Winter 2018 Issue

Science Champs

William & Mary team First Runner-Up in iGEM competition

By Joseph McClain

William & Mary’s team was named First Runner-Up in the 2017 iGEM competition, beating out all but one team in a global field in the quest for what has been dubbed the World Cup of Science.

William & Mary was the only North American team to place among the finalists in any division. Top prize in the Undergrad Division went to the Vilnius-Lithuania team — but W&M took top honors in 2015.

iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine. Each year iGEM hosts the largest synthetic-biology competition in the world. It’s a culmination of months-long, student-driven projects involving biology, mathematics, chemistry and engineering.

William & Mary’s team also won two special awards, one for Best Innovation in Measurement and a second for Best Model. The project placed among the three finalists for other special awards, including best measurement, best poster and best presentation.

The team posted a photo on their Facebook page of the big screen at the closing ceremony showing the finalists under their comment “We can’t believe it!!” After returning to campus, the team was introduced (with applause) to the university’s Board of Visitors at its November meeting.

The 2017 iGEM team was led by Ethan Jones ’19. Other members are Sejal Dhawan ’20, Theresa Gibney ’18, Christine Li ’20, John Liu ’19, Alyssa Luz-Ricca ’20, Callan Monette ’19, Xida “Cedar” Ren ’20 and Cici Zheng ’20, biology.

It’s the fourth consecutive year for the university to send a team to the Grand Jamboree in Boston. Margaret Saha, Chancellor Professor of Biology, has been the team’s advisor for all four years.
Saha has said the William & Mary teams have been tough competitors all four years, and continue to work on the projects even once the competitions end.