We were able to attract speakers from the world’s most renowned universities. These leading researchers are shaping the field of synthetic biology. Learning about their latest findings allowed teams to incorporate new ideas into their iGEM projects. The lectures covered topics such as biophysics, medical imaging, structural biology and biosensors. Most speakers stayed at the Meetup location for fruitful discussions with the attendees after their lecture.
Research in the Hecht group focuses in two areas: synthetic biology and Alzheimer's disease. Although these fields may seem quite different, they explore two facets of the same problem. Synthetic biology requires an ability to devise novel proteins, which ultimately comes down to designing amino acid sequences that fold into a specific 3-dimensional structure. Conversely, probing the molecular underpinnings of Alzheimer’s disease requires an understanding of why proteins fail to fold properly and aggregate.
The Westmeyer lab combines non-invasive magnetic, acoustic, and fluorescence-based imaging techniques with nanotechnology and genetic engineering. It develops sensors and actuators for studying cellular processes in preclinical model organisms ranging from eukaryotic tissue cultures and organoids to neurobehavioral dynamics in live zebrafish.
The Jung lab studies how bacteria react to changes in their environment via signaling networks. The research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of stimulus perception by membrane-integrated receptors and their impact on phenotypic heterogeneity in bacterial populations.
The Lang group develops new chemical tools to control biological processes. They synthesize new artificial biomolecules tailored to investigate and manipulate complex cellular processes in in vitro and in vivo biological systems.
Murray’s group is working on the structural and synthetic biology of photosynthesis. They are studying the biochemistry and structure of carbon fixation and nitrogenase related proteins in order to enable and improve their use in biotechnology. Furthermore, they are using this knowledge to develop synthetic proteins for photosynthesis.
The Silver Lab develops principles for building synthetic cells that act as sensors, memory devices, bio-computers, producers of high value commodities and energy from the sun, and they build novel subsystems such as proteins with designed properties for therapeutic use.
The research conducted by Prof. Simmel revolves around bionanotechnology and the physics of synthetic biological systems. His particular areas of interest include artificial molecular machines, the design of artificial biochemical circuits and self-organization of complex systems.
Randy Rettberg is the president and a co-founder of the iGEM Foundation. He oversees and develops the iGEM competition, is responsible for the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, and promotes synthetic biology around the world.
Thea was a competitor in last year’s iGEM competition. This year, she continues to be involved by representing her local community as an iGEM Ambassador. She assists local teams, connects with former and current iGEM members and facilitates cooperation between teams and with stakeholders.
Before the meetup, we encouraged the participating iGEM teams to prepare workshops covering topics they want to share with the community. Some of these workshops were science-related, for instance “Molecular Dynamics” and “Windows, the Neglected Child of Bioinformatics”, held by our team members. Lab-based knowledge was imparted by iGEM Düsseldorf with their workshop “Modular Cloning for Everyone”. Safety aspects and risks were evaluated together with a friend of our team in the workshop “DIY Biology - Hope or Hazard”. We decided to share our knowledge in fundraising with a financing workshop. While iGEM Copenhagen started a debate about “Online Public Engagement”, iGEM Utrecht prepared some entertaining and sporty teambuilding activities. The funniest workshop was held on henna tattoos by iGEM Aalto-Helsinki.
The teams were able to present their projects during poster sessions to get feedback and inspiration from fellow iGEM students as well as official iGEM Ambassadors. It was impressive to see the huge diversity of the iGEM projects. The poster sessions also served as an important starting point for collaborations between iGEM teams.
After the first session of scientific talks, we headed to the historic city center. We had prepared guided tours in small groups to show our guests the nicest places in Munich. Adding an educational component, we also covered sites related to the Nazi regime. All iGEM teams joined for a dinner in one of the world’s largest urban parks - the English Garden.