Genetics engineering team wins top prize in Boston


Taipei American School’s International Genetically Engineered Machines team won top prizes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology today. The competition ran from Nov. 9-13, where the team came out on top in a pool of 310 teams from 44 countries as the Grand Prize winner for high school students. TAS has participated in iGEM over the past several years, and previously won the Grand Prize in 2015.
To compete, the team had chosen a genetics project to work on extensively throughout the year. “The purpose of our project this year was to prevent nanoparticle pollution,” says team member Catherine Yeh (’18). “Our project aims to remove nanoparticles from wastewater systems via a two-pronged approach. First, to express Proteorhodopsin (PR) on the membrane of E. coli to bind and hold onto citrate capped NPs. Second, to upregulate the production of bilofilm (slimy material naturally produced by bacteria). Our project’s prototype has already shown a great potential to be implemented in an existing real-life wastewater treatment plant.”
The team is excited and humbled by their win. “It all happened so fast. As if pulled up simultaneously by some mysterious force, everyone shot off their chairs,” says Dylan Lu. “The next thing you know I was surrounded in a group huddle full of cheers, genuine faces of happiness to see a year’s hard work and dedication pay off.”
However, the team hopes to bring their scientific breakthroughs beyond the scope of the competition. “For future work, I think we can continue to modify our calculators by accounting for more factors that can influence the trapping efficiency or behavior of our PR or biofilm,” says Catherine. She and the rest of the team will continue working on the project in the future, and aspire to eventually make their project one that could influence the world as a whole.
Watch our video feature with this year’s Project Co-Head, Justin Yang (’18), here.