Yesterday, we wrote about the projects that this year’s Stanford-Brown iGem team is taking to competition this weekend. Today, you’ll meet some of the young scientists behind the projects.

As we learned in the video we produced about the 2012 iGem team, the undergraduates typically come from varying backgrounds and study a wide range of subjects. This team is no different.

Ravali Reddy is a senior at Stanford studying communications, with a biology minor. She felt iGem was a good way to bring her two interests together. She’s the team’s outreach director, organizing their visits to Makers’ faires and other events (such as the Academy’s upcoming Brilliant!Science festival).

Gordon Wade is a junior at Brown and followed the teams from the two previous years. He takes part in the de-extinction project and is fascinated by evolutionary genetics (really, who isn’t?). His favorite part of iGem? “Working with the awesome people on my team!”

Sophia Liang is also a junior at Brown, and she felt that iGem offered a unique opportunity to develop and direct her (and her team members’) own project. At school, as a biology major, she works in a lab, handling fruit flies all day, but for iGem’s Crispr CAS project, the organisms were a little smaller: bacteria. She said that learning the necessary lab techniques posed a particular challenge, despite her experience.

Alex Constantino is also a Brown junior, majoring in computational biology. But he’s a self-described lab rat, fascinated with genetic engineering, and he’s followed the iGem competition since 2006 when it started. He loves the freedom to fail inherent in the iGem philosophy. “And we did fail a lot. But we also learned a lot from every experience—and succeeded eventually.”

Yet another Brown junior, Emily Toomey, is studying electrical engineering, and claims to be the least bio-oriented person on the team. She loves painting and found a creative outlet in iGem. “Students design a project and get to create things that don’t exist anywhere else,” she says.

Simon Vecchioni just graduated from Brown and went through a number of “phases” in his college career, studying biology, animal behavior, and languages. He describes iGem enthusiastically: “We get to make things in the language of synthetic biology.” He’s a “Big Picture” thinker and worked well with Toomey and her practical engineering perspective. “She was very grounding.”

Trevor! Kalkus is a senior at Stanford, studying bioengineering. The team’s advisor, astrobiologist (and Academy fellow) Lynn Rothschild, had mentioned de-extinction as a possible subject for an iGem project and Kalkus says he “jumped on it. I just kept thinking about a mutant dinosaur cyborg robot.”

(Unfortunately, we couldn’t interview all the iGem team members, so you’re missing out on hearing from Ngyuen Le, Andrew Hines, Evie Pleiss, Alissa Greenberg, Ryan Gallagher, and Austin Ryan.)

This weekend, the team is attending the iGem North American regional competition in Toronto. And there’s a lot of pressure for the team to do well there: all previous Stanford-Brown teams have advanced to the final competition.

Rothschild has no doubt this year’s team will succeed. “Everyone this year (and over the past three years) is really good at being a team player. Their dedication is amazing!”

Good luck, Stanford-Brown 2013!

If you want to meet the team right after regionals, and learn more about their projects, they will be joining us for the Brilliant!Science festival here at the Academy the weekend of October 12 and 13.


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