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iGem

At uLethbridge, our students play a key role in the discoveries they learn about in the classroom. By participating in the investigative journey, your learning goes beyond the theory to practical application.

As you participate in research, your creativity grows and your confidence to handle future academic challenges skyrockets. You gain critical thinking and communication skills that will help you in advanced studies or the workplace. You’ll also have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s most accomplished researchers.

Sydnee Calhoun (photo: left) and Luke Saville (photo: middle) are part of uLethbridge’s celebrated iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) team. iGEM is an annual synthetic biology competition involving teams of high school and post-secondary students from around the world.

“Typically, our iGEM team chooses its project based on something that will impact our local and global community, usually something that is either health or environment related,” says Sydnee.

Students choose and carry out projects with faculty members’ guidance. iGEM projects are transdisciplinary, combining areas such as biology, chemistry, computer science, marketing, mathematics, and social studies.

“Being part of the iGEM team is really a good complement to a liberal education,” says Luke. “You have everyone from sciences to fine arts contributing to a project. Since joining iGEM, I’ve definitely improved my presentation and computer skills, my ability to work in a team, and it’s really helped my communication skills.”

In 2018, the team developed a way to deliver small molecules to specific targeted cells.

This project has wide-ranging implications from pharmaceutical applications to fighting invasive aquatic species like Zebra and Quagga mussels, one of the biggest threats facing Alberta’s natural lake ecosystems and fisheries. Sydnee, Luke and other iGEM members presented their findings at the annual iGEM competition in Boston, MA, where their team captured a gold medal.

For their next project, uLethbridge’s iGEM team is working on developing a form of insulin that could be taken orally, making it more affordable and easier to administer than injections.

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