iGEM, or the international genetically engineered machine, is a genetics competition held annually in Boston. Originally started as a small community at MIT, the 2014 event incorporated 2000+ members competing for the best genetically modified organism .
Carnegie Mellon University's worked on developing an estrogen biosensor to detect endocrine disruptors in water at a rate faster and more sensitive than the
current industry methods.
Carnegie Mellon's team won more awards than any other undergraduate team, including the Gold Medal Achievement Award, an Interlab Study Award and the Best Poster Award.
Our team was truly interdisciplinary, ranging in majors across Carnegie Mellon from biology, civil engineering, electrical computer engineering, material science, business, biomedical engineering, and design. We were one of two teams in the entire competition to have representation from the Arts.
I was responsible for communicate our concepts to our scientific and general community, developing educational activities to promote understanding emerging STEM fields, and co-design a custom microfluidics chamber to house our biosensor
Created by myself and a fellow teammate, creature feature is a synthetic biology modeling lab which engages students into the hands-on construction of “creatures” according to a genomic sequence. It works to educate on the principles of synthetic biology, evolution, and genetics, and excites students them with candy “features” and an engineering challenge.
We were able to run our Creature Feature activity with the iGEM team to over 500 students in our local community with great success, and are working in a continuous partnership with Carnegie Mellon's DNA Zone to have the kits fully accessible to teachers.
Because communicating the complexities of our project was essential to working with other iGEM teams, researchers in STEM, and our general community, I translated our system into a graphic story.
This allowed for a dialog to exist with non-scientists and also the many scientists that were not familiar with some recently discovered technology we implemented into our work.
Part of our iGEM experience and own personal interest led us to community service with our community. First, before we taught kids, we needed to make some much needed improvements on the existing methods for classroom DNA extractions. After doing our own user testing and identifying the problems, we incorporated a new method that made it faster, easier, and more accessible. One of my jobs for the team was to create takeaway instruction sets which could go in our new classroom kits, and could be handed out during our community outreach sessions.
In order to connect our service with our global community, our takeaway were translated into Spanish and sent along with our kits to an orphanage in Bolivia.