Frequently Asked Questions

I would like to be part of iGEM, what should I do?
What activities will the iGEM Team be doing this year?
Will there be a stipend for the 10-weeks of the summer project? How much?
When will the 10-week summer project take place?
Will I get a free trip to the Jamboree in Boston?
What benefits would I get from being part of iGEM?
What will the summer project consist of?
Do I have to come up with an idea?
I have no experience in biology. Can I apply?
I have no experience in modelling/computation. Can I apply?
I am interested in the ethics of synthetic biology. Can I apply?
I am a first year. Can I apply?
I am graduating this year. Can I apply?
I am graduating after Semester 1 next year. Can I apply?
What is synthetic biology?
What is a ‘biobrick’?
Is a synthetically engineered cell a living thing or a machine?
Is synthetic biology ethical?
Is synthetic biology environmentally safe?

I would like to be part of iGEM, what should I do?
Selection for the 2019 St Andrews iGEM Team is underway. Visit the Join Us page for information about how to apply.

What activities will the iGEM Team be doing this year?
Please visit Time Line for a time line of activities from now until the Jamboree. First semester, we start by developing an initial project plan and getting organised around fundraising activities. This involves a number of meetings where team members meet each other and discuss ideas, previous projects by other teams, and plans for our project. Second semester contains the bulk of the fundraising efforts, planning the project, and getting started on outreach activities. The main wet lab and modelling work occurs over the summer, and in Semester 1 of next year we finalise all pieces of the project, importantly sending our created BioBricks to iGEM and documenting everything on the wiki, before showing it all off at the Jamboree!

Will there be a stipend for the 10-weeks of the summer project? How much?
We hope to provide at least a minimal amount of support for summer expenses; the level of support will depend on the success of the team in attracting funding. We will be submitting an application for student stipends from the BBSRC and Wellcome Trust, thus it is important for team members to develop a good start on project ideas and help develop a good application!

Additional or alternate funding can be obtained via the team attracting sponsors, such as from corporations or professional societies, or engaging in fundraising activities. The team advisors will assist in fundraising efforts as possible; however, many sponsors are most receptive to contacts from students. Thus it will be up to the team to be pro-active and imaginative in fundraising.

When will the 10-week summer project take place?
Dates for the project will be determined among team members.

Will I get free trip to the Jamboree in Boston?
The extent to which the Jamboree trip will be paid for will depend on the success of the team in attracting funding. The team advisors will assist in fundraising efforts as possible; however, many sponsors are most receptive to contacts from students. Thus it will be up to the team to be pro-active and imaginative in fundraising.

What benefits would I get from being part of iGEM?
In addition to the research experience (and a fun experience at the Jamboree!), iGEM is great opportunity to work out some new skills such as interdisciplinary communication, team work, and organisation, and to unlock your science creativity. Many of our iGEM alumns have gone on to successfully obtain PhD studentships.

What will the summer project consist of?
The exact project will be decided among team members. Generally, an iGEM project includes designing some system within a cell (most often E. coli, although sometimes other organisms are used), to make it perform a desired function. The project consists of a combination of modelling expected behaviour of the system and experimental biology to put biobricks into cells, building at least some components of planned system. An important part of the project is looking at Human Practices: ethical, sociological, and legal implications of synthetic biology in general and the chosen project in particular.

Visit the Main iGEM Website to see the types of projects other teams have done in the past. Follow links to our wikis from the St Andrews iGEM Team Page to see what we did previous years.

Do I have to come up with an idea?
Once the team is chosen, the team will together explore ideas for projects, with the assistance of the advisors. We will look at the Main iGEM Website to see the types of projects other teams have done in the past, discuss interests of team members, and together decide on a plan.

I have no experience in biology. Can I apply?
Yes! Please apply. We only expect you to be open to learning how mathematical/computational tools can be applied to biology. This is an interdisciplinary project, so no one will have experience of all aspects of it! We expect students to come from different backgrounds, and half the team will likely be made up of students with little to no experience in biology.

I have no experience in modelling/mathematics. Can I apply?
Yes! Please apply. We only expect you to be open to learning how mathematical/computational tools can be applied to biology. This is an interdisciplinary project, so no one will have experience of all aspects of it! We expect students to come from different backgrounds, and half the team will likely be made up of students with little to no experience in modelling and computation.

I am interested in the ethics of synthetic biology. Can I apply?
Yes! Please apply. Ethics and human practices considerations are an important part of the iGEM competition. We need team members who will explore ethical implications.

I am a first year. Can I apply?
Yes, iGEM is open to current undergraduate students who will be continuing study at St Andrews for Semester 1 next year. First years have the opportunity to bring a fresh perspective and enthusiasm to the team.

I am graduating this year. Can I apply?
Unfortunately, due to the commitment required in the following Autumn, we cannot consider final year students for the team.

I am graduating after Semester 1 next year. Can I apply?
Yes, iGEM is open to current undergraduate students who will be continuing study at St Andrews for Semester 1 next year.

What is synthetic biology?
Synthetic biology is an attempt to bring a principled “engineering” perspective on what was previously termed genetic engineering; however, genetic engineering involved little true “engineering”, thus new terminology was developed. Synthetic biology’s aim is to be able to use standard biological parts, known as ‘biobricks’, to design circuits within living cells. Synthetic biology research bridges biological and physical/computational sciences, as well as incorporating social and ethical considerations.

What is a ‘biobrick’?
A biobrick is a piece of DNA that performs a certain function. For example, a biobrick may code for a protein, or form a promotor which regulates the expression of whatever gene it is placed near. Some biobricks are combinations of pieces, for example, a promotor plus a gene it regulates. Visit the Registry of Standard Biological Parts to browse through biobricks.

Is a synthetically engineered cell a living thing or a machine?
Synthetic biology aims to engineer components inside living cells to perform a desired function; thus, it is alive. This is similar to current practices like the production of compounds insulin by E. coli.

Is synthetic biology ethical?
Considering ethical issues is a large component of the current approach to synthetic biology. For example, seeĀ RoSBNet, a research network in synthetic biology, which includes ethical and societal concerns as part of its area of exploration. iGEM teams should consider the ethical aspects of their projects: see examples of this at theĀ Main iGEM Website (search for “ethics” in the search box in the upper right).

Is synthetic biology environmentally safe?
Environmental safety is one component in the ethical discussion of synthetic biology (see question above). For example, Edinburgh’s iGEM Team in 2009 considered environmental issues surrounding their landmine-detecting bacteria: Edinburgh Ethics Page.