Emma Taylor-Brill ’16 Launches iGEM Synthetic Biology Club

After a summer of studying synthetic biology at the University of Chicago, Emma Taylor-Brill ’16 plans to transfer her enthusiasm to Andover by forming a team this fall to compete in iGEM, a high school competition in the field. Four to six members will form the team that will participate in iGEM, which stands for the “International Genetically Engineered Machine” competition. The team is challenged to use biological parts to design and build biological systems that operate in living cells, according to the competition’s website. Once she gathers enough students to form a small team, Taylor-Brill plans to discuss a project for the group to take on, which they will showcase at the yearly iGEM Jamboree in Cambridge, Mass., next May. “There are so many things that could be done with synthetic biology. For example, a couple of years ago, a team from Cambridge took DNA from a firefly and made it into ‘BioBrick’ that could be used in E.Coli to make them grow,” said Taylor-Brill. Christine Marshall-Walker, Instructor in Biology, will advise Andover’s iGEM team. “Collaboration is central to success in the sciences, and this new team offers students a chance to work together to produce something new. By working so closely as a team, all the students will improve their understanding of biology while having a blast,” said Marshall-Walker in an email to The Phillipian. Taylor-Brill said that the iGEM team is also looking into the possibility of recruiting students from nearby high schools in Lawrence, Mass., to join the team. “I would really like to get two students from Lawrence on the team because I think they will bring a unique perspective to the team,” said Taylor-Brill. Taylor-Brill said that the team is also seeking members skilled in computer programming, web design or filmmaking. Each team participating in iGEM is required to make a website for their project and an optional video, according to Taylor-Brill. “Synthetic biology is an exciting field that will play a prominent role in our lives, from the creation of new energy sources to the building of new industrial materials and novel immunotherapies. The list goes on and on. Here at Andover, we have quite a few students who are interested in cutting-edge science and want to experience it firsthand,” said Marshall-Walker.