iGEM 2021: Mingdao


  iGEM, as its name suggests, seems like another normal competition for undergraduate students and high school students. However, we see this competition differently, we believe that it is also a place where students all across the world meet, build connections, make friends with people who have the same interests, study synthetic biology, learn life-long skills, and make this world a better place through synthetic biology. It is for these reasons that our team, this year, has collaborated with team CSMU_Taiwan on a long term project, team Tas_Taipei on the iGEMxSDG project, and other outreach projects with other schools including team KCIS_NewTaipei, team NCKU_Tainan, team Warwick, team Aix-Marrseille, and team NOUS.

Partnership with Team CSMU_Taiwan

  At the beginning of this summer, our team reached out to a local nearby collegiate iGEM team, Chung Shan Medical University (CSMU_Taiwan), wishing for a chance of collaboration. After the first online meeting, in which both teams shared their own projects and shared the bottlenecks they encountered, we discovered that we had many similarities in both of our experiments. Based on this similarity, we reached a consensus that we can help each other along the journey. Our collaborative project includes five stages, they are: phi29/RCA workshop (Mingdao to CSMU_Taiwan), linkage with a local hospital for food poisoning studies (CSMU_Taiwan to Mingdao), discussion on the circularization of linear ssDNA probe (Mingdao to CSMU_Taiwan), three-day workshop on lab skills (CSMU_Taiwan to Mingdao), and collective education project (Mingdao to CSMU_Taiwan). Details of each project and more in Partnership.

Major Collaboration with Team TAS_Taipei

  Team TAS_Taipei has always been our main collaborator throughout the years, this year was no exception. We first had a short online meeting during which we requested them for their help on a technique they used previously, rolling circle amplification. From that point, our partnership went on and on. Not only were there workshops, there was also a collaboration on the iGEMxSDG challenge! (more in Partnership)

Other Outreach Projects

  Except for the long term collaboration we have with team CSMU_Taiwan and TAS_Taipei, we’ve also collaborated with multiple iGEM teams around the world on several outreach projects.

Team Warwick

  In August 2021, we were reached out by team Warwick from the United Kingdom to hold an online workshop. They were interested in our project after reading the description we posted on our website and our Instagram page. For that reason, we arranged a meeting to exchange suggestions, ideas, and solutions to our various problems. For example, we talked about other methods of detecting viruses including E.coli and Salmonella while also exchanging views on the best method to commercialize our product. Owing to this discussion, we were able to look at our product from a whole new angle and breakthrough the bottlenecks we had encountered previously.

  However, the fun doesn’t end here. Due to the successful workshop, we built a great connection with team Warwick and together worked on a booklet for 16-18 year-old students. The booklet is aimed to teach them more about the broad field of biology beyond the scope of their current school curriculum, it includes the basic teaching of what synthetic biology is and more than twenty iGEM team’s project examples. Each team submitted a description of how synthetic biology is so important to their project and also a related assignment for the students reading the book to do. For example, because our project has to do with bacteriophage modification, we requested the students to do some more research after they finished reading our information on a specific bacteriophage and create a mind map labeling all of its functions and how it can impact our world. Through this exercise, the students can really digest what we’ve told them through the booklet and implement it in real life. Similar exercises can be found throughout the entire booklet. It was a meaningful experience with team Warwick.

Team Aix-Marreseille

  During this summer, we also worked with team Aix-Marreseille on a newly initiated project called the Emoji challenge. The aim of this challenge is to engage the community into the competition and to spread synthetic biology to people around us, hoping to bring awareness to this topic. The way this works is we gathered many iGEM teams to send us a sentence composed of emojis to describe their project. Through the “Question” function on Instagram, the most popular social media nowadays, people can type in what their guess is on the emoji sentence. If they guess the meaning of the sentence correctly, they earn themselves a point. There were around 30 iGEM teams involved in this challenge, receiving over 1,000 guesses (responses) from the general public, engaging the community in our challenge. We believe that the winner of this game isn’t what matters the most, it’s all about spreading the fun we have during this competition and letting people notice this competition.


  This project is a bit different from the two mentioned above, we were invited by team NOUS to a project called “expARTiment.” There is, of course, a reason why the letters “art” are capitalized. Their initiative aimed to collect pieces of our experiments and our memory during our journey and turn them into art. They requested us to send pictures of our experimental diagrams, schematic diagrams, graphs, and pictures of any sorts that are related to iGEM to them. Although their original purpose was to have something decorative to use on our posters, presentations, or products, we believe that there’s more to this project. We think that visualizing our experiments can make it easier for the broader community to understand what iGEM is all about because after all, artworks are still more attractive than experiment reports. Basically, it helps spread this topic to the general public, and that was exactly why we decided to take part in this project.

Meeting with Team NCKU_Tainan and Team KCIS_NewTaipei

  Our other outreach projects are virtual meet ups with other iGEM Teams. Firstly, we had an online meeting with NCKU Tainan in July. It has always been a custom for us to meet and talk about our projects every year, and this year wasn’t an exception. As usual, we exchanged our ideas and gave feedback to each other as to how they could possibly improve. Except for the feedback on the experiment, they reminded us of MOU, an administrative agreement that should be undertaken before meeting up with companies to ensure the patent rights of our idea and product. They also suggested that the GFP (our initial experimental idea) might not be sufficient enough to be detected; this statement was later proven by Dr. Steven Hagens (more in Human Practices), which we adopted their advice and changed immediately. However, unfortunately, there wasn’t a project that we could work on together due to the big difference between the subjects we dealt with this year.

  For team KCIS_NewTaipei, because this is their first year of participating in this competition, we were there at the very beginning to give them some advice on how this competition operates through an online meeting. The meeting also has the purposes of discussing both teams’ projects and current progress. After the presentation, we checked on their timeline and gave comments accordingly, telling them what things they were missing or what they were doing great. For example, we suggested they find more professors to interview to enhance their credibility because too much of their interviews focused on companies and the market. We believe that such acts weren’t implying that we were superior in any way. In fact, we were delighted to be trusted by them, we felt obligated to pass down our knowledge and experiences to them. Because after all, isn’t iGEM all about building connections and helping each other?


  In conclusion, we cooperated with multiple iGEM teams this year, trying to bring out the second most important core of this competition-- connection. For experiments, we collaborated mainly with team CSMU_Taiwan and team TAS_Taipei. With team CSMU_Taiwan, because we worked on similar topics, we helped each other with each others’ experiments through workshops, multiple visits, and hand-on demonstrations. With the last year team TAS_Taipei (2020) being our inspiration, we had continuous conversations and workshops with each other on the topic of Phi-29, while sometimes discussing how the iGEMxSDG project should be like. Other outreach projects not related to experiments that either we initiated or worked with others include the booklet on synthetic biology that we came up with together with iGEM Warwick, the Emoji competition that helps spread synthetic biology to over 1,000 people online with team Aix-Marrseille, the “expARTiment” project initiated by team NOUS, the guidance we gave for team KCIS_NewTaipei at the beginning, and the traditional meeting we have with team NCKU_Tainan. From experimental collaboration to spreading awareness, we were able to collaborate with multiple teams under this hard time; collaboration is something that should never be let go of when it comes to iGEM.