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Finnish team to participate in synthetic biology competition next year as well

Participation in the competition was a tremendous and fun experience.

But what do hybrid animals have to do with an international competition in synthetic biology?

A multidisciplinary team composed of students from the University of Helsinki and Aalto University were the first Finnish team to take part in the international iGEM competition. The team's idea for the competition was to create a regulation system for controlling how genes are expressed in cells. The team came back from the 250 team competition with the prize for the best wiki pages.

‘We learned a lot about synthetic biology during the competition.  What really sparked our enthusiasm was when we realised how much we know about the field.  But in addition to that, entrepreneurial matters and startups opened to us in a completely new way. Entrepreneurship became a concrete way of obtaining a job.  Jobs do not emerge from thin air – someone has to create them,’ explains Mikko Laine of the Aalto-Helsinki team.

The team's trip began already in March when the team was assembled. Before the competition week in Boston at the end of October – the Jamboree – the members of the group worked hard both in and outside the laboratory. Each member of the team was able to focus on his or her own strengths, in addition to many other things. For instance, Mikko dealt with the project's communications. Entrepreneurship also had a strong presence in the team, which took part in the Summer of Startups programme Organised by the Aaltoes community.  In this programme, students honed their pitching skills, learned about networking, and were given the chance to meet influential startup figures.

Using calling cards to break the ice

The Jamboree was hectic. In addition to the poster session and the team's own presentation, time was spent on getting to know the teams from other countries and their entries in the competition.  An unexpected trump card helped in getting acquainted with people.

‘Laura, our team's skilful graphic designer, had drawn a hybrid animal on our calling cards – a combination of the three favourite animals of each of us.  Those who collected the calling cards of all the members of the group got candy as a prize. Many approached us by asking for a calling card. The cards helped in opening the discussion in an enjoyable way. And perhaps synthetic biology might produce animals like these someday’, Mikko laughs.

Next year it will be the turn of another team to take part in the iGEM competition, and the recruitment process for a new team will begin soon.

The International Genetically Engineered Machine, or iGEM, is an annual competition in synthetic biology. During the competition each participating team works together to plan, develop, and implement a synthetic mechanism using an organism and an open gene library.  The main aim of the competition is to develop research, teaching and a sense of community in the field, and to increase awareness.

picture by Laura Laakso.

 

 

 

 

 

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