iGEM is a competition in synthetic biology and stands for "international genetically engineered machine competition". It is an opportunity for students to master everyday problems, by inventing new scientific approaches. Thereby, diving into the matter of multidisciplinary research, to design an organism with interchangeable biological parts. Next to molecular biology techniques, computer models and vector designer are used.
Every year around 6.000 international iGEMers meet at the Giant Jamboree in Boston, to present their achievements, which are then rated by a jury in different categories. These categories include the idea itself, the design of a Wiki page, the best model, the best software, and many more. The teams can then win medals, prizes, and the grand prize, the BioBrick trophy. Furthermore, the competition is divided into different tracks focussing on a specific research areas for example diagnostics, environment or new applications.
In the iGEM competition, the team members are not only focussing on the design of a genetically engineered microorganism, they also need to manage the organization to run the project. Therefore, the following skills will be practiced:
- Project planning and administration
- Resource and team management
- Team work
- Problem based knowledge
- International networking
- Entrepreneurial thinking
- Responsible science and engineering
- Safe lab work and project design
- Presentation skills
- Scientific communication
Another important aspect of the iGEM competition, is the creation of a wide network of synthetic biologists all over the world. Until 2017 the iGEM foundation register over 30.000 members from over 45 countries. Because each of the teams creates new biobricks for their projects, but has also access to the biobricks built in previous competitions, a big library is created, from which parts can be used for further projects. However, because GMOs are relatively easy created and can also be used for bad intentions, the iGEM foundation requests every team to involve the general public, educate about synthetic biology and to create awareness about its impacts.