Thursday, September 18, 2014

Genetic Engineering with Purdue iGEM

Hello, everybody! Hope everyone has enjoyed the first month of what will hopefully be a great semester. Just to quickly introduce myself, my name is Hailey Edmondson and I am a sophomore in Plant Genetics, Breeding, and Biotechnology in the Agronomy Department.

This, while most students were enjoying some time away from Purdue, exciting things were happening on campus! I had the incredible opportunity to work as a research intern for the Purdue iGEM Team. iGEM, International Genetically Engineered Machine, is an international organization of collegiate and high school genetic engineering teams doing research projects each year and helping to further education and development surrounding the field of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Purdue’s iGEM Team is expanding each year—more members, more complex projects, more recognition. Each year, teams present their research findings at a competitive conference called the iGEM Jamboree. Last year, the Purdue iGEM Team placed third in North America at the regional jamboree in Vancouver, and this year’s team hopes to continue the trend at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center for the International Jamboree this November.

Some of our corn plants growing                                             iGEM's lab space is in Bindley Bioscience Center.
in the greenhouse.

This year, Purdue iGEM aimed to tackle an issue that’s critical in today’s world, and I’m sure we’ve all heard of as people involved in the agriculture sector—global malnutrition. Our goal was to increase nutrient uptake in important crops in order to combat extensive malnutrition that leads to health issues worldwide. Specifically, we targeted iron uptake in corn and rice plants. In order to do this, we engineered Bacillus subtilis, a naturally occurring type of soil bacteria, to produce the chemical compound that corn and rice use to fix and uptake iron from the soil. Our project focused on exploring a paradigm shift related to modifying microbial soil ecologies, which is a different approach than directly engineering the plants themselves.

iGEM interns at a barbecue at Westwood, President Daniels' esate.

I worked with 7 other undergraduate interns from a variety of majors throughout my 10-week internship to create and execute this project. It was an incredible experience learning about experimental design, collaboration with faculty and professionals, and teamwork. In addition to working hard in the lab, we also did some fun social events including a PSUB Summer Barbecue at President Mitch Daniels’ estate! We are continuing this project and collecting data up until we go to Boston this November, I’m looking forward to representing Purdue University and the Agronomy Department!

Members of iGEM representing the team at the College of Agriculture Ice Cream Social.

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