Competition/Team Requirements

Below are the 2021 team requirements for participating in the iGEM Competition. If you have any questions about these requirements, please email us at hq [AT] igem [DOT] org.

1.1 Team Composition and Team Roster

iGEM teams consist primarily of undergraduate students at an accredited college or university. Teams may also be composed of postgraduate students, high school students, or community lab members.

Each team has a Team Roster that must be completed by the Team Roster Freeze. The Team Roster must include everyone who is involved with the iGEM team, including professors, teachers, instructors, advisors, and the student team members. The Team Roster should be filled out as early as possible. This can be an ongoing process as some team members and advisors are added or removed, but it should be filled in to the best of your ability on the same day that you register your team.

Why is the Team Roster Important?
  1. It determines the Team Section (see Section 1.4) for collegiate and community lab Team Kinds (see Section 1.2)
  2. It gives iGEM HQ information about the number of participants for the 2021 season
  3. It gives iGEM HQ the contact information for the entire team
  4. It is used to determine who will receive iGEM participation certificates

1.2 Team Kind

In iGEM 2021, teams will register as one of four team "kinds", and each kind will have different team role requirements for the "Primary and Secondary PI" role (see Team Roles section). The rest of the roles are the same throughout the team kinds. The four team kinds are:

  • Collegiate:
    Student team members are usually collegiate students. You may also have postgraduate students and/or high school students on the team.

  • High School:
    Student team members are only high school students and students who will graduate high school in 2021. High School teams compete with other High School teams in the High School Track and Section. All High School teams must submit additional paperwork to be approved. Please visit the High School Consent Form page for information about and access to the consent forms.
    Please see Team Roles section for the definition of the Primary and Secondary PI for High School Requirements.

  • Community Lab:
    Student team members are members of a community lab. This can include anyone. Community Lab teams compete with Collegiate teams in the Traditional and Special Tracks and in the Undergraduate and Overgraduate Sections based on the team members' ages.

    Each community lab team must complete the following additional requirements and send the applicable documentation to documents AT igem DOT org:
    1. demonstrate access to a BL 1 lab
    2. demonstrate an adequate safety training program
    3. must be an incorporated entity (for profit or not-for-profit)
    4. must have a legal entity which has the ability to sign contracts
    Please see Team Roles section for the definition of the Primary and Secondary PI for Community Lab Requirements.

  • Commercial:
    These are teams run by companies, including companies contracting to run teams for high schools, colleges, universities, as well as companies recruiting individual members. Commercial teams can include anyone. For this year, ALL teams run by companies MUST register as commercial teams. Commercial teams registering as other kinds (Collegiate, High School, or Community Lab) may NOT be eligible to compete.

    Commercial teams will need to meet some additional requirements similar to those for Community Lab teams and High School Teams. For more information about this new Kind of iGEM team, including additional registration requirements, please see our Commercial Teams page.

1.3 Team Roles

Similar to sports teams, team members have different roles and responsibilities on a team:

  • Students = Team player.
    Responsible for brainstorming, choosing, and executing project idea

  • Primary and Secondary PI = General manager.
    Individuals in a position of authority

  • Instructor = Head coach.
    Provides day-to-day support and technical training for the team

  • Advisor = Assistant coach.
    Provides supplementary support

  • Student team leader = Team captain.
    Point of contact between team, PI, and iGEM HQ

Role Details

Below are more details for each Team Role. Please read through each role carefully and email us at hq AT igem DOT org with any questions.

Student role and requirements

Student team members brainstorm project ideas, choose a project idea, and build and test their chosen biological system. Students are also responsible for documenting their work and for meeting the various iGEM deadlines throughout the iGEM season (see 2021 Calendar for details).

  • Every student team member must do the following by the Team Roster Freeze:
    • have an iGEM user account
    • enter their age information
    • join the online team roster
  • Undergraduate and Overgraduate teams have age restrictions for the student team members (see Section 1.4).
Principal investigator (PI) role and requirements

Principal investigators (PIs) are individuals in a position of authority (ex: in a university setting, they are authorized to have lab space, grants, and hiring privileges) who are responsible for the team. This includes the official team registration, the team roster, certifying the safety form, payment of the team’s fees, and any other official aspect of the team. Team PIs provide guidance and support throughout the season, including assistance with fundraising, lab support, and help with school bureaucracy and regulations. PIs should plan on participating in the Giant Jamboree with the team. Team PIs serve as the official points of contact for iGEM Headquarters: they must be able to receive emails and phone calls from iGEM HQ, and respond promptly. Each team must have at least one (1) PI on their team roster at all times throughout the competition.

Each team must have a Primary PI and they must:

  • have an iGEM user account (this will be required in order to register the team for iGEM 2021)
  • be listed on the Team Roster

Each section has specific PI requirements:

  • For Collegiate teams, the primary PI must be a professor. If the team wishes to have more than one PI, the other PIs may be a post-doc or above.
  • For High School teams, the primary PI must be either a principal or teacher.
  • For Community Lab teams, the primary PI must be the director of the community lab.
  • For Commercial teams, the primary PI must be authorized to make binding commitments for the company and be able to authorize the necessary payments.

High School teams and Community Lab teams may have a professor as one of their team PIs if they wish.

We strongly recommend that each team has a Secondary PI, but it is not a requirement. The Secondary PI should serve as a second contact point for the team and should hold the same level of authority for the team as the Primary PI.

Instructor role and requirements

Team instructors provide day-to-day support for the team, and are aware of team activities and experimental plans. Instructors should also be responsible for the technical training of the team members in lab protocols

Instructors must:

Advisor role and requirements

Team advisors include graduate students, post-graduate students, post-docs, and/or technicians who support the team.

Advisors must:

Student team leader role and requirements

Student team leaders serve as the team's point of contact between the student team members and iGEM Headquarters. You may nominate up to two student team leaders per team.

Student team leaders must:

1.4 Team Sections

There are three team sections in iGEM 2021:

  1. Undergraduate Section: all student team members are age 23 or younger on March 31, 2021. This applies to Collegiate, Community Lab, and Commercial Team Kinds (see Section 1.2).
  2. Overgraduate Section: one or more student team members are older than 23 on March 31, 2021. This applies to Collegiate, Community Lab, and Commercial Team Kinds (see Section 1.2).
  3. High School Section: all student team members are high school students on March 31, 2021; includes students who graduate from high school before July of 2021. This applies to High School and Commercial Team Kinds (see Section 1.2).

All teams, regardless of their section, have the opportunity to participate in the 2021 Giant Jamboree - it will be the same event for all 3 sections.


For collegiate teams, your team's section will be calculated automatically by the iGEM software based on the ages of the student members on your team roster. Be sure to include ages for all student team members, otherwise the system will default to placing your team in the Overgraduate section even if you are an Undergraduate team.

1.5 Recommendations

Based on previous competitions, we also strongly recommend the following:

  • Teams should have between 8 and 15 student team members.
  • Teams with more than 15 student team members should consider splitting into two teams and taking advantage of the multiple team discount. This also gives a larger team adequate wiki space and presentation time to cover the work generated by more team members.
  • Teams should be gender-balanced, having approximately as many women as men on a team.
  • Teams should be composed of an interdisciplinary group of students from different majors and with different skill sets.