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William & Mary team wins First Runner-Up position in iGEM competition

  • High achievement:
    High achievement:  The big screen at the iGEM closing ceremony on Nov. 13 show William & Mary is the First Runner-Up in the synthetic biology competition.  Photo from iGEM Twitter feed
  • Headed for the Jamboree:
    Headed for the Jamboree:  Members of William & Mary’s 2017 iGEM team are (front, from left) Theresa Gibney, Callan Monette, Alyssa Luz-Ricca (rear, from left) Christine Li, Ethan Jones, Xida “Cedar” Ren, John Liu, Sejal Dhawan and Cici Zheng.  Photo by Joseph McClain
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William & Mary’s team was named First Runner-Up in the 2017 iGEM competition, beating out all but one team in a large field in the quest for what has been dubbed the World Cup of Science.

William & Mary was the only North American team to place among the finalists in any division. Top prize in the Undergrad Division this year was the Vilnius-Lithuania team.

iGEM stands for International Genetically Engineered Machine. Each year iGEM hosts the largest synthetic-biology competition in the world. It's a culmination of months-long, student-driven projects involving biology, mathematics, chemistry and engineering.

{{youtube:medium:right|kkX10AgSPfs, W&M 2017 iGEM project}}

William & Mary’s team also won two special awards, one for Best Innovation in Measurement and a second for Best Model. The project placed among the three finalists for a number of other special awards:

  • Overall best in the undergraduate track
  • Best Foundational Advance
  • Best Measurement
  • Best Outreach
  • Best Part
  • Best Composite Part
  • Best Model
  • Best Poster
  • Best Presentation.

The team posted a photo on their Facebook page of the big screen at the closing ceremony showing the finalists under their comment “We can’t believe it!!” The other finalist in the Undergrad division were the Heidelberg (Germany) team. The High School Division finalist was TAS Taipei; Overgrad Division finalists were Munich and TUDelft.

The 2017 iGEM team was led by Ethan Jones ’19. Other members are Sejal Dhawan ’20, Theresa Gibney ’18, Christine Li ’20, John Liu ’19, Alyssa Luz-Ricca ’20, Callan Monette ’19, Xida “Cedar” Ren ’20 and Cici Zheng ’20, biology.

It’s the fourth consecutive year for the university to send a team to the Grand Jamboree in Boston. Margaret Saha, Chancellor Professor of Biology, has been the team’s advisor for all four years.

Saha has said the William & Mary teams have been tough competitors all four years, with the 2015 team bringing home the Grand Prize, known as the World Cup of Science.