Team:Calgary/News/Alberta Events


University of Calgary




As members of the University of Calgary iGEM team and citizens of the province of Alberta, we are incredibly fortunate due to the backing of the Alberta Ingenuity Fund. The Alberta Ingenuity Fund (AIF) supports premier opportunities in the fields of Science and Engineering through financial support from the Government of Alberta. The goal of the organization is to build the capacity for innovation within Alberta to the end of creating lasting social and economic impacts. AIF recognizes that the iGEM program is one such premier opportunity and has supported all Alberta-based iGEM teams stemming from the Universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge since 2006.

Not only does AIF provide financial support for the Alberta-based teams, they also provide several opportunities to foster camaraderie (and healthy competition) amongst the three Alberta teams. These events began with the Alberta Genetically Engineered Machines (AGEM) competition in September of 2008, an event to emulate the iGEM competition at MIT. Because of the enormous success of the event, AIF put forth a calendar of several events for the 2009 iGEM season. This began with the Dragon’s Den in Edmonton, followed by an Ethics Workshop in Calgary and the Presentation/Marketing/Wiki Workshop in Lethbridge. The AIF-organized Alberta events will culminate with the 2009 AGEM competition in the beautiful city of Banff this September. Please see below for more information on these events!

We are incredibly grateful for the support of AIF, especially the hard work done on the part of Jennifer Hill, Laura Gadowsky and Chris Dambrowitz in fostering our teams both financially and through the organization of Alberta-wide iGEM events.


Dragon's Den @ Edmonton, May 25th, 2009


On May 25th, 2009, the University of Calgary sent three stalwart comrades to brave the perils of Alberta Ingenuity’s Dragon’s Den. Brimming with talent, poise and sex appeal, our representatives had two goals in mind: (1) feed on the entrepreneurial power and advice of the infamous Dragons; and (2) come home with lots of money.

In the days leading to the event, we prepared a powerful power-point presentation that highlighted our project’s goals and the corresponding implementation plan. After heading up to Edmonton the night before, we rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed (and rehearsed a little more) so that we could best seduce the Dragons with our eloquent delivery. Because although we’re attractive, we don’t want to rely on that! Indeed, there’s nothing like gathering in a residence room well past midnight to remind us of our incredible last-minute undergraduate productivity.

We rose fresh the next morning, indulged in the culinary largesse of Aramark’s fine cuisine, and ventured downtown to finally face the ferocious Dragons. After witnessing formidable performances from the other Alberta teams, we sauntered up to the front and delivered our presentation. Immediately after the face-off, we incurred their wrath (read: received useful feedback) and were given suggestions on how to improve our marketing approach to potential investors.

At last, it was time to dine on something more than a handful of petrified undergraduates. We meandered to a nearby restaurant and feasted on sumptuous food and beverages scarcely short of ambrosia. We also had the opportunity to feast on something more important: namely, the advice of the business tycoons themselves. We were awestruck by the plethora of wisdom and experiences shared over lunch, not to mention the honour of getting to know the Dragons on a more personal level.

After lunch, the Dragons and students converged in Alberta Ingenuity’s lair to discuss strategies for effective fundraising and networking. It was an open-floor conversation where we had the opportunity to learn from the Dragons and the other teams, free of the reticence that was more pronounced in the morning session. We were also able to address some of the challenges that each of the teams had faced up to that point. The day closed with a feedback session, where the teams discussed the format of the event with the Supreme Commander of the Dragons, Ms Jen Hill. As the very first meeting between all three Albertan iGEM teams, we were able to share in the anxiety of presenting at the beginning, and the relief of having succeeded by the end of the day.

We returned home on the evening of May 26th, weary from the experience and yet somehow craving more of it. Having satisfied both of our original ambitions, we were pleased with the result and thankful that we were more than just another meal for a few Dragons in the vicinity. Armed with a new sense of promotional direction, more contacts who can help support our initiatives, and the same stunning good looks that we had before we left, we are excited to implement some of these ideas to help capitalise on our marketing potential.

We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to Alberta Ingenuity for funding the event, as well as to the Dragons for their help and their time. Oh, and for not being as nefarious as the Dragons on the CBC edition.

Ethics Workshop @ Calgary, May 31st, 2009

The ethics workshop was held at our university on May 31st. It was an excellent opportunity for more members of our team to meet the members of both Alberta and Lethbridge teams. At the workshop, we were given valuable insight on the exploration of ethical issues with the help of Dr. Gregor Wolbring and Ms. Lori Sheremeta. Each team was able to introduce their respective projects, and the ethical issues surrounding each project were discussed. We were able to discuss the following elements and concerns regarding each project in:
and Social Issues.

While discussing all three projects, we were able to come across similar themes in what we would want to explore. These themes included looking at biosafety and patenting of processes/genes. Teams were also able to help each other determine what critical points should be explored, and how such issues should be approached. Students were coached on exploring ethics as a comprehensive look at all issues, displaying both pros and cons.

