January 20th, 2021

Lethbridge iGEM students use Zoom to complete their seasons

By Jensen, Randy on May 8, 2020.

Kevin Forsyth

For The Herald

Campus closures will not stop some Lethbridge university and high school students from finishing their competitive seasons. Students participating in iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine), a synthetic biology competition involving teams of high school and undergraduate students from around the world, will use Zoom and shared online drives to take part.

“We will not let this virus dampen our spirits and cancel iGEM for the year, so we’ve decided to make the best out of what we have,” said Kimoya Edwards, a Grade 11 student from Lethbridge Collegiate Institute.

The students will not have access to lab space, but still have many tasks to compete, such as writing papers, building a website, creating online workshops, organizing fundraisers and lots of research.

“Being a part of iGEM means a lot to our team members and our love for it is what keeps pushing us to continue,” said Shada Aborawi, a Grade 11 LCI student. “Even though we can’t use the lab for our project, we have found fun and easily accessible ways to further our research and make our project possible.”

This year the high school team chose to focus on making at-home composting as efficient as possible by engineering an enhanced pectin-degradation system. Each team member will build a standardized composting unit at home and take samples of the microbial populations to hopefully analyze in the lab at a later date. >

“They are all still super excited about their project and we’re all learning together on how to translate a majority hands-on program to an online and at-home format,” said Laura Keffer-Wilkes, biochemistry instructor and team lead.

The University of Lethbridge iGEM undergraduate team is also staying busy. They will focus on advancing the use of antimicrobial peptides to combat agricultural pests common in Alberta.

“Despite these unprecedented circumstances, we are continuing to train our students through the iGEM program activities, including a dedicated synthetic biology course that is now offered online,” said Angeliki Pantazi, biochemistry instructor and university team supervisor.

For more information about the Lethbridge iGEM teams, contact iGEM@uleth.ca.

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