Gold Medal for University's iGEM Team

The University of Oxford’s first ever iGEM (international Genetically Engineered Machines) team has been awarded a prestigious Gold Medal at the 2014 Giant iGEM Jamboree in Boston, USA. The team of 12 third year undergraduates across five subject disciplines, including three Engineering Science undergraduates, was the first to represent Oxford at the competition.

Congratulations to the Department's three undergraduates who were: Matthew Booth (St John’s College), Oliver Vince (University College) and Leroy Lim (St John’s College).

iGEM Team

OxiGEM team. Top row from left: Andrew Russell, Timothy Ang, Matthew Booth, Philipp Lorenz, Glen-Oliver Gowers, Dr Ciaran Kelly (supervisor), Jack Hoffman, Dr George Wadhams (supervisor), Sian McGibbon. Bottom: Leroy Lim, Francesca Donnellan, Emily Pritchett, Oliver Vince, Corinna Oswald

iGEM attracts thousands of high school, undergraduate and post-graduate students from across the world. In 2014, over 240 teams competed, comprising around 2,500 students from 32 countries. Teams use the principles of Synthetic Biology, the “Engineering of Biology”, to design biological parts, devices or systems to address a real-world problem or to perform a novel, previously unseen function. The best ‘parts’ of every project are then submitted in the form of a ‘BioBrick’ to the iGEM BioBrick registry for use by others.

Novel biosensor and simple waste-disposal unit

DCMationThe Oxford iGEM team, supervised by academics across Oxford, including Professor Antonis Papachristodoulou from Engineering Science, Dr Ciarán Kelly and Dr George Wadhams from Oxford Biochemistry, addressed the problem of chlorinated waste disposal with their home-use bioremediation kit codenamed DCMation - a simple, safe waste disposal unit. The kit comprised a 3-D printed chassis containing engineered chlorinated waste degrading bacteria and a reporting biosensor to indicate complete waste breakdown.

The team integrated experimental work with biosystem modelling and engineering, policy and practices to produce a project of high enough quality to win a Gold Medal in the Giant Jamboree, recognising the fulfilment of all the competition criteria; a rare feat for an inaugural team.

Putting engineering knowledge into practice

The undergraduate Engineers of the team said “iGEM was great experience over the Summer and provided an excellent opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary team. It was a fantastic way to put our engineering knowledge into practice and to gain insight into the amazing world that Synthetic Biology is. We had a great time working amongst friends and we would strongly recommend all current second year students to try and get involved”.

Professor Papachristodoulou said “To achieve its enormous potential, Synthetic Biology needs strong engagement from engineers. The Oxford iGEM team demonstrated what cross-disciplinary collaboration in this area can accomplish”.

Our thanks to the team's sponsors: Oxford Biochemistry; BBSRC; the Society for General Microbiology; the Wellcome Trust; The Biochemical Society; SnapGene; and Desktop Genetics; without whom the project would not have been possible. We are also grateful for the support given by the following colleges: University; St John's; St Edmund Hall; The Queen's; and Oriel.

For more details about the project please visit the team's wiki and poster.

Applications for 2015 now open

Building on the success of the 2014 Oxford iGEM team, applications for the 2015 team are now open. Engineering undergraduates currently in their 2nd year are strongly encouraged to apply. For further details on the application process, please attend the team’s introduction talk (8pm, 25th November (Tuesday of 7th week), Department of Biochemistry) or email

  • If you are interested in pursuing a doctorate in Synthetic Biology, studentships are available at SynBioCDT