In addition to our own projects, we also examined a number of successful teams from last year and analyzed what the requirements are for the ethics component of iGEM, and what could be explored further this year. The ethics workshop was valuable preparation in outlining exploration of ethics for each project, and the feedback gained from Dr. Wolbring, Ms. Sheremeta, and all of the students provided an excellent starting point.

Presentation Skills, Fundraising, and Wiki Workshops @ Lethbridge, July 11th-12th

The Alberta Meet-Up at Lethbridge was our largest yet! There were 7 students from Calgary, 7 from Alberta, and 6 from Lethbridge. AiF kindly organized two days packed with valuable workshops, allowing students yet another opportunity to interact with other iGEMers.

The first day began with lunch (one of the best parts of the day) followed by presentation training from Anne Marie Downey. This session provided members with lots of advice on how to format their presentations, what to present, and how to eliminate nervousness. Some members from each team were able to quickly prepare short presentations which were then critiqued by the rest of the students. The critique given to each student could be applied to everyone, which was a valuable experience in looking at good and not-so-good presentation technique. Following the presentation skills workshop, it was time for dinner (another excellent time of day)! The dinner and rest of the evening were graciously hosted by the lovely ladies from the Lethbridge team.

The following morning, students split up to attend the fundraising and wiki workshops. The fundraising workshop was led by Leona Yez. At this workshop, students were taught how to make marketing pitches and other fundraising strategies. Together, the teams discussed which type of companies should be targeted for sponsorship. Additionally, some students practiced making pitches, receiving valuable critique from Ms. Yez and the other students.

Jesse Johnstone led the wiki workshop, and gave students useful information in designing navigation for ease of use. Students examined the successful aspects of a few of last year's wikis, and looked at some website designs (the good, the bad, and the ugly). We also learned the method of applying templates, which is extremely useful in keeping code clean and easy to edit. At the workshop, teams were able to troubleshoot their respective coding problems with Mr. Johnstone and the other students (eg. fixing Lethbridge's picture links and troubleshooting Alberta/Calgary's CSS problems).

The weekend gave all of us valuable advice for presentations, fundraising, and wikis. It was also an incredible opportunity for team collaboration and getting to know one another. :)

U of C iGEM team wins provincial competition: Alberta Genetically Engineered Machines, September 18th-20th
With smiling faces and heightened team pride, the U of C brought home the aGEM trophy after placing first in the Alberta Genetically Engineered Machines (aGEM) competition, which was held in Banff from September 18th -19th. aGEM is the Alberta Genetically Engineered Machines Competition. aGEM facilitates a sense of regional spirit and gives students a chance to compete and critique each other’s work as the three Albertan teams (U of C, U of A, and U of L) prepare for the iGEM Jamboree in the fall.

The University of Calgary team members drove down to Banff on the 18th- the night of the aGEM wiki and poster presentations. The students arrived early to set up the poster, prepare handouts (lab, modeling, Second Life and human practices) and set up iMacs to present their wiki and facilitate tours of our 3D virtual world in Second Life. The team distributed and organized themselves around each station so that there was always someone there to explain the project and address questions.

This was great opportunity for all of the team members to practice presentational skills, demonstrate a cohesive understanding of the four components of the project, learn about the other projects and of course, impress the judges! Our audiences were from various backgrounds and professions beginning from entrepreneurs to analysts, biologists, engineers, professors and students. The high level of energy and enthusiasm of the U of C students quickly engaged the audience and drew more and more people to our booth. As team members explained each of the four components of the project, handouts were given out as a supplementary document to those interested in learning more about the successes, goals and achievements of iGEM Calgary’s project.

Later that night, after wrapping up the poster session, the team went back to the hotel to practice for the next day’s PowerPoint presentation. This presentation delves deeper into each of the four components and explains the science behind the project.

On Saturday, by a random draw, the University of Calgary was chosen to lead the PowerPoint presentations. Following the presentation, the entire team went up on the stage to answer questions from the audience. After the three teams had the opportunity to showcase their projects and answer questions, the judges briefly provided general constructive criticisms to all three teams. After lunch, the audience reconvened in the theatre to honor Mr. Jon Lovink, the guest speaker of the event. After his motivational speech, the judges divided themselves among the three teams to individually comment on specific areas of improvement and achievements.

Following another brief break, the awards ceremony was held back at the theatre. Nervousness and anxiety filled the room as each person awaited to hear the results. After the judges reviewed the judging criteria, the University of Calgary was awarded first place for an excellent overall presentation and teamwork. The judges were highly impressed with the amount of effort that was put into making a creative and informative wiki, well-organized handouts and a powerful presentation. A picture session with the aGEM trophy and other aGEM participants immediately followed the ceremony.

After dinner, the teams rejoiced and celebrated their hard work and successes. Although the U of C iGEM team proudly made its mark in Alberta, the race doesn’t end here; the team is now working twice as hard to make U of C stand out at the iGEM Jamboree.