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“Cornell’s iGem Team led by ECE’s Xiling Shen wins a top prize at 2011 iGEM WORLD Championship Jamboree hosted by MIT”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Xiling Shen, Assistant Professor, ECE

The International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition is a worldwide Synthetic Biology competition aimed at undergraduate university students. Students form teams in the spring to design new genetic devices that work in living cells. After winning the United States Regional qualifier, the Cornell iGEM team went on to win a gold medal and the top prize in the best manufacturing category at the IGEM 2011 Word Championship (Jamboree). Faculty advisors Xiling Shen and Matthew Delisa led Cornell's team, which has been competing for the last three years.

Dr. Shen points out a few unique aspects of the Cornell team, including:

  • As a young team, Cornell did exceptionally well against more established teams from other top institutes.
  • "They came up with the idea entirely on their own, attesting to their ingenuity"
  • The team was able to implement and test a fully-functional system "rather than staying on the conceptual level".
  • The Cornell team was one of the most interdisciplinary teams in the competition - comprised of "students from pretty much all engineering departments as well as biology departments".

Shen summarizes, "We want to raise the awareness for the iGem team because this is the most interdisciplinary undergrad team on campus." Shen points out that this team brings together the College of Engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. While the team is supported by all three colleges the engineering college has taken the lead. "[The mission of the iGem team] represents the new initiative from college of engineering to grow in the bio and energy areas. This is a showcase that undergraduate students can break the traditional departmental boundary and work on a self-defined projects for innovation."

2011 iGEM Team Abstract:
Cornell's 2011 iGEM team has designed a new method to produce complex biomolecules. BioFactory utilizes a modular microfluidic chip and bacteria that are programmed to release functional enzymes when excited by light. When combined in series, these chips operate as an automated bio-manufacturing assembly line. This innovative method will help produce complex molecules and lower manufacturing costs for pharmaceuticals and biofuels in the future. [source: http://2011.igem.org/Team:Cornell]

Related Article: Student team perfects 'cell-free' way to produce complex biomolecules Team

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