This year with our team being the first iGEM team from our university, we reached out to teams across the world, asked lots of questions about iGEM in general, and received lots of welcome and advice. Being the first iGEM team, we thought collaborating and connecting with other teams would benefit us a whole lot and it certainly did. We received lots of tips and tricks from teams early on and those tips we took with us throughout the competition. We conversed and got to know many international teams, through e-mails, Instagram and Twitter. It has been a pleasure getting to meet such amazing and hard-working people from all around the globe. Many thanks to all who have helped us throughout our journey!

The ASYV Event

First student iGEM team from MTU meets Africa

On 2nd June 2021, 5 from the iGEM-MTU team participated in a fantastic education and outreach event to discuss and interact with students of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) in Rwanda, focusing on synthetic biology and how to solve local problems in Africa using synthetic biology. ASYV is a high school and youth village for vulnerable teenagers from all over Rwanda. ASYV provides a home and community that is more so considered family to those living there. It has provided a sanctuary for those orphaned by the Rwanda genocide and has provided a schooling system to help further educate the children on the likes of biology and engineering. The goal of this event is to lead a synthetic biology virtual club at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) in Rwanda.

This event was organized in collaboration with student teams in Israel (lead), Canada, Austria and Ireland. All the student teams are participating in a worldwide genetic engineering competition, iGEM 2021. There are over 350 teams from all over the world competing in this prestigious multidisciplinary event. iGEM-MTU is the only team participating from Ireland. iGEM-MTU has 11 students from various departments across both Tralee and Cork campuses. The event started off with team introductions, a fun icebreaker which we decided to include sharing facts about our country through a selection of images related to Ireland. We then had 15 minutes presenting our iGEM projects which were led by Josh, Rachel and James from our team. The event ended with an informative Q&A session.

Here is what our team members had to say about the event!

Josh O’Brien (Team lead, Final year, Pharmaceutical Biotechnology) “The ASYV event gave me the chance to reach out and lecture on topics which I am passionate about which was an exciting and fulfilling experience, it is one which not many undergraduates get a chance to do. I would like to thank all involved, especially iGEM Israel for organizing the event.”

Rachel Holmes (Final year, Pharmaceutical Biotechnology) “Our event on June 2nd, with the students of ASYV, was an amazing opportunity for us to deliver an understanding of our iGEM project to a group of young people so willing to learn, engage, and broaden their knowledge in the field of synthetic biology. They were an amazing group of students and it was a pleasure to share our work with them."

James O’Connell (Final year, Pharmaceutical biotechnology) “An eye-opening experience, I was delighted to witness the students had such a good knowledge of Biology and science in general. Thank you to all the teams involved and thank you to the MTU team for all their hard work”

Alannah O’Flaherty (First year, Sports and business) “For me, ASYV meant planting the seed for the students to gain further knowledge surrounding synthetic biology and to encourage further learning. Biology is an amazing field where the learning never ends and to give them further tools and knowledge within the area was a unique opportunity for me personally.” Aleks Gordikovs (First year, Biomedical Engineering) “This Initiative is one that has shaped and redefined how I perceive how others learn in a completely different learning environment in comparison to my own and to myself, it means and encourages me to want to give back as a scientist to younger students who have shown enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. With great pleasure, it has meant that I could share my knowledge through not only presenting educational content based on Biology but also Synthetic Biology and International Culture"

The UK-Ireland Meetup

This event hosted by iGEM KCL occurred over the summer. The 6 teams that attended this meetup were iGEM KCL, iGEM MTU-CORK, iGEM Warwick, iGEM Manchester, iGEM St.Andrews, and iGEM Edinburgh. Each team gave a 5-minute presentation giving an overview of their iGEM project and we also each held a QA session after presenting. Josh O’Brien and James O’Connell from our team presented a great presentation on the day.

Overall, this was a great opportunity especially with it being the first iGEM competition anyone on our team had experienced to see what stages each team was at with their research and work in general. We also received some great advice and learned a lot from the other participating teams’ presentations.

Risk Assessment Webinar

Safety is a big aspect for science. We recognize that it is necessary to consider all possible risks and issues, in order to ensure the protection of its users and environment.

On the 15th of October, iGEM Heidelberg hosted a risk assessment webinar with the German National Risk Assessment Institute ( They talked about their tasks and how danger evaluation works. The other teams that participated in this collaboration event were iGEM Aachen, iGEM MTU, and iGEM Saint Joseph.

The Webinar started with the presentation of Mr. Frederic Müller, the invited speaker from the BfR. He explained the functions of his institute, and how they were an independent organization, which conducts studies to evaluate health issues no matter the parties involved. And although they are a public organization, they do not depend on the government. Still, for their assessment tasks they cannot only use their own research, as their capacities to conduct studies are reduced, so they also take other studies into account. Besides, they might get help from experts in the field, however, the assessment task is done solely by the BfR.

Mr. Müller explained that the BfR does not check medicines, which in Germany is done by other institutes (like the BfArM, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices). Instead, they focus on the risks in food, chemicals, and everyday products. The focus of the BfR lies in the process of risk analysis, which consists of hazard identification, risk assessment, and risk management. After the presentation by Mr. Müller, there was space for a Q&A session.

This webinar was very well done and provided us with a great insight into the risk assessment process.
Big thank you to iGEM Heidelberg for organizing this event. It was great to hear an expert in this field talk on this topic.