iGEM at Berkeley is a student organization that began with the goal of giving students the creative freedom to explore questions and conduct research in the field of synthetic biology with the ultimate goal of competing in the annual global iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) competition. However, our organization’s mission has evolved to increase accessibility of the synthetic biology and bioengineering community to students of all backgrounds and research experience levels at Cal. By cultivating every student’s technical skill set, fostering collaborative experience in team settings, and encouraging passions for niches of bioengineering research, iGEM has grown to support and train over 400 members; our Training teams, educational resources, and events are open to all general members without any selection process.
Some of our experimental and new ideas teams presenting their work at our End-Of-Semester Symposium!
Our One-of-a-Kind Structure
We break away from the traditional iGEM team format through our emphasis and dedication to accessible research training through education materials and providing lab space for building foundational skills and preparing to conduct supervised, undergraduate-initiated research. We have created a specialized Training Team, a student-powered program which provides students with a semester-long crash course in synthetic biology. Our members have created an entire curriculum to teach new members everything from basic laboratory skills to designing and testing scientific questions of their own.
A student in our faculty advisor's lab participating in our new training program.
With the knowledge they gain from their time in Training Team, members are then transitioned into either a New Ideas team or an Experimental team. As of Spring 2022, over 100 members participate in iGEM’s project teams, which are entirely student-initiated. In New Ideas teams, students explore areas of synthetic biology and perform extensive literature review, identify gaps in current knowledge, and ideate unique ways to solve their questions. Once their idea is shown to be scientifically sound and viable, New Ideas teams can then transition into Experimental teams, where students are provided resources to carry out necessary experiments and gather data. Our organization currently has 7 Experimental teams: 4 wet-lab teams and 3 computational biology teams. These teams are exploring questions such as creating more efficient ways to perform traditional cloning methods, and developing a pipeline for mining and processing chemical reactions from published scientific literature. Experimental members can receive research credit through iGEM at Berkeley through BioE 99, 199, H194, and 196. We are also creating a wet-lab training program, where students will be trained to do basic synthetic biology techniques in the lab setting, before transitioning into an experimental team.
A wet lab experimental member plating her cells as part of our training program.
In the following graphs, we reflect on the statistics of our membership over the past five semesters we have been active. We are a rapidly expanding organization, which reflects the undergraduate population’s demand for accessible, quality research experiences.
Total Membership: reflects experimental, general, training team, and administrative members of our organization
Experimental Membership: reflects members on active project teams (wet-lab or computational biology teams)
General Membership: reflects members that have access to all of our events (workshops, training team, educational resources, and more)
Unit Takers: experimental or Training Team members that opt to take research units for their training and experimentation
Every aspect of running our lab space, from writing grants to conducting experiments, is done by students. This means every dollar donated is critical to our operations. Our budget includes thousands of dollars in material costs, equipment purchases, and competition fees. Your donations go directly towards supporting these expenses, and allow students to bring their bioengineering ideas to life.
Our ultimate goal is to create a physical biomakerspace for the Berkeley undergraduate community: a space that provides necessary resources and support to anyone with a bioengineering idea. Existing biomakerspaces are models for our vision of a community where students can gain hands-on exposure to solving bioengineering problems outside of the classroom, engage in spontaneous discussions, and spearhead their own ideas in collaboration with other Berkeley students. Under the supervision of Dr. John Anderson, who graciously is mentoring our teams and providing his lab space for our organization’s use, iGEM at Berkeley wants to take this first step in making this physical environment a reality and meeting this student demand through additional equipment and funding opportunities for external scientific communication. Responding with substantial steps toward growth, we hope to cement Berkeley’s iGEM team as a community-oriented success for other universities to model and scale student experience, both crucial for impactful postgraduate careers in bioengineering or adjacent fields.
A photo from one of our monthly all-hands meetings where all our members convene to share progress.
Stay In Touch
Our social media and website are constantly updated with our newest projects, progress, and events. Check us out on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or igem.berkeley.edu to follow our journey!
If you have any questions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.