iGEM: it’s all about the team

This is a guest post by Noah Sprent, a member of the University of Oxford Team at the iGEM Giant Jamboree 2017. They were awarded a gold medal, the award for Best Diagnostic, and were nominated for five other prizes. You can read more about their project on their wiki or follow them on Twitter. You can see our liveblog of the Jamboree here.

Zoe Ford with the team’s award for Best Diagnostic

This time last year, the Oxford iGEM team tentatively took its first steps towards the Giant Jamboree. We had just been introduced and we decided to put out our first survey to the general public. Looking back, it took us far too long to accomplish such a simple task. But as we got to know each other and work as a team, such tasks became routine.

iGEM is, above all else, a team competition. It’s about interdisciplinary groups of scientists working together to solve real world problems using synthetic biology. For us, the problem was diagnosis of Chagas Disease, and there’s no way we would have been able to win the award for ‘Best Diagnostic’ without every member of the team: from Sumaera, our resident biologist, who knows far too much about T. cruzi, to Chun and Helen, our engineers who built models that influenced every stage of the design, to Kushal, with his medic’s perspective and eye for design, and to us biochemists, who led the wet lab effort and mucked in with everything else. It was the laughter that got us through the long weeks in the lab over the summer, and that kept us going right up until 03:59:50 on the night of the wiki freeze.

All the hard work was worth it, and we arrived at the Jamboree with the whole of the conference and Boston to explore. What summed up the experience for me was the way all 12 of the team joined together for the final push to the presentation. Whether that was by talking to judge after judge at the poster, working on animations, gathering snacks, or making diagrams, everyone had their role. I’m proud of what we achieved, but in the end, the Gold Medal and the nominations were the cherry on top of what had already been a fantastic experience.

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