Student applications for the 2023 iGEM team will open in January!
Email igem-management AT mit DOT edu with any questions.
Applications for the 2021 MIT iGEM Team open January 22nd, 2021 and are due February 10th, 2021. Please see our Apply section for details.
If you are a graduate student, postdoctoral scholar, or MIT iGEM alum interested in mentoring see our Mentor section.
Email igem-2021-apps AT mit DOT edu for any questions.
iGEM is an annual world-wide synthetic biology competition. Teams of students use standardized genetic parts to address real-world problems in fields including health and medicine, manufacturing, bioenergy, even art and architecture. Students also take their work beyond the lab, engaging with clinicians, regulators, policy experts and the general public to maximize their project’s potential real-world impact through human practices.Teams’ projects culminate at the International iGEM Jamboree, a synthetic biology competition held each fall. Each team presents a talk and a poster and delivers a wiki about their project.
Teams are judged on the quality of their science as well as factors such as communication, outreach, collaboration with other teams, and contribution to the iGEM community and future research. Teams can bring home awards for the best project in their track, as well as special awards for human practices and outreach, diagnostics or therapeutics, innovations in measurement, new biological parts and part collections, and new software tools, among others.
The MIT iGEM team draws students from a wide range of departments and disciplines, including biology, bioengineering, electrical engineering and computer science, math, chemistry, mechanical engineering, architecture, and more. The team is not restricted to individuals from a laboratory science background, and you’ll learn all the skills necessary to get started. The interdisciplinary team begins meeting during the spring semester with the mentor team to develop a project that matches their interests and takes advantage of the resources and expertise of the MIT Huang-Hobbs BioMakerspace, the team’s home since 2021. Over the course of the spring semester, the team refines their project idea, designs new genetic parts, and begins to learn the lab skills they’ll need to accomplish their project.
The centerpiece of iGEM at MIT is the 10-week summer semester. The students work full-time as a UROP conducting experiments and research for their project advised by the mentor team. In addition to their research, they practice communication skills with the BE Communication Lab, engage in outreach with the wider public, and work closely with experts in their chosen problem. In the fall, they finalize their research and work in the form of a wiki with all their research, and go on to present their work at the Jamboree.
Past MIT iGEM projects include:
- 2009 - Photolocalization of proteins in algae.
- 2010 - Programmable, self-constructing biomaterials
- 2011 - Mammalian cell patterning and tissues by design (Best Health and Medicine Project, Gold Medal, Finalist)
- 2012 - Encoding genetic logic in small RNA-based logical gates (Gold Medal)
- 2013 - Cell-to-cell communication using virus-like particles called exosomes (Silver Medal)
- 2014 - Alzheimer's disease diagnostics and therapy (Gold Medal)
- 2015 - Consolidated bioprocessing using two different bacteria to make biofu els (Bronze Medal)
- 2016 - Diagnosing endometriosis using newly characterized parts from mammalian synthetic biology (Gold Medal, Nominated for Best Poster, Nominated for Best Part Collection)
- 2017 - Using dCas13a to control alternative splicing in mammalian cells (Bronze Medal)
- 2018 - CREST: Carries Reduction via Engineered Signal Transduction (Bronze Medal)
- 2019 - The Perfect Swarm: Directed Migration of Neutrophil-Like Cells through Engineered Chemokine Secretion (Gold Medal)
- 2020 - Synthetic Mammalian Circuitry for Graded Treatment of COVID-19 Cytokine Storms (Silver Medal)
- 2019 - B. syruptilis: A Probiotic Treatment for Maple Syrup Urine Disease (Silver Medal)
Second, working on a team is central to the iGEM experience. Teamwork helps the students develop their communication and coordination skills in an authentic collaborative environment, skills that are essential for professional scientists and engineers. As the summer progresses, students frequently begin to specialize, becoming experts in aspects of the project that they find interesting and rewarding, which gives them a greater sense of ownership over their work. Working on a team also improves student learning, both of broader skills for experimental design and analysis as well as the fine-grained operational knowledge required to execute them.
iGEM is the most authentic research experience you can get without going to graduate school.
- Choose your own project. Don't have it handed to you by a graduate student who needs another pair of hands.
- Design your own experiments. Goodbye, cookbook labs.
- Execute them in a cutting-edge research lab. From laser-driven microscopes to liquid-handling robots, we have all the toys. And we're willing to share!
- Analyze your own results. The "a-hah!" moment from seeing something nobody else has ever seen? It's the best high ever.
- Communicate them with the world. The iGEM Jamboree is the biggest synthetic biology conference of the year, and everybody is there.
After iGEM is a program launched by the iGEM Foundation to connect iGEMers to the larger global community of iGEM and support future iGEM and synthetic biology community efforts. A number of MIT iGEMers have gone on to be part of the After iGEM Ambassadors program and gone to represent iGEM as delegates to the UN Biological Weapons Convention and Biodiversity Conference. iGEMers have also gone on to launch their own companies through the iGEM EPIC (Entrepreneurship Program Innovation Community). Ginkgo Bioworks was founded by members of the MIT iGEM 2004 team and Professor Tom Knight! MIT iGEM teams have gone on to publish their work as well in scientific journals but also in MIT’s Undergraduate Research Journal (MURJ).
