Champions in Manipulating Life

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Rohan S. (12) knew his team had struck gold.  “Our poster teemed with elderly advisors more worried about when E. mortality might be available than what it was.” E. mortality? That is the name of the project the TAS iGEM team decided to take to the annual iGEM 2014 High School Jamboree at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Strata Center. iGEM is a synthetic biology competition that focuses on constructing novel biological systems for useful purposes.
Last year, the TAS iGEM team decided to pursue a project that could have potentially extended the human life span. The project was named E.mortality, a humorous combination of E. coli, the medium that most experimenting was done in, and immortality, the culmination of longevity. This ambitious idea was received well by the judges, who liked that high school students were bold enough to take on a project on such a grandiose scale. Our iGEM team was one of the 54 teams, which included teams from prestigious high schools such as the Phillips Exeter Academy and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
“The conference hall was packed. There were teams all over the world from the US, China, Mexico, Greece, South Korea, and of course, Taiwan. But our team really left an impression with all the flyers and postcards we handed out. We also wore dangling telomere headbands. By the end of the day, everyone recognized us as the team with the funny looking headbands,” said alumni Bethany Shieh.
Though it was TAS’s first time entering the competition, our debut TAS iGEM team had some impressive results.
“We won three awards, which was the most awards that any team got. One was the 2nd Runner Up Award, the award for 3rd place. Another was the Best Wiki Award, which was for our amazing website that Xiao Yang designed for us. Our last award was the iGEMer’s Prize, which is a people’s choice award. All the teams were given ballots to write the team they thought had the most interesting project. They chose us. We were popular,” said Phillip Teng (12).
For Phillip, iGEM was truly a memorable experience. “During the summer, we had sleeping bags in the lab so that we could keep working once we woke up. Because of this, it is no coincidence that our iGEM team have become very bonded together. What other school activity requires you to collect data at National Yang Ming University at 2:00 AM?”
For more information about iGEM and E.mortality, visit the team website