iGEM – international Genetically Engineered Machines

Do you want to experience genuine scientific research? And the thrill of a prestigious worldwide competition?


If you do, check out iGEMan annual international synthetic biology competition, which has expanded in recent years to include a high-school division. Sounds interesting? Then put together a team of fourteen to eighteen year olds and get ready to…

  • learn synthetic biology
  • find a research project that your team and community care about
  • fundraise to cover lab work and competition expenses
  • find – or set up – a synthetic biology lab space to do your research
  • carry out the project
  • present your project at the iGEM Jamboree at end of September

Unofficially, you can start the process at any time during the year. The official competition season happens from January to September. You need to register your team and document your project in a wiki. All the competition requirements and deadlines are detailed on the iGEM high-school webpage.

Funds will primarily go into the registration, setting up or accessing a lab, reagents, and the team’s travel to competition. Depending on the size of your team and the availability of lab resources, total costs can range between $ 20,000 and $ 40, 000. You can reduce your expenses by building your own equipment or buying it cheaply on e-Bay.

If you’re located in Alberta, a possible source of funds is the geekStarter program at Alberta Innovates Technology Futures – AITF. The program requires an application. Through the same program, your team will also get access to a comprehensive guidebook, as well as mentorship and workshops provided by iGEM alumni. And through a teacher advisor, you can video conference with experts from Virtual Researchers On Call – VROC – offered by Partners in Research.

Synthetic biology is a new and captivating science field with huge prospects for innovation. The good news is that it can now be explored by youth at high-school or even earlier levels. And give them an opportunity to experience authentic project-based learning i.e. a more engaging and effective education.






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