind. Alternatively, you could participate in the unstructured competition, which has no rules. What you accomplish in this category is entirely up to you or your group. Finally, you can contact the organizers and tell them how you think you might be able to contribute.
General Information to prepare for iGEM
For Team Leaders
- Announce: Announce your participation in iGEM early and widely with your peers. You are on the leading edge of an exciting event that is rapidly growing and gaining global recognition.
- Advertise and recruit: Begin recruitment well before the spring term ends. Promote and advertise widely on campus. You are likely to get a surprising number of applications. Assembling a diverse team will bring new perspectives to the task of engineering biological systems.
- Undergraduates: Try to field a mostly undergraduate team. You will be surprised at how much they can do in so short a time. (They don't know what is impossible, yet!)
- Instructors: Find two instructors for the team. The summer is long and a single instructor may not be able to spend the whole summer supporting the team. Besides, it will be more fun. The instructors get as much from the summer as the students do.
- Workspace: Consider the workspace available to your team. A space large enough to permit them to gather and work together side by side will lead to a better team experience.
- Motivation: What is your motivation for participation? What do you expect from your team? Understanding what you hope to accomplish by competing in iGEM will help set the tone of the team you build.
- Teacher's Conference: Select a representative to attend the iGEM teachers conference in May. This is an important choice: this person will disseminate the information from the conference and is expected to act as a front line resource person for the team. Choose someone that has the free time to support the students and is considered approachable. See the Teach the Teachers page for more information.
- Wikis: Information sharing is central to iGEM, and this year we are requiring use of the iGEM wiki. Some teams also create their own wikis and external sites to augment the iGEM wiki, but the iGEM wiki is expected to be the main site for sharing information about each team's project and progress.
- What to Wiki: We encourage creative wiki-ing! However, we would like to distill meaningful summaries at the end of the competition. To facilitate this, we advise that the following information be included on each team's wiki pages:
- A list of all team members, their roles, and email addresses
- Overview of project(s), including schematics and figures
- Ongoing data/updates about project(s), including schematics, figures, test data, and biobrick parts used
- Some photos of your team, facilities, institution, etc.
- Optionally, anything that broadcasts your team's personality, spirit, sense of fun, or coolness...
- Parts registry: The parts registry is a core tool of the iGEM program and worth the effort to experiment with sooner than later.
Note: Development work is continuing on parts registry and a new version will launch before iGEM begins, complete with new features, data cleanup, and more complete documentation. This work will be completed before the teachers conference in May.
- Project Planning: It's never too early to start thinking about what to make.
- Journal Clubs: Excellent for getting the teams to think about technical issues and develop presentation skills. And getting pizzas delivered.
- Fundraising: iGEM participation can require considerable financial support. Think about which organizations or groups might be willing to sponsor your team. Don't overlook the support of other departments at your institution. Make a list. When your team is assembled, consider writing letters requesting their help. You may want to have students host a talk outlining their projects and interests, which will help polish those presentation skills.
- Media The media is interested in projects like iGEM that involve teams of young people and new, exciting technologies. iGEM is receiving more attention each year. Former projects are even appearing in peer reviewed articles in top journals. Media exposure will help teams take their work seriously, increase sponsorship and grant support, attract new talent, and more. You should consult with your institution's media office about contacting campus papers, local newspapers, and television.
iGEM is an opportunity to gain practical experience in collaborative scientific research in a casual yet supportive environment. A few of the benefits reported by former iGEMers include:
- Chance to do self-directed, original research, not just menial summer work
- Experience in competitive science, but in a friendly and supportive environment
- Use of leading edge tools and methods towards practical applications
- Problem solving skill development
- Chance to interact with supervisors
- Opportunity to improve written and verbal presentation skills
- Inclusion in an international peer network
Check our Resources page to learn more about iGEM and Synthetic Biology in general.
A lot of useful information on BioBricks is also available on OpenWetWare.