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What is iGEM?

Alma College has a student organization for just about every interest you can imagine. If you love it, you can find like-minded students to serve, explore and have fun.

Want to go Greek? You can choose a social Greek fraternity or sorority. Academically qualified students may be invited into one of the disciplinary academic honor societies. The college offers dozens of interest-based, religious/spiritual and music groups as well; ranging from Model UN to Student Congress, Gender & Sexuality Diversity to the Alma Choir.

But the student org that might most closely replicate the interdisciplinary nature of a professional team is iGEM — short for the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. It’s a long name for a simple concept: we can use science to help the communities in which we live and work.

Devin Camenares, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Alma College, leads the group, which is growing in size every year. Devin told us why the group is growing, and how you can get involved for yourself.

“Have I got a job for you!”


Basically, Devin said, the main goal of iGEM is to identify a problem in the community and use science to help solve it. But that doesn’t mean everyone who gets involved with iGEM works in a lab. iGEM believes that while research is important, it takes more than that to make change.

That’s why the iGEM team at Alma College has students tackling different jobs, based on their interests. The 2020 team had several students doing work in a lab, but there were also students who created a webpage for the project, hosted a podcast, created graphics and did other important work.

Stronger together


Joining iGEM is one of the best ways to meet people across campus from different disciplines. The 2020 iGEM team at Alma College included students from biochemistry, computer science, anthropology, psychology, fine arts and multimedia journalism, among others. Everyone on the iGEM team has had different experiences, Devin said, and that diversity has played a big role in the team’s success in recent years.

That’s another cool thing about iGEM — it’s a competition. Every year, more than 6,000 students from around the country work on iGEM projects. They come together in the fall to present their work at iGEM’s annual Giant Jamboree. Alma College won a gold medal at the iGEM 2020 Giant Jamboree, improving on the results of the 2019 Giant Jamboree, when the team took home a silver medal.

Make power moves

Have you ever wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself? Something that allows you to really make change? iGEM will prepare you for that role in ways that few other student organizations can.

At the 2020 Giant Jamboree, the Alma College iGEM team explored a problem that has plagued the local Gratiot County community for decades — an environmental disaster that polluted groundwater, soil and the nearby Pine River. (The team won a gold medal for their work, too!) But even more important than the result of the Giant Jamboree, Devin said, was that the Alma iGEM team worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on their project.

When the federal government starts listening, you know you’re doing something important.

Type of blog post

Clubs and Student Organizations