Source of Inspiration
In 2008, our PI, Handan Kesim, was watching a documentary about biotechnology. While she was watching she heard the name of IGEM for the first time. She was amazed by the competition itself. A competition that encourages students to work on synbio. It became her dream to participate in iGEM, but unfortunately, back then, only universities could participate.
After 10 years, an announcement was made by a university from Istanbul that encouraged high schools to participate in iGEM. Our PI was interested so she formed the school’s team. This team was made of 10 senior students. Their project called RAFI was born. Due to technical difficulties, they couldn’t complete the project experiments and the project was left in theory. Nonetheless, they still won a bronze medal for our inter-lab experiments.
In 2019, our PI wanted to participate again. With the school’s support, the iGEM club at our school was formed. That year our team had students attending different grades, and we participated in iGEM 2019 with our environmental project called “LAKECASE”.
In the academic year of 2019-2020, a new biology laboratory was opened; however, this lab wasn’t equipped with the advanced equipment that was required for genetic engineering and synthetic biology. A former graduate became aware of our efforts in the competition. They saw how the students can make an impact using synthetic biology and genetic engineering. As a result, they wanted to pave the way for students in genetic engineering and synthetic biology; therefore, they made a huge donation to the lab. They equipped the whole lab with genetic engineering instruments. This laboratory was named “Biochimistry and genetics lab” but the students call it "iGEM Lab" since it was inspired by the iGEM work. In addition to being beneficial for our iGEM team, the laboratory was used in experiments by the Biology Department for senior years’ curriculum, which covers genetics and biotechnology topics. Although the lab was ready to use because of the pandemic and the curfews, the opening of this lab was delayed. Now our lab is officially opened; in the following years, we are planning to do the experiments concerning the seniors' curriculum and our IGEM experiments.
In conclusion, our work at iGEM didn’t just help us acquire our own laboratory but it inspired someone to brighten and help students with genetic engineering and synthetic biology.