|Our Team||Our Project|
The first ever Washington University iGEM team is composed of nine undergraduate juniors and seniors majoring in Biology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering. Under the leadership of Dr. Blankenship (Biology and Chemistry departments), our team plans to synthetically regulate expression of a light harvesting antenna, which we believe is a first for both iGEM and synthetic biology. To learn more about our highly motivated and well-trained team, please click here.
Improved Photosynthetic Productivity for Rhodobacter sphaeroides via Synthetic Regulation of the Light Harvesting Antenna LH2
Photosynthetic light harvesting antennas function to collect light and transfer energy to a reaction center for photochemistry. Phototrophs evolved large antennas to compete for photons in natural environments where light is scarce. Consequently, cells at the surface of photobioreactors over-absorb light, leading to attenuated photobioreactor light penetration and starving interior cells of photons. This reduction of photosynthetic productivity has been identified as the primary impediment to improving photobioreactor efficiency. While reduction of antenna size improves photosynthetic productivity, current approaches to this uniformly truncate antennas and are difficult to manipulate from the perspective of bioengineering. We aim to create a modifiable system to optimize antenna size throughout the bioreactor by utilizing a synthetic regulatory mechanism that correlates expression of the pucB/A LH2 antenna genes with incident light intensity. This new application of synthetic biology serves to transform the science of antenna reduction into the engineering of antenna optimization. To learn more about our project, please click here.
The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is the premiere undergraduate Synthetic Biology competition. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Working at their own schools over the summer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells.
The burgeoning field of Synthetic Biology is the culmination of the previous thirty years of research into recombinant DNA and biological engineering technology. It is fundamentally about the union of biology and engineering, thereby encouraging the collaboration of geneticists, molecular biologists, biochemists, and biomedical, chemical, and computer science engineers. Researchers in this field mainly seek to A) design and construct new biological parts, devices and systems or B) re-design existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes.
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Interested in joining the 2010 team? iGEM is an excellent way for undergraduate students to get involved in hands on research and learn important laboratory skills. Build your resume next summer with a research job in Bioengineering and take part in planning, conducting, and presenting relevant results in synthetic biology. Have fun working with peers and take an active role in deciding the project instead of working individually on a project assigned to you by a professor. During the school year, meetings will occur approximately once a week for planning and learning purposes. Actual laboratory work is conducted over 10 weeks in the summer that will carry over into the next semester until results are presented at an international forum at the end of October. While iGEM does not directly provide stipends or funding for students, most students are paid for their work over the summer through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) program, or via departmental stipends.