Who We Are
We are the 2021 UT Austin iGEM team!
Participating in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM competition is a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to gain research and career skills related to biotechnology. iGEM is a science pentathlon! It's part synthetic biology research project, part robotics competition for biology, part entrepreneurial pitch contest, part bioethics course, and part engineering design project. Students are expected to explore their own project ideas, reflect on and explain how their proposed solution to a problem would benefit society, engage in outreach to stakeholders, and operate as a team to complete proof-of-principle research. After working in the lab on their research during the spring and summer, teams create a project website and give poster and oral presentations in the fall at the iGEM Giant Jamboree that brings together 370+ teams from all over the world.
Our 2021 project will develop approaches for reprograming microbes living in the environment to clean up plastic and oil pollution. We aim to engineer bacteriophages that contain genes for plastic degradation and surfactant proteins in order to address two independent aspects of ocean pollution. For plastic degradation, we are focusing our attention on plastic pollutants that are more difficult to clean up manually such as nurdles, tiny pellets of plastic created as an intermediate in the process of making plastic goods, and nanoplastics. To address this issue, we intend to engineer a phage compatible with a strain of marine bacteria commonly found on or around these specific plastic pollutants to express the plastic-degrading PETase and MHETase enzymes. For surfactants, we are concentrating on crude oil spills. While there are already bacteria capable of metabolizing oil and other hydrocarbons present in the ocean, their capabilities extend only to small droplets of oil. To combat this issue, we intend to engineer a phage compatible with a strain of marine bacteria commonly found at the surface of the ocean in regions that typically experience oil spills to produce Latherin and/or Ranaspumin-2, surfactant proteins that are capable of dispersing oil slicks into smaller droplets that hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria can absorb and metabolize.
What We’re Fundraising For
The UT Austin iGem team is Fundraising to support the UT students participating in the annual iGEM competition.
Support UT Austin students who are developing innovative biotechnology solutions to societal problems!
"Going to this this international competition and winning a big award like this, it shows that UT has a presence on the global stage and a presence in the up and coming field of synthetic biology."
–Alex MacAskill (2019 iGEM team member)
2019 iGEM Team receiving their Best Measurement Award
Explore Past UT Austin iGEM Projects...