This fall, the Harvard’s iGEM team hosted the NEGEM conference, an informal meetup that had historically been held between iGEM teams in the New England region. Traditionally, this meeting would entail a panel of judges to give feedback on the iGEM projects presented by each respective team based on medal criteria and on their respective track, and we were proud to continue the tradition this year with NEGEM 2020! This year, however, due to the pandemic, we sought to broaden the reach of the teams invited.
We virtually hosted the teams from Purdue, MIT, UIUC, and Cornell to help establish community and foster cross-talk among regional iGEM teams, and to provide a way for teams to receive early feedback on their project progress from both iGEMers and a panel of event judges. Our event kicked off on Friday, September 18th with guest speakers Dr. Pam Silver and Dr. Jake Beal (representing the iGEM Measurements Committee), who gave addresses on the development and evolution of synthetic biology, iGEM’s role in facilitating the growth of the field, and the importance of various aspects of measurement and common pitfalls, with each speaker remaining for Q&A sessions with attendees. Club members asked insightful questions and we ended the event with a couple pictures of us all!
We continued on Saturday with the individual team presentations, with each team giving a slide presentation for 15 minutes, with each being subject to five minutes of questioning. After the presentations, we moved to a DNA origami workshop hosted by Harvard iGEM. Team members and compers of iGEM were able to learn interesting new details of DNA origami’s history and usage, and the Harvard iGEM team was able to transform the meaning conversation from the event into a collaborative network with the UIUC iGEM team.
Our awesome judges, Dr. Nikki Thadani, Chris Wintersinger, Dr. Nikhil Gopalkrishnan, and Anastasia Ershova gave a round of pointed questions and insightful advice to each team’s presentation, and their written feedback was distributed to teams shortly following the event. In hearing from team and comp members alike, many enjoyed how the NEGEM event was able to give them an introduction to the iGEM competition as well as understand the ecosystem of ideas shared across all the iGEM teams.