ALMA — The Alma College iGEM team competed at the 2022 iGEM Grand Jamboree, in Paris, France, on Oct. 26-28, and won a silver medal for their efforts.

The nonprofit International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation brings together more than 350 multidisciplinary teams from 40-plus countries every year at its Grand Jamboree, where the future of synthetic biology is showcased every year in order to solve local problems all over the world. Synthetic biology is a field of science that involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities.

The Alma College team’s project for this year was titled “Unraveling a Toxic River.” As part of their project, the team researched and engineered a testing solution for a device they created dedicated to testing red fluorescent proteins. The device utilizes estrogen receptors from a variety of different species, which targets the identification of DDT — a major pollutant of the local Pine River since the late 1970s. Among the team’s ultimate goals are the creation of an affordable product that could be sold and benefit the local community.

Judges were pleased with the Alma team’s work. Among their comments were, “The team has put considerable effort into many aspects of their project, including preliminary research on the issue, possible solutions, experimental design and implementation. I hope to see this project improve even further in its future iterations.

“In addition, the team has a very serious and ambitious science communication / outreach component in their project. Members of the team have clearly put a lot of effort into spreading their scientific knowledge and results to the public. The team has also prepared a very clear and professional presentation and was confident in answering broad range questions related to their project.”

Alma has competed at the Grand Jamboree for the past several years, winning a silver medal in 2021 as well.

It was also announced at the Grand Jamboree that the Alma iGEM team was one of 90 teams to win a $2,500 Impact Grant from the iGEM Foundation. Grant winners were chosen on the basis of their projects; highlighting those “that are impactful and technically ambitious (but achievable), with an eye towards teams who are building on the work of the synthetic biology community and have thought deeply about where they could take their project next.”

The Impact Grant complements a grant that Alma’s iGEM team received last year as part of the Michigan College Alliance’s Campus Community Challenge.

This year’s team members include:

Devin Camenares and Brian Doyle, faculty advisors
Matthew Hanson
Christina Harbin
Connor Arens
Benjamin Schall
Allyson Ehlert
Paige Lamoreaux
Maria Kolb
Victoria LeCureux
Delaney Dahl
Mackenzie Breitner
Ruby Lovasz
George Amoako
Taylor Ann Neeb
Sebastian Nolte
Rachel Kostrzewa
Alexa DeKorte
Jacob Kelley
Judith Brooks
Alice Hutchins
Kylah Fischer
Aubrey Martin
Isabelle Conn
Mackenzie Harwood
Jordan Prielipp
Maxim Kraniak