See past MURJ issues with iGEM projects or features here:
- Alexion Pharmaceuticals
- BioBuilder Foundation
- Boston University
- Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
- Cleveland Clinic
- Ginkgo Bioworks
- Harvard University
- Johns Hopkins University
- Massachusetts General Hospital
- Max Planck Institute
- McKinsey and Company
- Merck Pharmaceuticals
- MIT Department of Biological Engineering
- Stony Brook University
- TU Dresden
- United States Senate
- University of British-Columbia
- University of Washington
- University of Wisconsin
- Weizmann Institute of Science
Interested in joining? Apply to the Team, Key Dates, and Commitment
- Your resume, which should include relevant coursework and research experience. We welcome people of all ranges of lab experience — many iGEMers have been first-years! — but we want to know what you know so we can set up the proper training.
- Anticipated spring coursework and a list of any other commitments you've made for this spring and summer.
- Where does iGEM fall in your list of priorities for the next 1 year period? Keep in mind that this is a commitment through the first half of the Fall 2022 semester, and that dropping out partway will be detrimental to your teammates (~100 words)
- Why are you generally interested in synthetic biology and iGEM and what you hope to gain out of this experience? (~250 words)
- Which of the iGEM tracks would you be most interested in doing a project in? You can find a list of the tracks here.
- Describe a project you think would be appropriate and exciting for iGEM. You can look at previous iGEM projects (2020, 2019) for inspiration and to get a sense of the typical scope--the project should be achievable within a single summer. Aim to talk about the scientific research value, why you think it’s cool and exciting, but also the potential value to society. We do not require a full set of references for your proposed project, but the more detail the better. (~300 words)
- Describe your past research experiences, if any, including what tasks you did or experiments you conducted, and what skills you learned from it. This can take the form of structured experiences, lab classes, or for-fun literature searches, etc. It should not be a straight repeat of your resume, and it's also fine if your experiences are limited--we just want to see that you were engaged in whatever opportunities you had, as well as to get a better sense of what training we should prepare. (~0-300 words)
- What are some other (non-science) skills you can contribute to the team? Do you do graphic design? Are you an organizational whiz? A pro interviewer? An extraordinary webmaster? (~100 words)
- What do you want to see in a mentor / mentor team? What degree of guidance do you expect? Would you prefer mentors to actively teach skills and procedures? To act as a sounding board for ideas? (~100 words)
- January 2023 -- applications for iGEM team are DUE to igem-apps at mit dot edu
- February - May 2023 -- Meet 2 times per week, ~1 hour each to develop a project idea and participate in workshops.
- June - August 2022 -- iGEM research! When most of the awesome work gets done and experiments.
- September - November 2023 -- Finish up project and prepare for the iGEM International Jamboree, location TBD.
MIT iGEM is a commitment. Typical components are as follows:
- Spring UROP (for credit): Acquire lab skills as you start working on your project!
- 2-3 hours, twice a week
- Skills include gene circuit design, DNA assembly, cell or tissue culture, and additional workshops depending on project direction
- Summer UROP (for pay!): Do most of the work on your project!
- Full-time (40 hrs/wk) for 10-12 weeks, tracking the MIT summer term.
- Fall UROP (for pay/credit): Sept -- Oct: Finishing touches, get ready for the Jamboree
- The Jamboree is usually in November.
- The team presents a public website, a poster and a 20-minute talk.
- Getting them ready takes time! We'll work with the BE Communications Lab to help get you ready.
Graduate, postdoc, iGEM Alum? Interested in mentoring? Apply to be a mentor.
- Assist in selecting students for the iGEM team in early February
- Advise the student team during ideation phase in the spring, and providing feedback on students' project ideas
- Present / talk about topic(s) with the team that excite you and share your knowledge of fields and problems to inspire the team in developing possible projects
- Teach lab/computational skills (already designed by previous iGEM mentors); in the past iGEM alum or upperclassmen on the team have assisted heavily with this
- Meet and provide feedback to the student team during the summer weekly and be available over Slack for technical or laboratory questions. Availability to supervise students in the laboratory in the late afternoon on occasion is particularly helpful
- Motivate and encourage students as mentors and share your own research challenges and experiences
Frequently Asked Questions
Interested in supporting and sponsoring the team? Email our Huang-Hobbs BioMakerspace director (jbuck at mit dot edu)!
If you would like to sponsor the team in any way, email our Huang-Hobbs BioMakerspace director, Dr. Justin Buck, jbuck AT mit DOT edu.
- MIT Dept. of Biological Engineering
- MIT Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
- New England BioLabs Inc.
- Raytheon BBN Technologies
- Bio Basic
This page was consolidated from pages previously created by Dr. Brian Teague and Dr. Deepak Mishra! Special thanks to Professor Weiss and previous iGEM teams and mentors for supporting MIT iGEM in all these years!