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The International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition is an interdisciplinary undergraduate synthetic biology experience that challenges undergraduates to design and build an engineered biological system that addresses a pressing scientific or societal need. This competition presents undergraduates with a unique opportunity to innovate, tackle open-ended problems, and apply their scientific and technical training to tangible problems while interacting and collaborating with peers across the world — iGEM included 280 teams from across the globe in 2015. Northwestern’s iGEM team was founded in 2010, and our projects have consistently aimed to build biotechnologies that further synthetic biology as a discipline and positively impact society. 


Previous Projects

2014: NU Models: Breaking Down Walls

NU Models sought to enable robust characterization of non-model organisms by harnessing the power of cell-free analysis.

Members: Tiffany Kwakwa, Kristi Lui, Mitch Perkins, Sharon Chen, David Lee, Adam Baker, Abdullah Memon


2013: NU-tralize

NU-tralize sought to enable the improved oral health in resource-poor settings by engineering probiotic bacteria that induce gene expression in response to external pH. This project focused on addressing a technical challenge, which had limited the implementation of the strategy to date, by engineering a novel pH-responsive promoter.

Members: Nirmal Desai, Samson Fong, Viral Patel, Kevin Romero, Brendan Tran, Simon Yang


2012: Phytastic

Phytastic sought to address the global challenge of iron deficiency by engineering probiotic bacteria to break down phytic acid (which is relatively abundant in most diets) in the digestive system, releasing bound iron for the body to absorb. 

Members: Brian Tang, Grant Nicholas, Lajja Patel, Michael Kenton, Sarah Hartman, Tae Seong, Yuan Tao


2011: My N.U.P.A.L.

My N.U.P.A.L. developed a bio-assay that enables detection of an agent that causes life-threatening hospital-borne infections. The team’s work included engineering a novel bacteria-based biosensor, quantitative computational modeling, and construction of a working prototype to demonstrate translational potential. 

Members: Valerie Chen, Nirmit Desai, Rafay Faruqi, Kristin Palarsz, Helen Shen, Michael Sherer


2010: Self-regenerating Chitin INduction (SCIN)

SCIN developed a strategy for engineering a self-regenerating “skin” composed of the biopolymer chitin. Such a technology could enable generation of self-healing materials.

Members: Benjamin Zhang, Kevin Rgoacki, Matthew Tong, Ragan Pitner, Sean Yu, Timi Chu

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